After a year of on-and-off lockdown and very little opportunity to ride for anything other than essential journeys, most bikers will be raring to get out on their motorcycle as soon as restrictions start to lift. But as tempting as it is to head out for a blast with your pals straight away (we get it, because we’re itching to do the same!), is it the right thing to do after months of no riding?
We had a chat with Bikesafe National Lead and highly-trained police motorcyclist, Kev Mulligan, who gave us his top tips on getting back on the road after lockdown, but first let’s recap those all-important dates for your diary and what they mean for recreational motorcycle rides…
From 29th March:
The government’s ‘Stay at Home’ order relaxes, meaning two households or up to six people from multiple households will be permitted to mix outdoors only. This is good news for bikers as it means you can meet up with five mates for a ride.
Outdoor sporting facilities can open, which means track days can resume as well as racing, trials and enduro, as long as they are compliant with Covid-19 guidance. These events are not subject to the rule of six, but you are not allowed to stay overnight away from home.
From 12th April:
As long as infection rates keep decreasing, non-essential businesses can re-open. This will include dealers and retailers, so you’ll be able to visit your local dealer to try and buy a new motorcycle and new motorcycle kit in person.
Outdoor hospitality can also resume, however food and drink must be ordered and consumed while sitting down. The rule of six will still apply, so you can visit your local biker café with five other people as long as there is outside seating. Large biker meets will not be permitted.
From 17th May:
This is the earliest date that the government will consider removing the outdoor rule of six and allowing larger outdoor gatherings, although they will be limited to 30, so larger biker meets are still a no-go.
The rule of six will apply indoors, so you can meet five mates at a café and eat or drink inside with table service only.
From 21st June:
If all of the above goes according to plan, all restrictions will be lifted at this point, so you can essentially do whatever you want! Big group rides, café hangouts with as many mates as you like and large biker meetings and events are all fine.
But before you start planning the next few months of riding and making up for lost time, it’s worth taking heed of Kev Mulligan’s advice: “Every rider should recognise that skill fade creeps in, no matter how experienced they are,” he explains. “This usually happens during the winter months, but this year it will be even more likely after a full year of strict lockdown restrictions. As appealing as it is to hop on the bike and meet up for a group ride straight away, it’s actually one of the most dangerous things you can do before you’re fully back to where you were.”
Kev suggests that there are three main areas to look at before getting back to long journeys and group rides. The first two may seem obvious, being the motorcycle itself and your riding kit, but the third is perhaps more overlooked and that’s yourself as a rider, both physically and mentally.
Kev says: “Obviously, before you get back on your motorcycle you’ll need to ensure it’s roadworthy by carrying out the basic checks using the POWDER system, so that’s Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage, Electrics and Rubber. It’s so important that you take the time to do this, one small defect can result in a big accident.”
Petrol – this might seem obvious but check you have enough fuel to get you where you’re going and back again.
Oil – Essential to the smooth running of your bike and something to check regularly. Consult your bike’s user manual for instructions.
Water – if you have a water-cooled engine, check the coolant level. Top up with ready-mixed coolant or a mixture of distilled water and antifreeze.
Damage: check the entire bike for any damage. Things like loose cables and hoses, a loose exhaust, cracks in the frame, loose or missing bolts etc.
Electrics: Check all the lights, ideally with someone else or in a reflection. Also check the horn.
Rubber: Check the tyre pressure, check the tread and ensure its still within legal limits and check for cuts, bulges and tears.
Kev says” “Once you’re satisfied that your bike is in good order, make sure your equipment is too. Kit perishes so give your leathers or textiles, your helmet and any other protective clothing a good once over to ensure it’s still fit for purpose. If it’s not, invest in more. It goes without saying that proper protective motorcycle clothing is imperative.”
When it comes to kit, start with your helmet. The most important things to check for are significant chips or cracks in the shell and compressions in the interior and liner – and of course, make sure the fit is still good. On your gloves, check the seams, knuckle armour and palms for wear and tear. On your jacket and trousers, check all seams, zips and fastenings, check the positioning and wear and tear of the armour and make sure reflective strips are still reflective.
Kev says” Once you know your bike is ok and your kit is ok, the next step is to make sure you’re ok. Physically of course, but also mentally. A year off the road can have a big knock on your riding skills, as well as your confidence. I would advocate short, local, solo runs to start with to build up that confidence and familiarity. Only once you’ve got that confidence back would I advise venturing further afield and looking to join up with group rides.
If you feel like you need to do more to brush up and improve your skills, you can always book onto a Bikesafe workshop, where you’ll spend a day going over riding skills and road awareness before an on-road assessment with a trained police observer. There is never any harm in working to improve your skills as a rider!”
For more information on Bikesafe visit www.bikesafe.co.uk
All information on the roadmap out of lockdown is just government guidance and could change. Find full details here