Getting ready for the motorcycle season is all about having a good time, but there are several points I always make sure to check off of my list. I got this idea from a friend of mine who drives big-rig trucks for a living. He told me that he marks off his own personal checklist every time he gets back on the road after an off-season. I was already doing a visual inspection on my bike after every ride, but I never thought about doing a more comprehensive checklist in the Spring. My friend didn’t just focus his list on maintenance, but he also wrote down any upgrades he wanted to make to his transfer truck. That was what made this whole ritual a really fun treat for me, and I look forward to writing down my checklist at the end of every winter. I’ll show you the basics of what I do, and you can make any changes you’d like to fit your tastes. Just be sure to start with the necessities, and go on from there!
Getting Ready As A Rider
The most important half of my motorcycle season checklist is going to focus on your personal safety. I know it’s not always fun to be covered in protective gear in the warmer months, but there’s no safe way around it. You’ve got to put your well-being first, and that means making sure all of your gear is going to protect you the way that it should. You might even find out about a few areas you could improve on to keep yourself safe this season. Just remember that anybody can lay their bike down in a bad turn, and it’s probably going to happen to you at some point in your life. Be prepared when that day comes, and you won’t have to walk around the rest of your life looking like a failed science experiment.
Getting Your Bike Ready
The main points I want to cover about your motorcycle will all revolve around performance and convenience. You’ve got to make sure everything is operating correctly, and that starts with getting a quick inspection at your local repair shop. It’s best if you take it to a place that specializes in your specific brand of bike, but most mechanics that are familiar with motorcycles will be able to give your ride their seal of approval for the season. After you’ve got all the maintenance out of the way, then you should consider spending a few bucks on fun upgrades.
I know from firsthand experience that if you don’t spend your money on the things you enjoy, then it will just end up getting used somewhere else. You might as well have some fun with it, and you should trick out your ride a little bit this year. It doesn’t have to be some crazy-expensive gadget, but you should definitely make some small improvements to your bike that you would really enjoy. I loved when I first had a sound system installed on my bike, and it also helps make it easier for drivers to notice me in traffic.
Your Motorcycle Season Checklist
This isn’t the exact checklist I use, but it’s a good general checklist to start with. You can add as many points as you’d like, or you can remove any modifications that you aren’t interested in. Keep in mind that each state has different laws, and you always need to make sure anything you do is in accordance with the rules of the road for your area. I would say that my best tip would be to spend a little extra on your helmet first, and everything else that isn’t gear-related is a secondary concern. If you’ve got a tight budget, then just worry about your gear. I know my motorcycle can be repaired, but my body is a lot harder to fix after an accident. There’s nothing fun about road-rash, and you can quote me on that!
1. Your Helmet
Everybody doesn’t like to wear helmets, and I totally understand why. It can be uncomfortable in the heat, and it can get a little annoying. A good helmet isn’t exactly cheap, either. Some guys would rather break the law¹ than wear one, but I’m here to tell you that your helmet is more important than anything else. I remember when I first started riding. My helmet didn’t even have any foam in it, and the visor was just screwed on. If there was one thing I’d change about my first few months of riding, then I’d have spent all of my extra money on a great helmet. You never know when you’re going to go down on the road, and a helmet is the bare minimum requirement you should focus on when getting ready for the season. I can’t stress this enough. Buy a great helmet, and throw your old one away when it gets any damage. You can never be too safe about it.
2. Inspecting Your Riding Jacket
If you’re like me, then you love wearing a real leather jacket. I take mine out of the closet every few months, and I apply some high-quality leather conditioner to keep it from drying out. You should make that a habit if you aren’t already doing it. A few bucks could really extend the life of your jacket. Be sure to inspect the leather for any damaged spots, too. I know I put a lot of wear on my favorite jacket when I was playing around on an offroad bike. A few weeks later I realized that the elbow padding on one side was completely worn through from just a few falls. My rule of thumb is that if I can find a hole in my leather, then I retire the jacket from riding. I won’t get rid of it, but I won’t wear it on my bike anymore.
