After what’s been a pretty long winter, you're probably looking forward to getting back out on your motorcycle, but if you really want to make the most of your first ride, it’s really advisable to check your machine’s technical features and give your clothing and equipment the once-over.
Start with the hard-to-reach areas, such as the front and underside of the engine, which are usually exposed to spray from the front wheel. Apply chain cleaner to remove grease deposits from around the engine block driving pinion and the swing-arm pivot point.
Painted and plastic parts are sensitive to scratches, and motorbike accessory shops offer specialist cleaning products, such as microfibre cloths, to prevent scratches. Avoid cleaning body parts with solvents to protect the shine of the paintwork.
Brake system and clutch
Check all visible cylinders for any signs of leaks on hydraulic brakes and the clutch. Brake fluid should be changed every two years, as it can absorb moisture from the air. This lowers the boiling point of the fluid and causes vapour bubbles to form as the temperature rises when braking, resulting in a loss of pressure on the lever when braking - an unpleasant sensation that can have dangerous consequences! Changing the brake fluid does require a certain level of technical knowledge. If you’re unsure, ask your mechanic to do it for you. You can check for wear to the brake pads yourself using a torch - the discs should be free of corrosion and scratches. On older motorbikes, the wheel should be able to turn without any noticeable resistance, even after a long winter break; otherwise, you may be dealing with a jammed brake caliper.
If you have any cables to operate, whether for the clutch, the throttle cable or the drum brakes, as is the case with older bikes, keep Bowden cables in good working order using Teflon spray. This will prevent resin build-up and allow you to operate the levers without any issues.
Check the chain tension
Raise the motorbike using the main stand or a rear mounting stand. Check the exact alignment of the chain to ensure that the front and rear wheels are on the same track. Next, check the pinion for signs of wear. The chain will often wear unevenly, so it‘s a good idea to check the chain tension by turning the rear wheel with one hand and lightly pressing the underside of the chain upwards with the other. The measuring point is at the point of greatest tension. You will find the recommended set of chains on your motorbike or in the operating instructions. It will also state whether the measurement should be performed without any load or with the rider on the motorbike. The drive should always be lubricated after a ride since the lubricant will work best when the chain links are warm.
The law calls for a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, but it is best to replace them at 2mm, if not sooner. Tread deformations and uneven wear are not uncommon on motorbikes but can have a negative impact on how they handle. Check the tyres for cracks or other signs of damage. If a bike isn’t used much, the rubber mixture hardens over the years and the tyres gradually lose their grip. The speed at which the tyre ages will depend on a number of factors, but it is advisable to change them after a maximum of 5 years. The ‘DOT’ production date can be found on the sidewall of the tyre (e.g. DOT 1821 means that the tyre was manufactured in the 18th
week of production in 2021). N.B.: newly fitted tyres need to be broken in, so take particular care when braking, turning and accelerating! Last but not least, adjust the indicated fill pressure and check it regularly over the course of the season. As you can see, it’s important to pay particular attention to the tyres on your motorcycle for your own safety.
Electricity - battery and lighting
If you want to protect your battery during long periods of downtime, I’d recommend using a permanently connected smart charger for motorcycles. These devices are designed to simulate driving by constantly charging and discharging the battery, thus preventing the battery plates from sulphating and extending the life of the battery. Check your lighting system: you need to be seen by other road users, even in daylight!
Check that your helmet is not damaged and still complies with the legal requirements. You’ll find the European ECE 22 standard on the chinstrap or the inner lining. N.B.: Only ECE 22 05 and (possibly) 06 standards are permitted for motorcycle helmets! Appropriate protective clothing will improve your passive safety. Avoid low-cost suits and seek advice from a specialist shop. Clothing only really protects you if, for example, all protective elements fit the body perfectly. It's a good idea to make sure that you feel comfortable by trying out any new clothing on your bike before you ride in it.
Have a great season!