For adventure bike riders there can be quite a few maintenance tasks to keep on top of throughout the year. Chains need to be cleaned, lubed, and properly tensioned. Tyre depth needs to be legal, and the tyres themselves puncture-free and properly inflated. And it’s important to ensure brakes are clean, discs are in good order, and the pads have plenty of bite left in them.
However, there’s one bit of maintenance that can be overlooked, although you’ll be kicking yourself when it’s too late. You gear up, head out to the garage, and try to start your bike, only to be met with deafening silence. Your battery has died.
With this in mind, I teamed up with Yuasa, a leading manufacturer and supplier of batteries to most major bike manufacturers, to find out how you can keep your battery healthy and when you should change it out.
Caring for your battery
Batteries naturally lose their charge over time, while extreme cold and hot temperatures can accelerate the process more quickly. Indeed, I once met a Swedish rider who, when out camping, would need to take his temperamental battery out of the bike and keep it in his sleeping bag to ensure it didn’t run out of charge during cold Scandinavian nights.
Each to their own, but if getting cosy with your battery isn’t your idea of a good time, there are other ways to look after it. The simplest way to keep your battery charged and healthy is to regularly ride your bike for over 10 minutes at a time.
However, I know this isn’t always possible or pleasant in the UK, when we seem to see more yellow weather warnings than blue skies during winter. This is where a battery charger comes in. Investing in an trickle charger will ensure your battery is ready for action following extended periods off the bike.
Most batteries in modern motorcycles are maintenance-free, so gone are the days where you’d need to top them up with acid or water, but you should ensure that the terminals are kept clean and free from corrosion by using a stiff wire brush and even a smear of vaseline after cleaning to protect them.
Should you change your battery?
There are times when your battery will need to be changed. It’s recommended you change a battery once every four years or thereabouts. If you’re unsure when it was last changed, there should be a date stamped on it if it was installed by a professional.
A battery can also completely die, either from gradual loss of charge over winter or after being drained by accessories. An overly-sensitive alarm on a previous bike I owned not only succeeded in irritating most of the population of West Norwood (sorry neighbours), it also drained my battery to the point of no return when I left it behind while on a week-long holiday.
You’ll also need to consider how many after-market accessories you have hooked up. While a standard battery may cope comfortably with the demands made upon it by your motorcycle, add in heated gear, a SatNav, and a USB charger, and after-market heated grips, and suddenly you run the very real risk of losing juice right when you need it most.
With this in mind, you may want to upgrade your battery to cope with this extra pull. The Yuasa YuMicron range has been developed with adventure and touring bikes with a host of extra electronics in mind.
What do I pick?
As previously mentioned, opt for a maintenance-free model, such as the Yuasa VRLA battery range. They’ll still need charging and cleaning, but you won’t have to top them up with distilled water or acid as you may have done in the past.
Finally we have the latest in battery technology, lithium batteries. These tend to be incredibly light, up to four or five times lighter than your stock battery, which is a big plus for many riders.
The chances are the battery in your motorcycle right now is probably a Yuasa battery which are favoured by motorcycle manufacturers across the world. Find their full list of motorcycle batteries here.