We’re suffering a mostly chilly and wet spring here in the Philadelphia region, and it’s making me itch for warmer weather so I can get back out on my motorcycles for some real trips. Those of you who have been following OHO for a while now (thanks!) know that I only learned how to ride last year and I largely hung it up over the winter when it was a little less easy and fun to ride. I know some of you ride year-round, but as new as I am, I’m not comfortable enough to do that yet and I don’t have the appropriate gear anyway. While I did get in the odd trip here and there on the rare occasions we’ve had nice conditions over the last few months, they’ve all been very short and none of them were on my Triumph Bonneville Bobber. Running a quick errand on my Honda Grom is much different from the hours-long rides I’m hoping to enjoy on the Bobber, but first, there’s a lot of preparation to do for this riding season. Whether you’re also a rider or if you have other seasonal hobbies, what I’ll be doing to get ready might help you too.
I’ll start by sitting down and reflecting on last year. What went well? More importantly, what didn’t? What are habits I picked up that I want to make sure I correct this year? Are there changes I wanted to make with my motorcycle, my gear, or other aspects of my setup? What are experiences that I might want to repeat, or completely avoid? Knowing what I know now, and having had some time to filter my memories, what goals do I want to set for this year? There might be fears I want to face, skills I want to become more versed in, or joys I want to revisit. I should have been thinking about this all along, but now is a good time to gather all those thoughts together.
Next are the more concrete steps of getting ready to spend more hours on my bike. I’ll start with inspecting my protective gear: helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, and pants. Do they still fit correctly? Is there any wear and tear that means I should fix or replace pieces? Might I want to buy new of anything because it was uncomfortable last year, or because there was something it didn’t do that I found that I wanted? I did already pick up heeled boots to replace my flat ones, so that it’s easier for me to reach the ground when sitting on my bike, but is there anything else I forgot to pick up over the winter?
My motorcycles also need a close look. They’ve been on battery tenders all winter so they should start up just fine, but there’s other maintenance that might be required. I’ll need to take a look at tires, chains, and other bits, and check my manuals for anything else that might need attention. If they need dealer service, now is the time to schedule it and figure out how to get there given the routes that are required to get there, so I might need a pickup or to ask a friend to ride my bike over. Now is also the time to make sure any repairs or modifications I wanted to complete at the end of last season are finished, or will be finished soon.
In addition to looking at my actual equipment, it’s also a good time to pull out all of my paperwork. I need to make sure that I my registration and insurance are up to date, and with my bikes or gear so that I have them on me when I’m riding. My motorcycle endorsement is separate from my driver’s license, so I should make sure I can find it or get a new copy of my license to show the endorsement. Since I have everything in front of me, I’ll also refresh myself on my insurance and warranty coverage because I want to have an idea of what’s covered before I might need it, and double-check my maintenance schedules so that I can know when I’ll need to go in for service as I rack up some miles. You might also include renewing subscriptions in here, if you use route creation or other apps to manage your rides.
And of course, I’m going to plan some time to get used to riding again. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but that’s not entirely true. There are details that can become rusty, especially for newbies like me who haven’t yet been able to solidify the full set of skills required to ride in a wide range of conditions. My limited experience means that it will be a really good idea for me to get out to a parking lot to practice low-speed maneuvers in particular. I’ll also want to schedule some short local trips on familiar roads to get used to doing all of the things all at once again, before I try a several-hour journey or venture into new territory. These rides will also let me shake out any equipment changes, and remember the peculiar mix of roving and focused attention that are necessary to be a safe rider.
Did I think of everything? Is there something else you think might help a return to a mentally and physically taxing activity like motorcycling?