The first motorcycle ride out… after a long break!!
So many of us are stuck indoors, respecting advice from officials and avoiding going out unnecessarily. For me I normally motorcycle ride at least 5 days a week, so this is probably the longest I have gone without sitting on a motorbike.
When we are finally allowed to ride our motorcycles for pleasure again there will be a number of things that will feel alien to us or that we have completely forgotten. So why not take a look through these tips to ensure you don’t have ANY issues when you get back in the saddle.
1. Take Your Time
As an instructor, I’ve found one of the biggest problems motorcycle riders encounter, is trying to rush what they’re doing. Whether that’s because of the type of job they do, or perhaps they feel they should be able to do it quickly, either way the results are the same. Once you make one mistake, it’s often like a domino effect, one mistake leads to the next and the next.
So be methodical, like a checklist and do one thing after the other, rather than trying to multitask; 1. Stow the stand, 2. Ignition on, 3. Check neutral etc. This isn’t just with new riders either, anyone who’s had a break from riding will probably make some mistake or another on the first few ride outs, so reduce the risk and take your time.
2. Remember the Basics
All the things that come naturally when you ride a motorcycle regularly can easily be forgotten:
- Look up when you pull away (point your nose in the direction that you want to travel). Instinctively, we look down (just like when we walk), so fight the urge and tell yourself to look up.
- Try not to target fixate on the ground or the kerb, keep your vision at eye level.
- Slip the clutch when you pull away, until your motorcycle is up right and straight. If you haven’t ridden for a while you’re bound to be holding on too tight and therefore your throttle control may be a little twitchy, meaning you might put way more power on than you mean to! Slipping the clutch at low speed will keep the motorcycle under control.
3. Awareness and Planning
The first few sunny days of Spring are when we hear of more RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions) involving motorcyclists. We account for 1% of the traffic on the road, yet 25% of all the KSIs (Killed or Seriously Injured). We are not designed to travel faster than walking pace (evolution hasn’t caught up with technology), so when we sit on a motorcycle and travel much quicker than our brains can cope, we start to miss vital clues to keep us safe.
So why not go slower for the first ride out and get used to being back on 2 wheels. Motorcyclists, even those that drive too, sometimes have extremely poor planning, usually due to a lack of advanced training.
Make sure you are looking for potential and developing hazards, all the time. As well as this, book some advanced motorcycle training, or if you’re riding on L plates, try booking a day’s training designed to help you at your level.
To book your advanced training day with me, click here www.WOMT.co.uk/advanced
RMT Motorcycle Training offers a course called Take Control, subsided by the Safer Road Partnership, meaning the day will cost £50! There’s 2 versions, one for advanced riders and one for learners. This can also be booked with me if you would prefer a female trainer. Click here for details.
4. Relax and Ride Solo
The more tense you are on a motorcycle, the more difficult everything becomes. So, relax your grip on the handlebars, drop your shoulders down, unclench your jaw, have a slight bend in your elbows (if your motorcycle allows) and mentally stay calm. Talk yourself through what you’re doing and for your first few motorcycle ride outs, stay local and on less technically demanding roads.
It’s also a good idea to ride on your own for the first few outings, especially if you’re feeling rusty! The temptation to keep up with partners or friends who rides faster can lead to riding out of your ability and that causes big problems. When you ride alone, it takes all the pressure off. You know you’re going to be nervous and a bit shaky, so it won’t matter if you do something wrong as no-one is watching!
5. Pre Motorcycle Ride Checks
This is a given after a long spell off the motorcycle. I like to use the acronym POWDERSS to ensure my bike is in good working order:
P – Petrol
Petrol is always a good start! Always check the filler cap isn’t seized or in need of some WD40 when you put the key in. Make sure there’s no damage around the filler cap too, the last thing you want is fuel dripping down onto your engine or brakes.
O – Oil
Usually you would need to check the level before you start the motorcycle, but check your owner’s manual for guidance. I’d also check the brake fluid reservoirs here too.
W – Water
Check the coolant level or if your motorcycle is air cooled ensure there is no debris or mud on the fins, that might prevent the hot air from dispensing.
D – Drive / Damage
Check the chain and use the acronym TLC
Tension – check the chain tension, put your finger underneath the chain and push upwards, your owner’s manual will tell you how much slack you need, don’t forget though this is with you sitting on your motorcycle, so if you can ask someone to help you with this it might be more accurate. If you do need to adjust your chain, make sure you check your wheel alignment afterwards too.
Not mechanically minded? Take it to your local garage and they will do it for you. Don’t know where to go? Ask a biker friend for a recommendation.
Lubrication – use chain lube or engine oil. I like to use a thicker lubricant during the winter months but if you’re a fair weather rider, you’ll probably prefer the stuff that doesn’t ruin your shiney back wheel! I can recommend Wurth High Performance Dry Chain Lube for the Summer. https://amzn.to/2RGOefB
Condition. Make sure the chain is in good condition, ensuring the links are free moving and not stiff, or even damaged. Make sure there’s no rust on the chain itself and check if the teeth on the sprocket aren’t worn out or bent over, if this is the case it’s definitely time for a new kit.
E – Electrics
Make sure all your lights are on and working!
R – Rubber
Check the tyres and use the acronym ACT
Air. Check the owner’s manual for the correct PSI reading. Don’t be tempted to check the sidewall as it’s usually a maximum reading.
Condition. Look for nails, glass or foreign objects embedded in the tyre. Check the sidewalls for tears, cuts and bulges.
Tread. Make sure you have at least 1mm of tread over 75% of the width of the tyre, over 100% of the circumference. Also think about the age of the tyres, the tread might be ok but if the tyres are old and rock hard, they aren’t going to offer you the grip you require.
S – Steering
Check your steering movement and make sure you can turn the handlebars lock to lock. If there’s a snagging feeling, there might be a cable caught.
I’d also check the headstock bearing, if you have a centre stand I would put the bike on it and push the back wheel onto the floor, raising the front wheel up and turn the steering through the centre. If it feels like it’s notchy or not smooth, it’s usually a sign the headstock bearings are on their way out.
S – Suspension
Once off the stand, with the front brake applied, push forward and down on the handlebars to establish good rebound and check the front fork stanchions for any ring marks, where there may be a leak.