We’ve all done it at some stage: parked the ‘bike under a blanket during the worst of the winter then dragged it out many months later. Perhaps disturbing Mrs Mouse’s habitation in the process. Laying a bike up, even if you’ve done everything meticulously (what do you mean, you ‘didn’t know you had to put it on front and rear stands’?) can cause problems. Tyre pressures and battery charge can go down, hydraulic fluids can absorb air and water, leaks can spring without apparent reason, and so on. Plus, at the end of a hard-riding summer, maybe you didn’t give a second thought to a few issues that deserve attention before you start riding again, or take it in for a WoF.
Worry not, because here’s the checklist you need to ensure your bike is ‘Ride-Ready’ for the season.
Ride-Ready 'bike maintenance checklist
Tyre condition and tread depth
The legal minimum tread depth is 1.5mm over at least 75% of the road-contact surface of the tyre. Many modern tyres have a wear indicator, which is a thin bit of rubber that projects from the bottom of the tread ‘valley’. If that is flush with the surface of the tyre, that’s your legal minimum. Otherwise, measure using a tread gauge or a precision steel ruler. Bear in mind, that ‘legal minimum’ is not optimal for wet roads and the thinner tyres puncture more easily… Other things to check are the side walls for any cracking, crazing or splits, and, if you've left the 'bike on its tyres for winter, are they still round!
Have you established the pressures that work best for you, your suspension set-up and the tyres you're using, via the likes of a Dave Moss Workshop? No? Then check the factory recommendations in your manual or find them online. Then check the tyres with a gauge. Using the one at the servo is better than nothing but an accurate gauge is something every rider should own.
Check out our suspension article featuring the Dave Moss Workshop
Lights, front and rear
Dipped beam, full beam, rear light, brake light operation – front and rear brake separately – plus all four indicators.
Brakes, front and rear
Look over the brake discs for any rust, pitting or damage. Look at the brake pads inside the calipers: do they have plenty of ‘meat’ left? Squeeze the pedal and lever to check for smooth operation and pressure. Sit on the bike, roll it forward and check for operation. Finally, take it for a short test ride, make sure the brakes are operating 100%, then look over the fluid levels and hoses to check for any cracks or leaks.
Brake and clutch fluid levels
Check the fluid levels in all master cylinders. If they’ve gone down while the ‘bike has been sitting, be suspicious. Give the master cylinders a visual insertion for any weeping or leaks, then follow the brake hoses all the way down the calipers looking for damage or seepage. If you do have to top up the fluid levels, use high quality fluid from a sealed—preferably new—container. Brake fluid is highly damaging to paintwork, so ensure your tank and any other painted areas are protected.
Ensure the bike is positioned bolt upright, not on its side stand: use a centre stand, paddock stand or get a mate to help. Many bikes have a sight glass, others use a dip stick. If you do need to top up the oil, make sure you use the recommended grade for your 'bike. Add oil gradually, a little at a time, then check: too much oil in an engine can be catastrophically damaging. If you overfill you’ll need to drain some out via the sump plug (use a new gasket and retighten with a torque wrench to the correct setting).
Get the back wheel off the ground so you can rotate it by hand. Turn the wheel with one hand so you can check the chain, section by section. Look for tight spots or links that are seized. If you do find a problem area, it may free up with a clean and lube. But if it’s in any way stubborn you’ll need to replace the chain. Check the teeth on the rear sprocket: if they're hooked or worn to a point it’s time to replace it. And if the back is worn, the front is likely to be too. Often there’s an inspection cover that can be removed with a few screws to let you check the front sprocket. After inspection, clean the chain with proprietary chain cleaner and a plastic bristle brush then lube thoroughly, spraying the chain lube between all the moving surfaces from the inside of the chain (not the outside, which will mostly just fling off). If you have shaft drive, lucky you. All that’s needed is a quick check for leaks and roll the 'bike forward in neutral to check the shaft rotates freely.
Cables and controls
Look over the hand and foot levers and make sure nothing’s loose. Squeeze the levers and make sure they’re free. If you have a cable clutch, make sure the cable action is smooth and check the top and bottom of the cable to ensure there’s no fraying or rust: otherwise, it’s replacement time.
Sit on the 'bike and bounce the rear shock. It should compress smoothly then release smoothly, in one movement. It should not bounce back up so hard that it hits you in the butt, which would indicate faulty rebound damping, nor go back into a second stroke, which indicates insufficient compression damping. If either happens, check the shock(s) for weeping: a leak will mean a rebuild or replacement. For the front, first of all remove any dust or dirt on the fork legs. Hold on the front brake and push the ‘bars down. Again, the suspension should compress then release in one smooth, damped movement: not stick, kick up or go into a second movement. Check the front fork legs for oil leaks, which would require new seals. Any difference in damping from how it was when you put the ‘bike away indicates a potential problem, not something you should ‘adjust out’. So get it looked at.
Ideally, you need to get the front wheel off the ground to check this. Turn the bars from side to side: there should be no resistance, sticking or noise from the head bearings. Holding the ends of the forks near the wheel spindle, try to move them forwards and backwards. There should be no discernible movement at the steering head. If there is, the bearings will need looking at by a mechanic: some are adjustable, others will need replacing.
And now, the free offer!
It might not just be your chain that goes a bit rusty over winter. So can your riding skills. So how’s this for an offer? Book on any Ride Forever coaching course – Urban/Commuter (or Scooter Survival), Bronze, Silver or Gold – for free!
Ride Forever courses have a value of around $300, but being subsidised by ACC means you’d normally only pay an administration fee of either $20 or $50 depending on the course.
But right now, to get you Ride Ready as well as your bike, we’re waiving the admin fee completely. Meaning you can get some of the best, nationally-certified rider coaching in the country without paying a cent.
Just select your course, location and provider then book, using the code SPRING17 to get the special offer. It’s available until 18 December 2017, so you can enjoy your spring riding even more, knowing you're fully Ride-Ready.
Select your course, provider and book now