What your motorcycle needs from you during the COVID-19 pandemic
Prep it to ride or prep it for storage; your callby TJ Hinton, on
With much of the country shut down because of COVID-19 and most of us homebound, or at least restricted in our movements, we find ourselves with enforced free time on our hands. For some, this is an opportunity for self-improvement — you know, exercise, study, or whatever — but I submit to you, Dear Reader, that for motorheads, this is an excellent time to do that bike maintenance or custom work you’ve been putting off.
Prep your bike to ride? Or prep it for storage?
Where I live, we can pretty much ride year round, you know, except for the fair weather riders and posers who wait for favorable conditions, but for much of the U.S. we are reaching the end of the winter off-season period that forces a lot of us to mothball the bikes for half the year. Even if it’s still too chilly to ride where you live, it’s probably warm enough to safely de-winterize at the very least. While I can make arguments for using your bike for your essential travel, I realize that the more social types of riders will view this COVID-19 outbreak as a damn good reason to keep their bikes at home, and I don’t disagree on any particular point.
For this last category of rider, winterization protocols are probably the best option right now. Change the oils, top off tire pressure, and fill up your tank with fresh gas plus a dose of fuel stabilizer. If you have a liquid-cooled engine, go ahead and freshen that, as well. Even if you don’t plan on putting your machine into hibernation, it’ll be a good idea to chuck in some gas stabilizer because it may be sitting idle for a while.
Don’t forget your Battery Tender or other appropriate battery-maintenance charger, and if you have an open-cell battery instead of a sealed/maintenance-free unit, top off the individual cells with distilled water. Go ahead and take the time for a good wash and wax and a thorough drying period before you throw on the dust cover.
Are motorcycle parts available?
All of the motorcycle maintenance items should still be in good supply for the time being, though there may soon be problems procuring them because more and more physical stores are temporarily shuttered. The good news is, so far, there’s always the Internet to make up for any shortcomings from that sector. Shipping services such as UPS, FedEx, the USPS, and now Amazon’s in-house delivery service are all working at holiday levels as folks shift to shopping more online, and for the time being, I expect that to continue.
However, nothing is guaranteed, so if you’re breaking your bike out from winter storage, I highly recommend that you go ahead and get whatever you need, and that right soon. Maybe even lay in supplies for the foreseeable future while you’re at it, because it’s only a matter of time before the supply chain is affected. Petroleum products could be harder to get as crude production slows and the refinement and distribution drops off, so that’s all your critical lubes and such. For what it’s worth, my contact in the oil field says those jobs have been determined to be a critical service, so maybe the crude supply will still be reliable. The gatherers of other raw materials may or may not fall into this category so you could possibly expect to see some pressure on the small-parts manufacturers and limited supplies.
To exacerbate the problem, the more opportunistic individuals out there may start jacking the prices up or hoarding, both of which will make it tougher to find and afford expendables and maintenance parts. Of course, there’s a balance to be struck since a determined run on supplies will cause an artificial shortage and cause problems all its own. Everything in moderation, right?
We’re operating within a new normal
If a little throttle therapy is in order, be sure to check if there are curfews or lockdowns in effect for your area, because I’ve heard of folks getting tickets for being out without a good reason. Protip: “So I don’t go insane” is not viewed as a good reason by the authorities." If you’re in India, the police may throw turmeric water on you and whip you, as well. Them dudes don’t play around!
If you do get out and about, don’t forget that we’re operating within a new normal. Wear a medical mask and consider disposable nitrile or latex gloves at your pit stops, and don’t neglect the hand-sanitizer if you can find it. If not, there are recipes online for turning bottled spirits (vodka, gin etc.) into homemade kickapoo-juice that’ll take care of business. Bleach and Quaternary solutions are effective disinfectants for non-skin surfaces, so be sure to hit your grips with some when you get back to the house. Also, don’t let the lack of traffic lull you into a false sense of security. People are stressed, some are outright scared, and so they are more prone to be distracted or absentminded on the road. Stay vigilant Brothers and Sisters.