Okay, you’re about to take your bike our for the first time in a while. Maybe it has been in storage, there has been a stretch of bad weather, or life has made it difficult to get out and ride. Whatever it is, if your bike has been sitting for long periods of time, it’s a smart thing to check and make sure it can meet the challenges of the road. So, here’s a checklist, in no order of importance, of the most common things to check before you get back on the road.
Tires- You will need a tire pressure gauge, tire pump/air compressor, and a penny to perform your checks. Check for proper inflation; no cracking, dry rot, or bulges; and that there is enough tread. Be aware that tires stored in the same position can develop flat spots.
Battery- You will need a Philips head screwdriver, wrenches/hex heads, and a battery tender; while a multimeter is preferred it is not necessary. Look for corrosion and leaks; does it hold a charge when disconnected, or does it need charging. Try and start the bike to make sure the battery has enough juice to start your bike. Also, if you notice any deformations or exposed wiring, you will want to get those taken care of because they can turn an enjoyable day trip into a nightmare.
Belts and Chains- You will need motorcycle chain cleaner, clean rags, and motorcycle chain lube. A chain cleaning brush, paddock or center stand can make the task easier. Look for sprocket wear, curved teeth, sharp pointy ends, or warping. Wipe the chain with motorcycle chain cleaner to prevent damage to the O- or X-rings if you have a sealed chain, check the chain for rust and wear. Once you have checked the entire chain, wipe it with motorcycle chain cleaner and let it dry completely before you apply motorcycle chain lube. For belt-driven motorcycles, check the belt for cracks or signs of wear, and tension which could cause a malfunction.
Fluids Levels and Lubrication, Including Gas and Oil- For fuel you should have stored your motorcycle with fresh gas, included a fuel stabilizer, and ran it for a few minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer makes it through the fuel system. If you didn’t, you will need to siphon out the gas, you can put it in your car’s tank next time you need to fill up because it will be diluted and not impact your car. For oil it's a good idea to change it before you take it out if you do it yourself, or have it changed as part of your first ride. For other fluids and lubrication, make sure there are no leaks and top them off. Think about brake fluid, coolant, transmission oil, hydraulic clutch oil, and fork oil as common fluids to check prior to your first ride after storing your bike.
Leaks- Check the ground around where your motorcycle was stored and around the engine for leaks, because sometimes gaskets and seals can become damaged during storage.
Brakes- Check the brake calipers, discs, and brake pads for signs of wear. Roll your bike forward and backward to check your bikes brakes are engaging properly. If worn replace them before riding.
Lighting and Signals- Check your high and low beams, tail and brake lights, turn signals and flashers are all working properly. Replace any that are burned out.
Steering and Suspension- Fully rotate your handlebars in each direction and check for sticking or binding. Compress your front and rear suspension to ensure they are not bottoming out and release smoothly.
Throttle, Clutch, and Controls- With the bike off, rotate the throttle fully open and then release, making sure it fully returns to the starting position. Inspect your motorcycle’s throttle and clutch cables for wear and damage. Clutch plates can stick together after storage. To test this, pull in the clutch, shift the bike into gear, and make sure it rolls freely. If they are stuck rock the bike back and forth and this should be enough to unstick them. For the rest of the controls, test them to make sure they are all in working order.
Air Filter- Open the airbox, clean and/or replace the air filter. This is good because spiders and bugs could have made their winter home there and can restrict air flow.
Exhaust- Remove any plugs you may have put in when storing your bike and use a flashlight to have a good look inside making sure there are no pests inside.
Spark Plugs- It’s a good idea to check the spark plugs for signs of wear or damage and replace them before you run into issues down the road.
Now that you have checked your bike out and made sure it is road ready, start it up and let it idle so any oil that may have dripped and settled in your engine can circulate. And don’t forget to give your riding gear the same treatment as you did your bike before you begin your first ride. But that’s for another article.