Should I Warm Up My Motorcycle Before Riding?

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.

2017 Indian scout ivory cream

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.”

AMSOIL Synthetic Motorcycle Oil

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.

Comments

  1. I agree with the article. With that said, if the article had explained the differences between engines I think some of the people wouldn’t have disputed it.

    The V-twin is an air-cooled engine that in stock form with a cast piston probably runs around.003 cyl wall clearance, with a forged piston will run between.004 to .006 wall clearance.

    Where as say a stock water-cooled Honda Goldwing with a cast piston probably runs in the are of .001 clearance and .003 to .004 with a forged piston.

    The point is, any air-cooled engine (bike, auto, lawnmower) should be warmed up to allow the piston to slowly heat up and expand to its running piston-to-wall clearance.

    Also in the comments one person tried to compare today’s auto that you can start and drive immediately. Today’s automotive engines run very tight clearances throughout the entire engine, hence the 0-20 oils being used from the factory. But the reason they can start and drive isn’t the engine, it’s the engine management systems used today.

    Computer controlled with fuel injection is the reason. If you were to remove the carburetor from an 70s era engine and install today’s computer controls with fuel injection it would also be able to start and drive off.

    Also, I didn’t look up the exact piston clearances, I used average specs from memory from my engine building days.

    1. Hi Joe,

      Great points. Thanks for reading the article and posting your thoughts.

      John

    2. Hey Joe

      You highlight great points of view, I agree with you, keep commenting with good points.

      By the way, this has broadened my knowledge.

      Thanks

  2. You can’t compare a human waking up in the morning and running to a machine. Machines don’t have muscle that lose elasticity when they stop moving, it doesn’t have to apply special awareness for all it parts as it tries to sync them with every uneven step it takes. An engine spins pretty fast from it’s turned on and idling. Also this is basically an Ad. Even your lab tech says he doesn’t warm up his engine if he is using your oil. And I’m sure any good oil moves through the system just fine at start up. Even modern cars don’t need to warm up anymore. Also your graph have to do with warming up your motorcycle. Yeah oil becomes less viscos over time but that doesn’t tell you that your motorcycle needs to be warmed up before use. What is an exceptable level of viscosity? You don’t say and your graph just says oil breaks down over time.

    1. Hi Oneathese,

      I agree that all analogies break down at some point, but its purpose isn’t to establish an airtight apples-to-apples comparison, it’s simply to present the idea in a way a non-technical person can immediately grasp and get them thinking about the situation.

      Our lab chemist quoted in the post goes on to say that he lets his engine warm up about one minute while he’s preparing to ride. As you point out, he doesn’t feel too concerned about letting his engine warm up if he’s using AMSOIL Synthetic Motorcycle Oil. That’s precisely the point; using a lower-quality oil, however, may impair circulation when cold.

      As to the larger point, that modern engines don’t require warm up, I’ve talked to several engineers and chemists over the years about this, and the universal consensus is that most engine wear occurs during cold starts, and warming the engine for a short time (one minute or less) is a good idea before putting it under the stress of driving. Now, precisely quantifying how much wear occurs is difficult since all engines are different and operate in different environments. Arriving at a figure would require a ton of expensive testing. At the end of the day, it’s far easier to recommend that drivers idle the engine about one minute before driving. Precise? No. But, in combination with using a good oil, it’s a simple and effective way to fight wear.

      Thanks for reading,

      John

  3. There is ZERO evidence that warming up the bike has any different effects than just starting it up and riding off. If on initial start up the oil pump isn’t pumping oil to the top of the engine within the 1st couple of seconds then you have bigger problems. In a carb application it may take a few seconds of idle before you can take off. However, in a FI application you don’t have to wait at all.

  4. I notice my scooter has limited power until warmed up. After which point it switches to another section of the map to run the warm side. Until it switches over, I just run the throttle gently. Annoying, as I have a hill to go up and anytime, it “boosts” up with the throttle the same.

  5. I totally agree that we should warm up the engine before riding. Especially if you’re planning to go long-distance.
    Old motorcycles with carburetors and gluggy oils required a long period of warming up but surely today’s fuel-injected engines with modern synthetic oils can go straight after you push the button.

  6. Well written article I agree with your opinion and experience. If you can’t ride because of ice and snow, then just don’t start your bike at all. When you ride in those colder temperatures, letting your motor run for about thirty second to a minute is a good standard before you take off. … It can take 5-15 minutes for your engine to warm up depending on the driving conditions.

  7. I disagree with allowing it to warm up only for a minute. My GSXR which I’ve had for four or five years has a thing called a GSXR tick, it won’t go away til around 152 degrees and that’s due to oil not being circulated completely. The manual on most bikes say 5 mins in summer and about 10 in the winter.

    1. Yes, you can use SEVERE GEAR 75W-90 Synthetic Gear Lube in that application.

      Thanks for reading.

  8. Couple of schools of thought. For one Motorcycles heat up very quickly, and it doesn’t take long for the engine to be hot, while the rest of the drive train is quite cool. I for one used to follow the ride it off as soon as the idle has normilzed and ride it easy for the first 10 minutes. Never do hard riding until the entire bike is at operating temperature.

  9. I warm it up but don’t put on helmet or gloves. Don’t need either of them. Maybe put a jacket on or lock door to home then throw a leg over and off we go.

  10. Thanks for the info I always let mine warm up a few minutes. But see so many riders jump on and just ride away! And I always just look at them like…..but hey it’s their bike!

  11. Harley Davidson recommends warming up your bike until you can feel warmth on the top of rocket box. It takes a few minutes.

  12. How often should I perform Oil & Filter change on my 2015 Street Glide Special using Amsoil?

    1. Hi Kerrian,

      Check your owner’s manual for the recommended drain interval. You can safely use AMSOIL 20W-50 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil for twice the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval.

      Thanks,

      John

  13. It’s good to learn that a motorcycle only needs a minute or two to warm up which means that it’s just the right time for you to start and ride the vehicle, wear your helmet, and prep yourself for the ride then you can go. That’s perfect since I saw this gorgeous Harley Davidson on my way home from work and I really wanted it. Having to know that it’s quite easy to start-up makes me want it more since it can skip a lot of the traffic on the road. Thanks for the helpful read about warming up the motorcycle before starting!

  14. I can’t believe that even after 5 years of riding I’ve never ever known or even thought of this. Well, I guess it’s better late than never. Thank you for a really informative article John!

  15. Good advice. I’ve gotten in arguments with fellow riders over this fact.
    If you want your bike to last, you have to warm it up for at least a minute.
    I love my bike as much as my wife! I need her to last.

  16. I just did the oil change on my 1991 Fat boy but for the first time I put in amsoil 60 weight. I live in the desert where average summer temp is around 100 thru 110 and the winners are around 70. My question is do you think I could run 60 weight year round. And the follow up question is how long should I warm up the bike with this oil.

    1. Hi Angel,

      Yes, you can run SAE 60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil year-round in the motor. Warm it up about a minute in the summer. Extend it a couple minutes in the winter to let the oil warm up a bit.

      Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Comment:
Name:
Email:
Website: