Motorcycle Tips to Help Jumpstart the Riding Season

8 important things to do before you’re ready to roll.

Riding season preparation
Checking tire pressure is a must-do but there's more to getting your bike and yourself ready to ride.©Motorcyclist

Yeah, I know. Some of you live in areas whose environment allows year round riding. Good for you. For the rest of us who live in chillier climes, there is a period when rusty skills and sketchy conditions increase the risk of a mishap that can end our season before it begins. Here are a few reminders and tips to help the transition go smoothly.

Prep your Moto. If you failed to put your bike away last autumn with stabilizer in the fuel tank, air in the tires, fresh lube where it belongs and a trickle of energy feeding the battery, then your season may be delayed as you get your moto up and running. Even if you stored your machine correctly, you still have some tasks to perform. Start by making sure your airbox didn't become a nesting place for rodents. Then you can check engine oil, top off coolant and give your chain some more love. Now is a good time to change your brake fluid and replace any worn or bent components. You're almost there, but before reaching for your riding gear, be sure to inspect and air up your tires! Plan on replacing tires that are 5 years old or older. CLICK HERE to learn about when to replace tires.

Gear Check. It's smart to take a look at your riding gear. You'll want to replace a helmet that is five or more years old (check its birth date under the liner), since its protective qualities deteriorate over time. Now would be the time to replace scratched visors, worn boots, tattered rain gear and gloves that have become thin from use. When replacing gear consider an upgrade to ensure the best protection you can afford.

Tune Yourself Up. With your motorcycle up and running and gear in order, it's easy to get all excited and forget about the most important facet of a successful reentry; you! Your physical skills and mental processing ability are likely to be a bit dull after weeks or months of hibernation. A bit of deliberate braking and cornering practice in a parking lot goes a long way in thawing your mind and muscles. My book, Riding in the Zone includes several parking lot drills. Signing up for a rider course is another great way to knock off the rust.

Assume They Don't See You. The number of riders who experience close calls goes way up in the springtime. Drivers haven't seen a motorcycle on the roads for a long time and are not looking for, nor expecting to see a motorcycle. This contributes to inattentional blindness where drivers fail to notice us, even when we are in plain view. Use lane positions that put you in plain view and wear bright gear to make yourself as visible as possible. Be sure to slow down and cover your brakes when approaching intersections in case the driver doesn't see you.

Be Aware of Springtime Hazards. Depending on where you live you may have to contend with leftover sand and salt used to treat icy roads. Often, this debris is hard to see until it's too late, so take it easy. Freeze-thaw cycles bust up pavement, leaving massive potholes and frost heaves. And remember that just because the air temperature is above freezing, doesn't mean the roadway is. You may come across dampness and snowmelt that may not be completely thawed.

Expect Less Traction. Even if no black ice is present, the chilly air and cold asphalt will not let your tires warm up for optimum performance. This is especially true if you use race tire "take-offs" on the street. If you tend to venture off-road keep in mind that thawing dirt roads usually turn slimy with mud.

Respect the Cold and Dark. You may be eager to jumpstart your season by taking a daylong ride. Go for it. Just remember that temperatures drop quickly as the sun recedes behind the landscape. Don't get caught without sufficient insulating layers that prevent distracted discomfort or hypothermia. Electrically heated gear (or handgrips) is one way to ensure comfort. And have clear eye protection handy for when the light fades.

Wash Away Salt and Crud. After you arrive home from your invigorating spring ride take a hose to your bike and gear to wash away the corrosive salt and grime you picked up off the road. You may have to do this for the first several rides until rains wash away the offensive debris.