This is a guest post by Scott Haas, Program Coordinator/Supervisor, Harper College Motorcycle Safety Program.
Spring Motorcycle Tips
Spring is upon us. This means motorcycle riding season is upon us. With the several month layoff from riding, it’s always a good idea to brush up on a few essentials before hitting the streets.
1. Motorcycle Preparation
With only two of them on the ground, making sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated is incredibly important. In your car, you may not notice a difference in handling when one or two tires are underinflated. On a motorcycle though, even a five-pound difference can affect handling. Low tire pressure is also one of the leading causes of tire failures. When tire pressure is low, the sidewall flexes more as the tire rolls down the road, which causes it to heat up and can lead to a failure. Low tire pressure can also reduce tire life and increase fuel consumption. It’s also a good time to check tread depth and look for other signs of damage or age.
Fluids should also be part of your T-CLOCS inspection (https://msf-usa.org/downloads/T-CLOCS_Inspection_Checklist.pdf) before you ride, but as part of your pre-season preparation, you may want to consider flushing brake and/or clutch fluid (if you have a hydraulically activated clutch) and coolant. If you have a regular lead/acid battery, check the water level and add distilled water as necessary to top off any cells that are low.
Speaking of the electrical items, check your lights; headlight, turn signals, tail/brake lights, and instrument lights. Also give the horn a little toot to make sure it’s working.
2. Personal Preparation
Make sure you’re ready for the riding season. Mental and physical preparation are keys to a successful ride. I’m not going to tell you to join a fitness club, but you should be in reasonably good physical condition, especially if you plan on long-distance rides.
Refreshing your riding skills should be an important part of your pre-season preparations. Whether you take a class (www.harpercollege.edu/motorcycle) or simply do a little parking lot practice, make sure to knock the rust off those skills before getting out into heavy traffic.
- Practice your stopping skills (remember BOTH brakes will give you shorter stopping distances than just using one or the other).
- Practice your swerving skills (remember, do one or the other or one after the other, but NEVER do both at the same time).
- Practice your low speed maneuvers; tight turns from a stop and u-turns in particular. Turning from a stop is an important skill to practice to avoid running wide and into oncoming lanes of traffic.
3. Riding Gear Preparation
You should also make sure your riding gear is ready for the job it’s supposed to do. Check the manufacture date of your helmet and consider replacing it with a newer one. Many experts agree on a 5-year life cycle for a motorcycle helmet, but that can be affected by the amount of use it gets. Depending on the age of your helmet, you may find a new one has more features, better cooling, better padding, and may even be lighter while offering better protection. You can even find some newer faceshields that have transitions lens features in which they will automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. How cool is that? A good riding jacket, riding pants, motorcycle-specific gloves, and appropriate footwear round out proper riding gear.
Nothing beats taking a class to dust out the cobwebs from a winter layoff from riding. The Harper College Motorcycle Safety Program offers several courses, from beginner to experienced, to help brush up your skills. Check our website for registration information.
Scott Haas, Coordinator/Supervisor of the Harper College Motorcycle Safety Program, has been involved in motorcycle rider education for almost 30 years. Away from work he enjoys photography and playing with his two Australian Shepherds.