Ready to Ride? Prepare for a Safe Motorcycle-Riding Season

Don't let the riding season start without you. Here are some ways to be sure you and your motorcycle are ready when the weather is. From the June 1999 issue of _ Motorcycle Cruiser _ magazine. **By _ [Art

With the riding season bearing down on us, the time is ripe for some preventive maintenance. A little time and effort expended now can ensure your riding season won't be interrupted by mechanical, or other, problems. You can also get your bike just the way you want it for maximum enjoyment on summer rides.

**Service department: **A full tune and service is a good place to start. This should include sometimes overlooked measures like changing the brake fluid and lubing major pivots--such as the steering head and swingarm. Liquid-cooled bikes should have their cooling systems flushed every few years. Whether you or your shop does this service, it should include a careful search for signs of weakness (loose spokes or an oozing gasket, for example). Fix anything that could take you off the road. Are there any adjustments that would make your bike more comfortable or manageable? Perhaps the brake pedal location or the angle of the handlebar? Do it now.

**Early replacement: **You should also replace any parts that are getting old before they put a crimp on your summer fun. Tires are the best example. If they are getting thin or aged-cracked or worn in the middle, making the motorcycle squirrely when leaned over, it makes sense to replace them now. This gives you time to order the tires you want, not just what the dealer has on hand. A premium aftermarket tire will generally give longer mileage and better traction. Other candidates for early retirement include an aging battery or brake pads. Again, you can order what you want now. Light bulbs also fall in this category. They get old and dim before they blow out. We usually replace all the minor bulbs every two years (use the heavy-duty versions of those bulbs) and keep a headlight bulb handy. You might also consider replacing your headlight bulb with one that has the same 55-watt low beam but a significantly brighter 75- to 100-watt high beam for more light when you need it most. (It will also get the attention of those other drivers who don't dim their lights until they are 10 feet away.) Make sure your charging system will handle it, especially if you also have other electrical accessories, such as spotlights.

**Accessorize: **The off-season is also the ideal time to equip your bike for the rides you're planning for this summer. This might mean a backrest for your riding companion or traveling amenities like saddlebags, a rack and a comfortable saddle. Saddlebags can also be handy if you plan to commute. Or how about one of Rivco's air horns to get the attention of those cell-phone users who are supposed to be drivers?

**Riding gear: **This is the time to replace that scratched face shield or tattered rainsuit. You might also want an additional pair of gloves, perhaps something warmer than that lightweight, vented pair but not as hot as winter gloves. Are the soles on your boots losing their tread? Better to replace or resole them now than put your foot down in a sandy patch of road and watch it slide out from under you. Has your helmet gotten loose and floppy from extensive wear? Are the seams on your jacket or gloves unraveling? Take care of these things now. And you might want to expand the range of your gear. A vented jacket will make riding on hot days much more fun than that heavy one and is safer and can ven be cooler than no jacket.

**Join the club: **If there is a club for your model, consider joining it. You will get access to the combined experience of all the members. You'll learn which accessories work best, fixes for weak points and other useful information. You will probably also make some friends and find new events in your area. For example, Kawasaki Vulcan owners can join the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (VROC) free with Web access (www. and be bombarded with the wit and wisdom of fellow Vulcaneers.) Most other cruiser brands and models also have web-based organizations, many of them free.

**Take the course: **Nothing interrupts your riding season like a crash. Why not sign up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced RiderCourse? To find one in your neck of the woods, call (800) 446-9227. Many states' courses are filled up for the year by spring, so call right now. Do it with your riding companions. You might also consider some other types of skills-building courses. See "Back to School for ideas.

**Make a list: **Finally, put a small pad of paper and a writing implement in your riding jacket or a storage spot on your bike. Use it to make a list of things that require attention, replacement or adjustment, and accessories you find yourself needing. It will come in handy at this time next year.

_If you have questions or comments about this article, email the author at _ _or at _

_For more information on safe-riding equipment, strategies, techniques and skills, see the _ Street Survival section of

The winter lay-off is a good time to get you and your motorcycle ready for the riding season.