Winter’s firmly in the rear view mirror and we’re heading rapidly towards warmer, drier days – perfect motorcycling weather. But before you pull the covers off your bike and head out on the road, take the opportunity to make sure both you and your bike are ready.
Although motor vehicles only have to be MOT’d once a year, it is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy all year round. A winter laid up in the garage or under a cover can leave a bike with dangerous problems such as seized brake callipers and cylinders or low tyre pressures. So before you head out on the road, it’s time to give the bike a thorough check. Riding a bike that is not roadworthy could result in a serious accident, and the most likely person to suffer as a result is you. Motorcyclists make up a tiny percentage of road users but a disproportionately high number of traffic accident victims. While motorcycle accidents are often the result of other road user’s inattention, checking that your bike is safe prevents you from being the cause of your own misfortune.
If you’re not confident in your skills as a motorcycle mechanic, the best thing to do is book your bike in for a service at a reputable garage. However, there are plenty of things even amateur mechanics can do to avoid motorcycle accidents.
Tyres – the most obvious check is to ensure that your tyres are at the correct pressure, but take the opportunity to check the condition of them as well. Make sure that your tyres have the minimum tread depth across the whole width of the tyre and that there are no cracks, splits or damage particularly to the sides of the tyres.
Brakes – leaving a bike standing for any length of time can result in the brakes becoming stiff or even seizing on. Ensure that your brakes are fully operational and that there are no airlocks in the lines. Bleed the brakes through to remove any air in the system, and top up brake fluid levels.
Oil – changing the oil and oil filter can increase the efficiency of the engine and reduce emissions. It also prolongs the life of the engine and prevents dangerous situations such as the engine seizing whilst travelling.
Lights – although the days are getting longer, you will still need to ensure that all of your lights are working correctly, particularly brake lights. Replace any bulbs that don’t work.
Getting yourself ready
Once the bike is in good working order, it’s time to think about yourself. If you haven’t ridden for a few months, remember that the first time out your reaction times are going to be a little slower than normal, so take it easy and be far more aware of traffic on the road. Remember also that road conditions may have changed since your last ride, as winter weather damages the surface of the road so watch out for new potholes.
If you’re feeling a little rusty then the best advice is to brush up your riding skills with a couple of advanced riding lessons. Motorcycle schools do ‘refresher’ lessons for riders who have been off their bike for a while. While nobody likes to admit that they’re not as good as they should be, a refresher course can prevent you from making a basic riding mistake and help you avoid a serious motorcycle accident.