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May 01, 2023 5 min read
Hello fellow LAMkins,
I hope you had a pleasant Easter and managed and, for the lucky ones, had some time off and fun on your motorcycles that didn’t end with your arm up to the elbow in soap suds trying to remove the crud from all the nooks and crannies of your bike, and if like me you ride a GS, that’s a lot of places for mud and dirt to take up residence.
If the daffodils and bluebells flowering on the roadsides and in the woods weren’t enough of a clue for you, then if you live where we live, the constant stream of Harley and sports bike riders provides audible confirmation that everyone is back on the road and spring has sprung.
For many riders, the arrival of the warmer spring sunshine is the green light for the start of their riding season, having, in many cases, laid up their bike for the winter, which is understandable to a certain degree given the value of modern bikes along with the inevitable extra risks that winter riding provides.
For those of you who have been off the road for the winter, how many of you check the bike over but don’t look at or consider whether you, the rider, are ready for the road again?
We often hear of born-again riders coming back to bikes after a layoff of several years, and everyone is full of advice about how bikes have changed since they stopped or recommending that they perhaps get some brush-up lessons to ease them back in. They will be advised to take it very easy for the first few thousand miles so that they become acclimatised to riding again, but it doesn’t just apply to born-again riders.
This can apply equally to those who have only been off the road for a few months during the winter.
It is very easy to check the bike over and make sure that it is safe and legal.
Remember standing in the carpark at Banstead Youth Centre in the pouring rain as your Observer droned on about POWDERS? Can you remember what it stands for?
You should check that the tyres are OK and everything that needs lubrication is lubricated; check that the lights work, fuel is in the tank, and it is not stale! Check the battery; check all cables; make sure nothing fouls the steering, and finally, check the brakes.
Go into your house and check that your documents are all in order (check that your picture licence didn’t expire over Christmas, your insurance or MOT) no one wants to get to their IAM test only to find their licence expired three months ago.
But what about you? The rider?
It is all too easy to take the view that as you only parked the bike up a few months ago so nothing has changed, but the reality is that it is very easy to become complacent.
If you are one of those who may have stopped riding during winter, it’s important to remember that your riding capabilities are not like when you parked the bike up for the winter.
Your mind won’t be as focussed, even though you have only been off the bike a few months; if you have spent the winter in the car, you may feel a little vulnerable or exposed as you no longer have the protection of a tin box around you. You may not look for things like potholes in the same way you did the previous autumn, and most noticeably, you will probably find that during the course of those first few days back on the bike, you will ache big time.
Many riders returning to the saddle are often surprised by this as they never realise just how many different muscles are used to control and ride the bike.
The bottom line is, if you have laid the bike up over winter and are now considering getting back on the road, give a little thought to the bike and you as the rider.
Do some short local rides just to help you get back in the groove. This is your opportunity to make sure that you are OK, all your kit is OK (it's amazing how quickly you can find that you can grow out of current equipment- I blame mince pies), the bike is functioning properly and everything is working in harmony without being too far from home if something is not feeling quite right.
Those of you coming to Norfolk, please don’t make this your first long ride of the year!
It may seem unimportant if you are a particularly experienced motorcyclist.
It is very easy to have your riding enjoyment spoilt because of poor preparation in readiness for the season ahead.
Talking of potholes, have you seen how badly the roads have deteriorated – all the rain and cold weather have created a replica of the moon’s surface – even the motorways are not immune.
These potholes can pop up on straights, curves, or just about anywhere – and you can bet your bottom dollar they will usually be smack bang in the middle of where the system is telling you to place your motorcycle as you transit a particular piece of road. The preferred position, as it is known, is the place you have consciously elected to place your bike to deal with a current or upcoming hazard, but what do you do if there is a pothole right where you want to be? EASY – you sacrifice position for safety, but you never sacrifice safety.
It’s a good idea to allow plenty of space between you and whoever’s in front of you so you can watch for potholes.
The system's flexibility allows us to be better thinking riders, and a thinking rider is one who plans for what they see, what cannot be seen and what can reasonably be expected. It is this thinking that your observer will often describe as “Sparkle”.
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, and unlike car drivers who don’t see you in your hi-viz, because they are racing home to get their tea, make the gym or make the next sales meeting, Mr and Mrs Pheasant, Bunny, and or Squirrel (delete where appropriate) might have other matters on their mind, and as a consequence be a little more erratic than usual. Once they’ve had date night, it is only a matter of time before the young (never seen a bike or a car before) offspring arrive, and if you thought the pheasant you met six weeks ago was mad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just be careful; it sounds ridiculous, but I have seen and heard of much spring madness in thirty years of riding!
We all waited out the winter. Now we’re ready to ride.
Enjoy time with friends and family. Ride well and smile. Just watch out for those bugs.
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