If you’re an all-year-round rider, congratulations for toughing it out! For the rest of us it seems that the weather is finally dry enough to get out, dust off the leathers and have some fun on two wheels. (We can’t say “warm enough” because it’s even too warm - covering yourself in an extra 3 mm of cowhide in this weather can be almost painful, or at least very … uncomfortable.)
Whether you ride a cruiser, a ‘hog’ or something more sporty, the key to having fun is safety on the road – know your limits, and if you’re riding within a group, always run at the slowest rider’s pace.
Riding on sunny days
While the weather is sunny, it’s tempting to head out early morning and make the most of it – time to dig out the black or tinted visor and head for the hills, but you should always remember to take a clear visor on any long run – getting stuck out after dark is no fun when you can’t see properly. Besides, if you’re stopped by the police, you could face a ticket for it.
There’s a few other essentials that we’d recommend, depending on how many miles you’re riding (and the capacity to carry it). In this hot, dry weather, your chain will take more than average abuse so it’s worth carrying a small tin of chain lube in your rucksack. A spare pair of gloves is also a great idea and so is an instant puncture repair kit (kept in your under-seat storage). Finally, you shouldn’t ride anywhere without a decent set of earplugs.
Riding a motorcycle in a group
Riding in groups is entirely different than a quick solo blast or just a handful of riders – you should try and keep the pace to the least experienced rider, if they have to ‘make progress’ to keep up, it won’t be enjoyable or safe.
If you have a planned route, it’s worth implementing some sort of system to keep everyone together, e.g. a ‘lead’ rider follows the route, then at every junction the second rider waits for the rest of the riders to indicate the way, who then rejoins at the back of the group. This way, everyone has to take their turn, and the group (in theory) shouldn’t get split up.
Choosing the right motorcycle
With so many different styles of motorbikes, ranging from 12 horsepower to 200+ horsepower, finding the right one for you can be time-consuming. Of course, a lot depends on your riding style, what your friends ride or where you want to go – a European road trip isn’t much fun on a small moped.
If you’ve ever asked yourself “what are cruiser bikes best for?” then there’s a chance that the latest superbike with 180 mph performance isn’t for you. You also need to consider licence restrictions, i.e. what your licence will cover you for. There are numerous constraints such as horsepower restrictions or engine size limitations. If you’re unsure as to what you can ride, you should check with the relevant authorities.
If you’re new to motorcycling, our best advice regarding motorcycle choice is to be safe – even a small 600cc bike is capable of doubling the national speed limit, and picking a ‘Sports Tourer’ may give you the comfort you need, but they’re pretty heavy and still capable of getting you into trouble – even a ‘lazy Sunday afternoon’ bike will accelerate faster than most cars.
Keeping on top of your bike’s maintenance is a year-round job, but if you’re commissioning your bike after a winter lay-up, even more so. Your motorcycle tyres provide the only contact between you and the road, offering something like a business card sized contact patch which has to cope with all that you can throw at it.
If your bike has been standing for some time, it’s worth checking the condition of the tyres, not just the pressures – make sure there aren’t any flat-spots from where it’s been stood on the rubber, no cracking or signs of failure on the sidewalls. You should also lubricate your chain, ensure that your brake pads are free, discs clear of rust and that the oil level and condition are good.
If it’s a regular rider, then you should still do some pre-ride checks before heading out on to some of the more scenic routes in the UK – a powerful sports bike can go through a rear tyre within 1,000 miles when ridden hard, even a cruiser can reduce a quality tyre to dangerous levels of grip in around 3 – 4,000 miles.
Epic road trips
If you’ve spent the long winter planning what road trips you should take, then now is the time to put that plan into action. The weather is right, the roads are dry, diesel spills should have all but dried up – stop planning and start riding.
We have some fabulous biking roads within the UK, and whether you’re touring, cruising or something else, a motorbike is a great way of seeing them (and not being caught up in the traffic jams). Our advice is to always wear decent protective gear – yes, cruising along in a t-shirt and jeans may look cool, you may feel like Maverick from Top Gun on his GPZ900, but if it goes wrong … the consequences are horrific.
There are a range of manufacturers offering ‘safety’ jeans for riding, and whilst these are fine, you can’t beat the protection from fully armoured leathers, either cowhide or even Kangaroo hide (which is much lighter but has better abrasion resistance). Other textile jackets or trousers tend to be thicker (by their very nature), so our choice is always leather.
Have fun, be safe, and don’t ride beyond your limits.