1. Push your bike around
The first step in preparing your bike after it’s been sat around for the winter is to push your bike around your drive.
This first step will help you to identify anywhere your bike may be seizing up. This will also move the oils and lubricants around in your bike, helping to reveal any leaks. While you’re doing this, try out the brakes and make sure they feel ok, and check the steering by moving the handlebars left and right, checking for any issues.
If those wheels have been off the road for a while, it’s best to make sure they’re in a good enough condition for your next ride. There are a couple of considerations when checking your tyres.
The first thing you’ll need to check is whether the tyres are legal to ride on the road with. The legal tread depth limit for motorcycles, mopeds and scooters over 50cc in the UK is 1mm. Many tyres include tread depth indicators built into them. These are small raised sections within the tread, and if you see wear on these it’s time to change your tyres. Alternatively, you can check your tread using a tyre tread depth gauge.
Additionally, you’ll want to check for uneven wear, where certain areas of the tyre are wearing at different rates than other areas, usually caused by over or underinflation. Also, check for cracking, due to older tyres becoming brittle. If either of these applies you will want to consider replacing your tyres.
If your tyres pass the above tests, next you’ll want to make sure that the pressure is correct. Tyres can lose pressure slowly over time, and if your bike has been sitting in a cold garage or driveway for a while, chances are you’re going to see a bit of a drop. The size and height of your tyres will determine the pressure you need for your tyres, and you can read this on the side of the tyre. If you’re unsure what pressure your tyres need to be, you can find this information in your owner's manual.
You can check the pressure using a pressure gauge, and some tyre pumps even have this included. If the pressure is too low, you’ll need to pump some more air into your tyres. This can be done using an at home electric pump, or you can use the air provided at petrol stations (just make sure to push your bike there if the pressure is very low).
It’s important that your bike’s brakes are working properly before you take it out for its first spin of the season. At this point you’ve already made sure they feel ok, now it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Checking your brakes requires you to take a look at your brake pads and discs. Your brake pads will wear down before your discs, and if you ensure these do not wear down you shouldn’t have any trouble with your discs.
Typically, your brake pads will have a wear indicator grooves. This is a groove or cut out of the pad signalling how much usable pad you have remaining. If you cannot see this grooves, and your pads look low, you’ll need to get your brake pads replaced.
Although discs do not need changing as frequently as pads, it’s always worth double checking these are ok. To do this, you can run your finger across the disc, if you feel any warping or groves in the disc, you’ll want to get these checkout out by a mechanic.
If you want to start the engine up, you’ll need to make sure your battery has enough juice. Unfortunately, if your bike has been sitting around for a while, and you haven’t been using a trickle charger, the chances are that the battery will be flat.
To charge up your battery, you’ll first need to find out what type of battery your bike uses. This information can be found in your owner's manual. Once you know this, you have a few options for starting your bike. Firstly, you can use a battery charger. Secondly, you can jump start your bike with another battery, either from a bike or a car. Thirdly, you can push start your bike (if it has gears).
However, if your battery does run completely flat its lifespan will decrease - run it flat too many times and you will need to replace it!
You’ll want to make sure all of the lights on your bike are in good working order before you take your bike out. Checking your lights is as easy as turning on each light at a time and making sure they work. If you have any issues with any of your lights, you’ll want to get the bulbs replaced.
Your chain is a vital part of your bike, and if you haven’t ridden in a while you’ll want to make sure this is in tip top condition.
Firstly, you’ll want to check the tension of the chain. You should check this while no one is on the bike, and this can be done by simply ensuring that the chain has a bit of give by moving this with your hand. When a rider is on the bike, the chain will tighten slightly, and so you do not want this to be too tight with no one on the bike.
The second check for your chain is to ensure that this is lubricated sufficiently. It’s likely that your chain will have dried up whilst in storage, so spraying a little lubricant on the chain will be necessary. Be sure not to get any lubricant near the brake disks, brake pads or tyres.
Bike suspension can sometimes get a little sticky after sitting around for a while. Make sure yours is ok by applying your front brake and pushing down on your handlebars. In doing so, you’ll feel a little give as you push down if your suspension is working correctly. If this feels clunky, doesn’t move or moves too far, you may have an issue with your suspension that will need looking at before you ride.
8. Start up the engine
Once you’ve given your bike the once over, it’s time to make sure that everything is firing as expected. Start up the engine and allow your bike to get up to an operational temperature, this will typically take a couple of minutes. During this time you can listen to your engine and make sure everything sounds as you’d expected. If you’re happy there’s nothing to worry about, you can turn off the engine and let your bike settle.
9. Oil levels
Just like you would before taking your bike out for a long ride, it’s important to check the oil level. Now your bike is warmed up and has had time for the oil to settle back in the tank, it’s time to check your levels are ok.
If your bike has a sight glass you’ll need to make sure that you hold the bike level, and then you can simply look at the window and ensure your oil level is between the two markers. If your bike uses a dipstick, you will need to remove the stick, wipe it clean and then reinsert and remove to check the oil level. The dipstick will have a minimum and maximum marker, so you can easily tell if your oil levels are ok.
If you’re unsure about how to check the oil in your bike, take a look at your owners manual. If you’ve lost yours, you can access many manuals on My Bike Manuals.
If your oil is too low, you’ll need to follow your manuals instructions to add more oil but be sure not to over fill it. Please be aware that different motorcycles and mopeds will use different oils, so it’s always worth checking which type of oil your bike takes before filling up. If the oil levels are too high, you’ll need to follow your manuals instructions around bleeding some of this oil off.
10. Coolant and other liquids
Along with your oil levels, you’ll want to ensure that your coolant and brake fluid levels are within the normal limits. Doing this will be slightly different for every motorcycle, but this can usually be checked by looking at the minimum and maximum markers on your bike. For more information, please check your owner’s manual.
Last but not least, you’ll want to make sure your horn is still working properly. Give this a beep, and you’ll be ready to go!
Important Notice: Always follow manufacturer's guidelines and instructions. Only do what you feel competent to do, always use a trained mechanic for any motorcycle work you are not capable of doing yourself. We are not liable for any damage, accident, injury or loss which may be caused by any vehicle maintenance.
The last stop!
One of the last ways you can get your bike prepared for riding season is by having valid insurance!