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Many of us have suffered from PMS – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. In some areas, the winter has been very harsh, and we have not seen our motorcycles for many months. But now the riding season is there, and we are ready to hit the road.

But before we do, we need to check a few things before firing up the engine. The last thing you want is to start your motorcycle, start riding, and 1 mile further up notice that you have a problem and need to push your bike back into the garage. Not fun, and not necessary if you take a few precautions.

Battery

Even if your battery has been hooked up to a trickle charger, or un-hooked, open the filler screws and check the water level, and more importantly, check to see if the plates are straight (plates that have started curving will require you to change the battery).

If your battery was disconnected, top it up with a battery charger. If the water level is low, fill it up with demineralized water.

Oil & Filters

The first thing to check is the engine’s oil and air filter. Your bike has been immobilized for a while, and all oil has gone to the bottom. Start your engine for a few seconds to warm it up and then shut it down. Check the quality of the oil from the dip stick, looking for very small particles embedded in the oil. Best thing you can do if your bike has been out of action for a few months is change the oil and filters. Play it safe.

Tires

Many motorcycles when they are stored in a garage are left on their tires. The weight of your bike will be pressing down for months, so you’ll need to inspect if spots & cracks have started to appear in your tires. Today’s tires are very solid, but you never know. A spot (color difference) in your tire can spell disaster when riding.

Make sure your tires are all up to their proper air pressure.

Leaks

Oil-LeaksCheck below your motorcycle for oil and hydraulic fluid leaks. If you do find some, better find out where it is coming from and fix it.

Lights

Turn on the lights and check all of them, including the blinkers. Bulbs can die off when not in use.

Chain

Check the tension in your chain. Make sure it’s according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Nuts & Bolts

Its a good idea to go around your bike and tighten all nuts & bolts. It’ s not really necessary, but it’s one of those things that does not cost much time, but can save you a lot of grievance later on.

Zero motorcycle in the sunset

(c) Zero Motorcycles

Now your motorcycle is ready to go out for the first time, but are you? Before you go out, remember that riding a motorcycle requires experience and instinct. This is normally acquired by riding many miles. It’s a good idea to start your first few rides more slowly than you would in mid summer. Take it easy and build up your instincts and traffic sense.

Ride smart, and be safe.

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We have seen what kind of clothing you should wear, and we have looked at what kind of precautions you need to take in order to ride your motorcycle during the winter months.

Now, let us look at the actual ride itself.

Once autumn is in full swing, and then the long winter months have come, roads will have become slippery. At its best, rain will have made them wet, and its worst, black ice will have presented itself, making roads treacherous.

1. Take your Time

The main rule, rule #1, is take your time. Respect the roads! Just because you are riding in a nice part of twisties in the forest, with no ice or humidity, does not mean that in the next curve there will be none. Anywhere where there are shadows, the temperature can be much lower, resulting in ice. If a part of the road is in the shadows (of trees or buildings), while the rest of the road is in the sunshine, chances are that the roads appears to be rideable, when it’s not. So ride carefully.

2. Increase your distance

Roads have become slippery, no matter what the weather conditions are. Keep more distance with the next vehicle.

3. Do Not Take Too Long

Although riding in the winter is nice, especially when you are dressed for it, do not be fooled. If it is really cold out there, no matter what you have got on, your body will start getting colder and colder. So take pauses regularly to heat up.

4. Bring Sunglasses

Sunglasses are great in the summer, and they make you look cool. But in the winter they are often a life saving necessity. Daytime during winter months are short, meaning that the sun is at its lowest. Chances are that you will be blinded faster during winter months than during summer.

5. Unsure? Feet on the ground!

If you are hitting a spot on the road which looks slippery, do not take any risks. Put down your feet to balance the bike. This serves two purposes; 1) in case you start slipping, you can redress the bike, and 2) your center of gravity is lowered, making it easier to correct your movements.

But…..

6. If you drop the bike, let it go!

If you do drop the motorcycle because it slips, and your immediate efforts do not reestablish the position of your bike, LET IT DROP! If you try to keep your motorcycle upright while it is going down, you will hurt yourself. At the very least, you will sprain your back muscles, and the worst, .. you do not even want to think about it. So let it drop.

7. Enjoy

Despite the dangers, you should enjoy yourself. Just remember that car drivers behave differently in the winter as well. They may not see you since the sun is low, and they are mindful of the road conditions. So be visible, pay attention, and just enjoy a winter ride.


If you have taken a liking to riding in the winter, then maybe you would like to participate in the Elephant Rally, or as it is known, the Elefantentreffen, This is a German organized motorcycle event in the Alps, during the winter, and involves camping in the snow, and to get there, you must arrive on a motorcycle.




