With summer comes a limitless amount of adventure for avid motorcyclists. Eager to get back on their bike, it’s the best time to take a road trip to a new state or city they’ve always wanted to experience. However, the hot summer months can be especially punishing on one’s motorcycle, from damage to the exterior to the engine overheating and problems handling the vehicle. Every rider that has ever been stuck on the side of the road with an issue while the hot summer sun beats down on them will tell you it’s a rather unpleasant experience. Consequently, riders living in hot regions may need to give their motorcycles a little extra care and attention. “If you’ve spent a lot of money on purchasing your dream motorcycle and want it to last a long time, then periodic maintenance is crucial,” says Dave Sears, an ardent rider and owner of Alamo Cycle Plex. Established more than forty years ago, Alamo Cycle Plex is a “Powersports superstore,” offering a deep selection of new and used motorcycles from top brands. Today, Dave Sears discusses how to maintain your bike in hot temperatures and enjoy a problem-free ride.
Replace your coolant
Liquid coolant does just what you might expect it to; help manage the heat produced by your engine so that your vehicle does not overheat. In elevated temperatures, your fluids need to work harder to ensure your ride is running smoothly. “From my experience, a lot of bikers neglect coolant changes even though the process is fairly easy to follow,” explains Dave Sears. The objective is not to have the engine running overly cool since the oil may be too dense to effectively lubricate the machine’s internal parts and negatively affect the engine’s performance. On the other hand, too little coolant can be just as harmful. Dave Sears recommends reading through your owners’ manual to understand your bike’s optimum fluid level and check that you are using the appropriate coolant. In general, motorcycle coolant needs to be changed every two years, so remember to keep track of when you last replaced your liquids.
In addition to swapping out your coolant, riders should clean their radiator of twigs, dirt, and bugs before setting off in the summer heat. When you ride, water coolant passes through the radiator’s paper-thin plates, is cooled by natural wind and circulated back into the engine. While some people use a high-pressure washer to clean their radiator, this is ill advised. Instead, owners should gently remove debris using warm soapy water and a soft brush to prevent damaging the radiator core.
Monitor tire pressure
If you live in an area where the temperature gets blisteringly hot, you will need to measure your tire pressure more often. Heat causes the air in your bike’s tires to expand, resulting in excess pressure. Riding with over-inflated tires limits the contact between your bike and the road, which will affect your grip and ability to control the vehicle. In contrast, under-inflated tires will impact your stability and make braking much more difficult. “Most people don’t realize that environmental conditions have a large impact on the wear and tear of their bike,” says Dave Sears. Before you ride off into the sun, look for signs of damage, such as tears, holes, and cracks, and if you find any, immediately replace your wheels. To check your tire pressure, use a standard pressure gauge on cold tires. If you check your tire pressure on a hot bike, the reading will likely be inaccurate.
Change your oil
There is a lot of confusion over when a motorcyclist should get their bike’s oil changed. Most mechanics will tell you to replace your oil every 3,000 km, 5000 km, or 10,000 km. Unfortunately, the disparity in these numbers means individuals are liable to wait too long or too early before their next oil change. Luckily, your owner’s manual will shed some light on how frequently your motorcycle’s oil should be looked at, which typically depends on two factors: the year and model of your vehicle and what type of oil you use. For instance, newer engines and synthetic oils may go more miles before maintenance is needed.
Keep in mind that temperature can also affect how often you need to check your oil. “Oil starvation will cause your engine to seize up, and this is more likely to happen in hot temperatures as your bike consumes fluids faster in the heat,” advises Dave Sears. If you’ve reviewed your owner’s manual and it’s time for some maintenance, you can head to your local mechanic, or you can save yourself some time and money and do it yourself. Once you are comfortable with an oil change tackling other bike maintenance tasks will also seem within reach.
Clean, wax & polish your ride
With the sun shining down on your motorcycle for hours on end, it’s only a matter of time before those intense UV rays start affecting your bike’s exterior. Fortunately, there are several polishes and waxes available to protect your motorcycle paint from chipping or fading. Before deciding what products to use, do some research to make sure they have good reviews.
The longer you leave dirt and grime on your vehicle, the harder it will be to get off later. “Cleaning your motorcycle means it will remain in good condition longer and continue to function well,” explains Dave Sears. While cleaning your motorcycle is a simple task, there are a few rules to remember. Firstly, always avoid cleaning products that aren’t specially formulated for motorcycles or car surfaces since they may contain harsh chemicals that could ruin the paint, metal, or plastic on your bike. Secondly, you should always wait till the engine has gone cold to begin washing it. Instead of using a high-pressure washer that can damage small parts, use a sponge or soft cloth. Once you’ve cleaned the vehicle with cool water and mild detergent, be sure to give it a good rinse to remove any soap residue.
Check the electrics
If you have a newer bike, there’s a good chance it won’t be affected by high temperatures as much as older vehicles. Either way, you should always check your electrics to make sure there are no loose or corroded connections. Most motorcycle batteries have a lifespan of approximately two to five years. “The duration of your battery life will depend partly on how often it’s recharged. Owners must make sure to recharge their battery even in the colder months when they aren’t riding as often,” explains Dave Sears. Thus, if riders frequently allow their battery to drain fully, it may not last as long as it’s supposed to. Additionally, before every ride, you should be checking to see whether or not your brake lights, turn signals, and headlights are working. If your lights aren’t functioning, other vehicles won’t be able to tell if you are stopping, turning, or merging, which could lead to a fatal crash. Consequently, checking to make sure your electrics are in order is a fundamental task before each trip.
The summer is the best time to enjoy your motorcycle, but it also means you need to be on the lookout for more potential problems. Riders that take the time to learn more about their vehicle and are willing to follow Dave Sear’s expert advice are more likely to enjoy their bike for an extended period.