by Liz Jansen
Your motorcycle carries the most precious cargo there is. You. Taking time to conduct a routine inspection makes a big difference to your personal safety and your enjoyment of the ride. No one wants to be stranded on the side of the road, or have an accident because of preventable mechanical failure.
You already know that you’re vulnerable on the road and that riding a motorcycle carries risk. You can do a lot to lessen that risk by making both you and your bikes are fit and ready to ride.
A pre ride inspection confirms your motorcycle is worthy to carry you; checking it post-ride will catch any parts that may have come loose and you’ll be able to note minor changes before they become major problems.
Your best resource is your owner’s manual. Make these items part of your regular checks.
- Pressure. Measure when tires are cold, meaning they haven’t been ridden for at least two hours or have been ridden only slowly for no more than three kilometers. Both the tire and motorcycle manufacturer will have specifications and in all likelihood, front and rear tires will be different.
- Tread. If you’re down to the wear bars, it’s time for new tires. Look for worn tread, uneven wear, cracks, bulges, cupping, and any foreign objects.
- Spokes. Make sure they’re niformly tight and intact; they can be tightened with a spoke wrench or an Allen key, depending on the style. Rims need to be true with no dents.
- Drive System. Unless it’s electric, your bike will have either a chain, belt or shaft drive. Make sure the chain tension is correct and that it’s well lubricated. Check drive belt for wear and tension. If you have a shaft drive, check fluid levels and that there are no leaks.
- Cables & hoses. Make sure there is no fraying or kinking and no binding when the handlebars are moved.
- Fluid levels. Check oil, brake fluid, transmission, and coolant levels. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct way to assess each one. Make sure there are no leaks.
- Lights and electrics. Activate your bike’s brake light using the front and rear brakes independently; check the front and rear turn indicators, horn, headlights – high and low beams.
- Throttle. Twist it and check to make sure it snaps back to home position.
- Brakes. Check the brake pads for wear periodically, using a flashlight. Depending on the manufacturer, brake pads may have a groove to indicate wear, similar to wear bars on your tires. Test both front and rear to make sure they’re working satisfactorily.
- Side stand. Make sure it retracts firmly, is not bent, cracked or damaged. The spring must be intact and the cut-out switch functions.
- Clutch and brake levers. Check both for smooth operation, correct freeplay and adjustment for reach.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has an excellent pre ride inspection checklist, which you can download from their site.
Bonus. Before you head out on the road, kook in the mirror. Make sure that you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit to ride.