3. Getting New Boots
I was kind of dumb when I first started riding, and I’m sure you can relate to that. My problem was that I never thought much about protecting my feet and legs. I was lucky enough to be a fan of leather boots, and it definitely saved my little piggies more than I’d like to admit. It’s not hard to accidentally put your feet down on the pavement before the bike stops. Make sure you’ve got something more than a pair of work boots to stop you from breaking your ankles. Never get on a bike with soft shoes. Grab yourself some riding boots, and keep them by the front door.
4. Gloves And Hand Protection
Just apply the same principles I went over about riding boots. Get yourself a nice pair of gloves, and make sure they’ll actually protect your hands in a pinch. I like the ones with hardened knuckles, and I avoid gloves made from mesh fabrics. I might have sweaty hands in the summer, but I’m never gonna sacrifice safety for a little bit of comfort. I prefer to keep my fingers attached to my hands.
5. Riding Pants
Blue jeans were always my go-to riding pants, and I had no idea I might as well be riding in my underwear. Denim is just not gonna protect you from the pavement. If you’re smarter than me, then you’ve already got a pair of decent riding pants. They should hold up just fine for a couple of years after you purchase them. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommended care routines² to avoid damaging them. Some riding pants can lose their protective qualities over time, and other materials can be damaged in clothes driers.
6. Any Gear Upgrades That Could Improve Your Motorcycle Experience
I’m always amazed by the new innovations in motorcycle protective gear. They’ve got all kinds of amazing gadgets on the market. I’ve seen backpacks that shield your spine, and I’ve seen crash vests³ that inflate when you get into a collision. You can even get helmets with cooling features to keep you comfortable. Just do a bit of research, and grab a couple of riding magazines. You can make your checklist seem like a Christmas wish-list instead of a chore.
7. Getting Your Bike Inspected
Your personal protection is the top priority, and the performance of your bike has a huge impact on your safety. You might not have any safety hazards on your bike, but it’s always a good idea to know where you stand. Make sure the engine timing is spot-on, and be sure to have any old sprockets replaced immediately. When you’re in a bind, then an extra little performance boost might give you enough speed to avoid a collision. Get your bike inspected, and keep it in great shape.
8. Changing The Oil
I like to change my oil way more often than I need to. I never let it reach the recommended change date, and I feel like that’s made a big difference in my bike maintenance routines. I’m not saying that changing the oil ahead of time makes my motorcycle run better, but it gives me the motivation to inspect my bike thoroughly more often. I don’t wait till the last minute to change my fluids. I keep my maintenance routine on a repeating schedule regardless of how much I actually ride.
9. Replacing the Chain or Drive Belt
This part of the list is an absolute must. You should be doing this every time you leave the house, and you should be cleaning your chain every chance you get. I’ve heard horror stories of guys having their drive belt lock up their wheels after flying into the spokes. Get that thing replaced every year, and keep an eye on it.
10. Adding Fun Tech To Your Bike
There’s nothing more fulfilling than spending your hard-earned cash on a fun upgrade. I loved adding a stereo to my bike, and it was a real benefit to me. I blast my jams really loud, and it gets the attention of other drivers. I want them to know exactly where I am at all times, and my loud radio is a big help. You could throw on a new muffler, or you could put brighter headlights on your bike. If your state allows it⁴, then you could even add neon under-glow lights to your motorcycle for better nighttime visibility. There’s a whole world of possibilities, and you might just enjoy your riding season a little more this time around.
11. Performance Modifications
Increasing the performance of your motorcycle is awesome. You can accelerate faster, and get out of a bind quicker. I suggest that you consider getting a modified gear system installed on your bike, or you can upgrade the tires for better handling. I hear that an upgraded suspension can work wonders when banking-out on sharp turns. That’s something for all of you cruiser enthusiasts to really think about if you tend to scrape a lot when turning. Just brainstorm all of the little things you could improve upon, and make little changes as you go.
12. Increasing Your Visibility
Cool looking motorcycles get seen on the road, and that’s exactly what you want to happen for you. It’s more than just looking flashy while you cruise along. Getting the attention of motorists means having a safer ride. Go all out, and really make your bike look all your own. Express yourself, and stand out. If you feel like painting your bike is too much of a guilty pleasure, then just think of it as a safety upgrade. Throw on a flashy jacket, and grab yourself a ridiculous helmet cover. Do whatever you want, and remember to have lots of fun in the process.