With summer fast approaching, now is the time to make sure your mount is ready to hit the road. If you’re like many of us at RoadRUNNER, during the colder months you scope out touring destinations, research scenic routes, create packing lists, decide on touring dates, and have made at least some reservations. But all of this meticulous tour planning can be put in jeopardy by a bike that’s not mechanically ready to go the distance.
It’s often the little things that can turn into big things when roaming far from home. Fortunately, modern motorcycles are more reliable than they have ever been, but it’s still a winning strategy to check, repair, and maintain every major system on a bike before it leaves the driveway, particularly on a multi-day trip. Here are some of the major bike systems to address before warmer temperatures lure you back out on the road.
While inspecting the condition of your bike’s tires, ask yourself these questions:
- Any cracking or dry rot apparent?
- How much tread life remains? Is there enough tread depth remaining for the mileage of your planned trip?
- Is the tread pattern squared off so that the sides have plenty of tread remaining but the center section of the tires has little tread depth?
- Do the tires have a slow leak? This is often indicated by a substantial loss of pressure since the bike was stored.Remember, a bike’s tires provide that thin layer of protection that keeps the shiny side up. Replacing perfectly good tires before they absolutely have to be replaced is always a sound risk mitigation strategy.
Brakes and Clutch
Having reliable brakes is the second most important component for rigorous motorcycle maintenance. Using a flashlight, check brake pad wear, or have it checked by a qualified mechanic. Like the tires, replace the pads before they’re all the way down to the wear indicators. Brake fluid can be degraded by accumulation of moisture in the lines and reservoirs, which happens more frequently in humid environments. Fluid that has become dark should be replaced immediately. Regardless, new brake fluid should be replaced every couple of years. Also, check brake rotors for excessive wear or warping, and replace them if necessary.
The same regimen for checking brake fluid also applies to hydraulic clutches. For a manual clutch, check the cable for any evidence of splitting or excessive wear and lubricate it each year.
Lubricants, Filters, and Coolants
Start a new riding season with fresh oil and a fresh oil filter. The air filter should also be removed, inspected, and replaced or washed if it’s dirty. Bikes with water-cooled engines need to be flushed and new coolant added periodically in accordance with the maintenance intervals specified in the owner’s manual.
Nuts ‘n Bolts
I have sometimes been surprised when working on a bike to discover that a bolt has become looser than it should be. Something that comes apart on a moving motorcycle has potentially dire consequences for rider and passenger. Inspect threaded fasteners on key components, like axle bolts and brake calipers, to make sure everything is properly tightened.
Check turn signals, headlight, and tail light to make sure each is working properly, and replace any malfunctioning components. Although you may have had a trickle charger attached all winter, test the starter to make sure the battery doesn’t need replacement.
Review the Owner’s Manual
Review the periodic maintenance chart in the bike’s owner’s manual to determine if any other services are due to be performed or inspections made.
Long story short, spend some quality time with your bike to make sure all systems are “go.” Many of the maintenance and inspections procedures can be performed by the bike’s owner, but don’t hesitate to call in the professionals when necessary. In return, your mount will likely show its appreciation by not stranding you in the middle of nowhere, ruining that long-awaited motorcycle touring vacation.