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Now’s the time for us fair-weather riders to stop waving at the hardy year-round bikers from inside our cars (and yes, I do that) and haul our own machines out from their winter hibernation.

But before we can hop on the backs of our lovely beasts of burden, there are certain rituals that must first be tended to.

Oh sure, there are the obvious first two. Renew your license. Make sure that your gear still fits. (Oddly, mine seems to shrink over the winter months, a phenomenon for which I have not yet arrived at a scientific conclusion.)

Then, there are the following ten:

  1. Fuel: Do a visual look at your fuel. How full is your tank? Is the existing fuel clear or cloudy? If it’s cloudy, it needs to be changed.
  2. Battery: Check the health of your battery. Check to see if there’s enough juice to start the motorcycle. If the battery is charged (ie, if your bike starts), make sure the cells are all at the minimum level.
  3. Fluids: Check the oil. If you didn’t change it before storage, now’s a good time to do it. Also check the clutch, brake and coolant levels.
  4. Leaks: Look for leaks. Make sure there are no wet patches on the ground where you stored your bike. If there are any leaks, you must tend to them. Your first trip (if you’re not getting the bike towed there) should be to your mechanic.
  5. Rust: Have a good long look at your front forks to ensure no rust has formed over the winter months. It happened to me once, and I didn’t catch it. As a result, the rust wrecked the seals, and it cost me close to a thousand dollars to repair and replace the damage.
  6. Seat: Okay, so this is not a safety measure but a comfort one. Look for cracks, rips and tears. It really does not cost that much to re-cover a motorcycle seat, and your butt will thank you for it.
  7. Tires: I can’t stress enough how important the health of your tires are to your safety. In a car, if one of four blows you problem solving, and you can still take the time to find a safe spot to pull over; on a motorcycle, if one of two blows, you’re into emergency management. Check for aging (cracks in the sidewalls), depth of tread (whose main function is to prevent hydroplaning), and inflation. And remember, most tire blow-outs are a result of UNDER-inflation.
  8. Toolkit: Lay out the toolkit from inside your bike and make sure that you have everything, and that everything you have is in acceptable shape.
  9. Helmet: While I joke about the gear, I’m very serious about the helmet (and no, mine doesn’t shrink a bit every year!). If you have non-motorcycle-approved stickers on it, get a new one. If the chin-strap is worn, get a new one. If the padding has deteriorated, get a new one. If you’ve dropped it EVER (or if your child happened to use it as a bowling ball in the boring winter months), get a new one. If you can’t remember the year (or decade) in which you bought it, get a new one. I think you’re getting the picture here. If you have any doubts, get a new one!
  10. Yourself: Sure, riding a motorcycle is like riding a bicycle in that you never forget. But you might get a little bit sloppy. If you have access to a parking lot, it should be your first trip. Spend an hour there practicing your turns and your braking skills. Go with a buddy and set up an obstacle course. Keep it simple, and keep it safe.

If in doubt, always turn to the experts. Bring your bike to a mechanic for their once over. Beyond the mechanical inspection, it will also bring you piece of mind. At least it does for me. And if you need to brush up on your riding and motorcycle safety skills, contact a motorcycle safety school near you. You can take a course or just rent an instructor for a few hours.

Bikers are the only travellers I know who will ride for hours only to enjoy a mediocre meal at some obscure diner, and then saddle up and ride back home again. Bikers inherently understand that it’s not the destination; it’s the journey. So you owe it to yourself to start this season in a way that maximizes your safety and comfort.

Britt Santowski
Santowski is a former Chief Instructor appointed by the Canada Safety Council. She taught motorcycle safety at the Vancouver Island Safety Council for almost a decade. She now spends her time teaching and coaching, writing and riding. She rides a Honda Magna 650. It’s yellow.

Article Word count: 745
Bio Word count: 45


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