If you ride at all, you do it because you love it. That means every ride should be a safe one. A safe ride should always begin with a simple, quick check of your bike. Going through a pre-ride checklist can save you from getting fined for faulty lights and other problems—but it can also save your life. The more you go through your checklist, the easier and faster it gets, so start right now and take three minutes out of your day to stay safe and legal as you ride.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is the source of this pre ride checklist: T-CLOCS. T-CLOCS stands for T-tires and wheels, C-controls, L-lights and electrics, O-oil and other fluids, C-chassis, and S-stands. Although every motorcycle is unique, there are enough similarities to guide you through the basics right here, and your owner’s manual can fill you in on specific details that aren’t here.
T-tires and wheels
Start with your tires. They must be properly inflated; you can check with a tire gauge and you should periodically. This is particularly important if you’re carrying more weight, such as a passenger or luggage. Check for bulges or cracks in the sidewalls, and verify that the tread surface retains enough depth so the tires aren’t bald.
Next, check your wheels. Move the wheel to be sure it’s true, not wobbly; less than 5mm of play in any direction is your goal. If you can pull or push the wheel from side to side by gripping it at the edge, you may be looking at a wheel bearing problem. Check to make sure the brakes stop the wheel from moving. If you’ve got cast wheels, check for dents or cracks. For spoked rims, check tension by pulling handfuls of spokes. None should be moving.
Next, inspect your controls. Pedals and levers must work freely, so check that they’re not damaged and that they’re well-adjusted. Verify that the throttle works easily, and close it to see that it snaps back into place. Try turning the handle bars left and right while opening the throttle to make sure the cables won’t pinch in any direction. Check your hydraulic hoses for bulges, leaks, scratches, or signs of deterioration. Finally, the cables should be free of any sign of fraying and must move smoothly.
L-lights and electrics
Lights and electrics are very easy to check, because it’s a simple standard: headlights on low and high beams, brake lights, tail lights, and turn signals all need to work. If they don’t, repair them before you ride. While you’re at it, check your battery level and search for any frayed wiring.
O-oil and other fluids
Oil and other fluids are a simple check: just visually inspect your gauges or reservoirs to verify the levels, and to ensure the fluid is clear and light colored. If there is evidence of a leak, be extra vigilant checking your fluids. Remember, some motorcycles don’t have a gauge for oil; instead, they have dipsticks. If that’s your bike, pull and check the level on that dipstick. If you’re running low, top it off. If your fluids are dark and muddy looking, you probably need them replaced, so go get serviced (unless you do this yourself).
The chassis is up next. Turn the handlebar(s) completely in both directions to verify that there’s no sticking, no flat spots, and complete freedom of movement. Place your motorcycle on its centerstand so you can grip the fork legs and check that they’re stationary; if you can move them from front to back at all, there is a problem. Side to side movement in the rear wheel signals swingarm bearing problems, so be sure there’s no play in the wheel. Inspect the chain for alignment, lubrication, and tension, and then check the rear sprocket teeth for wear beyond normal use. Finally, as you sit on the bike on the ground, make sure both suspensions move smoothly.
Stands are your last T-CLOCS stop. Check the springs of your centerstand and sidestand, and look for bends or cracks. If your motorcycle has these, they must be able to support the bike securely.
Don’t forget, your number plate and, in some states, registration sticker should clearly be visible, so check each time before you ride—you’d be surprised how easy it is for them to get covered. And remember to clean your mirrors so you can easily see all around you as you ride.
Ride safely every time
That’s it! It may seem like a lot to do at first, but making T-CLOCS a habit keeps your bike healthy and you safe. Be ready for the ride, and make sure your motorcycle is, too.