Motorcycle safety series: post-winter safety
By Joseph Cescon and Bryan Sansom, articling student
Once spring hits, the weather warms up and many motorcyclists are eager to get their bikes out of storage and hit the road for that first ride of the season. However, early spring road conditions present some unique hazards for motorcyclists. In an effort to reduce injuries and deaths on city streets, Toronto Police are raising awareness and rolling out safety tips, which you can read more about here.
One of the most important steps to take after getting your motorcycle out of storage is a thorough inspection. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation provides an extensive checklist for inspecting your bike after a long period of winter storage. Even if you don’t adhere to all the items on the list, you should at least check the following:
- Fuel – Gas can clog injectors, which may lead to engine failure
- Tires – the rubber can crack and deflate over the course of winter storage
- Fluids – oil, antifreeze and brake fluids should be topped up to proper levels
- Chain – check the chain for proper lubrication and any tight spots or excessive wear
- Suspension – look for rust that may compromise the efficacy of seals in the suspension
Many of these tips are geared toward proper maintenance of your motorcycle. However, if not properly checked and maintained, these items present potential safety risks. For example, a cracked tire or faulty suspension can cause you to lose control of your motorcycle at high speed. It may be a good idea to have your motorcycle checked and serviced regularly by a licensed mechanic.
There are other hazards that present themselves in the early spring. Many motorcyclists wait until there have been a few rain showers to clear the road of debris that has built up over the winter months. Such debris can include fallen tree branches, garbage that has been otherwise covered by snow, small rocks, and lots of sand and salt that was put down on roadways to manage ice and winter weather conditions. Depending on how early you get your bike out of storage, there may also be spots of ice lingering in the shadows. If you are one of the eager riders that can’t wait for the roads to be cleaned, be sure to use extra caution.
You should also remember that all other drivers on the road are not used to seeing motorcycles. During the preceding winter months, there have been no motorcycles on the road. Be sure to adopt a defensive driving style until other motorists realize they share the road with motorcycles during the warmer months. Of particular note are approaching cars turning left in front of you, and cars changing lanes while you are in its blind spot. Ultimately, it’s your safety on the line, so keep an eye and be defensive.
Finally, proper riding gear is essential. The weather may be warm and beautiful, but don’t pass on proper riding gear, even if you’re just going for a spin around the block to test your bike. Proper riding gear will help protect you and can also be used to help maximize your visibility to other drivers.
Proper riding gear also includes a helmet! In Canada, it’s the law. But you must also wear a helmet that is certified by the Canadian Standards Association, the Snell Memorial Foundation, the British Standards Institute, the United States Department of Transportation, or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
If you want to brush up before hitting the road again this spring, the Canada Safety Council offers online learning enterprises for motorcyclists.