Do you need to warm up your motorcycle before hitting the road? Yes, for best protection. But only for about a minute. Here’s an illustration to show why.
As soon as you crawl out of bed tomorrow morning, try this experiment: run outside and sprint down the street. Aside from embarrassment over your jammies (or lack thereof), how do you suppose you’ll feel?
Your motorcycle likewise needs to warm up a bit before hitting the street. Many folks at AMSOIL are avid bikers. So, to get the technical details explaining why, I consulted a few of them.
They provided two main reasons to warm up your motorcycle before riding.
1) Help avoid piston scuffing
Metal expands when it’s heated, and anyone who’s sat astride a motorcycle knows they make serious heat, especially powerful air-cooled V-twins.
Subjecting a cold piston to extreme heat and friction without first allowing it to warm up can cause rapid piston expansion and scuffing.
The engine doesn’t achieve optimal clearance between parts until it reaches normal operating temperature. If you lay into the throttle before then, however, the engine temperature can spike. This can cause the pistons to heat up and expand ahead of the cylinder bores, increasing the chances of scuffing.
“I like to get them [engines] warm before putting any type of stress on the mechanical components,” said AMSOIL Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Rollie Everson. “This makes sure components expand at a gradual rate when they are cold.”
2) Ensure the oil circulates properly
Another reason to warm up your bike is to circulate the oil.
Cold oil doesn’t flow as readily as oil that’s reached operating temperature. In extreme conditions, the oil may not flow into the oil pump, leading to bearing and journal damage and wear.
Likely? No, given that most bikers store their bikes in the off-season. But there are always those diehards who push the season.
Of course, a good solution to poor cold-flow is to use a high-quality synthetic that flows quickly to engine parts despite cold temperatures.
AMSOIL laboratory chemist Dale Beck explains:
“The highest chance of wear should be under the initial startup when the oil has yet to be circulated to all the components in the upper end. AMSOIL motorcycle oils have very good pumpability at cold temperatures, definitely colder than I enjoy riding the bike at, so I don’t worry much about the oil not being circulated enough. Our oils also have very good protection for cam wear, relating to initial startup, so unless you are redlining the engine after startup there shouldn’t be any worries about other engine parts.”
How long should you warm up a motorcycle?
About one minute is plenty of time to allow the piston and other parts to gradually expand and ensure good oil circulation to the upper end.
Most riders start the engine and spend a minute or two putting on their helmet and preparing to ride. Once they’re ready, so is the bike.
“I warm mine up so I know everything is running well. I usually do this while I put on my helmet and make final adjustments before departing on a ride.” – Patricia Stoll, AMSOIL Trade Show Manager
“I usually let it warm up while making my last adjustments (ear plugs, gloves, glasses, etc.). This takes about a minute or two.” – Jim Swanson, AMSOIL Trade Show Representative
“I would guess that mine only warms up for around a minute. I usually start it just before putting on my helmet and gloves. In my opinion, anything more than a few minutes is a waste of fuel and can lead to deposit formation on the spark plugs and exhaust.” – Dale Beck
To wrap it up, warm up your bike for at least a minute before heading out. Just use the time to buckle your helmet, slip your gloves on or finish other preparations. That way you’re not wasting time – and you’re likely saving your engine from wear.
Originally published May 3, 2018.