Previously we explored preparing ourselves to ride. See the Jan 2016 Newsletter or this post: http://cigarcityhog.com/safety/safety-first-riding-gear/ . Now let’s take a look at preparing our motorcycle for a ride.
If you’ve ever met an airplane pilot – commercial or private – you know they go through a written pre-flight checklist on EVERY flight. Several thousand feet in the air is not when you want to find out you have a mechanical issue.
We may keep our wheels on the ground but we “get high” on riding. A good equipment check is essential to ensure our safety. Ideally we should go over a checklist before every ride. Even if we do not complete a written checklist we should know the basics to ensure our motorcycle is ready.
Luckily we do not need to create our own checklist. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) provides an inspection checklist for T-CLOCS. Let’s go over the highlights. A link to the full checklist is at the end of this article.
It only takes a few minutes to do a basic visual inspection:
T – Tires & Wheels
Tire tread, air pressure (memorize what it should be, don’t rely on the owner’s manual), rims free of cracks or loose spokes, brakes in good working order. Here in FL we do not have the temperature extremes like other parts of the country. I have seen my tire pressure vary 10 or more lbs simply because the outside air temperature dropped. Remember those small patches of rubber are all that is providing traction. Improper inflation of tires has a larger impact than poor gas mileage and increased tire wear.
C – Controls
Hand and foot controls in working order. No loose connections, frayed cables, etc. You checked the brake pads under “T” now check the levers to make sure they engage the brakes.
L – Lights & Electronics
Lights, battery condition, switches. We only have a few switches on our motorcycles. Do they do their job when used? If not, find out why. Proper lighting is vital to seeing and being seen. Don’t find out after dark that you have a bad light.
O – Oil & Other Fluids
Most people will comment about a Harley Davidson “marking its spot” with fluid leaks. That may be an apt description for older models but a modern HD should not be leaking fluids. If it does, get it serviced. Gas isn’t the only fluid you should be able to add yourself. Learn how to check your oil and transmission fluids. Have a “wet head”? Learn about the radiator coolant.
C – Chassis
The chassis – frame, seat, suspension, drive belt – carries you down the road. Look for obvious cracks, loose bolts, proper air in the shocks (like air pressure, memorize your preferred setting for air shocks).
S – Stands
Most people only have a “jiffy” or “side” stand. When parked that small piece of iron is the only thing holding up your motorcycle. Look for bends, cracks, or a worn spring (loose tension putting the lever up and down). Most people will trade their motorcycle before normal wear will break the spring. But if you’re on a ride and it breaks the stand will fall. The spring tension actually holds it in the up position. A friend and a zip tie will hold it in place so you can safely reach a dealer for a replacement or home. That same friend will come in handy when it’s time to get off motorcycle and put the stand back down.
Next time we’ll go over “the ride”, SEE:
S – Search
E – Evaluate
E – Execute
Until then – Ride Safe, ride often.
Reference materials from The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF):