It’s so tempting to get on your bike and ride off without any worries and “leave the world” behind. But it’s very important to make sure that your bike is safe to ride and in good condition. There are a lot of experts that recommend a quick pre-ride inspection before your motorcycle trip.
We’ve searched all across the web for the best pre-ride inspection checklist and we must say the most comprehensive one is that from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) whose aim is to keep riders safe. Part of keeping the rider safe is to have a machine that is in proper working condition.
MSF suggests checking six areas before each ride. It uses the acronym T-CLOCK to help riders remember to take a look at the tires and wheels (T), controls (C), lights and electrics (L), oil and other fluids (O), chassis & suspension (C) and Kickstands (K).
TIRES – Check your tire pressure before you ride when the tires are cold, the correct PSI is listed on a factory sticker on the bike. Go over the sidewall on both sides and look for bulges caused by damage from potholes. Check how much tread is left (wear can happen surprisingly quickly in hot weather or under a heavy load) and look for any foreign objects that you may have run over.
WHEELS – If you do have spoked wheels, check for missing or loose spokes before or after every ride. Look for signs that the wheel bearings are failing or that the grease has leaked past the seals. Make sure there is no side to side play in the bearings and that the wheels roll freely. While spinning, look for flat spots or wobbles that would indicate the wheel is out of true; even cast alloy wheels can go out of true due to potholes or minor accidents.
BRAKES – Don’t forget to look at the brake discs and other hardware while going over the wheels. Check that there is plenty of pad left and that the rotors haven’t become warped or grooved.
CONTROLS – Check the brake and clutch lever handle for proper function. Be sure they pivot freely, are lubricated, and that the pivot bolt and nut are there and tight. Check for proper fluid level in hydraulic systems. Look over the entire length of the brake (and clutch) hoses and notice any cuts, swelling, or pinches that may be an indication of a failure in the near future. Don’t forget to check the rear brake pedal and fluid as well.
CABLES – Modern bikes are using less and less cables these days, even for throttles. Be sure your cables are well lubricated with no kinks or pinches in the housing and move freely. Look for signs of fraying in the ends. Adjust for the proper amount of play.
THROTTLE – Even if your bike has throttle by wire, instead of a cable operated throttle, you still need to check it. Now is the time to discover that the throttle does not close quickly when you let your hand off of it. Too much play in the throttle can mean just a loose cable, or it can mean a failing throttle position sensor (TPS).
LIGHTS – It is not exaggerating to say that your brake/tail light has probably saved your life more times than you know, so make sure it is working before every ride. Since the headlight is always lit, it is very easy to check that this bulb is functioning. Make sure all the blinkers work, and the reflectors are still intact for maximum visibility among traffic and at night.
ELECTRICAL – Make sure both battery terminals are tight and free from corrosion. Give the whole bike a quick once over for loose or pinched wires.
OIL – Check the engine oil level and look for signs of leaks under the bike.
FLUIDS – You already checked the brake and clutch fluid with the controls, but check the coolant level on liquid cooled bikes and top up if low.
CHASSIS – Look over the frame for areas where the paint may have cracked or flaked, as that is a good indication that there may be a structural crack developing. Check the condition of the swingarm bushings by moving the rear wheel side to side, looking for play. Look for missing nuts and bolts, and occasionally check all of them for tightness, especially on singles and twins that vibrate a lot.
SUSPENSION – Look for signs of blown seals in the fork or shocks, which typically presents itself as an oily residue which collects dirt and dust. Do a couple of bounces while sitting on the bike to check that nothing is binding or bent. With the front wheel off the ground, test that the steering stem bearings are tight with no play in them and no resistance or notchiness in the steering. Check the drive belt or chain for proper tension, and damage or wear; lubricate the chain.
KICKSTAND – This is the last thing you check, often as you fold it up and ride off. Make sure the side and center stand fold back and stay in place securely with the spring. On bikes with a side stand interlock, test the function by trying to put the bike into gear with the stand down (it should stall).
The full, official MSF checklist is here in printable PDF format – T-CLOCK Checklist.
The list is very exhaustive and can take some time but trust us once you get the flow it’s as simple as a few minutes of looking around in the same sequence. A pre-ride check can be the lifesaver when things can go south if something like a fastener or nut falls off. Doing such checks is a good way to familiarise yourself with your bike and you will be able to spot problems when they arise.
Once you are sure that you have done all these checks you can head out and be safer on the road.