How to get your motorbike back on the road after a long time

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If you’ve had to lay your bike up for a long period of time, be it due to the seasons, an illness, a trip away with work or any other reason, your bike may need some attention before it’s ready to hit the road again.

These simple recommissioning checks will be worth doing before it’s time 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.

If you’re just starting to get to grips with home maintenance, check out MCN’s list of everything you need for a basic motorcycle toolkit.

Check your pressures

Check your tyre 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

Refill your fuel tank

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?

Check your battery if you haven't used a trickle charger

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?

Check your motorbike's oil level

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

Check all the seals for leaks

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

Time to start it up

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

Service your motorbike chain

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?

Check your motorbike's crucial nuts and bolts

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

Check your motorbike's paperwork is up to date

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 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

The tools you need to recommission a motorcycle
  • Chain lube
  • Torch
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Multimeter
  • Torque wrench
Bruce Dunn

By Bruce Dunn

Datalogger, professionally testing bikes for over 25 years.