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A chat with Dave Moss

By Dave Moss

Winter is receding and we are getting itchy and want to ride. Before you go and get the bike out of the shed, how did you prep it for winter? Did you do anything? Or did you literally go through everything, so other than petrol, it was ready to go?

Winter storage is damn cold in NZ unless you have a temp regulated garage from general house heat. Severe cold can play havoc with rubber, making it crack, so check your tyre sidewalls, rubber brake lines and seat(s) carefully. A sudden pressure loss is to be avoided at all costs so that requires you to be diligent prior to your first ride!

Did you pull the battery and keep it in the house? Did you use Stabil or other fuel additive for winter? Did you drain your carburettors before the bike was stored? Did you change coolant? What about brake and clutch fluid? Are they still the same fluids you used last year?

At a minimum, clean your brake callipers with a toothbrush and soapy water to check all the pistons move freely. You have to make sure that on your first ride your brakes are 100% effective. Check out my video for a tutorial.

How old is the suspension oil in the forks and shock? Very old oil will be thick and won’t flow, so bumps in the road will feel massive until the oil breaks down and starts to flow.

Similarly, cold air keeps the metal in the forks cold, so fork oil takes a long time to warm up. Shock oil is heated by the engine unless you have twin shocks sitting out in the wind at the back of the bike.

Often the first ride can be brutal on the body all because you have old fork and shock oil so think about servicing it!

Why?

NZ truly has four seasons and if you ride year round, would use you use thinner fork oil through the winter and slightly thicker fork oil in the summer if you had, for example, damping rod forks with no adjustment? Would you change fork and shock oil annually if you rode 8-14,000kms per annum for that type of fork?

 An interesting twist that I always ask is "Would you leave your engine oil in 5 years?" Obviously not, so why would you do that with fork and shock oil?

Prior to your first big ride, go local and make sure everything works correctly including brakes, shifting, coolant temperatures and that your tyres hold air. See how the forks and shock behave when cold and how the bumps evolve over the course of an hour. Keep the pace down so there are no sudden surprises. 

Last part.

It’s been awhile since your last ride so your eyes aren’t calibrated to speed. Your brain isn’t calibrated to timing for brakes, shifting, corner entry and distances/depth perception. Your body isn’t calibrated to cold temps and much slower reaction times. At a minimum you have to increase your defensive distances.

Do yourself a big favour and make your first sortie a Ride Forever course so you get the skills back with trained experts who can see how you ride and what you need to focus on. 

Mitigate risk proactively, manage your experience positively and maintain your motorcycle more than just the service manual says!