The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the open road beckons. You’ve been waiting all winter to take your motorcycle out for the first ride of the year and the time has finally come. But wait — let’s check a few things first. Even if you winterized your motorcycle for off-season storage, you’ll want to read this 15-point checklist before you hit the road.
1. Shake off the dust.
Remove the cover and any blocks used to keep your motorcycle off the ground during its winter nap and lower the bike onto its side stand. Remove any plugs, rags or covers from the exhaust pipes and air intakes that kept those critters at bay during hibernation. Wipe away any coating you may have applied to protect the frame, rims and chain. Give your beast its first spring bath.
2. Check out that petrol system.
Replace the fuel filter and examine the fuel tank, fuel lines and fittings for cracks and leaks. If you used a fuel stabilizer, your fuel should be in good shape. Make sure by opening the filler cap and looking inside for gunk or stratification. If the fuel is consistent and clean, you can go to the next step. If not, you’re better off draining the tank and fuel lines before running the engine. You also should check and clean your carburetor. Add a fuel system cleaner the next few times you fill your tank.
3. It may need a transfusion.
Many motorcycle manufacturers recommend you change the engine oil and filter before storage and again in the spring. During storage, the oil can separate, causing a condensation build up that may harm your engine. Whether or not you changed your engine oil before storage, you’ll still want to check the oil level before riding.
4. Check the lines.
Check the fluid hose connections for looseness or signs of leakage. Check for cracks in all hoses and replace them as needed. Check the levels and consistency of all of the fluids. Change any fluid that looks suspicious and top off any that need refilling. Always use a new sealed container when topping off fluids. If equipped, also change the antifreeze and air filter.
5. Is it alive?
If you removed the battery for storage and kept it charged, clean the cables and terminals with a wire brush, then grease and reconnect. If you kept your battery trickle-charged or hooked up to a tender, it’s probably in good shape. However, if the bike was stored without disconnecting the battery or without using a smart charger, the battery will need to be fully charged or replaced if it won’t hold a charge. In either case, check the leads for corrosion and make sure they’re attached snugly. Depending on your battery, you may have to fill the cells with distilled water. Be sure the vent tube is connected and properly routed.
6. How about the rubber?
If the weight was off your motorcycle’s wheels during storage, chances are your tires are in good shape, but you still should inspect them thoroughly before riding. Check for cracks, bulges, punctures, stress marks or flat spots. Using a tire pressure gauge, check the air pressure in both tires to ensure they’re properly inflated. If needed, refill your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Inspect the wheels for dents and carefully tighten any loose spokes. Also grease the wheel bearings.
7. Will it stop? This is important!
Check and fill the brake fluid level and replace it if it’s dirty. Examine the brake lines for cracks and leaks. Inspect the brake pads and discs or shoes for wear. If they’re thin, you may want to get new ones. Thoroughly clean the brake rotors with brake cleaner. Lubricate the front-brake hand lever and throttle cables.
8. Will it start? Equally as important!
If you didn’t spray fogging oil or lubricate the top of the cylinder before storage, remove the spark plugs and pour 2 tablespoons of oil into the spark plug ports. This will lubricate the top portion of the cylinder walls before you start the bike. When you pull the plugs, check the gaps; if needed, use a gap-setting tool to set them to the manufacturer’s specifications.
9. Give it the once over.
Inspect the frame and fairing for hairline cracks. Pay close attention to areas around the engine and transmission brackets. Move the forks forward and back to feel for looseness. If there’s any movement or clunking from the steering head, tighten it properly. Inspect the handlebars for cracks and lubricate the cable connections. Pay particular attention to brake lever pivot bolts, axle nuts and drain plugs. Lubricate all bearings and grease the kickstand. Check the condition of every nut and fastener and tighten as necessary.
10. Double check it.
Check the sprocket for missing teeth or uneven wear. Test the amount of slack in the motorcycle’s chain and adjust the tension to the manufacturer’s specification. Then lubricate the chain.
11. Test the electrical system.
Check your electronics, switches, lights and gauges for proper operation. Test your regular and high-beam headlamps and front and rear turn signals. Test your rear brake light and ensure it lights up when you engage the brakes. Test the horn to ensure it works.
12. Test the controls.
Examine the cables and hoses for cracks, kinks or other damage. Test the levers and pedals to make sure they’re well-lubricated. Test the throttle to ensure it flows smoothly and does not jam or spring closed when released.
13. Update your insurance policy and look over your personal protective equipment (PPE).
Make sure your insurance policy is up to date. If you’ve added any custom parts or equipment, you’ll want to be sure they’re covered. Go over your riding gear to make sure it’s up to par and replace any worn-out gear, including your helmet.
14. Practice before hitting the road.
Let the bike idle for a few minutes to get its fluids circulating. Check to see whether it idles smoothly and at the correct RPM after reaching normal operating temperature. Use the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s T-CLOCS (Tires, Controls, Lights, Oils and Fluids, Chassis and Stands) checklist before you hop on the motorcycle for that first ride of the season. Practice a few simple maneuvers to shake off the rust before hitting the open road. This will also help make sure your bike is ready for the trip.
15. Get your beast scrutinized.
Let your first-line leader inspect your bike using that T-CLOCS checklist, verify that your PPE and insurance are current and up to par, and validate your training. Schedule training if required. Now you’re ready to enjoy your ride. Think safety and have a safe riding season.
Author’s note: Tips provided by Allstate and the SpareFoot blog. There is a lot of information available on the internet for bringing your motorcycle out of storage. Use it wisely!