Should You Warm Up Your Harley Before Riding it?

It happens all the time – seeing a Harley-Davidson rider starting his bike and letting it idle for 10-15 minutes, infuriating the whole neighborhood with the noise.  But is this really necessary? Motorcyclist Magazine answers a question asked by Steve Dickens / San Ysidro, CA.


My next-door neighbor has a Harley. He also has the annoying habit of starting it in the driveway and letting it idle for 10 to 15 minutes before he takes off. I say annoying because his pipes rattle the windows in my house until he’s gone. I know there isn’t much chance of talking him out of the pipes—we’ve had the “loud pipes save lives” discussion before—but what can I do to convince him not to leave the bike idling for so long? I asked him about it once and all he said was, “It’s good for the bike.” Is it really? – Steve Dickens / San Ysidro, CA


You don’t say whether your neighbor’s bike is carbureted or fuel-injected, but either way it’s hard to make a convincing case for so much idle time before riding. According to Harley-Davidson, carbureted models should be started on the enricher and allowed to idle for maybe 30 seconds; after that you can push the enricher back in as soon as the engine runs smoothly, and, of course, ride away. Fuel-injected Harleys are designed to be started and ridden within 15 to 20 seconds—not minutes—which is long enough for oil to circulate and coat all the critical surfaces inside the engine.

We checked with a Harley factory technical expert on lubrication and were told there is no scientific reason for long idle times before riding. Remember that all the mainline Harleys (not the V-Rod) have roller-element main bearings that are really tolerant at the low loads your neighbor will see getting to the end of the block.

It’s possible your neighbor is an old-school Harley rider who still treats his late-model bike as if it were carbureted. Back in the day, some bikes ran poorly when cold—and even when hot—due to poor carburetion or mismatched engine accessories. But carbs on new Harleys are a thing of the past, and modern FI systems can easily adapt to a variety of engine mods so long idle times are no longer necessary. Next time your neighbor’s idling bike rattles your windows, tell him to hit the road (nicely, of course). It won’t hurt his engine, and it’ll stop annoying his neighbors.

So, do you let your Harley idle for a long time?


Photo by esmerrrr