Spring is motorcycle season – the time when motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere get to finally break free from their four-wheeled cages and hit the road. If your baby’s been sitting in the garage all winter, you’ve been looking forward to that first ride of the season like a man wandering in the desert looking for a cool drink of water.
But before you ride, take a close look at your ride from the ground up. Remember, she’ll take care of you, if you take care of her.
Start by checking the air pressure in both tires. Tires lose pressure slowly over time. Low tire pressure can make motorcycles hard to handle and increase wear and tear on your tires. This is a particular concern after your bike has spent a winter in the garage because air pressure decreases with colder temperatures.
While you’re looking at your tires, check for cracks, dry rot, or other damage, and make sure your tread is in good shape. If you left your motorcycle sitting in the same position for a while, the tires may have developed flat spots that could cause handling problems.
While you’re down there checking your tires, take time to inspect your brake pads. Worn pads that got you through the end of last season may need replacing before you hit the road this year. Check your brake lines for cracks and leaks, and make sure that your brake-fluid reservoir is full. Test your front and rear brakes separately to make sure that they work and listen for scraping or squealing noises that can indicate trouble.
If your bike has been sitting for a while, the battery may need a charge. Before you start up, check both terminals for dust, dirt, and corrosion. Make sure the terminals are clean and the cables are securely connected.
Motorcycles need a lot of fluid to run smoothly, from oil and gas to hydraulic and brake fluids. Checking your fluids at the end of a long winter means more than just making sure all the reservoirs are full. Fluids left sitting for a couple of months may degrade, so look for changes in color and consistency, and replace any fluid that looks dirty or different than it did when you put it in.
This is a good time to check your manufacturer’s suggested schedule for changing fluids. If you missed a scheduled change over the winter, now you can atone for the lapse. Remember to check your oil filter and inspect fluid lines for cracks or signs of leakage.
Try out your steering, throttle, clutch, and other controls to make sure they still work. Check cables for fraying, signs of corrosion, or damage to coverings. Check lines and hoses for cracks, cuts, or other signs of a leak. Make sure that none of your control cables or hoses are folded or kinked, and test the steering to make sure you can move freely without snagging anything.
Belts and Chains
Whether your bike has a drive belt or a drive chain, make sure it’s in good shape and has the correct tension. Check your drive belt for signs of cracking or tearing, or check your drive chain for damaged teeth.
After an accident involving a car and a motorcycle, drivers often swear that they never saw a bike. Your safety depends on your ability to get drivers’ attention. Make sure your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and flashers are all working and connected securely. And make sure your lenses are clean and test both the high and low beams. Test your horn while you’re at it—it could be a lifesaver.
Before you ride, check your helmet for cracks, dents, or other damage. Make sure the inner lining is clean. Try your leathers on to make sure they still fit comfortably. Pull out your emergency kit and take a quick inventory—verify that nothing is missing, expired, or broken.
Take it easy when you first hit the road. You will be relying on skills that you may not have used for a few months, so give yourself some time to get up to speed. Check your eye protection, condition leathers, and protect your helmet with a new headwrap.
Review your motorcycle insurance coverage
Don’t forget to properly insure yourself. Like auto insurance, some coverages are required for motorcyclists; others are optional.
Have you added any custom parts, equipment, or accessories to your bike that you’d like to have covered? Accessories might include saddlebags, backrests, seats, levers, or chrome pieces.
If your driving record has changed, you’ve had some additional training, or you’ve modified the safety equipment on your bike, you could be eligible for a lower insurance rate. You may even qualify for some discounts.
Most states require motorcyclists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, to cover bodily injury and property damage costs caused to other people involved in an accident.
In addition, uninsured/underinsured (UI/UIM) motorist coverage is recommended, or even required, in many states as part of a motorcyclist’s policy to cover expenses for damage were caused by another driver who either does not have insurance, or whose insurance is inadequate.
The mandatory minimum limits for these coverages in states where they are required for motorcycle insurance are generally similar to those required for automobiles.
a) Collision—covers damage resulting from a collision with another vehicle, an object or as a result of flipping over.
- b) Comprehensive—covers damage caused by events such as fire, flood, falling objects, theft or vandalism.
- c) First-party medical coverage—covers your own medical expenses if they were incurred in an accident while operating your motorcycle.
- c) Emergency road service—covers towing and roadside assistance costs.
- d) Accessories and customization—covers the repair or replacement of accessories, like helmets and safety jackets, and customized equipment added to the motorcycle after purchase, such as exhaust pipes, saddlebags, and seats.
Beyond the types and amount of coverage purchased, several factors will also affect how much you pay for motorcycle insurance, including:
- Your age and driving record
- Where you live
- The model, make and horsepower of your motorcycle
- Where you store and drive your motorcycle
All of these are important checks for before and during the riding season. You don’t have to be a great wrench to perform the safety checks above and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make sure you’re properly covered. All it takes is a phone call [link to office line].