Based on Ken’s extensive experience, here’s how to ensure that your bike is safely ready to roll once it’s out of winter storage.
Tires: Proper tire inflation is of utmost importance, especially in spring. Ken suggests that “you should set pressure to the lower side of the manufacturer’s recommended rating. For cooler spring temperatures, you want the tires to be a little softer. This will allow them to warm up for better traction.” Also inspect your tires for wear.
Oil: If you didn’t do this in the fall, change your oil and oil filter. When it sits for long periods of time, old oil causes condensation that can corrode moving parts. Ken recommends synthetic oil and uses it in all the bikes he owns. Synthetic oil holds its properties better than natural oil. However, note that it’s better for newer bikes than older models.
Fuel: Your fuel should also be as fresh as possible. Use a brand of premium fuel that doesn’t contain ethanol. If you didn’t drain the old fuel before storing your bike for the winter, put some automotive fuel injection cleaner in the tank, says Ken. It will help clean out any sludge that has collected.
Battery: Make sure you have a fully charged battery for spring. The best batteries only last 3 to 5 years, even when they’re perfectly maintained. Also, check all your lights (indicators, brakes, headlight), too. “Drivers have enough trouble seeing bikes as it is,” Ken says.
Brakes and clutch: Drum brakes have an indicator to remind you when it’s time to replace them. Disc brakes are a little harder to check, but should have at least 1/16" of material on the pad. Keep track of when you change your brake fluid — it should be changed every 3 or 4 years. And check your clutch lever for proper adjustment. Most manufacturers recommend 2-3 mm of free play.
Steering and suspension: Try walking your bike and then pump the front brake. “If you feel any kind of a ‘clunk,’ it could indicate loose steering bearings,” Ken cautions. Also suspend the front end and move it left and right. If you feel any “notchiness,” that could tip you off to the same problem. For proper suspension settings it’s best to refer to your bike owner’s manual.
Drive chain and levers: Some parts will require lubrication. First, Ken typically removes most of the debris from chain-driven bikes with a wire brush. Then he wipes the chain with oil and applies chain lube. Next, lubricate the brake and clutch levers and throttle cable with a light oil. On sidestand pivot points you can use a light engine oil.
Bath time: Washing your bike cleans it up and lets you get a good look at it. “Dirt will hide problems and create problems,” says Ken. He recommends commercial degreasers for the engine and chassis, followed by washing with good old hot, soapy water and waxing of all the painted parts.