The Myth Behind Motorcycle Warm up and Battery Issues

August 7th, 2018 by

The sweet smell of fresh gas wafting through the crisp morning air and the rumble of freedom pumping out my upgraded exhaust is all the wakeup I need to get the day started. Unfortunately, to some others (my neighbor lady) the 50-yard death stare is really asking why? Why are you out there making all that racket with your motorcycle before you leave? Well, I now have some reason (and research) to add to the madness!

One day while having a friendly conversation with an enthusiastic new owner about his collection of motorcycles we got on the topic of warming up your motorcycle, his theory on battery maintence and his own version of a grumpy cat lady story that reminded me I still had to do some research to do on that matter. If not for my own general knowledge but also to help inform our customers on getting the most out of their Harley-Davidson® motorcycles. Now like most of us I have heard the old tale from long grey bearded bikers of miles past – Fire it up, let it run for a couple of minutes, touch the fins to see if they’re warm then hop on and ride OR shut it down to help give the battery a little charge if you’re not riding it. So I thought, hey, let’s do some old fashion research and come up with the jist of it. Ready. Set. Go!

Back in the day a motorcycle journalist set out on a mission to research the difference in performance and longevity of a cold start motorcycle ride compared to a warmed up motorcycle ride. Both were set up identical and ridden hard for one hour each. What do you think they found? The cold engine lasted half the length of time under the same conditions as the warmed up engine! See, your engine is made up of different types of metals and gaskets that expand as they get to operating range. Under pressure, if not warmed up you can run the risk of cracking or leaking. Both of which is not how you’d like to spend that day of riding, diagnosing on the side of the road. Reading into it a little more I also found out that back in the day mechanics at The Motor Company were trying to figure out why the base gaskets on the Evo engines were leaking. After gathering all the info they noticed one similar thing in the recalls they had in front of them. Most if not all had mentioned they would fire up their Harley-Davidson® and ride right away, no warm up! BOOM! Those two little pieces of information are pretty interesting reading when you think about how much you love your ride and how eager you are to make it last. If you translate that into non motorhead terminology it’s like waking up and going full-on ‘beast mode’ without stretching. You’re not only going to hurt later but have a pretty good chance of injuring your tendons, joints or whatever feels like it wants to break at our age.

So now the question is, how long is long enough? Well, that question really depends on what you’re riding. If you have a newer motorcycle with fuel injection your engine management system will do a great job of keeping the idle just right to help warm up but we recommend giving it a minute to 90 seconds for the oil to run through the system, coating your inner muscle for power hour. If you’re still running a carbureted motorcycle it’s about time you stop in and talk to one of our Sales Professionals about what you’re missing out on. But in that case, let it idle with the choke out and give it a little gas (no more than ? throttle) here and there till she’s purring like a kitten.

As for Battery Maintenance – Most batteries are going to last up to 5 years. How you maintain them will depend if you get the max range. Believe it or not, your battery will actually discharge by itself in small intervals called “Self-Discharge”. If you have an alarm system, some aftermarket accessories or even leave your bike in a warm garage or like conditions it will actually increase this “Self Discharge”.

So I Should Start It up and Let It Idle for a Bit Right to Give It Some Juice When Not in Use?
Au contraire my friend. Running your motorcycle at idle WILL NOT charge your bike but in order to get some volts put back into it your battery, you need to get your charging system involved and to do that you need to put the bike under pressure by riding it for a period of time. Now this will only help if the battery is in good condition and can keep a nearly full charge as the system is designed to maintain the battery level, not charge it up. In other words, it will not restore a deeply discharged (damaged) battery just by riding around for a while. The only sure bet way to keep it fully charged? Buy a Harley-Davidson® Battery Tender! It will take your battery to full charge then keep it there providing years of not having to worry about asking yourself, “Will it start?”

For more biker tips and tricks check us out online or stop in and talk to one of our enthusiasts today!

Ride Safe – Ride Smart – Ride to El Cajon Harley-Davidson®!

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