Our “Seasonal Thinking” and Thawing Out From Winter.

Here in Oregon, we have been blessed with good weather, this year. Not that it is great riding weather but, certainly it has been a season of weather right for all those winter projects I planned in the fall of ’09. That season was then and this season is now……..
As I crawled out of bed to embrace the lovely sunshine coming through the windows, I immediately thought about going outside with my cup of coffee. The garage was calling my name! Out to the kitchen, coffee retrieved, I headed out the door. With a quick push of the code, the door rolled up and I was in the garage.  Could this really be the garage belonging to a person with a winter project list?  Standing amidst the frame, the tank, the tires and small boxes with the “this and that” that had come via the UPS truck,  I realized that I was drastically behind with my project list due to some very dangerous thinking.  In the fall I remember thinking, “No hurry, I have plenty of time!”  Well, time up!
Fortunately for me, I have a bike in one piece that is ready to ride.  But, if I weren’t that lucky, I could be in for a rocky year. I would be scrambling to get the bike put together. I could make mistakes. I may not be as respectful of the small things that need addressing and could find myself along the side of the road calling AAA for help. I could live with the primed tank, due to the fact that I didn’t have time to finish.  I could live with the possibilities of using some of my mis-matched chrome while waiting for pieces. What I don’t want to do is run out of time to check and recheck and get anxious to get out there and ride!  I don’t want to find out it ran too hot, had a leak or that I hooked something up wrong. One thing I HATE is taking things apart once I put it together……and yet, I do it all the time.  The moral to this story is that it all takes time.  In the fall of ’09 I had time.  It seemed to me that I had lots of time. That was foolish to think and now Im out of time!  So, I am reluctant to say that my “bobber” project will have to wait. Yes, you can all feel really bad for me…….
Now, lets talk about what really needs to be done to thaw that bike out from the winter and on to the rides you want to take.
I sat down with my two favorite biking fanatics, father and son, Bill and Mike, and they helped me compile a list of the most important things to do to get your bike ready for that ride you want to take. Now, these guys could go out in their garage right now and jump on any bike and it would be travel ready. That’s just the way they are (and the reason I picked them to help me with this). But for you newbies and the rest of we “normal folk,” here we go…….
When you buy your motorcycle and bring it home for the first time, its like being in love. Now you need to resign yourself to the fact that maintenance is the one thing that will keep the love alive. As my buddy Bill says, “Today’s bikes are pretty much bullet proof. But, regular maintenance is the key. The goal is never to be stranded!!,” Here is a summary of what you need to do to make sure your bike is ready for the road ahead from the mouths of two of the best. 
Owners Manual
The first thing you need to have in hand is the owner’s manual. If the bike didn’t come with one, get one (http://www.motorcycleownersmanual.com/). It has so much bike specific information in it that you can’t be without it. The second thing you will absolutely want to have is the shop manual for your particular bike (http://www.dansmc.com/shopmanual1.htm). They are worth their weight in gold and are a true “must have” if you plan to work on your own bike. Although it might seem like an awesome job, working on your own bike can have a most rewarding feel. It’s not something you are born knowing but, you can learn it like the rest of us did…by doing. It’s also good to know a little about your bike in the event you do break down on the road, heaven forbid!!
The second thing on the agenda are tires (http://motorcycletires.com/). Now, there is a wide range here but once you know the tires you are riding on, you will know the approximate mileage for that tire and you can keep track of that mileage. For example, Z rated tires are for racing but are street legal. They give the greatest in traction but you sacrifice some mileage. They are good for about 3,000 miles. V rated tires are for the 150mph and below….like we ever go that fast;)…and lose a bit of traction compared to the Z rated but, manage to double the mileage at about 6,000 miles. The H rated are for the 130mph and below and are good for touring. They manage somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 miles. Now, if you are caught with tires that have worn down to the wear bar (the little bump that reveals itself on the tread) it is considered not street legal and will result in a ticket, not to mention that its dangerous, and we want safety first! So, check those tires from time to time. 

