A rainbow of wild flowers blooming along a desolate country roadside, the crack of a baseball bat, and the smell of fresh cut grass; these are sights, sounds, and smells that dazzles the senses and lets us know spring has sprung. Another important sign that spring is upon us is the roar of motorcycle exhaust. As the skies clear, roads dry up, and temperatures start to climb, hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts across the country will knock the dust of their motorcycle tires, pull out their riding gear, and carve their favorite roads as they shaking off the winter chill with some throttle twisting and high-speed knee dragging.
For many it’s a natural inclination to just hit the starter and take off on two wheels at the first sign of a dry, sunny day. But it’s important to keep in mind that just like there were several steps you should have taken to protect your bike for its winter hibernation, you should tend to a few tasks on your motorcycle before your take that first spring ride.
Before you get too excited about the first ride of the season you ought to check and make sure your motorcycle battery is as ready to go as you are. By giving your battery a quick visual inspection you can often immediately get an idea if something is amiss. Look for cracks, leaks, bulges, poorly connected terminals, or corrosion build up on the terminals. If you notice the case is cracked, is leaking fluid, or the battery has abnormal bulges it’s time to replace the battery. If the terminals aren’t staying securely fastened to the battery posts you may need to try new or longer battery bolts or new battery cables. Corrosion around the battery terminals/post can be cleaned up with some baking soda and water; some people even use Coca-Cola to remove the gunk. Some light brushing/scrubbing with an old toothbrush or even a Grunge Brush can help remove stubborn corrosion, then you can use a clean rag or towel to wipe it all down and clean everything up.
If everything checks out okay and you stored your bike properly for the winter your battery might be ready to go. You did remember to hook it up to some kind of battery charger like a Battery Tender or Yuasa Battery Charger right? Now, even if you did everything right by maintaining the charge on your battery and storing it in a warm, dry place during the winter there is still the chance that the battery is no bueno. Just like a loaf of bread, a battery has a shelf life. After so many years and uses your battery can go bad. There are several factors that can affect the life of a battery such as type of battery, type of motorcycle/engine size, starter performance, and battery maintenance. With proper care and use a battery can last anywhere from three to six years, some people even get up to eight years of life out of their battery. You can test if your battery is good or if you need to buy a new battery for a motorcycle with something like a Yuasa Battery Tester, or a voltmeter. By hooking up a voltmeter to your battery you can determine its state of charge and conduct a load test. While your battery charger may say that the battery is fully charged a voltmeter will tell you the exact voltage; anything under 12.4 volts on a “fully charged” battery means the battery is sulfated and is likely due for replacement—if not immediately, in the very near future. You can also conduct a load test on the battery with a voltmeter by cranking over the engine and watching the meter. A fully charged 12-volt battery that maintains 9.5-10.5 volts for at least 20 seconds is a good sign. If the volts slowly drop after a few seconds or instantly significantly drop there is an issue with the battery and it should be replaced.
When searching for a cruiser motorcycle battery there are a ton of options to choose from such as Shorai Batteries, Yuasa motorycle batteries, Bikemaster Batteries and many more. There are several things to consider when researching batteries such as finding one that will fit inside your battery compartment, making sure the battery has the cranking amps you need if you have a large displacement engine, and finding a battery that fits within your budget.
Pump the Brakes
Once you know your motorcycle will start up you should make sure it will stop. Begin by checking your motorcycle brake pads and make sure you have plenty of wear left in them. Roll the bike outside where there is lot’s of light or use a flashlight to inspect your pads. Basically you are checking the thickness of the pads. Most pads have wear indicators to help you determine when they should be replaced but you should refer to your owner’s manual as to what the pad measurement should be for replacement. While you’re looking at the pads you also want to inspect your motorcycle brake rotors and make sure they are not warped, have grooves or gouging, or show signs of excessive heat. You can also take a quick measurement of your rotor thickness and make sure it’s within spec of your owner’s manual.
After the pads and rotors are inspected take a look at your brake lines. When looking over your motorcycle brake lines look for cracks, leaks, or kinks/unusual bends that could hinder the flow of your brake fluid. Also inspect the banjo bolts (fittings at the master cylinders). Check around the tops of the master cylinders for leaks or weeping. Lastly, remove the tops from the master cylinders and inspect the fluid. Make sure your motorcycle brake fluid isn’t burnt or discolored. Keep in mind that many types of brake fluids are hygroscopic; meaning that they can attract or absorb water from the air, so you want to make sure water/condensation hasn’t accumulated in the fluid. Before you reinstall the master cylinder cap make sure your master cylinder has the correct amount of fluid and top it off if necessary. Be careful when filling you master cylinder as some types of brake fluid can be harmful to your motorcycle’s paint job.
