Get your motor runnin’ as motorcycling season has begun. The pandemic increased the popularity of the sport therefore bikes are hot and going fast.
"Nobody is going away. Everybody is looking for another escape," says Tom Mammolito, sales manager at Island Powersports in Massapequa. "Motorcycle sales are out of control. We’re almost sold out already and the season hasn’t even fully started yet."
With COVID, production lines shut down and manufacturers could not produce as many machines. "On top of the unbelievable demand, there’s a super short supply," says Mammolito. "We have way too many people looking for bikes and not enough to go around."
Even the mechanics are backed up. "Right now, our service department is three weeks behind," says Mammolito. "This is unprecedented. It’s never been like this."
If your bike is already at home awaiting the season, it's important to go over this spring cycle checklist before heading out for a ride. Here's how to keep the pistons poppin’:
CHECK TIRE WEAR & PRESSURE
The most critical aspect of any motorcycle is the condition of the tires. Both front and rear must be examined for dry rot and deflation. "The ambient air temperature affects your tire pressure," says Gerard Cerniglia of Rolling Thunder Cycles in Hempstead. "Every 10 degrees it lowers, your tire pressure goes down a pound."
HELMETS ARE A MUST
By law, New York State requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. However, there are different styles with different attributes to choose from. "The half-helmet gives you better visibility because the visor is the size of your face," says Jerry McClendon, 56, of Islandia, who is a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Motorcycle Club. "The full-face gives you better protection and it’s quieter. You can hear everything on the road but the wind noise is reduced."
CHARGE THE BATTERY
Before starting the engine, make sure your battery is fully charged and even do a load test to determine its ability to hold a charge.
"It’s best to have a battery tender plugged in all the time when the bike is sitting in your garage," says Cerniglia. "The tender doesn’t overcharge it, in fact, it extends the battery life."
PACK AN EMERGENCY KIT
Bringing along a small packet of emergency items in your storage compartment is key when traveling throughout Nassau and Suffolk.
"Many modern bikes don’t come with tool kits anymore," says Rob Doyle, director of MotoSavvy, Ltd, who grew up in Uniondale and Huntington. "I always carry a small flashlight, various size wrenches, a pair of pliers, two types of screwdrivers, a mini bicycle pump and a tire plug set just in case."
CHANGE OIL & GAS
If there’s old oil or gas that’s been sitting in your motorcycle, it’s best to get a fresh batch of both before going cruisin’.
"When bringing your bike back to life, you want to change the oil that’s been sitting around because oil absorbs moisture," says Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA senior manager of public affairs. "In terms of gas, you want to go premium for the higher octane content in order to get optimal performance from the engine."
WEAR PROPER BODY GEAR
Like a helmet protecting your head, dressing appropriately while riding is essential for safety purposes.
"Long pants, a long sleeve shirt, a fitted jacket and boots are important for body protection — never shorts, tank tops or flip-flops," says Vincent Calderon, president of Blue Knights NY — Chapter X Nassau County. "When you ride, there can be a significant change in temperature. It can be 15-20% colder on the bike. Remember, you can always layer down, you can never add stuff when riding."
Starting a motorcycle career is not something to be taken lightly. Experts recommend that everyone get professional training, either from the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course or a commercial driving school, before hopping on a bike. The Big Apple Motorcycle School in Hicksville is one of many on Long Island that offers a state certified course that will not only teach you to ride but how to do it safely. Other options include On the Road Again Motorcycle School in Selden and Cycle Guru Motorcycle School in East Rockaway.
“Riding looks easy but it does take a lot of concentration and hard work,” says Diane Ortiz, Big Apple president. “You need to be coached and shown how to do it properly upfront so you don’t build up any bad habits.”
All students must possess a valid New York State Driver’s License to take part in a Big Apple course. However, the state does not require riders to have a New York State Driver’s License before securing their motorcycle license. Riders can obtain Class M (motorcycle operator's) or Class MJ (motorcycle junior operator's) license after passing their road or permit test.
The Big Apple training process begins with a three-hour eCourse that needs to be completed and passed before moving onto five hours of in-person classroom lessons, which follow all COVID protocols (max of 12 per class) in Oakdale. The next step is two five-hour sessions riding in Hecksher State Park in East Islip.
“It’s a step-by-step approach. There’s 14 total exercises. At the end, there’s a skill evaluation,” says Ortiz. “Students must complete and pass all three elements. They get a card that waives the DMV motorcycle road test and a discount on their motorcycle insurance.”
One trend that has been growing is the steady increase of women’s participation in the activity.
“The rate of female riders has increased every year since 2007. About 30-35% of our students are women, which is up from 15%,” says Ortiz. Women are "embracing this outdoor activity.”
For more information, visit bigapplemotorcycleschool.com.