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Get ready. Go!

By Mario

Never mind the lambs, daffodils and nesting tuis. The surest sign of spring is getting the bike out of the garage.

With New Zealand’s varied climate, some of the keenest riders can be forgiven for taking a winter break. If you’ve had your pride and joy stored for winter you’ll be looking forward to getting it back on the road. Hopefully, you laid the machine up properly and it will be in top nick. Here’s a few tips on getting it ready to roll.

First things first

If you sprayed the brake rotors, calipers and hubs with CR-C or similar, start by cleaning it all off with brake cleaner, thoroughly. After a quick visual inspection, check the controls are operating properly: the brakes bite, the clutch lever disengages smoothly and the throttle opens and snaps shut cleanly.

Fluid checks

Check the brake and clutch fluid levels and their clarity. If levels are down, you may have a leak somewhere, so chase the hoses from top to bottom looking for signs of leakage. A leak at a join might be solved by clamping up a jubilee clip. Otherwise, you’ll need to replace the guilty component followed by a bleed and new fluid. Some useful tips here.

If the fluid looks cloudy it has probably absorbed water. Time for that bleed and new fluid, but it’s also worth thinking about how that water got in. If you’re lucky it might just have been a reservoir cap not screwed down tightly. Brake fluid is hydroscopic, meaning it sucks moisture out of the air any chance it can get.

Check engine oil level and the look of the oil. Has it emulsified or been contaminated? If so, drain and replace oil and filter.

Running gear

Check the tyres. Wise riders will have ensured both tyres were off the ground when the bike was laid up. Otherwise, look for flat spots. These may come out with a bit of inflation and a short ride, but the sad alternative is replacement. Tyres will almost certainly have lost pressure, so check and inflate as required.

Check the chain for any signs of rust or tightening. Apply some fresh chain lube.

Do a basic suspension check. Push the suspension up and down at both ends, looking for any sticking or lack of damping. Problems will need seeing to but, if it seems normal, it’s start-up time. 

Fuel’s errand

In bikes that have only been stored for a few months the fuel should be okay, especially if the tank was brimmed: there should be no chance of rust. For bikes stored with the tank half empty, have a good peer inside. Any rust means you’ll need to drain the tank and get it looked at professionally. So don’t start the engine or you’ll likely block the filter (at best) or the injectors.

The vital spark

Reconnect the battery. Smart souls will have had it on trickle charge occasionally. Check the levels and top up if necessary with distilled water.

Remove the spark plugs and pour a teaspoon of engine oil into each cylinder. Replace the plugs (better still, screw in some old ones), put the kill switch to ‘off’ and turn the engine for a few seconds. Remove and clean the plugs with petrol or another solvent, then dry and replace them.

Flick the kill switch to live. Start the motor and leave it to idle for at least one minute.

Ride away slowly and gently, feeling for smooth clutch action and no nasty noises. Immediately check both brakes are working correctly.

Easy does it

For the first few kilometres ride very cautiously and dial in to how the bike feels. Tyres can harden over winter, so scrub them in like they were new, avoiding sudden full lean or acceleration. Try a hard stop or two (make sure the road behind is clear). On that first ride, cover enough distance to let the engine get up to full operating temperature. But don’t get too far from home in case of an unexpected problem.

Back to the garage

Once home, give the whole bike a once-over looking for leaks or anything unusual.

Be honest about problems. It’s not worth trying to save a few quid when your life might hinge on it, or missing the enjoyment of riding a machine that works properly.

Spring riding awaits.