Top 10s

COVID-19 | Top 10 Pre-ride checks before lockdown ends

With it looking like motorcycling for pleasure is once again allowed later this week as lockdown eases, here are ten quick tasks to check before you ride

AS the COVID-19 lockdown looks to be easing this week, many (myself included) are thinking about going out and reacquainting ourselves with our bikes and some of our favourite local routes.

While heading off with a big group of mates and stopping off at your favourite motorcycle café is still off-limits, heading out solo for a ride and stopping off somewhere for a social-distanced bit of fresh air is a good idea.

What’s not a good idea though is strolling into your garage, hopping on your long lost best mate, and heading off to the horizon. There are some checks that we should all do before we ride again.

To find out the rule on riding after the lockdown eases, click here.

Top ten post lockdown, pre-ride motorcycle checks:

10. Check the bike's battery

There would be nothing worse than getting kitted up, with the key in hand, about to head off for a gentle ride only to find your bike's battery has died while you’ve not been riding it.

Get out and check it now before you go and give yourself time to charge it up in case it has drained over the weeks of lockdown.

If you have a multi-meter or battery health checker, connect it to terminals to check for a surface charge in the battery. If there are a few volts still bouncing around in there; you might be alright, stick it on charge and hope for the best. If there isn’t, you might be heading to the internet to source a new battery and your ride might be postponed.

9. Tyres

Just assuming that because the tyres were fine in February they’ll still be okay today is not enough. Give them a thorough looking at by placing the bike on paddock stands or the centre stand and spinning the tyre through your hands.

Check for the obvious punctures and splits, but also keep an eye out for areas of the tyre that are ballooning out or dangerously low on tread.

After that, get a tyre pressure gauge and check they are still to the correct pressure. If not, inflate them to the manufacturer specified pressures, only track bikes on track tyres really need anything else.

8. Brakes

Like the tyres, the fact that they worked fine three months ago is not proof they are fine today! Take the bike off the stand and grab a fist full of front brake and push the bike forwards and down onto the suspension.

The level should feel progressive in the first part of the movement then firm after, without any undue sponginess. While you’re doing this, listen out for any extra noise from the forks that could be air or cavitation in the suspension system.

Get down on the floor now and have a good check of how much meat is left on the pads, if they’re at a level that could be construed as being dangerously low, don’t ride and order a new set.

If anything doesn’t feel absolutely spot on, spend some time sorting it or postpone your ride until you can get a dealer to sort it.

8. Chain

It’s unlikely that while your bike has been laid up that the chain will have stretched, but the last time it was ridden conditions might not have been as good as they are now. Any salt on the chain from the winter that was then left on the surface since during lockdown will have had a field day corroding the links.

While the bike is on the paddock stand, get a chain cleaning brush and some chain cleaning spray and give it a good clean.

While you’re there go around the chain with your fingers and feel about for any tight links that could cause an issue. It’s a good idea to check the sprocket now too and look for any worn or chipped teeth that could cause you an issue.

Once clean, let it dry and then apply a squirt of good quality, motorcycle-specific chain lube – not just WD40!

7. Lights, indicators and horn

As more MoT failures are attributed to either faulty lights or indicators, it’s sensible to check these two – plus it takes seconds to do while you’re in the garage.

6. Coolant

Unless you’re riding a super-cool retro smoker when this all ends, it’ll be the coolant that you’ll want to check next.

The level should be between the high and low mark on the header tank and the hoses should be soft when you pinch them, with no visible signs of the hose splitting or cracking.

A radiator load of hot water and slippery coolant on your back wheel is not the way to start the 2020 motorcycling season!

5. Oil

Like the coolant, leaving with too little oil in your bike will see you heading home on the back of a breakdown truck. Warm the bike up a little, get it as vertical as you can, and check the level is again between the high and low marks – I prefer nearer the high.

If it’s a little bit off, top it up with the same brand of oil that the manufacturer recommends. If it’s below the low mark, and fairly old, it might be worth ordering some new oil and a new oil filter.

Probably best splurge on a new air filter and spark plugs to save on postage too!

4. Insurance

Have you missed the renewal email, the letter, or the phone call?

If the COVID-19 pandemic has done one thing to us all, its take us out of our comfort zone. We are all stressed right now, and not riding might have meant we missed the insurance renewal.

Check with the company you’re insured with and if it has lapsed, get it renewed asap.

If you can’t remember who you were insured with, don’t fret; check your online banking around the time that you think you renew and look for the payment or first instalment going out of your account. That’ll tell you which company you need to chase.

The same goes for your MoT and road tax too!

3. Check your route and tell somebody

Riding off alone is not the norm for a lot of riders and some prefer the feeling of riding out in a group. While that isn’t strictly allowed – the government would much prefer us to ride alone – it does pose a few problems.

What happens if you breakdown, run out of fuel, or worse, crash?

If you aren’t used to playing the lone wolf, let a friend, family member, or loved one know where you are going, what time you’ll leave, and when you’ll be home again. Take your phone and cash cards and don’t go silly, we are all ambassadors for motorcycling at this precarious time.

2. check your kit

Now is a great time to give your motorcycle safety kit a proper good going over to check for damage and wear and tear.

It’s also a great time to spruce it up a bit – check out these kit cleaning guides:

Helmet cleaning guide: visordown.com

Leather cleaning guide: visordown.com

1. Check yourself!

While some of us, myself included, have been able to ride during the lockdown, many people will have hung up their leathers and lid during the lockdown. If that’s you, take your first ride easy and don’t feel the need to rush it.

Feeling anxious and nervous while riding is as bad as riding when tired. If your head is not in the game you can’t think straight and you will make mistakes.

If you feel jittery and on edge, postpone the ride until later in the day or the week, and don’t feel pressured by anyone else to go if you don’t feel 100% up to it.

Stay safe, let's not mess this up!

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