How to get your motorbike back on the road after a long time
The Coronavirus pandemic may have delayed the start of the riding season, but there’s nothing stopping you from making sure your bike’s ready to roll as soon as the restrictions are lifted.
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Likewise, if you’ve had to lay your bike up during quarantine, these simple checks will be worth doing when we get the green light to get out on two wheels again. It doesn't take a tool chest either, find what you need at the bottom of the page.
Check your pressures
Tyre manufactures often recommend you over-inflate your rubber before you leave the bike laid up over winter. This is to prevent the tyre carcass being damaged as the bike loses pressure over time. Check in your manual for the correct pressures and take the opportunity to thoroughly check their overall condition, looking for cracks in between the treads.
Refill with fuel
Ideally, before storing your bike you would’ve run your fuel down to a minimum, as opposed to leaving it full to the brim. The combustible ‘light-ends’ of the fuel will evaporate and render the petrol less volatile. By adding five litres of fresh petrol, you will effectively be reinvigorating any fuel left, preventing poor starting. Use a funnel with a filter to stop any gunk getting in.
How’s your battery?
If your garage has electricity it is easy to leave the bike connected up to an Optimate or similar – but if you rent a lock-up you’ll need to check the battery. A healthy power cell should have 12.5v or upwards. Anything less will require charging, or perhaps even a new battery. When you do the voltage check, make sure the ignition is off.
Does it have enough oil?
Take the bike off its stands and try to hold the bike upright so it’s balanced and then check the amount visible on the sight glass. Engines with dipsticks need to be held upright and balanced, but check with your manual as to whether the dipstick should be dipped in or screwed in prior to taking a reading.
Check the seals
Fork seals can fail if a bike has been sitting for a long period of time. Wipe a tissue around the stanchion and seal to look for any weeping oil. In a severe case, oil would’ve leaked down the forks and possibly onto discs and calipers, so ensure you are thorough. Do the same for the rear shock.
Start up and check fluid levels
Most bikes require minimal or no throttle to start up from cold but be patient, the engine may need to crank over a few times before it fires up. Once running, let it warm up, keeping an eye out for any leaks from the oil and coolant systems. Re-check oil and coolant levels once the bike is cool again.
Give the chain some loving
Place the bike on its centrestand or a paddock stand and check the chain tension and adjust if necessary. Now use a quality chain lube, applying it from the inside and mask the background with a cloth to prevent overspray reaching the tyre. Make sure the wheel spindle is correctly torqued up to spec, too.
How are your nuts?
Make a thorough check of your bike’s crucial nuts and bolts. If you have had the bike in bits over the winter for cleaning or repair, do a final check over the bike for safety. Things to include would be caliper bolts, spindle nuts and fork leg pinch bolts. The correct way to check tightness is to undo the bolt first and then tighten up to the correct torque setting with a torque wrench.
Show me your papers
These days the ‘paperless’ tax disc system gives no immediate visual clue, but the good news is that it’s easy to check online – with a mobile-friendly website. Just type in your registration number to vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk to check the status of your bike, along with the exact date that each one expires. That just leaves you to check your insurance is valid!
Tools needed to recommission a motorbike
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