From the J&P Cycles Blog Archive

Spring riding means preparation and planning ahead. Here are some good tips to get ready for the riding season.

Tires: Along with all the routine spring services, it's a good time to take a close look at the tires. Would now be a better time than later to re-shoe the old horse, or are the tires in good shape? The tire's tread should have at least 3/32" depth at the thinnest part. Most tires have safety bars incorporated into the tread pattern. When the tire wears down to a certain point, the safety bar will cause the tread pattern to appear as though it were smooth all the way across for about a 2" wide swath. Also, don't neglect to watch for weather checking and cracks in the tread or sidewall area. If you've elected to "re-tire", this might be a good time to check and repack those wheel bearings. Ideally, you should pack the wheel bearings in the fall, prior to putting the bike up for the winter, but if you didn't, tire time is the best opportunity for this little chore! (Be sure to check out our How to Choose Tires for Your Motorcycle article for more helpful info)

Battery: How old is your battery? Has the bike been sitting idle for a long period of time? Was the battery kept on a regular charging schedule? If there's any doubt about the condition of a battery, check it out!

Start Up: If your scooter has been hibernating all winter without an occasional foray out into the world, the initial start-up may hold a surprise. Most Harleys (except for 1993 and later FLT/ FLHT models and Dyna models) have a tendency for the oil in the oil tank to seep past the check ball in the oil pump and fill the bottom end of the engine with oil. If your H-D is earlier than model year 1993 (Big Twin; 1991 for XL's), and the crankcase breather is still routed into the air cleaner compartment, it could make a major mess when you fire it up that first time. This is a phenomena referred to as "wet sumping." When the engine starts, the scavenge side of the oil pump begins returning oil to the oil tank. Because there is such a large quantity of oil to pump out, the pressure created by the downward stroke of the pistons forces the excess oil out through the crankcase breather before the oil pump has a chance to evacuate it. A good way to prevent this from plaguing you is to check the oil level before you start the bike. If it appears a little low, disconnect the crankcase breather line from the air cleaner and route it either to a catch pan or back to the oil tank filler opening before starting the engine. (Here's a little History Lesson on Harley-Davidson Ignitions)

Rotten Fuel: Another annual problem area that keeps surfacing year after year is the dreaded curse of rotten fuel! Today's pump gas has an approximate shelf life of about 3 weeks. If you're one of those conscientious types that drains the fuel tank and runs the carburetor dry before putting the bike up in the Fall, you still may not be out of the woods. It's almost impossible to evacuate all the fuel from the tank and carb. Exposure to air increases the rate of decay. So a very small amount of fuel left in the transfer ports of the carb can turn into a major pain in the neck when you begin the new riding season. Personally, I recommend filling the tank and adding a good quality fuel stabilizer before storing the scooter (make sure you run the bike for a mile or two to ensure the treated fuel makes it all the way through the carb). This cuts down on the potential damage caused by both moisture and fuel rot. If you do experience stumbling or engine misfiring due to fuel starvation and other related carb problems, the quickest fix is to disassemble the carb and flush out all the fuel ports with carburetor cleaner. Extremely stubborn deposits may require manual cleaning, using an appropriate device (I've used oxy-acetylene cutting torch tip cleaners before). Note: This is a very delicate procedure and should only be performed by an experienced technician! After the carburetor has been reassembled, you'll probably want to put the scooter on a diet of fuel treatment for a few hundred miles to wash out any residual deposits.

Weather: Once the bike is up to the rigors of the road, it may be a good idea to take an objective look at the rider. Spring riding has one guarantee, and that is: nothing's guaranteed. You can count on the weather being hot, cold, wet, dry and sometimes a combination of more than one or two. Packing extra clothes (wrap them in plastic bags to keep'em dry) and foul weather gear always makes sense, whether (no pun intended) you're 2 miles from home or 200 miles from home. And speaking of weather, the sun and wind do a tremendous amount of damage to your skin, but when you're traveling along at 75 mph, the damage is compounded. You can help minimize that damage (and make life a little more pleasant for yourself) by remembering sunscreen and lip balm. Eye protection goes without saying. There is, however, one area that is commonly overlooked when preparing for battle with the elements... the top of your head. A few years ago, I suffered a nasty sunburn on the top of my head, right through my hair (is it because it's thinner?). If you ride without a helmet, do yourself a favor - cover your head with a bandana or skull cap.

Ride Safely!