A little spot of spring cleaning

Let’s be honest: some of us (not me, obviously…) don’t much like riding our bikes in the winter. We’re a bit soft; we don’t like the cold or rain, we hate riding in the dark and rather like the bears, we’re up for hibernating our bike riding during the dark months.

As soon as the clocks go back in October we’re looking for bus and train timetables to get to work, and by the time Guy Fawkes has had his last night out we’re pulling out the bike cover for the winter.

But by the time we get to the end of February, well that pesky winter has had its day and we’re definitely on the cusp of spring. And that means only one thing: better weather is on its way, as are lighter days, so let’s get the bike out!

But watch out; before you hit the road there are some key checks to perform first.

The best place to start is with POWDERS - the police pre-ride check-list that is a simple way of making sure everything is fine on your bike.

So before you reach for the keys, make sure you check:

Petrol - Oil - Water - Drivetrain - Electrics - Rubber - and Stopping.

Petrol: It might seem obvious but check you have some fuel before you set off. Could be your last glance at the tank gauge before you put your bike into cold storage showed it was registering little to no fuel, but you thought ‘I’ll fill up later…’ It will ruin your first ride if it comes to a spluttering halt in the first few miles.

Oil: Ditto with the oil. Check with the oil gauge that it’s at the right level before you set off.

Water: Check the level but also look at the hoses for cracks or splits that may have formed during the cold nights. Check any fasteners are tight, too.

Drivetrain: Check your bike’s chain to make sure it is well lubricated. A word of warning; if you spray it and then ride off, you’ll have issues straight away as the lubricant won’t have had chance to do its work. Better to check it the day before you intend to ride, apply the lubricant and leave it to sink in, so everything moves smoothly the next day.

Electrics: Indicators, lights, horn. Clean your lenses, make sure all the bulbs light up. Check your instrument gauges; do all the warning lights switch off once the engine is running?

Rubber: If your tyres have been left out in the cold during a harsh winter they could have developed splits, so check them thoroughly. This is particularly so if the bike has been stood on the ground through the winter without anything taking the weight off the tyres. Also look for welts and bulges which indicate dangerous wear and tear. It’s also a good idea to use this check to make sure your tyres are legal. Motorcycles over 50cc must have a tread depth that’s at least 1mm around the entire circumference. For under 50cc machines like mopeds, the grooves from the original tread must remain visible around the whole tyre.

Tyres naturally lose pressure over time, so if you’ve not been out on the bike for a while, make sure you inflate them to the required pressure. How much psi they need will be in your owner’s manual.

Stopping: Finally, it’s vital you give your brakes a thorough check. By this we don’t mean just giving the lever a squeeze to make sure there’s a bit of resistance and it doesn’t stick for want of a drop of oil; examine your discs and brake pads to make sure there is plenty of wear left in them. If you are not sure, take it to a garage and let a mechanic check it for you. Make sure the pads don’t cling on to the discs when you release the brake lever.

Last tip: your battery is most likely to be your biggest problem area. If you haven’t fired up your bike regularly over winter, chances are the battery will struggle. Batteries leak charge when idle, so if it has been left standing for a period of time it will probably need recharging.

Don’t get a jump start from a friend’s car, though. The extra volts could cause problems. A better bet is a bike charger. They are not expensive and are a great investment that will pay you back over the years.

Finally, if your bike has been idle… make sure the tax, insurance and MoT haven’t lapsed during its little spell on the sidelines. Check - you don’t want to risk a prosecution for riding without them.

Next time: Riding tips after a period out of the saddle

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