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Last time we looked at what you should be wearing if you wanted to ride your motorcycle in cold weather. No matter what tips below, dressing properly is the most important one. If you do not dress properly, all other winter riding tips are of no use.

Your motorcycle will also need to dress up warmly for a ride in cold weather. You will not need to worry about putting on warm blankets over your bike, but you will need to be careful that your poor ride does not get frostbite.

Radiator

If you have a water-cooled motorcycle, just like with a car, you will need to put in antifreeze in the radiator. If not, you will have severe problems when you have stopped and the radiator cools down.

Read your motorcycle’s maintenance manual how much, and which kind of antifreeze.

Tires

If you are riding on slicks or race tires, forget it. Just do not bother, you might just as well put on ice skates and go to a skating rink, since that is what you will be doing on your motorcycle. Make sure you have at the very least street tires fitted. Knobbies are much better, since they will bite into snow, but obviously studded tires are the best when you have got snow or ice. At the very least, normal street tires will offer better grip and reach operating temperatures much quicker than slicks.

Oil

The best oil to use during winter months is a thinner oil. They will improve performance, especially right after starting your bike. Get an oil that is made for winter, but do check your motorcycle manual which ones are recommended by the manufacturer, since not all companies allow a different oil type to be used.

When shopping for oil, make sure the viscosity grade has the letter “W” next to it (e.g. 20W or 30W). The “W” denotes Winter use (source).

Protecting Your Bike

When you say winter and snow, I say salt on the roads. In most parts of the world, when it starts snowing or freezing, salt is sprayed on the roads. It’s great to ride, since the roads are far less slippery, but it does mean that you will get salt on your motorcycle, and that means corrosion. If you want to prevent this, spray some WD-40 oil on all the parts that are exposed to salt & slush, typically below your fairing, forks, engine and mudguards.

When you have finished your ride, wash off the salt from your bike. If you leave it on for the rest of the winter, chances are by spring you will find some rust spots.

Lights

It gets dark quickly, and even during daytime, it can get dark, so it’s a very good idea to make sure that your lights are in good working order. Test them out before setting off.

Mirrors (and visor)

Because of big temperature differences, it is wise to spray an anti-fogging spray on your mirrors and helmet visor.

Battery

Check the water level of your battery. If it is lower than normal, you might have a leak, and during the winter, that is not a good thing. Top it up, but make sure you close the tops firmly.

If you will be riding with heated gear, make sure your alternator can handle it. Read your motorcycle manual to see how much wattage gets generated. If the sum of what is used by riding (lights and other components) plus your heated gear exceeds the wattage supplied, your battery will run out. On its own, this will not prevent you from riding, but you will not go a long distance, and you will need to recharge your battery when you are home again.

Brakes

You will need to apply brake grease to your brakes, since sludge and salt will form around the brake pins.

Next, we will look at riding tips.

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Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can not ride your motorcycle, unless you’re living in an area that sees permanent deep frost and deep snow. And even then, depending on your motorcycle, you can still ride, but in this case you’ll need to change the rear tire for a snow track system (like those on tanks), and the front wheel will get some skis.

But if you live in an area where it is cold, rainy and sometimes some snow, you can still ride, but you’ll need to take some precautions.

Trap Heat

The most important factor for riding in the cold, is that you need to trap your body heat. Heat tends to dissipate into the cold, and it is difficult to stoke the fire inside your body to replace the lost heat. So the best way is to insulate your body from heat loss.

In the old days, people would wrap old newspapers against their body to trap the heat. Nowadays you will not need to worry about newspaper ink rubbing against your skin, giving you who-knows-what-kind-of-sickness. A microfiber layer against your skin is the first defense layer against the cold. A microfiber T-shirt is great, better yet a long-john made out of microfiber. If you don’t have microfiber, get a good cotton one. A one-piece is better than two, but having one is better than none.

TIP: You need to put on the first layer, the microfiber, when you are warm, not outside in the cold. In that case, all you will be doing is trapping the cold temperature, so defeating the idea of keeping warm. Put on the microfiber when you are warm!

Next you can put on layers of woolen sweaters or cotton or silk shirts. Don’t put on too much, if not you’ll not be able to operate your motorcycle properly. Alternatively, you can get a heated vest. Plug it into your 12V system, and you’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug.

The final layer, your jacket, needs to be totally windproof; leather or nylon will do the trick, and ideally it should be a one-piece suit. If you don’t have a one-piece suit, get one that can be zipped between the pants and jacket. This way, less heat will escape.

Extremities

Your body extremities will see the fastest heat loss. Feet, hands and very important, your head, will loose heat very fast. It’s important to keep them warm.

