The biggest benefit we have here in Florida is of course, the weather. I’ve been here for 32 years. Generally from October through May is the best time to ride. Some winters I’ve gone as long as two weeks without riding. I know what you’re thinking, “40 degrees is too cold for ya?”….Well, yes, yes it is. I’ve been spoiled all these years and my blood must have thinned because I really don’t enjoy riding when the temps drop much below 50 degrees.
I remember when I lived in Upstate New York back in the 70’s—We’d occasionally get a day or two in February if it was sunny and 40 degrees, I’d be out riding. The reason I bring this up is because this past winter, while cold here in Florida, it has been absolutely brutal pretty much anywhere north of the Georgia line. So, I’d bet that many of you up North are really dying to get out and ride. That means you may be so anxious, you might forget to do a safety check on your bike that’s been sitting for so long in the garage. At the very least, check the tires for proper pressure. Don’t just look at the tires, squeeze them or kick them, check them with a gauge. Also, look at the wear indicators. If you’ve got spoke wheels, make sure they are tight, all of them.
Check the headlight, both high and low beams. Make sure the signal lights and brake lights are all working. After starting the bike, turn the bars from lock to lock making sure the idle doesn’t rise or lower. If it does, check your throttle cables. Of course, check your fluids as well. If everything checks out, remember as you pull out of your driveway, your tires as well as the pavement will be cold. That means a reduction in traction. Once out on the street, weave back and forth a bit to warm up the tires. Test the brakes by applying some pressure on both the front and rear. Gradually at first, then do a few quick stops and starts.
Keep in mind rider skills are perishable. If you haven’t been on the bike in a few months, you’ll be rusty. Find an empty parking lot and spend at least a half an hour doing a few quick swerves, U-turns, circles and side to side quick transitions. Increase your speed gradually. Once out on the road, remember to keep your head and eyes up and look at least 12 seconds ahead of your bike. If you’re up North, watch out for sand, salt or wet spots on the road. Keep in mind also that the cagers are even less likely to notice a motorcycle than usual. So, cover your brakes at all times.
I just got back from Daytona Bike Week. More than half the people there are from Northern cities and States and probably hadn’t been riding in months. That would account for some of the amateur mistakes I observed. Turning wide from a stop and crossing the center line caused more than a few crashes. I also saw a couple of riders attempting a U-turn on A1A and running right into the curb they were staring at; if these riders can’t turn their bikes in 40 feet, what chance do they have when a car turns left in front of them?
Remember, most motorcycle crashes occur at intersections and at less than 20 mph. Consequently, everyone should practice their low speed riding skills on a regular basis. Now, get out there and practice riding that motorcycle!
And Here’s a preview of the Surviving the Mean Streets DVD where we go over these items and plenty more!