The summer season has taken a long time to arrive this year, midsummer's day has been and gone but the sunny days are finally starting to arrive!
Some people ride all year round in any weather but, if like me your bike or scooter tends to be put away while waiting for the sunshine to bring you out of hibernation, there's some important checks you should carry out to make sure your bike is ready to go after its time in storage.
The first thing to check is your fuel tank. If your bike has only been away for a few weeks it will probably be fine but if it has been stored for a lengthy period (several months or more), your fuel may have gone stale. Petrol deteriorates over time - the combustible elements will begin to evaporate after just a few months and worse, it can react with oxygen to form a gunky varnish that you do not want flowing through your bike's system!
The best idea is to drain the tank before putting your bike into a lengthy storage period but if you didn't, have a look and make sure there's no shiny gunk in there and if in any doubt, you may need to drain the tank and replace with fresh fuel before you start it up.
This is a really common issue when storing your bike for any period of time, especially with modern immobilisers and alarms which constantly drain the battery to stay functioning. The best bet is to get yourself a battery tender, which can trickle charge your battery and keep it healthy while not in use. However, this isn't always an option if you don't have a garage or access to a nearby power supply. Fortunately, the battery tender is also good at charging a flat battery, so if yours has run down one of these will get it working again.
Bear in mind that each time your battery does run completely flat it's lifespan will decrease - run it flat too many times and you will need to replace it!
If you go to start your engine and all you hear is a soft buzzing and the lights on your dash are out - most likely its the battery. Get the battery out and inspect it to make sure there's no leakage or issues, then charge it up or replace it and you should be good to go.
Check the pressure on your tyres. This is something that needs to be done regularly anyway but is even more important after your bike comes out of storage. Your manual will tell you what the optimum pressure should be front and back, if it's been sitting around for any length of time it is likely air will have seeped out.
If the pressure gets too low it can have a huge impact on the way your bike handles, so that will be one of the first things to address once you have it up and running. It might be a good time to inspect your tyres in general here, look for any wear and tear - if your tyres need replacing best to get it sorted before the season starts!
Oil and fluids
There's plenty of other vital fluids in a bike besides the fuel and all of these need to be checked and replaced if necessary. Again, consult your manual for the correct procedures as every bike and scooter is different. Most motorcycles will have markers for your fluid levels to see if they're at the correct level.
Check your oil as well, if the oil hasn't been changed in a long time it could be time to replace it along with the oil filter. Check the brake fluid levels in your master cylinder and if your bike is liquid cooled, check your coolant levels as well.
We already checked the fluid levels but let's make double sure everything is operating properly. Test both brakes and apply some pressure to make sure everything is working. You shouldn't be able to move the bike with the brakes pressed down and it should come to a swift halt as the brakes are applied.
This could be a good time to check your lights too. The headlights and indicators are easy enough to see but while you're squeezing the brakes, just hold a hand out in front of the rear brake light, if it's working correctly you should see the red glow reflecting on your hand.
Have another look at the brake fluids, having the correct levels is one thing but if it looks too dark in colour it may be time to be replaced.
Take a close look at the brake calipers and make sure your brake pads are still in good shape, many bikes have a little window that will show how much life you have left in the pads.
Finally, take a look at the chain and sprockets. Make sure there's no wear or erosion to the sprockets, as these wear down the teeth of the sprocket will start to curve into hooks - a good sign it's time for a replacement.
Even if your bike has been stored in a sealed garage, the chain will likely have picked up some grime and dust over time so give it a good clean and freshly lubricate it. Check how much play there is in the chain - it doesn't want to be too loose or too tight, take a look at your manual again for optimum settings and how to adjust it for your specific bike!
If all goes well and you took good care preparing your bike or scooter to be stored in the first place, you should be out on the road in no time. If you notice any issues during these checks you will have to deal with them first, don't take any chances and put your vehicle's health at risk - or your own safety for that matter.
The best idea is to make sure your bike is well prepared before being stored away at the end of the season so the moment the elusive fine weather arrives, you are ready to take full advantage.
As a final note, you may have your bike ready to go but are you ready? If it's been a while since you last rode, it could be a good idea to ease into it with some short journeys to get used to life on two wheels again before you go on that big ride out. If necessary, many training schools offer courses designed to get you back into the swing of things.
Enjoy the summer season and stay safe!