Bring Your Bike Out of Winter Hibernation
While we here at CycleSoup.com have heard of mystical lands where folks can ride year ‘round, we pretty much chalk those tales up to urban myth; winter’s deathly chill meant we had to put our motorcycles into storage for the season.
But fear not! The sun is returning, the land is thawing and riding season is just around the corner. Be ready for it by following these six simple steps for properly bringing your machine back to life after its long winter nap.
1. Check the gas. If you were smart enough to have used Sta-Bil or some other fuel stabilizer back in the Fall, your bike’s fuel should be in good shape. If not, plan on draining the tank of bad gas and using a tank cleaner to get rid of the built-up gunk. (More than likely, you’ll also need to rebuild the carburetor as well if you forgot to stabilize the fuel last fall.) If you didn't spray fogging oil or lubricate the top of the cylinders before storage, remove the spark plugs and pour two tablespoons of oil into the spark plug ports; this will lubricate the top portion of the cylinder walls before you start up the bike
2. Change the oil, even if you did it when you put your bike into storage. In cold storage conditions, moisture can condense inside the machine, plus cold weather can cause oil to degrade over time. Don’t forget to install a new oil filter while you’re at it.
3. Inspect the battery. Motorcycle batteries tend to lose life quickly, especially in cold weather. If you kept your battery on a tender during the winter, it’s probably in good shape (although individual cells can still fail over time). Check the leads for corrosion, and make sure they're properly and tightly attached.
4. Check your clutch, brake, and coolant levels (if applicable). If the brake fluid needs topping off, use fluid from a new, sealed bottle that’s the same brand as the fluid already in the system.
5. Inspect the tires. If you kept weight off your motorcycle’s wheels and suspension during storage, you should be in great shape. If your motorcycle rested on a kickstand, check for any stress marks, cracks, or flat spots on the tires.
6. Check the drive. Inspect the final drive oil (for shaft drive machines) or the drive belt/chain for any wear and replace if needed. Finally, use the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s T-CLOCS checklist to prep for your first ride—T-CLOCS is an acronym for Tires, Controls, Lights, Oils & Fluids, Chassis, and Stands and should be a mantra each and every time your get on your motorcycle.
Before you head out for Spring’s first ride, don’t forget that the most important component of the motorcycle is you, the operator. You’re probably a bit rusty from a winter of not riding, so head to an empty parking lot that’s free of gravel or sand and practice your skills. When all is said and done, you’ll be ready for another riding season filled with great memories and remarkable rides.