Since you are checking the tires, now is a good time to check the tire pressure.(http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-check-tire-pressure-in-motorcycle/ )The psi (pounds per square inch) is printed right on the side of the tire. Not only does this maximize safety but, it gives you the greatest fuel efficiency and the greatest wear on your tires. Also, check it while you’re out and about. Once you get used to making it a regular thing, it will become a good habit.
The next thing is the battery.( http://www.ebatteriestogo.com/Motorcycle_Batteries.htm) These are a relatively inexpensive item and should be easy for all to replace and keep up. They range from $50.00 to $100.00. My buddies Mike and Bill replace theirs every three years and these boys ride ALL the time. On the off season, which would mean six feet of snow or ice, they always keep up the batteries with a trickle charger. These are the perfect thinking chargers. It charges until the battery is full and then it shuts off. If something is drawing power from the battery, the charger turns itself back on. It will not over charge! But, make sure you get the motorcycle proper one.
Now, if you have a sealed battery, you don’t need to read the next part. But, if you have a non sealed battery, you need to check the fluids. The only problem is that you have to remove the battery. Not that big of a deal! On the top you will find six caps to the cells. On the side of the battery is a view finder to find the level of the liquid in the battery. If it needs filled, get distilled water only and remove the caps on top to fill. Low fluids will kill a battery. It must have fluids to work.
Yamaha-R6-Sportbike-Oil-Change-019Next, the oil.(http://www.paulstravelpictures.com/Yamaha-YZF-R6-Motorcycle-Oil-Change/index.html)  Mike recommends you change the oil before any trip but he actually changes all of his bikes every 2,000 miles. He prefers the “old school” regular crude oil but he says that most people are going to synthetic oil. The synthetics break down much slower and will actually last three times as long as the crude, about 6,000 miles. Grab your owner’s manual and see what bike specific rules apply for oil properties for your bike.
 Spark Plugs
theserviceadvisor.com/part/images/engineparts/u899962868mtp.jpgNow we can take a look at the spark plugs. (http://www.ehow.com/video_2330187_change-motorcycle-spark-plugs.html) There are a lot of bikes that have spark plug wrenches in the tool kit that comes with your bike. If yours does not, take the time to buy one. This comes highly recommended for your travel tool kit, as well. Some of the crotch rockets have some ill placed spark plugs but with a bike specific wrench, it’s a little easier. Spark plugs last about 25,000 miles but, again, refer to your manual for specifics. Keeping those spark plugs maintained will limit the chance of misfiring and rough rides.
This one caters to the “fast bikes”…as Mike likes to call them. These are the “crotch rocket” breeds…as I like to call them. You need to check your chain tension and make adjustments when needed. Apparently, this is quite simple to do and is necessary every 500 miles or so along with a good lube. The other necessity is that you lube the chain after EVERY ride in the rain or wet conditions.
Belt Drives
Now, belt drive bikes get adjustments about every 5,000-8,000 miles. Refer to the manual for information.Some bikes are equipped with hydraulic valves that self adjust but if your bike doesn’t have them, you need to have them checked and adjusted. If you are a skilled maintenance person, you can do this yourself with the help of the “holly grail of motorcycles,” the shop manual that I talked about in the beginning. If that’s not the case, find a good mechanic and let them take care of it.
Image PreviewHere we start getting into the common sense stuff. Check those bulbs!! (http://www.taillightking.com/motorcycle.htm)  Especially if you ride a bike with much vibration….and you know who you are!!! Those bulbs vibrate too. Unfortunately, you don’t know they are out until a buddy tells you or the police stop you. The latter will make you wish you had listened to me.
 Here is a direct quote from Bill in regard to those group runs we all love. He says, with a smile,”Never show up to a ride unless you have a full tank of gas. That is a cardinal rule and the quickest way to get stuck buying everyone’s meals for the rest of the run!!.” Now, these two are the finest riders I know and I want to grow up to be just like them. I mean that. So any advice out of their mouths about anything motorcycle is gospel to me!!
With these guys, when the ride is over, the bikes are maintained again. They are put away in the perfect condition they started in. I joked with the boys saying that the only time its permitted to put a bike away before they are cleaned and prepped is if someone is in the hospital. Mike and Bill looked at each other, shook their heads, and revealed that when each one of them had been hospitalized, the other cleaned up the wounded guys bike and put them away. Now that’s fanatical (and love!).
A much too small but heart-felt “thank you” goes out to these boys. Sharing information doesn’t cost a cent and yet, its worth more than they could know. I plan to lean on them forever!! So, find yourself someone to lean on…and ride with. Now, enjoy and God bless and keep you safe on the road and in life.

Lady Godiva on wheels in a messy garage!


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