Keep it Smooth
Remember when you were prepping to store your bike for the winter and you performed an oil and filter change? Well, now all you should do is drain that oil that sat over the winter and add the recommended type and amount of motorcycle oil as per your owner’s manual. All long as you don’t spot any leaks, that fresh filter you installed at the begging of the winter storage session is good to go until your next scheduled oil change. If by chance you didn’t do a complete oil change before you stored the bike you should pick up a brand new motorcycle oil filter and several quarts of oil and change the oil before you start the bike up. You should also inspect your motorcycle’s transmission fluid and primary fluid to make sure they are in good condition and are filled to the correct levels.
While you’re in lubrication mode you ought to give your throttle, brake, and clutch a squirt or two of cable lube. The Protect All Cable Care Kit is pretty useful because it comes with a 6.25 ounce can of spray lubricant and a cable lube tool. After tending to your cables you want to check other items such as your chain and neck and wheel bearings to ensure everything moves smoothly and is properly lubricated. As you spray your motorcycle chain with the proper lubricant keep an eye on the links and make sure the chain and sprocket are in good condition. If you see broken or extremely worn areas you should replace the chain and/or sprocket. If your bike has a belt instead of a chain final drive, then you don’t want to lubricate it but inspect the drive belt for fraying, rips, or extremely worn teeth.
You want your motorcycle to be able to make the most horsepower it can right? Well you can help it do so by ensuring it can suck in a good amount of air. If your motorcycle air filter is dirty or clogged it’s going to hinder the performance of your engine. Even worse, if your air filter is cracked, broken, or torn it can allow harmful items to enter your engine and wreak havoc on its internal components. Changing out your air filter for an OE replacement motorcycle air filter is a rather simple process and shouldn’t take but a few minutes. Another option is to purchase something like a reusable K&N motorcycle air filter. Aside from providing years of use and easy maintenance with a K&N Air Filter Recharger Kit, K&N filters offer better air flow allowing your engine to take in more air for overall better performance.
Keep the Rubber Side Down
You may notice that your motorcycle tires have lost some air pressure since you stored the bike for the winter. It’s normal for tires to lose pressure over time due to permeation. Look both tires over and make sure there are no foreign objects lodged in the tires and check the side walls for cracking. Once satisfied that your tires are in good condition fill them up to the specified air pressure listed on the sidewall.
See and Be Seen
Don’t worry you’re almost ready to ride. One of the last things you want to check is your motorcycle lights. Turn on your ignition and check your sport bike or cruiser headlight to ensure it is working properly. Next, flip the blinkers on and make sure both the front set and rear set of your motorcycle blinkers are functioning. Then grab a handful of front brake and check the rear brake light, then hit the foot brake to make sure the light comes on again. Checking the lights at the rear of your motorcycle is easy to do if you have a friend to help you, if you are by yourself back the bike up close to a wall or garage door so you can see the lights against the flat surface and determine if they are working properly. If you notice a light isn’t on or flashing hopefully it will be something as simple as installing a new motorcycle taillight or turn signal bulb. If a new bulb doesn’t solve the issue then check your electrical leads and make sure no rodents or other animals chewed up your lines while your motorcycle was in storage.
Time to Shine
Okay this last bit is totally your call. If you have the patience for one more task we suggest giving your bike a quick wash to clean the dust off and get it nice and shiny for your spring ride. Hopefully before you stored your bike you gave it a wash and wax to protect the paint during storage. If you did it shouldn’t take but a simple soap and water solution and a few splashes with the hose to get your ride fresh ‘n’ clean. If you’re in a hurry, an Air Force Master Blaster Motorcycle Dryer can make quick work of dispersing water and keep you from dragging wet towel streaks all across your motorcycle gas tank. Lastly, a few spritzes of Pro Clean 1000 Spraywax on your motorcycle fenders and gas tank should keep your ride looking good until your next wash and wax session.
Hopefully we gave you some things to consider before immediately cranking over your motorcycle engine and heading out for your first ride of the season. The tasks listed above shouldn’t take but an hour or two to complete but carefully addressing each one could mean the difference between the start to a great riding season and no riding season due to a broke down bike, or worse, a broke down rider.