Are You a Creature of Habit?

We all have our routines like our morning routines. I know for fact to not even talk to my wife in the morning until she has started her second cup of coffee. I bet you even have a routine when it comes to washing and waxing your bike. There is one routine that you should perform without fail. The exercise of this routine could mean the difference in coming home after your ride or not.

I am talking about the pre-ride inspection. Pilots perform a pre-ride inspection as well though they call it a pre-flight checklist. Even though they may have performed this checklist a thousand times and probably could recite it by heart, they still go through it each time before flight. I once dreamed of being a pilot but raising six kids I never seemed to have extra money for unnecessary items like hobbies. My love for aviation though was passed on to one of my Sons. He is now a Professional Pilot working as a Certified Flight Instructor accruing his 1,500 hours to go to the major airlines. He once told me about the pre-flight checklist that they don’t practice until they get it right, they practice it until they can’t get it wrong!  That is dedication to making sure you have it done right. As a Road Captain I always emphasized to the riders that they inspect their bikes before they leave home so that way they don’t jeopardize their life or the lives of other riders in the group.

I have been performing pre-ride checks all of my life. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and the AMA as well as other motorcycle organizations have created a checklist you should perform before you get on the bike for the first time of the day. When performed correctly and consistently this inspection should take you no more than a few minutes. They have an acronym to help you remember the items in the inspection. Its called T-CLOCs.  It stands for Tires, Controls/cables, Lights, Oil/fuel, Chassis, Sidestand/center stand.

No matter what kind of bike you ride you should have a tire gauge with you at all times. On my bikes that had storage I also carried a small air compressor like the one you can buy at any auto parts store or big box store for about 20-25 bucks. Flat tires happen at other places besides gas stations and if your are riding with friends and they have a low tire you can save the day and ride because YOU were prepared!

First check the air pressure in your tires. Follow the manufactures recommendations, as they will vary if you have one or two riders. Then look at the condition of the tires they should have at minimum 1/16 inch of tread. They do sell tools to measure tread but you can also use a penny. If you stick the penny into the groove of the tire it should be higher than the space of the coin and Lincoln’s head. You also want to look for cracks in the rubber, there are no bulges anywhere, and there are no rocks or foreign debris stuck in your tire.  Check the rim to make sure its straight and that you have not bent it by hitting a pothole or that is doesn’t have any dings.

I hear bikers say all the time that the reason they have loud pipes is so people can hear them and know that a Motorcycle is around. It’s also good to be seen. There are all types of clothing you can wear to increase the ability of being seen but that will be a topic of a future post. So the next thing you will want to do is ensure that ALL of your lights work and function as they should. Put your key in the ignition and turn it on so all the electrical accessories are working. Try the turn signals make sure they come on and blink. Turn on your headlight and make sure you have both high and low beams. Check your brake lights come on when you depress front and rear levers. That should be two separate checks. You may have a switch go bad in the foot lever like mine did in my Ultra. The brake lights only worked if you used the front lever until I fixed it. It is best to perform this test with the rear of the bike near something like a wall or car. That way when you apply the brake you will see the reflection of the light on the surface of the object. That way you can check it by yourself.

Next check the level of your oil. Again this is where your owner’s manual will help if you don’t know how. Not every bike is the same on checking the level so don’t rely on a friend telling you how. You should have a quart or two of the same type of oil you keep in your bike in your garage or wherever you store your bike.

Then check the gas. A lot of bikes have gauges on them now but they have been known to go bad. Verify that the amount in the tank is about what your gauge is reporting. If you have a bike that doesn’t have a gauge, look to see how much you have before your start riding.  On some of my older bikes I used to just watch my mileage until one day my son was in the garage one day and pretending to ride my bike and reset the trip meter. I ran out of gas because I thought I had a full tank!

If you are riding to meet up with other riders at a rallying point make sure you show up with a full tank of gas or have a full tank of gas before K.S.U. (Kick Stands Up)

Many bikers will skip this step.  You don’t have to be a mechanic to inspect your chassis. If you can adjust your suspension make sure you set if for your ride. Some bikes have air ride suspensions other have adjustable shocks. If you rode with two people last time and had the suspension set that way and don’t change it for a single rider you will have a stiff ride!

Check to make sure that everything moves the way that is designed. The best way to verify this is to sit on the bike rock it paying attention to how it reacts if it doesn’t feel right or is making an unfamiliar sound have it inspected and repaired before your ride.

Every bike will have one or the other and some have both. I loved my bikes that had both. They both will sink into asphalt on a hot day but side stands have a higher chance of your bike falling over on the side as it sinks than a center stand. If you bike only has a side stand I recommend making or purchasing kickstand rest. Make sure it’s on your bike!

Then look at the stand. Look for cracks; see if its bent and make sure the spring is in place. I also suggest putting the stand through once cycle to ensure the spring did not become loose. Nothing is worse than riding home and have your kickstand dragging because you lost your spring.

Once you are done gear up and ride!  If you happened to stop for food, gas or something else during your ride before you start the next segment do a quick walk around before you get on. You don’t have to do a complete inspection but look at the tires to ensure they are in the same condition and that nothing is leaking or broke.

Chuck Bowser AKA “Deuce”

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