With better weather (finally) on the horizon, our team of motorcycle solicitors know that many of you will be taking to the roads for the first time this year. As well as being aware, there's lots you can do to stay safe...
Winter is nearly over, evenings are getting lighter, and for those bikers who traded two wheels for four over the colder months, it will soon be time to rumble your machines from hibernation.
So if you're revved-up with eagerness to get back in the saddle and you just can't wait to kick-start your motorcycling season, here are some timely tips for staying safe.
Motorcycling Safety Tips
1. Check Your Bike
- Spring Clean – Start things off with a good old-fashioned clean and polish. Your bike would thank you for it if it could, plus an attentive clean could show up more serious issues to attend to.
- Brakes – Check brake pads, clean the callipers, check for corrosion and replace worn parts as necessary. It's also a good idea to drain old brake fluid and top up with new.
- Oil – You may have your leathers on but you'll want to ensure that your pride and joy is sufficiently lubed-up before jumping onboard. Change the engine oil and oil filter, check the fork oil, lubricate chain, clutch cable and gear linkage, check the condition of fluid hoses, and beware of any leakage.
- Tyres – Your tyres will have lost pressure over the winter and this can dangerously affect the bike's handling. Inflate tyres to the correct pressure (note: check pressure when tyres are cold) and keep them maintained as such at all times. Also check that the tyres haven't become punctured and that there's still a safe level of tread in them – replace your tyres if necessary.
- Bearings – With the engine switched off, raise the bike's wheels off the ground and give them a spin. First keep an ear out for bearing noise and then apply the brakes. Unusual bearing noises or any play in the wheel when the brakes are applied indicates that you'll need a bearing change.
- Battery – Clean and tighten connections between battery and terminals. Check the battery is fully charged and if it looks past its sell-by date, get a replacement. Examine electrical cables for wear and tear and replace if necessary.
- Lights – Check the bulbs in the headlamps, taillights, indicators and instrumentation lights, and also check for their correct operation. Replace bulbs if required.
- Chain – Examine chain and sprockets for rust and check that links haven't fused together. Ensure that there's not excessive play in the chain – if it's loose you may need to replace it. If your bike is belt drive, check for excessive play and also for rubber wear.
Note: if you're not confident in your own grease-monkey abilities and you want to ensure the bike to be as safe as possible, have the machine serviced at an authorised garage.
2. Check Your Gear
- Helmet – Examine your helmet for signs of wear and tear and if it looks ready to retire, get a new one – it's not worth the risk of finding out the hard way that your lid was well past its useful date. Note: Never buy a second-hand helmet and make sure your new one complies with British Standard BS 6658:1985 (look for the kitemark) or ECE 22.05.
- Vision – When cleaning your goggles or visor, use soap and water (never use a solvent), and if scratched, replace immediately. Again, ensure any replacement is up to British or ECE (European Economic Area) Standards.
- Boots and Gloves – Check boots and gloves are still fit for purpose, and replace them if they've obviously seen better days.
- The Rest of You – Check bike trousers and jackets for wear and tear and upgrade them if knee/elbow pads, shoulder/back protection are no longer up to the task.
- Be Seen – Your average biker will attest that most accidents are the fault of cars, trucks and busses – so stay as visible to them as possible. That means keep your lights on low beam during the day and wear as much reflective gear as you can get away with without fear of a plane landing on you. It's particularly important to be highly visible at this time because, over the winter, drivers will have become used to seeing less bikes on the road.
3. Check Everything Else
- Skills – After several months of bike-free living, you may need to brush up on your road skills before getting back out there. This could be a basic refresher such as finding a quiet stretch of tarmac and reacquainting yourself with your bike's braking habits, throttle response, general handling etc, or you could take it up a level and go with the pros...
- Weather – If that bright spring morning and blaze of flowers has inspired you to suit up, take care not to be lulled into a false sense of security. Early-spring days can be deceptively icy and a low-ish spring sun can blind other drivers to your presence – so be extra careful. Also, de-icing salt may still be present on the roads so beware.
Sticking with skid risks, if it's just dried-up after a period of rain, previously spilt diesel will rise to the surface. This slippery stuff may be better for the atmosphere but it's the bane of motorcyclists – so be extra vigilant after rainy spells, particularly on curves or at petrol stations.
Bike Insurance – make sure your bike insurance hasn't lapsed over the winter. Don't forget, if you've modified your bike in any way (e.g. fitting that shiny carbon race can you got for crimbo), you'll need to declare it to your insurer. Failure to declare any modification could invalidate a future claim.
So whether you're Ewan McGregor hoping to tour the world on 1200cc two-wheeled jeep or a commuter about to nip off to work on a 50cc scooter, these top tips should better your chances of enjoying a worry-free spring, summer & autumn of safe motorcycling.
Originally Published 22 March, 2021
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.