Spring brings outdoor temperatures that welcome us—with highs in the 80s (and sometimes 90s). Now is a great season to ride a motorbike in Las Vegas. Bikers in the Mojave Desert can keep a motorcycle ride-ready for as many years as possible by remembering to pay close attention to the following factors—engine specs, climate and riding habits.
Penny Osiecki, a Vegas-based biker who has been riding since 1994, recommends the following:
Avoid air-cooled bikes. In the hot summer air of Vegas, Harley-Davidsons tend to have a shorter lifespan than other bikes, because they are air-cooled and the hot air may not cool them efficiently, she says. Choose a water-cooled bike. This type of motorcycle engine is becoming more common. Brands such as Yamaha tend to survive better in an arid climate, because they are water-cooled, she says. Avoid panheads and shovelheads. Vintage bikes (pre-1965) with a panhead design, or the shovelhead design that replaced it, can show less durability than other models because the engines are considered obsolete by many and replacement parts are scarce, according to Osiecki.
An arid climate can also punish tires, says Osiecki. Protect tires, and inspect for cracks and dryness. The sun’s rays can damage tires, Osiecki reminds us. To keep tires supple, treat them regularly with rubber protectant, she says. Carefully store your bike. When not in use, put the motorcycle in a garage to keep the paint fresh—and to shelter the bike from dust, sun, wind, and would-be thieves, says Osiecki. Protect the leather, too. Use leather conditioner on leather accessories such as saddlebags. Keep it clean. A simple way to protect your motorcycle’s paint is to keep it clean, dry and use wax.
The most enthusiastic bikers ride year-round, says Osiecki. Vegas bikers tend to ride most often from September until the end of May, a time when highs range from about 45-85 degrees F, she says. Year-round bikers have higher mileage. They probably are going to cover about 10,000 miles of road per year, says Osiecki. A well-maintained bike can operate for about 20 years before the owner needs to rebuild it, adds Mike Privette, organizer of the annual Motorhead Festival in Bicentennial Park, in nearby Boulder City. Fair-weather riders may need to consider trickle charging the battery. If you store your bike for months at a time, Osiecki suggests trickle charging continually at a low rate. “It’s a slow charge that keeps the battery alive while you’re not riding the bike,” she says.
Keep dry parts full of air and free of water. “Keeping a full gas tank is best for keeping moisture out of the gas tank,” says Privette. Keep wet parts full of fluid. “Keep the inside of the motor wet,” says Privette. “Keep the rings wet. Keep up the oil pressure.” For desert riding he recommends using heavier, 50-weight oil. “It doesn’t break down so fast in the extreme heat,” he says. Use a degreaser. Cleaning mudlike deposits off the outside of the engine can help it run better and make bike maintenance less messy. To do so, use a blend of solvents and surfactants (compounds that reduce surface tension and can act as detergents). If you take care of your motorbike while you’re not riding it, then your motorbike can take care of you while you are.
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