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Get Your Ride Ready for Summer in Six Easy Steps

Winter in the Northwest and elsewhere can be a difficult time for motorcyclists: cold, wet weather and dark, slippery roads cause many riders to put their bikes away until warmer weather. When spring finally arrives it can be tempting to just jump on and ride, but before you do, make sure your bike is safe and ready for the riding season.

MosMost of these steps are quick and easy with the help of your owner's manual, but consult a mechanic or your dealer if you have questions.

Start a maintenance log

It's easy to forget what you've done to your bike and when, so start a maintenance log now. A simple notebook works fine, and entries should include the date, odometer reading, and what you did. For example,

05/01/2013
13,150 mi. Changed oil (Honda 10w40)

You can also note things to pay attention to ("Small oil drip under engine"), and having a detailed service record will increase the value of your bike if you decide to sell it.

Tires

Inspect your tires for cuts, abrasions, and foreign objects: damaged tires can fail catastrophically, and an oily patch can cause loss of control.

Be sure your tires are properly inflated and there is no cracking in the sidewalls. Tires harden as they age, so consider replacing them if you haven't in the last 2 years. And be sure to make a point of checking your tire pressure at least every week you ride, not just this time.

Controls & Electrical System

Clutch and brake levers should move smoothly, and the throttle should immediately snap closed when you let go. Problems in these systems can be extremely dangerous, so be sure that they're operating freely.

Verify that turn signals, headlights, and brake lights are working, and replace any burned-out bulbs. If your bike has a wet-cell battery, check the electrolyte levels and top off if necessary.

Fluids

Change your oil and check your coolant level, and look for leaks: drips below the engine are a sign of aging gaskets or hoses that should be replaced, and oil leaking from forks indicates failed seals.

Contaminated brake fluid can cause system failure, so change it yearly.

Gasoline absorbs water from the atmosphere over time, so drain your tank and refill it with fresh fuel. (Use the old fuel in your lawnmower.) This is especially important for bikes that have been stored outside.

Clean and lube your chain according to your owner's manual.

Riding Gear

Take a hard look at your safety gear: Are you adequately protected? Does your gear need repair? Helmets should be replaced periodically, and scratched visors obscure your vision.

Paperwork

Make sure your license plates, registration, emergency contact card, and insurance coverage are current.

You DO have insurance, right? Compared to the cost of replacing your bike, a trip to the hospital, or injuring someone else, even the most expensive coverage is a bargain.

While these basic checks can't cover all possible problems, just a few hours in the garage now means you'll be ready when that first warm day arrives!

Levi Stroppel/Spring 2013


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