Hands: Make sure your gloves are the gauntlet type, i.e., fit over your jacket sleeve. This way, no cold air can come in or out via the top. You might also want to get some silk gloves to wear inside your normal gloves, since they keep the fingers warm & dry. Remember that your hands & fingers are exposed to a very cold air when riding. It’s the reason many all-year riders have heated handlebars, or heated gloves.

TIP: If heated handlebars or gloves are too expensive, consider chemical heat packs.

Feet: Your feet will not be moving much on the motorcycle so they will tend to get cold quickly, but they have a source of natural heating; your motorcycle’s engine (unless you are riding a sports motorcycle).

But you will still need to wear warm socks, preferably with silk under-socks. Make sure your boots are rainproof and do not let wind in (and therefore hot air out). In the worst case scenario, get rain boot covers.

Head: Your head, believe or not, is very important. A head, and therefore brain that is exposed for long periods of time to cold temperatures will not function properly. You will start to loose concentration, and make judgment mistakes; your reaction time will diminish dramatically. At the very least, wear a balaclava, preferably with a silk hood underneath it. An advantage of a balaclava, one that goes up to your nose, is that it will prevent your visor from fogging up, something, no matter how good your visor, will happen in the winter.

Since you will find that cold air will enter your back, get a proper neck warmer that covers your neck, chest and shoulder.

Next we’ll look at what you need to do for your motorcycle in order to ride it in the winter.

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We all know by now that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are known for their potato-potato-potato sound. You can recognize a Harley miles away just from its sound (and probably the loud pipes). The same goes for most BMW and Ducati motorcycles.

But did you know that the sounds are engineered? It used to be that engineers and designers looked after the engine and then the motorcycle frame; the sound came automatically afterward. The only thing the engineers looked at when it came to the sound of the engine, was if it stayed within the legal regulations envelope.

(c) Harley-Davidson

If the sound sounded dull, they adapted the exhaust noise. But Harley wanted more. They continued their research and found that people liked the potato-potato-potato sound, so they set out to replicate it on all their motorcycles. During the ’90s they even went so far as to patent their sound, but despite popular believe, their attempt was unsuccessful.

This brought in a new profession in the motorcycle industry; Acoustic Engineers. Almost all, if not all, manufacturers have at least one. Their job is to ensure that when you fire up your engine, it doesn’t sound like a lame duck with a severe flu. Nothing turns off a biker more than the sound of a lawnmower, not a real motorcycle when starting up their bike.

(c) BMW Motorrad

BMW have a special wind tunnel that generates a wind flow of 200 kph, but is totally silent. This allows their engineers to measure and analyze the sound coming from the motorcycle’s engine, exhaust and frame. Special care is taken with vibrations from different parts of the motorcycle, as to ensure that they do not disrupt the bike’s melody. A test dummy sits on top of the motorcycle, and hears everything a normal biker will. That sound is recorded, and analyzed for further improvements.

(c) AVL

The motorcycle sound is made out of three different parts; the air intake, the engine noise and the exhaust, but other parts of the motorcycle can negatively influence the engineered sound, like a dry clutch. So next time your ride your bike, enjoying the throb and sound of your engine (especially in a tunnel), remember that the sound was made, not an accident.

Of course all this goes away with the coming of the electric motorcycle, unless you use a CD player with the desired sound.

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Threw my leg over the warmed up Harley at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Kissed Boo goodbye and told her I’ll be back in two weeks. Worked my way on the backroads down to 212 West through Montevideo in the cool of the early morning hours and headed West. Had lunch with a young cop buddy I met a few years ago in Redfield, South Dakota. Just sitting in the park on a bench, munching a sandwich and talking about work and motorcycles. He loves to hear the old stories, and at my age, its all I have left. Now its 2:00 p.m. and I’m cruising West on 14 through the rolling South Dakota prairies. Keeping the bike at 60, I’m in no hurry.

The sunlight warm on my face, the dry wind blowing through my hair, the clock turns back and I feel 40 again. The sun casting cloud shadows on the prairie to my right, teasing me, urging me to kick the bike in the ass and race them, but I don’t. Tried that years ago, they always win. I laugh at them, and they race away, disappearing over the hills ahead. A herd of antelope suddenly appear on my left, loping along inside the fence line, I wave, but they don’t wave back, suddenly veering off down a dry grassy coulee, and disappearing from sight. The good rich smell of hot engine oil comes and goes with the breeze, the Harley has settled into a steady rhythm and the deep throated exhaust mutters along behind me. I haven’t seen another vehicle in about an hour. the last one a truck load of young girls, giggling and daring each other to wave at the biker. In my leathers, and behind the shades and dew rag, and from a distance, I probably look a bit exotic. Boy, would they be disappointed! But now, its just me and the ribbon of road, stretching out ahead of me, winding through the hills and out of sight. Beckoning and promising adventure, somewhere up ahead. Just the way you like it when you want to be alone for a while with your thoughts and just enjoy being alive.

