Beating the winter blues

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Beating the Winter Blues

Looking ahead and getting ready to ride

by Bret Tkacs

So here we are, spring is around the corner and bike fever is starting to creep in. Thoughts of long rides, sunny days, friends, the sound of the wind on the open road, rallies, track days… but when you look outside there is still frost on the ground and gray sky's… what should we do? We have been missing our bikes all winter (all but the hard core & commuters). Well if you have been missing your bike only pausing each morning in the garage to give it a glance on your way to the cage and the daily grind it is time to start getting back into the game. So here are some ideas to start getting ready.

Above: There's no day like a snow day to take an intermediate MSF brush up course. Wouldn't you agree?

Get your head back into the Game… The most critical piece of gear that you need to get ready for the riding season is the onboard directional control computer (your brain). With an abundance of less than perfect riding days between now and spring you have plenty of time to get yourself tuned up. Now is the time to turn off the TV and bust out some reading materials (it's ok to keep the TV on if you are analyzing the riding technique of the GP and pro circuit racers)

Do some reading: Dig out those old magazines you refuse to throw away and revisit those articles and ads from the past. Often it is the magazines with the most dust on them that will remind of past dreams and desires. It's a good time to reflect back to why you got hooked on the sport and evaluate where you would like to go with it. Pick up a book on riding techniques and start getting your head back into the game. Often it is not that you learn so much new but you may find you are reminded of all the things that you have forgot you knew. If you are lucky you might even learn something new. When was the last time you read through your bikes owner's manual … or have you ever read it? There are a lot of little details about your bike that you will find there. Try jumping on the internet and check out some of the riding schools out there. Many of these schools book up long before the riding season even gets started. Now is the time shop around and register for one of those classes you have been putting off.

Make a plan: Another way to get you head back into the game of riding is to start making plans. This can be long term plans like a trip around the U.S. or short term like search a map for new local roads. Dig out some road maps and look for some new roads. Lay out a few new routes to try this year. Start planning your dream trip even if it is a few years away. If you never start it will never happen. Plan on attending a rally like Sport Bike Northwest or an advanced rider class. Call up some of your riding buddies and get them psyched up for a late winter or spring ride.

What about the bike you say? Besides getting yourself ready now is a great time to get the bike ready also whether you're de-winterizing it or just washing off the winter dirt. Cold wet windy days are the perfect time since you won't miss any riding time while getting your bike back in shape.

Dig out a few tools and remove your bikes body work and give it a good detailing (good use for that old tooth brush). Cleaning your bike will help preserve its value as well as letting you find things easily missed like missing bolts. While you have everything exposed wash and degrease all of those parts normally hidden by the seat or body panels this will help keep them from corroding. It is not often you see these parts so take advantage of having it all exposed. Polish and wax all the painted surfaces before putting the bike back together. Doing these individually keeps you from having ugly wax stuck between the cracks. Wipe the seat down with a vinyl or leather protector as appropriate.

Do a safety inspection: While you have the bike exposed check the condition of your hoses & cables, check for loose or missing bolts and fasteners. Check all the fluids including the brakes, clutch, oil, engine coolant and final drive as appropriate. Check your tires manufacture date & condition, if you see any signs of cracking or if the tire is hard replace it. One of the most critical checks is your tire pressures. Clean, lube, and adjust your chain if you have one. Check fork seals and for oil and fluid leaks. Make sure you have a charged battery and that it is holds a charge. Check to make sure all of the lights are still working.

Preserve your relationship: Talk to your bike and remind it of all the good times you're going to have (they do get lonely). If you are uncomfortable working on your bike or did not properly winterize it now is the time to sign up for a Motorcycle Care & Maintenance class or have your dealer haul it to the shop in a truck.

Bret Tkacs/Feb08

Bret Tkacs is the president of Puget Sound Safety , a Northwest company that provides riding skills classes as well as do it yourself maintenance programs.


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