How to Prep Your Motorcycle for Your First Ride of the Year

How to Prep Your Motorcycle for Your First Ride of the Year

by Cliff John June 04, 2020

If you live in an area that gets exceptionally cold during the winter, you'll likely have your motorcycle stored away safely until it gets warm enough to ride. Although it's tempting to take your bike out of storage and immediately ride it, you should take a few minutes to complete a pre-ride bike inspection. 

There are a few important motorcycle maintenance tasks you should complete to ensure your bike doesn't have any problems. In this guide, we'll discuss how to perform some basic checks, so you can go riding with confidence and extend the life of your motorcycle. 

How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Spring 

Before you take your motorcycle out, create and execute a motorcycle checklist of the maintenance you need to perform. It's not a good idea to go into your pre-ride bike check without a clear idea of what you should be inspecting and what common issues you should be looking to correct. 

To get the most out of your inspection and prepare for spring motorcycle riding, build your motorcycle checklist using the actions listed below:

1. Remove Covers and Dust Your Bike

Preparing for motorcycle season starts by simply taking off the bike's covering and taking stock of how your bike looks. There may be some apparent issues noticeable to you, but for many, the most you'll probably notice is some dust. Additionally, you'll need to remove any blocks you used to keep the bike stationary through the winter, placing the bike back onto its side stands.

If you have any covers, rags or plugs over your air intakes or exhaust pipes, you'll want to remove them as well. Some bike owners apply a coating to their bike's rims, chain and frame before storing it for the winter. If you have applied a coating, you should take the time to wash it away.

Finally, if your bike has accumulated dust, wipe it off with a soft cloth, so you don't get it on yourself when you start to drive — this is an especially important step if you suffer from allergies.

2. Check the Fuel System

Your bike's fuel system needs to be checked to determine if any leaks or cracks have developed in its fittings and fuel lines. Next, you should inspect the fuel itself. If you placed a fuel stabilizer in the fuel tank before storing your bike, it should be okay, but you should still do an inspection. Remember that the fuel may have evaporated while in storage, leaving a varnish-looking substance behind in the tank. 

To check the fuel, open the filler cap and search inside for stratification or gunk. If you find dirty fuel inside, you'll need to drain the fuel lines and tanks before you start the engine. Besides inspecting the quality of the fuel, you'll also want to take a look at your carburetor and clean it. The next few times you fill your tank, ensure that you also add system cleaners.

3. Inspect Your Fluids

Ensure that your fluid hose connections don't have signs of leakage or looseness. Replace your hoses if you notice cracks or other issues. Besides the hoses and hose connection, look at the fluid itself to see if it's at the appropriate consistency and levels.

Replace your fluids if you notice anything that looks wrong. Top off any fluids that need to be refilled, using only a new, sealed container to ensure you're putting top-quality fluids into your bike. Swap out your air filter for a new one as well. Finally, flush out the old antifreeze and replace it with the needed coolant.

4. Take a Look at Your Oil

Motorcycle manufacturers often recommend changing the engine oil before you put your bike into storage and after you take it out — this is because oil can separate during storage, which leads to a build-up of condensation that hurts your engine. 

Even if you changed the oil before storage, make sure to inspect the oil level before you get on the bike and take it for a drive. Sometimes, you'll need to replace your oil before you hit the road. Give your bike the very best and make the oil change process easy by selecting a top-tier Harley-Davidson oil change kit

5. Charge Your Battery

Starting your motorcycle after winter isn't always a straightforward process. Batteries that haven't been disconnected or attached to a smart charger during storage will likely need to be recharged. Additionally, those that can't hold a charge will need to be replaced. 

Regardless of how you stored the battery, the bike's terminals and cables should be cleaned with a wire brush. You'll also need to grease the terminals and cables before reconnecting them. Batteries that will have been attached to a tender or have been battery trickle-charged will usually be in the best shape.

Additionally, examine the leads to see if they're still attached tightly, while also ensuring that there's no corrosion. At the end of your battery check, make sure the bike is properly routed and connected.

6. Examine the Tires

Your bike's wheels will usually be fine if you stored your bike in a way that takes the weight off of them. If weight was bearing down on the wheels during storage, it's much more likely that your tire pressure will be off, along with other potential issues. Regardless of how you stored the wheels, you'll still need to do some basic checks to ensure that you can trust your tires to get you from one place to another safely.

First, inspect the tires for flat spots, punctures, stress marks, bulges and cracks. After doing this check, get a tire pressure gauge to ensure your tires are inflated to the recommended levels for your bike. 

