Got Three Minutes?
A quick check to insure your next motorcycle ride is a great one
a day for a ride," you think to yourself.
What you should be thinking, though, is "Is my ride ready for the day?"
It's a valid question, no matter how often or infrequent you ride. Either
on-the-road usage and vibration or in-the-garage inactivity can take their
toll on your bike, potentially degrading safety, control, performance and
That's why the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends a short pre-ride
check of your favorite two-wheeler before every ride. To help you remember
what to check, the MSF came up with the acronym T-CLOCS, which stands for
Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Sidestand.
These are simple, easy-to-access items that anyone who rides should be
able to identify and check. And despite the length of the MSF's list, you
can probably check everything in about three minutes. Depending on what
you find, that could be the best three minutes you spend all day.
Tires and wheels
Since these are where you and the road meet, they're probably the most important
things to look over. A problem can affect handling—sometimes severely.
Are your rims free of dings? Are your spokes tight and straight? Check
pressures in both tires. Since most manufacturers specify pressures for
cold tires, this is the only accurate way to check them, as they heat up
quickly on the road, raising the pressure. Consult your owner's manual or
call your tire manufacturer's hotline for the proper pressures for your
If you own multiple bikes, it may be difficult to remember all those
different tire specs. And since this is one of those critical things you
should check often, you may want to make a small card with each tire's recommended
pressure, then hang it on your garage wall, or anywhere that's handy.
While you're down there checking the tires, make sure you've got plenty
of tread. You should have more than 1/16 of an inch, about the distance
between Lincoln's head and the top of a penny. Remove foreign objects that
may have lodged in the treads, and make sure there aren't any cuts in the
tire. A scuff is nothing to be worried about, but if it's a deep scratch,
you might want to have it checked.
Controls and cables
snapped throttle or clutch cable can leave you on the side of the road,
so check 'em. Operate anything connected to a cable and make sure that levers
and cables feel smooth and don't bind. Apply the front brake and push the
bike forward. The brake should feel firm, and the front wheel should not
move. Check the rear brake in the same fashion.
Seeing and being seen are two great ways to avoid unwanted incidents on
the road, so making sure your lights work is key.
Start by turning on your ignition. Are the headlight's high beam and
low beam working? Does the taillight come on? Does the brake light come
on when you depress the brake pedal and lever? Check left and right turn
signals, front and rear. Remember that the cause of a malfunction here could
be a relay or bulb.
Lastly, don't forget to check your horn.
Running out of gas is a bummer, but since many motorcycles don't have gas
gauges, it's a very real possibility. Check the gas level in the tank, and
be sure your fuel petcock isn't on "reserve," which could leave you with
a nasty surprise if you roll to a stop thinking you've still got gas in
reserve. And don't forget to reset the tripmeter every time you fill up.
Running out of gas can be inconvenient, but running out of oil can turn
your bike into an inert display of public art. Even some new bikes can use
enough oil to be down a quart between oil changes, so check it before every
Though an improperly adjusted suspension may not seem critical, imagine
your surprise as your bike behaves differently in the middle of a curve
because you forgot to reset it after picking up your friend last night.
on the bike and rock it, making sure that everything moves smoothly and
relatively slowly. If the front or rear end behaves like a pogo stick, a
trip to your trusty mechanic should be in your immediate future.
If you have an adjustable suspension, remember to read your owner's manual
and adjust it properly for the load you'll be carrying and the type of riding
you'll be doing.
Sidestand and centerstand
The sidestand is a handy little item—it's what keeps your motorcycle off
the ground. Make sure it's not cracked or bent. Check the spring or springs.
Are they in place, and do they have enough tension to keep the sidestand
Don't forget to look at the engine cut-out switch or pad, if so equipped.
If everything's in place and operating properly you're done, and you're
good to go. Enjoy the day.