With the relaxing of the lockdown laws, its time to get ready for safe motorcycle riding to blow off the cobwebs on both man and machine.
If you haven’t ridden for a while and to make a safe return to the road, its wise to familiarise yourself with your bike, your gear and rebuild your riding skills and confidence.
First things first, check your motorcycle registration is still current. In the hectic past couple of months, you may have overlooked renewing it. The fines for riding an unregistered vehicle are hefty!
Before you head out, complete a safety check of your motorcycle
You should always perform a safety check of your bike before returning to riding. At the very least, you should check these items:
- Lights: check all the lights including headlights, tail light, brake light and indicators
- Horn: check it is working
- Controls: You should adjust the controls so you can easily and comfortably reach them
- Petrol: Petrol can break down quickly and clog up injectors and jets, your first ride should include getting a tank full of fresh fuel.
- Tyres: Your tyres can deflate and crack while in storage, so check them over well and make sure they are properly inflated.
- Fluids: Check the oil, coolant and brake fluids to make sure they are at proper levels. A quick check of the ground around your bike will highlight any leaks. If you find leaks, try to track down the source before starting the bike.
- Chain: If your bike is chain driven, make sure the chain is properly lubricated and doesn’t have any tight spots or excessive wear. Also, look for worn sprockets and make sure the chain tension is adjusted to manufacturer specifications.
- Suspension: Rust can build up on suspension components during storage leading to premature failure of seals. Look for light rust or tarnishing on the fork tubes and the rear shock shaft. Any rust build up, can usually be removed with steel wool.
- Partially Completed Projects: Before or during the lockdown, did you start but not finish, any bike projects? You can easily forget about these projects after months have passed by. Give the bike a thorough once over to make sure there aren’t any loose bolts or clamps that could give you trouble on your first ride.
You’re almost ready for your first ride!
Assuming you’ve inspected your motorcycle and prepared it for the first ride, then you’re probably eager to get out on the road.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind for safe motorcycle riding, before you rush off on your first ride in months.
Full Riding Gear: So you think the bike’s ready and you want to go around the block for a quick test ride? Don’t be lazy – put on all your safety riding gear. Crashes can easily happen on that first test ride when the bike’s condition is still iffy, so make sure you are fully protected. When you’re ready to go for a longer ride, take along your cold weather gear as it is probably colder now than when you last rode.
If it’s been a while since you have bought new safety gear, you should consider updating it. Not only is it law, but advancements in materials and construction methods mean that new gear may provide better protection. Check the new Motorcycle Clothing Assessment Program (MotoCAP) to assess your protective clothing for safety and comfort.
Brakes: check the brakes are working correctly, don’t find out the hard way.
Start your engine for safe motorcycle riding
It’s great to be riding again and it may feel like you haven’t missed a beat, but your skills are not going to be as good as they were when you last rode. Your reaction speed and timing can be a little off and corners can sneak up on you unexpectedly.
Start out at a nice easy pace and slowly blow off the cobwebs. The first ride isn’t the time to be pushing your limits. A crash now could easily end your riding season before its even begun.
Stay Connected: Sure, your bike may have seemed fine while it was running in the garage, but there could be some hidden issues that develop further down the road. You may just be planning a short shakedown ride, but don’t forget to carry a mobile phone or GPS Messaging Device that will allow you to call for help and avoid being stranded should you encounter mechanical problems.
Unpredictable Road Conditions: The roads that you used to ride and knew will be different. Road conditions may have changed since you last rode. There may be new road surfaces, or on lesser used roads the surface could have degenerated. With reduced traffic over the last few months, debris, gravel or moss may have built out where you’re not expecting.
Take each bend and road with caution, stay alert to avoid logging your first crash since returning to riding.
Ride Defensively: You need to be aware that other motorists may not have driven for a while and may have forgotten they share the road with you. You need to be on the lookout for cars straying into your lane and turning in front of you. It’s your life on the line, so take responsibility and assume they don’t see you — always ride defensively.
Braking: once your skills and confidence are up, practise some emergency braking so you know you can do it. Hopefully, the need won’t arise.
The MCC have produced some great safety videos as part of our Rider Risk series designed for safe motorcycle riding – watch them here.
Remember to continue your social distancing and hand hygiene, if you stop along the way.
Let’s enjoy our rides and adventures, at the same time as staying safe. Have fun!