I’ll cruise down, arcing to the South to pick up I-90 West, with a pause for the cause and a cold drink at Vivian. Maybe talk to some other bikers. On a bike, you’re never without new friends when you want them. Eager to swap stories, talk about weather ahead, and enjoy being part of a family, ever ready to stop and help a fellow biker, or share a beer and a laugh about the things we’ve all seen and done on the road. If you’re ever in trouble, call a cop. But if you’re ever in real trouble, call a biker.

I’ll pass through the Buffalo Grasslands and Rapid City, then on up to Sturgis which is just starting to wake up with the Rally just a few weeks away. Then over to Deadwood before picking up 14 to roll through the curves down through Spearfish Canyon to the Spearfish Canyon Lodge for a relaxing late supper. Spearfish Canyon, a spiritual place where God himself must ride a motorcycle on warm Summer days, with the soft, fragrant scent of pine everywhere and the gurgle and splash of Spearfish Creek to keep him, and all the bikers who come here, company.

I take a deep breath, its really good to be here, on the bike headed West. Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice, calling to me. I blink and the prairie fades away. “Hey, I said, are you alright?” Its, Boo, down below me, as I stand on a ladder, propped against the side of the house. My hands are sunk to the wrists in foul smelling glop in the storm gutter. I blink and look down at her. “I said, are you okay? You’ve been standing there motionless for almost ten minutes, just staring straight ahead. I thought you’d had a stroke. Jeez, you scared the crap out of me, you dopey old bastard!”

I clear my throat and drag more glop out of the gutter, tossing it into the bucket tied to my ladder. “No, I’m okay, I was just thinking about something and got caught up in it.” I can sit down with a home brew and tell her about it later. She’ll understand. She’s a biker, like me. She’s rolled the curves through Spearfish Canyon, smelling those pines, and has sat in the warm sunlight, with her feet in the cold, clear water of the creek on many occasions. I’ll finish my task, and then maybe open that homebrew and clean the bike, and maybe the dream will come back and I’ll make the Lodge by early evening, to sit and have a bite to eat and a cold beer before heading to my room and a nice soft bed.

Some people ask me, “Aren’t you scared, riding a motorcycle around like that?” No, I’m not. But the plain and simple truth of it is that what scares me, what really scares the living hell out of me, is what happens when I can’t ride a motorcycle around like that anymore.

What did Frost say? I have miles to go before I sleep.
Author: Jim Fleming (Jafrum.com Customer)

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Motorcycle insurance is one of the most important decisions all motorcycle owners must make. When an insurance company quotes you a rate, many factors figure in to that monthly premium including the type of motorcycle you have, how likely it is to be stolen or damaged, how old and experienced the rider is, and even where the motorcycle is being kept. All of these individual items are assessed in conjunction with each other to determine the level of risk you represent to the company. Your monthly insurance premium that you pay each month is used to offset the risk of loss. The higher the risk you represent, the higher your premium will be.

One sure fire way to lower the cost of motorcycle insurance is to remove coverage. Just like with auto insurance policies, motorcycle insurance policies vary when it comes to what they cover. Basic motorcycle insurance policies cover any damage that you and/or your motorcycle causes to someone else’s property. This is known as liability insurance and is the minimum insurance required by most state laws. Policies that cover theft (comprehensive) and damage to your motorcycle (collision) are much more expensive than liability insurance and will add to the expense of the policy.

Another way to reduce the monthly premium associated with your motorcycle insurance policy is to take a rider’s safety course. This will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have the necessary skills to ride safely, thus reducing the risk of loss. The more classes you can take to improve your riding skills, the better off you’ll be. On the flip side of this, keeping down the number of moving violations you have in both your car and on your motorcycle will also help prove that you are a responsible rider and will help reduce your premium by earning you a safe driver discount.

Insuring multiple vehicles with one insurer, or having more than one policy with a particular company will usually result in a multiple policy discount that you can take advantage of and reduce your monthly insurance bill. Many insurers will be able to offer multiple products including motorcycle insurance, homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance and more.

No matter what kind of bike you ride, having the proper insurance policy is a must. If you are unsure about what different coverages mean or what coverage you need, speak with an experienced insurance agent. These professionals are always ready to help you with all of your insurance needs and will make sure that you have the type of coverage you need and can afford.

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