Spring is Here! 7-Point Plan to Get Your Motorcycle Ready to Ride
Spring is here, the sun's hanging around longer, and we know you're itching to get riding! But don't hit the road just yet - there's a few things you need to do to get your bike back in shape after hibernating all winter. Read our guide, and make sure your bike is as ready to hit the road as you are!
Spring is officially here, and it's about time to get riding again! If you were able to get all your winterizing done when you were forced to hang up your riding boots for the cold season, your bike should be almost ready to ride; if not, getting your bike road-ready might take just a bit more effort.
Either way, using our guide, it should only take a couple of hours to get your bike in tip-top shape for riding season, so you don't miss a single day of it when it gets here!
So here's a quick rundown of the 7-point plan to Winter recovery, in order of importance:
- Manual Labor - Dust off your trust service manual and skim through it
- Fuel First - Why you shouldn't use fuel that has been sitting
- Battery Maintenance - Lead-acid or lithium, you probably need a charge
- Tires - Will they be good for the whole season?
- Oil & Filter - Now is a good time to change them
- The Forgotten Fluids - Don't forget your brake fluid and coolant
- Spring Cleaning - Days are getting longer, make your bike shine!
Whether you're still stuck indoors or if riding season has already begun, reading your owner's or service manual can help get you prepared for spring maintenance. This Spring Preparation guide will give you some great general pointers on how to be prepared, but your manual has all the specifics for your own bike.
Skim through it after reading our guide to get a feel for what kind of procedures you'll need to do, and what kind of tools you might need to order before digging in. If you don't have one yet, we have hundreds to choose from in our Motorcycle Manuals section.
Stale gasoline is an often forgotten yet very problematic issue with stored vehicles, so I recommend addressing your fuel and fuel system first, before anything else. Gasoline is a very refined chemical composition, and it actually deteriorates very quickly. After a few months, the more combustible elements in gasoline will have already begun to evaporate, which can cause your bike to run rough (or not at all.) If your bike has a high compression engine, like in many sport bikes, old fuel will cause even bigger problems.
In addition, while sitting in a tank, gasoline can react with oxygen to create varnish deposits in the fuel system, which can clog lines, filters, and jets or injectors. Due to temperature variations, condensation can also form in a gas tank, adding water to your gasoline, which can create even more severe problems.
New gas vs. gas that is several months old; running old untreated fuel can cause problems in fuel systems.
If you winterized your bike correctly, you will have either drained the fuel or added a fuel stabilizer to the fuel in the tank (fuel stabilizers like Sta-Bil can extend the life of fuel to a year or more.) If you did drain your tank, take a peek inside for any rust, gunk, or condensation that could cause problems later. Refill your tank with high-octane fuel before you start it up, to make sure the gas running through the system is as fresh as possible.
With fresh fuel in the tank, we can move on to addressing the other most common storage issue - dead batteries.
The most common issue with bikes sitting all winter long tends to be the batteries. Every time a battery goes dead, its life gets cut down, and it only needs to be drained a few times for it to become really problematic. Smart riders will have kept their battery on a trickle charger while it was stored, but if you forgot this step, it's not too late to order one and charge your battery back up for that first ride of the season.
We recommend getting a "smart" battery charger that automatically turns itself off so you don't overcharge and damage it, like the Battery Tender Smart Charger Junior or the BikeMaster Automatic Battery Charger. No matter what charger you pick up, it's still a good idea to check your battery fluid levels before hooking it up, and top off any low cells.
The Battery Tender Jr. is a good quality smart charger for motorcycle batteries.
If you have a lithium battery (which is a great upgrade) you'll need to treat it a little differently. You should still use a trickle charger, but you'll need one that is lithium battery-specific, like the Shorai Charge & Store Battery Management System. Lithium batteries are solid-state, so you don't top off the cells with water either. Check out my complete guide on the benefits of lithium batteries for more information.
The Shorai lithium-ion battery uses its own charging system; more expensive, but well worth the investment.
If you happen to hook up your battery to a charger and nothing happens, chances are that your battery is just too far gone to be revived. It's definitely better to find out a few weeks before spring so that you can order a new motorcycle battery without having to delay your first spring ride that we know you're looking forward to, so check the battery in advance!
Tires are a part of your bike that should really be checked before every ride; only a few square inches of rubber keeps hundreds of pounds of metal (and you) in contact with the road at any given time, so having tires in good condition is essential.
Don't be that guy trying to "squeeze a few more miles out" of a motorcycle tire - it ain't worth it!
When checking tires after storage, you should be conscious of potential flat-spotting on the tires from sitting for a long time (especially on soft compound tires), and bringing tire pressure up to spec, as air will have undoubtedly seeped out after months of not being used. Check the tire wear too; it may be a good time to go ahead and replace tires before spring hits, so you know you have good rubber for the whole riding season.
If you do spring for new tires, check out our guide on How to Choose Motorcycle Tires for more information.
Oil and Filter
You may have changed your oil as part of your winterizing process, but if not, it's a good idea to change it before starting a new riding season. Every motorcycle is different, so you'll need to consult an owner's manual for the exact procedure, but it's a good practice to change your oil and filter at the same time (the correct filter for your bike can be found easily using the fitment tool on our site.)
Here's a handy guide to help with all that messy business: Changing your Motorcycle's Oil.
One of the most neglected things on a motorcycle is the brake fluid. Even when your bike isn't being used, brake fluid is extremely hygroscopic, meaning, that it has a tendency to absorb moisture straight out of the air (brake fluid attracts so much moisture that simply leaving the cap off a bottle overnight can ruin it!)
At the very least, check and top off the fluid levels in your master cylinder, ensuring you use the correct brake fluid for your bike (different DOT brake fluids should not be mixed.) Ideally, you should do a complete flush of your brake system with new fluid; for more detailed information on this procedure, check our detailed guide on Maintaining and Replacing Motorcycle Brakes.
Another often forgotten fluid is coolant; check and make sure coolant levels are up to spec, especially after your bike's been sitting for several months. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can do a complete coolant flush also, clearing out all the used coolant with white vinegar and distilled water, and refilling your system with a fresh mix. If your bike tends to run hot or you ride especially hard, check out products like Engine Ice, a racing-approved coolant that can reduce operating temperatures by 20 degrees or more!
That first time you hit the road again after a long hiatus, make sure your bike looks as good as you feel. Unless you're working on making a Rat Bike, give your bike a good scrub and wax it up to help protect it from riding season hazards such as dirt, rocks and even the sun.
With the battery charged, fresh fuel in the tank, all moving parts lubed up, and a paint job that sparkles in the springtime sunlight, there's only one thing left to do - go ride!
What do you do to get your bike ready for Spring? Share your tips and advice in the comments below!