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With spring around the corner, half of the country is chomping at the bit for warmer weather and consistently dry roads so they get back out on their bikes. Before you haul your motorcycle out, pump the brakes and take a moment to plan when and how you’re going to prepare yourself, your bike and your gear for the riding season using our handy checklist and detailed steps.

Before you start, plan to set aside the time you’ll need. If you are going to do all the prep work yourself, plan for an appropriate amount of time and designate your day or weekend to work on your bike. If you’re going to take it to a mechanic or dealership for its first tune-up of the year, pick a day and call the shop to schedule that in.

Preparing, Inspecting and Servicing Your Bike

Remove the cover

Remove your bike cover and visually inspect your bike as you take out the exhaust plug and remove the air filter plug. Look for any signs of rodents, rust, fluid leakage, cosmetic damage or similar issues that might have occurred during the storage period.

Visually inspect the forks and seals

If your forks and seals look dry, see if they have enough life to re-lubricate, otherwise replace them before you ride.

Check and/or change your fluids

Top off your brake fluid if it looks low. Change the engine oil and oil filter to avoid any condensation build-up and stale oil, flush the coolant, and change your gasoline. If you know the gasoline is stale, adding fuel stabilizer to the tank can help prevent any issues with leftover stale gas even after you’ve swapped it for fresh stuff.

Check your brakes

Inspect the brake lines and look for any leaks, cracks or fraying. Check the pads to see if they’re rusted, and make sure you have at least 1/8” of thickness – anything less and it’s time to replace them. If you want to bleed the lines because they feel a bit soft, we recommend penciling in your bike with a professional for that part. It’ll save you time and a headache.

Make sure the brake lever is still in the right position for your hands, and adjust if needed.

Check your wheels and tires

Make sure the wheels can spin freely and no components are rusted together. Inspect the tread for uneven wear, punctures, bulges or any cracking that would indicate it’s time to replace them. Check the air pressure and set it to the appropriate level if necessary.

Check your battery

If your battery was stored on a battery tender for the off-season, there’s a good chance it’ll start your bike right up. If you kept it in your bike, you’ll most likely need to charge it and possibly replace it. If it’s older than four years old, it’s probably time to just scrap it and get a new one to be on the safe side.

If your battery requires a fluid check to maintain levels, remember to use distilled water to top it off to prevent introducing foreign minerals that could compromise the balance of acid and water.

Check the electrics

This broad statement includes making sure that the dashboard lights up and all gauges appear to be operating correctly. Your headlights should be bright, brake lights and turn signals working correctly. Don’t forget to check the horn too!

Listen to your engine

Once you’ve started up the engine for the first time, let it run for a few minutes and listen for any strange noises or anything that indicates an issue. This will also give the new fluids a chance to run through.

Cleaning Your Bike

Between lying dormant for months and the recent servicing you or your preferred shop performed, your bike could probably use some TLC. Grab some cloth clothes and appropriate cleaners and go over the bodywork, wheels, calipers, swingarms, windshield (if applicable), headlights and any other areas that could use a rub. For bikes without a drive belt, clean the chain with a wire brush and some degreaser to loosen up any debris or mud.

Preparing Mind, Body and Gear

Brushing up on skills

Don’t wait until the first big ride of the season to take your bike back out on the roads, track or trails. Spend a little time re-familiarizing yourself with the controls, feel of the bike, and rules of the road so that by the time your riding season is in full swing you’re ready to go. This goes double for new riders who have only had a season or two under their belt.

Work on that riding bod

Each bike type varies in how physically demanding it is on riders, and each rider should have basic knowledge of what they need to do to prepare physically for a riding season. For those with touring or cruisers, it might be as simple as working on posture or incorporating neck and upper stretches. For motocross or supercross riders, that might mean a diet change, hitting the gym and focusing on your core to get ready for hard riding. A bit of weightlifting can also work wonders for smaller riders who enjoy big bikes – there may come a time when you have to pick that bike up off the ground by yourself.

Inspect your riding gear

Gear is another area that varies wildly depending on what you ride. Maybe you’ve got your leather vest in the closet and all you need to do is brush it off and make sure it still fits. Or, if you ride a street bike, look over your full leathers and buff them with an appropriate leather protectant. For adventure riders or those who hit the tracks and trails, inspecting your boots, jersey, any and all braces, goggles, body armor and additional gear is going to be paramount. An injury early in the season can spell disaster for adventurous riders.

Inspect your helmet

Your helmet is your most important piece of gear, because it protects those valuable brains! If your helmet is five years old or older, it’s time to replace it with a new one as the inner materials do break down over time. If you had a crash, or dropped your helmet, at the end of the previous riding season, also consider a new helmet. You can just never be too careful about protecting your head, whether it’s on a lazy scenic road or running a track.

Additional Preparation

Make sure your insurance, license and registration are up to date

If you’ve let any of those lapse, it’s time to get them back in order. The last thing you want is to get into a serious accident on the road and not be covered.