Giving your motorcycle engine ample time to warm up before riding is critical to ensuring your motorcycle performs reliably and lasts for years.
Although modern, fuel-injected motorcycles shouldn’t require a much warm-up as their carburated ancestors do, warming your bike engine also loosens the thick viscosity of cold oil for more efficient circulation and lubrication.
That said, even carburated motorcycles should be good to go after a 3-5 minute warm-up with the choke pulled. So, why do motorcycles warm up too slowly?
Here’s the Short Answer to Why your Motorcycle Warms Up Slowly:
A motorcycle takes longer to warm up after it’s been stored at below-freezing temperatures and its fluids are frozen or coagulated. It could also indicate the wrong type of engine oil or a lean air: fuel ratio—the latter is especially true for carburated motorcycles.
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How Long Should it Take for a Motorcycle to Warm Up?
It only takes one minute for a modern, fuel-injected engine to warm up enough for the pistons, seals, and rings to set at optimal temperature and for the engine oil to think out for adequate lubrication.
A carburated bike, however, takes 2-3 minutes of idling with the choke on to warm the engine.
Your motorcycle engine is small, especially considering how much power some bike motors yield. This small space is inhibited by various mechanical components interacting, generating heat in the process.
Your motorcycle engine oil type and viscosity are suggested by your moto manufacturer based on the ideal operating temperature. It won’t burn or thin out too much in the heat to effectively cool your motor.
That said, when the bike’s off, the oil’s viscosity thinkers up, like a salad dressing you keep in the fridge.
Warming up a fuel-injected motorcycle before you ride elevates the oil temperature, restoring the oil to its functional viscosity so it can flow up to the top end of your engine as soon as you start riding.
If you rid your motorcycle before the oil heats up and starts flowing, you risk grinding and an increase in friction and temperature in your engine, particularly in its top end, risking engine damage.
“There is a need to allow an engine to warm up,” says Danny Massie of Maxima Racing Oils. “There is a multitude of reasons behind warming up a motorcycle, including allowing the metal parts to grow in size in a controlled manner (due to heat) and to allow for proper oil migration. It isn’t necessary to idle your motorcycle excessively (e.g., five minutes) during the warm-up period because this poses a separate set of issues related to overheating because there is no air flowing through the radiators, cylinders and heads. A good warm-up protocol is starting the motorcycle and allowing a minute of idle, then riding the motorcycle in an easy manner to allow time for the engine to come up to temperature. Good examples of this would be a sight lap, riding to the trailhead or easing the bike out of your neighborhood before blasting the open road.”
Carburator engines need to warm up for 2-3 minutes, up to 5 minutes if it’s cold outside.
When warming a carburated motorcycle, activate its choke for the fuel to warm up and vaporize properly.
Suppose your motorcycle’s carburetor doesn’t have an opportunity to warm up before you start riding. In that case, your fuel will fail to vaporize, and your motorcycle’s combustion will fail, stalling out your engine.
Carburated motorcycle engines are harder to start in the cold because the fuel coagulates and densifies, forcing the engine to work harder to consume the fuel until the fuel warms up.
Pulling the choke allows more air into the fuel reducing the time it takes to warm up; wait about a minute before you rev your bike’s idle and another 4-5 minutes before you start riding.
Does it Need to Warm Up if I Go Slow for the First Few Miles?
Your motorcycle should be warmed up before riding for at least the time it takes to put on your helmet and gloves, even if you plan to go slow for the first few miles. This allows the pistons to set and the oil, fuel, and engine to reach the ideal operating temperature.
Whether your motorcycle engine is built as a straightforward open-fin air-cooling and oil concept or it’s sealed and uses a more complex cooling system with radiators, fans, and liquid coolant, airflow is a critical part of keeping the motor cool.
This means that you can cause more damage than good for idling your engine at a standstill for more than 5 minutes as your engine starts to generate heat without the cooling airflow supplied by being in motion.
