When the first nice spring day arrives, you may be inclined to pull off the cover, jump on, and go for a ride. However, before you do that, there are some things to think about. First, your motorcycle has been sitting idle for several months. It may not be in the same shape as you left it. Second, road conditions in spring are a bit different than any other time of the year.
To make sure your first ride is safe and enjoyable, here are some maintenance and springtime riding tips.
1. Check your tires. Cold air can cause tires to lose tire pressure. After sitting all winter, it’s likely your tires are low. Driving with under-inflated tires is dangerous. Under-inflated tires can lead to tire failure, poor handling, and the need to buy tires more frequently. Also, inspect your tires for wear and tear. Things to look for include:
- Uneven tread wear
- Punctures, cuts, or cracks
2. Inspect your battery. For many it’s common practice to trickle charge the battery during winter storage. However, if you didn’t keep an eye on your battery during winter, hook it up to a charger. Also, double check your battery terminals for corrosion or leaks.
3. Inspect your lights. It’s important that other motorists can see you. Replace bulbs that are burned out.
4. Check your fluid levels. Changing your oil at the beginning or end of the season is common. However, don’t forget about checking these other important fluids:
- Brake fluid
- Transmission oil
- Hydraulic clutch fluid
- Fork oil
Always refer to your owner’s manual for recommended service intervals.
Springtime Riding Tips
1. Avoid road debris. After a long winter, the side of the road can be a mess. Until the first good rain or until street sweepers clean it up, debris can make its way into traffic lanes. Metal pieces can puncture a tire and leftover salt and sand can reduce traction and increase braking distance.
2. Be on the lookout for potholes. Keeping potholes filled during the winter months can be a losing battle for road workers. Therefore, it’s up to you to constantly scan the road so you’re aware of what’s in front of you. Hitting a pothole could not only damage your motorcycle, it could cause you to lose control if you’re not expecting it. Also, keeping a safe following distance will allow you to see them and use your brakes more effectively.
3. Watch for pedestrians. After a long, cold winter, everyone is itching to get outside. So, when the first nice day arrives, be alert for pedestrians. Especially watch for excited children who may run into the street without looking.
4. Don’t expect other drivers to see you. After several months of winter driving, motorists may not see you or expect you to be on the road. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re seen. Here are some things you can do.
- Wear bright colored safety gear. Consider wearing at least one bright item when you go for a ride. If you love your black leather jacket, then wear a brighter helmet.
- Use additional reflectors or reflective tape. While these items won’t do much during the day, they can make a difference at night. Reflective tape can be used in unique places and installation is easy.
- Avoid blind spots. Always be aware of your position on the road. While you can’t avoid blind spots completely, being aware can help you make a quick lane change or allow you to speed up or slow down. Proper road position can give you a better chance to spot and react to hazards safely.
- Use your high beams. Depending on the situation, it may make sense to use your high beams during the day. While it may annoy other motorists, you’ll be more visible.
- Use your signals. Because motorcycles are small and nimble compared to cars, I often see lane changes made with no signals. Using your signals increases your visibility by alerting drivers to what you’re doing.
5. Drive slower. Like many activities, sitting out for a season can cause you to come back a bit rusty. Now’s the time to take it easy and to become re-acclimated with your motorcycle and riding techniques. While your skills will likely come back quickly, it’s best to take it slow. If you’re starting out the season with a new motorcycle, this tip is critical.
6. Pack extra gear. Being comfortable on your ride can lead to the first great ride of the season. However, wind, spring showers, and fluctuating temperatures can make it a bit tricky. Packing extra gear or wearing layers will allow you to adjust as needed.
7. Avoid nighttime driving. While the days are longer, it’s not summer. Nighttime driving requires extra skill and alertness. During spring, road conditions can change when the sun goes down.
8. Contact your insurance agent. While you should have insurance on your motorcycle year-round, if you don’t, make sure to contact your agent before taking it out on a spring ride.
Links to other blogs
Motorcycle awareness month safe driving tips for all drivers
Top ways new riders can stay safe
Beginners’ tips for riding a motorcycle
Essential safety tips for sharing the road with motorcycles
Do you have any tips or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.