Friday 1 March 2019

Tales From the Shed

With the weather improving slightly, now would seem to be as good a time as any to start thinking about getting your bike ready for the forthcoming year. It’s easy to keep compensating for deteriorating performance, especially if it sneaks up on you over time, and after the winter it can be a good idea to check everything over carefully and sort out any small niggly problems before they get any bigger.

A lot can be accomplished by just taking the time to clean and tidy everything up, as faults are often easier to locate if the bike isn't covered in muck and glaur. Even running a spanner around the nuts and bolts to locate any that have worked loose can transform your handling and doesn't require that you be a mechanical wizard. 

Regardless of how long there is to go till your next MOT (annual inspection) after the winter months I always like to prep whatever bike I'm planning on using as if there were one due. That way, tyres, brakes, electrics etc. get a check, and any damage incurred through neglect or otherwise will hopefully be put to right before you set out on some long trip in the sunnier months. There is nothing more miserable than breaking down and knowing that it is entirely your own fault and that there's no one else to lay the blame on.

Anyway, I always think that there is a sense of achievement in working on your own bike. In knowing that everything works and that it was you that made it so. I don't just mean major surgery such as an engine rebuild, but even the smallest job such as changing a spark plug can give you a deep feeling of satisfaction when done right and everything goes to plan (except on those occasions when everything goes pear-shaped and you spend all day trying to get one rusty nut off an equally rusty bolt, and fail miserably).

No doubt you will probably have your own preferred way of preparing your bike, even if it’s only putting it into your local bike shop, and that’s your prerogative, but I would suggest that the place to start is with your battery.

lead acid on left, gel on right
A modern battery usually gives about 3-4 years trouble-free service, and there's not much point in trying to trace electrical faults if you've not looked at the battery beforehand. Now, I'm sure that you've all had bikes with the original 25-year-old battery in them behave faultlessly. Lucky old you, there's really no need to gloat. For the rest of us, though, first check that it is fully charged and that it is holding that charge. No? Then you need to actually have a good look at it. So, off with the seat and if it is half empty with a sediment at the bottom that looks like sludge then I'm afraid that you might actually have to spend some money on replacing it. While bodging is a way of life for some, I would suggest that a healthy battery is not a luxury but actually a necessity.

Once you've established that the battery itself is in good working order, you can turn your attention to the rest of electrics. Needless to say, anything exposed would probably benefit from a good clean and everything from a general check and tidy up. 

On the topic of electrical things, I was bemused by recent bits in various magazines that insist on some sort of audible warning being needed when using your indicators. When I bought my BMW Boxer many years ago it was fitted with a set of buzzers which made a loud irritating noise when the indicators were activated. They were so loud, and attracted so much attention from pedestrians that after the initial few turns I spent the remainder of the trip home using hand signals. My first action after getting the bike into the garage was to disconnect the bloody things. You've turned the indicators on, how difficult is it to remember to turn them off again, really? Not for me I'm afraid, but each to his own, I suppose.

Back on topic, brakes that work are good! When did you last check yours? It is quite easy to get used to them getting progressively worse over time. Once again, inspect, clean, lubricate and replace anything worn as necessary.

The same sort of thing applies to pretty much everything else: cables, chain, tyres etc. If they’re worn it may be best to replace them.
these are beyond help and should be replaced
Hopefully, with a little preparation you'll be less likely to have any automotive unpleasantness in the months ahead. Best of luck and get spannering.


  1. Thanks for the reminder! We're coming up on Spring and many riders are pulling their bikes out of the garage anxious to ride. What we forget though is many of us simply parked our bikes after a ride last autumn intending to ride again before winter, but didn't, thus not even prepping our bikes for winter storage. I agree, check over your bike - a little preventative maintenance goes a long way.

  2. I echo Troubadour, thank you for the maintenance reminder.