12 Reasons your Motorcycle May Warm Up TOO Slowly:
1. Electronic Computer Unit or Idle Screw is Set Wrong
2. Air: Fuel Mixture is Running Lean
3. Improper Oil Type or Viscocity
4. Oil Levels are Too Low
5. Valve Clearance Needs Adjustment; Worn Engine Valves
6. Improperly Synced Throttle Valves
7. Throttle Position Sensor Failure
8. Fuel Filter is Clogged or Damaged
9. Oil or Water Temperature Sensor Failure
10. Jammed Throttle Cable
11. Jammed Cold Start Cable
12. Leaking Intake Hose
Can You Make a Motorcycle Warm Up Faster?
Using the most synthetic, highest-grade oil your moto manufacturer deems safe for your motorcycle can accelerate its warm-up time. That said, using the wrong type of oil can overheat your engine and cause irreparable damage.
Suppose it’s warm out, and you have a newer motorcycle with fuel injection that takes full-synthetic or even semi-synthetic, modern oil blends. In that case, you can get away with warming your bike up in 1 minute or less while you strap on your helmet and gloves and have it ready to roll by the time you hit the saddle.
That said, we suggest you refrain from redlining and tapping the rev limiter for the first three or so miles while the oil makes its way to the top end of your engine, or as Danny Massie of Maxima Racing Oils told Cycle News:
“The same basic principles apply to all types of motorcycles, whether they are two-stroke, four-stroke, street or off-road, etc. A proper warm-up allows the different metals in the engine to take on heat, which causes them to move a bit; however, not all parts are made from the same metallurgy, so they expand at different temperatures. Not warming these parts up and revving the engine to the moon can cause parts to stretch and touch other metal parts resulting in seizure and wear that is detrimental to the life of the engine.”
What Happens If You Don’t Let It Warm Up Properly?
If you fail to warm your motorcycle up for 1 minute before you ride, the engine oil will be too coagulated for proper circulation, and the metal components won’t set properly. On a carbureted bike, 2-3 minutes with the choke pulled warms the fuel for proper ignition.
That said, the point of warming up your oil supply is to thin it out so it can flow freely through your bike’s engine, which it can’t do when your motorcycle is leaned over on its kickstand.
Not to mention the dangerous lack of cooling airflow on a bike that’s not in motion.
Idling your motorcycle on its side stand for too long can cause heat to build up in your engine, causing critical damage to your engine’s metal parts, seals, and rings.
Sitting on your bike and revving the engine while it warms up only serves to make matters worse, as your redlining your rev limiter while the oil is still cold and stored in the bottom of your oil pan.
4 Signs you didn’t let your motorcycle warm up for long enough:
- The engine stalls when you start riding or doesn’t run consistently unless you brap the throttle.
- Low oil pressure in the engine.
- Engine sounds are louder and more abrasive than usual while climbing through the RPM range.
- Loud grinding sounds when shifting the bike into gear.
Therefore, it’s essential to let the motorcycle warm up for a minute while you sit on it without revving the throttle, or the engine components will remain cold, restricted, and grinding against one another without proper lubrication.
It’s also important not to let your motorcycle idle for too long.
Here’s what to do to ensure your motorcycle is adequately warmed up:
- Sit on the motorcycle, kick back the kickstand, and stand the bike upright between your legs with both feet on the ground for balance.
- If you’re on a carburated motorcycle, pull the choke out.
- Start the bike.
- Let the motorcycle idle while you strap on your helmet and slip on your gloves; 1 minute for fuel-injected motorcycles, 2-3 for carburated bikes.
- Gently roll the throttle up to no higher than 2,000-3,000 RPMs, depending on your bike’s range, listening for delays or stalls in your throttle response.
- Once the throttle response is where it should be, start riding, keeping the RPMs far from the redline for the first three miles while the airflow cools the warmed engine and the oil has time to coat the entirety of your motor.