If you notice the tire pressure is off, use the manufacturer's guidelines for pressure when refilling the tires. However, if the tire is simply worn down, you'll want to get it replaced as soon as possible. Additionally, tighten loose spokes and look for dents in the wheel. End your tire and wheel inspection by greasing your wheel bearings. 

7. Maintain Your Engine

If you didn't lubricate the top of the engine's cylinder or spray fogging oil before you put it away for the season, you will need to take out the spark plugs so you can pour the appropriate oil into the ports. 


The oil will help lubricate the upper area of the cylinder walls. After pulling the plugs, you should also check the gaps to see if you need to use a gap-setting tool to ensure the gaps meet the manufacturer's requirements.

8. Get Your Brakes in Order

Being able to start your motorcycle isn't enough — you need to be able to stop it as well. Inspect the brake fluid level and change it out if the fluid is dirty. Also, examine your brake pads to ensure they haven't worn down — and do the same with the shoes or discs. If you notice these parts have worn thin, you'll need to replace them with new ones.

Next, look at your brake line to ensure there aren't any leaks or cracks. Additionally, use a brake cleaner to give your brake rotors a solid cleaning. Finally, lubricate your bike's throttle cables and front brake hand lever.

9. Inspect the Chain and Sprockets

Check your sprocket for common issues like uneven wear or missing teeth. Besides the sprockets, you'll want to see if you have the appropriate level of slack in your bike's chain. If you find your motorcycle's chain isn't held at the right level of tension, you'll want to check the bike manufacturer's requirements. To finish, lubricate the chain before taking it out on the road.

10. Evaluate the Suspension, Steering and Frame

As you evaluate your frame, suspension and steering, start by searching your frame for hairline cracks, paying a lot of attention to the space around your transmission brackets and engine. After doing this check, you should see if your forks feel loose as you move them back and forth. If you notice your steering head has movement, you'll need to tighten it.

Like the frame, you also need to look for cracks in the handlebars, and then lubricate the bike's cable connections. Look at the bike's axle nuts, drain plugs and brake-lever pivot bolts to ensure everything is securely in place. Be extra thorough by checking the bike's nuts with a fastener, tightening them to the correct torque when needed. Finally, grease the bike's kickstand and lubricate every bearing.

11. Check the Electrical System

You'll also need to inspect the electrical system on your bike. You don't want to take your bike out during the day only to find out later that night when you're driving home that your headlamps don't work.

To begin an electrical system check, you'll need to see if your gauges, lights, switches and electronics still work. One major inspection will involve flipping on both your normal and high-beam headlamps to ensure they're working properly, before also hitting your rear and front turn signals to see if they still work. Next, check if the brake lights still light up when engaging the brakes. Finally, ensure you can still honk by testing the horn. 

12. Ensure the Controls Are Working Properly

Be sure to test the controls and make sure they're in working order. Start by examining the hoses and cables to see if there is any damage. You should also test your bike's pedals and levers to ensure they're lubricated properly. Finally, check your throttle, testing if it jams or springs closed when you release it. 

13. Clean Your Motorcycle

Although you dusted the motorcycle off at the beginning, it's a good idea to give it a full cleaning after you've gotten your bike back into riding shape. You don't want to be the person riding the dirty bike. After all the checks you've done, you owe it to yourself to get people to admire your Harley.

Cleaning your motorcycle shouldn't be too complicated. All you usually need for a good cleaning is some water and the proper cleaning products for your bike's seat materials, metal finishes and paint. After cleaning your bike, you can give it a wax to really make it stand out. The wax will make your Harley look amazing, and it can also protect the bike's paint from minor scratches and sun damage.

Don't Forget to Prep Your Body

If you haven't ridden a motorcycle for months, your body isn't going to be ready to spend long periods of time on the bike. Returning to the bike's saddle can be a shock to the system, especially if you've faced any injuries during the off-season or you're an older biker. 

To get your body ready for your bike again, get into a routine of doing some stretches that will help your body get loose before you take over the reins on your bike. It's especially important for those who ride in a tucked position to stretch their back out to prevent cramps. 

In addition to keeping your back loose, stretch out your neck, so you have a full range of movement when you need to look from side to side while out on the road. 

Choose Fat Head Cycles for Your Harley-Davison Parts, Kits and Accessories

When you're looking for parts and tools to properly complete your motorcycle inspection, you'll want to turn to Fat Head Cycles. As a full-service Harley-Davidson repair and customization shop, we offer a variety of in-shop services for times when you need some help with motorcycle maintenance. However, we don't just stop there. Our online shop offers a variety of products, such as tools, oil change kits, suspension and frame parts and a variety of other pieces of equipment.

Browse our online store today to find the parts you need to get your Harley running smoothly again. Have any questions? Don't hesitate to contact us


Cliff John
Cliff John


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