Our friend and qualified bike instructor Bill Whitelaw has provided us with information about making sure you stay safe during the 2014 bike season. Bill’s been riding for 55 years and has some tips for you about getting your bike ready for (hopefully) a fantastic summer!
“The weather is warming up and the floods are receding. Time to get the bike out. For some this will be 1st April having just taxed the bike.
Let’s not be April Fools. It is probably several months since you last rode the bike.
Has the bike been serviced during the winter? Even if it has there are things we need to check especially the brakes. The biggest problem with bikes that have been standing over the winter is that the calliper pistons may have seized or at least become stiff with corrosion or oxidation.
After checking the pads and brake fluid, topping up if necessary, apply both brakes whilst pushing the bike. If there is any resistance when pushing the bike after releasing the brakes DO NOT ride it until the callipers have been serviced. Sticking brakes do not free up by riding and they are quite likely to jam on. Not a pleasant experience. Even if they don’t jam but simply bind they will overheat wearing out the pads and possibly boiling the brake fluid. The consequences of this can be catastrophic.
Check the tyre pressures using a reliable gauge! It is surprising how much difference it makes if the tyre pressures are only a few psi too low. Cornering and braking are both compromised. Have you got at least 1mm of tread across the tyre? In wet weather you should consider even more but 1mm is the legal minimum. Why is the legal minimum 1.6 mm for a car?
What state are the chain and sprockets in? All too often the gear box sprocket is overlooked because it means removing covers etc. Does the chain need adjusting or lubricating? A messy but essential job.
Is there any sign of oil leaking around the fork seals?
Check that all lights including indicators and brake lights (use both levers individually) are in good order.
How about engine coolant? Sometimes this is a pain in the butt to check but is important if an engine seizure is to be avoided.
Finally what about the engine oil?
OK so this is telling Granny to suck eggs but it is amazing how many breakdowns occur on first ride of the year.
The Bike is in good shape but how about you?
Are you dressed appropriately for the conditions?
Remember it is months since you had your last ride and conditions are still a bit iffy at this time of the year. Take it easy. Get back into your rhythm of making sure that you know what is going on around you. Awareness and anticipation are critical to avoid spills. Regular mirror checks and life saver shoulder checks should be automatic without having to think about doing them. Keep your speed down until you are really comfortable.
A get off at the beginning of the season can spoil the whole year.
Build up your progress gradually. Relax and enjoy what car drivers cannot understand, that feeling of being at one with your bike as you flow along the road.
Don’t go too far first time out. Your muscles will have forgotten what it is like to be back on the bike.
Arrive home relaxed with a big smile knowing that you are going to have months of fun with your bike before next winter.
Stay safe at all times.