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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them

Riding Right: The First Ride of the Season

Four reminders to stay safe

By Susan Rzepka Orion

Spring Fever
Snow melting. Sun shining. With mercury rising and an itch to get back on two wheels, it won’t be long before you’re back on the street again. If you’re not lucky enough to live in a year-round riding zone, you and your motorcycle have probably been dormant for months. Please consider these sure signs of spring as you as you saddle up this season:

safe riding first ride of the season couple riding
The first ride of the season requires some extra awareness.

1. Run through TCLOCS
Even if you’ve stored your motorcycle in a closed garage and trickle-charged the battery with a battery tender your bike is still subject to deterioration and damage. Critters chew. Cables come loose. Hoses can crack. Before you hit the road, give your ride a full circle inspection. Carefully check everything on your bike, from tire pressure to fluid levels, before you put your wheels to pavement. To help you remember what to inspect, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests the acronym TCLOCS.

T – Tires and Wheels
C – Controls
L –  Lights and Electric
O – Oil, Gas and other Fluids
C – Chassis
S – Side Stand

Your owner’s manual has more specific information regarding the items on this checklist. For a detailed article on inspection points, refer to the story “Is Your Bike Ready to Roll?” in the Safe Riding Tips section of WRN. And don’t forget your bike’s routine maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape!

2. Be mindful and extra cautious of road debris
The snow may be melting, but your favorite roads still need a good cleansing. Many riders won’t go out until after the first rain has washed the road of salt, dirt and gravel left behind by receding snow. Add sand, leaves, branches and twigs to the mix, and you have a potpourri of debris that collects at the edges of the roadway and at ends of driveways, near curbs, and in corners, traffic circles, roundabouts and rotaries.

Warm afternoons and cold nights increase the possibility of black ice, which is actually quite transparent and difficult to see. Patches of snow and frost will linger in shady areas. Quick thaws can cause high water in some places. All of these potential hazards can compromise your traction. 

safe riding first ride of the season gravel
Be especially alert when pulling in and out of parking lots, where dirt and gravel pile up after the snow melts.

Scan far enough ahead so potential hazards don’t surprise you. When you encounter these conditions, don’t panic. Maintain a safe speed, avoid braking or downshifting, and keep the bike upright as you ride through. Coast over road debris, and avoid excessive lean in curves. If possible, large potholes should be avoided. If not, keep your head and eyes up, rise off the seat, stand on the pegs, and shift your weight back slightly to avoid being pitched from the motorcycle.

safe riding first ride of the season couple twigs branches on roadway
Twigs and debris might be the surface conditions you'll find at the end of your very own driveway.

Cropping up along with daffodils and tulips are orange barrels! Roads suffering from frost damage, cracks and potholes may see the arrival of repair crews in spring. Be aware of changing conditions and construction zones—coming soon to a roadway near you! 

safe riding first ride of the season motorcycle
Roads take a beating in the winter. Use caution in construction zones, which crop up soon after crocuses in the spring.

3. Take it slow at first
Your bike isn’t the only thing awakening from hibernation. Your rusty skills need a wake up call too! Reacquaint yourself with the feel of your clutch and operation of your brakes. Take it easy your first few times out. Go a little lighter in the leans. Give yourself more time and space to stop. Get your head back into the game by reading or watching videos on safe cycling. You may also benefit by preparing yourself in a parking lot or taking a refresher class.

4. Be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions 
Spring weather means everything and anything under the sun. Rain. Sleet. Heat. Wind. It can be snowy and icy in the morning, sunny and 70 in the afternoon. Plan for a variety of weather conditions if you’re going to be out for any appreciable amount of time. Dress in layers. Pack a rain suit. Check your local weather forecast early and often. Conditions change rapidly in the spring no matter where you ride, so if you don’t like the weather, wait it out.

safe riding first ride of the season couple bicyclist
Spring fever isn't limited to motorcyclists. Watch for bicyclists, joggers, walkers and Sunday drivers.

4. Watch for others enjoying spring fever 
Pedestrians. Joggers. Bicyclists. Walkers. Car drivers tooling around with the windows rolled down and stereo loud. There’s a buzz of activity out on the road. Even animals seem to have spring fever! Expect to avoid deer, dogs, cats, squirrels, moose, armadillo, and children when you’re out riding this spring!   

You can download the TCLOCS check list to use before the first and every ride of the season.

Got more tips! Share them with us in the comments section below. 

About the Author
Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach and Rider’s Edge Instructor who loves to ride, write, and help others who want to do the same. You can find her on the road on her BMW F 650 GS.

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