Motorcycle Safety Series: Basic Maintenance – What to Check Before You Ride

Written By: Nick Todorovic and Courtney Stewart, Summer Student


Close-up of man testing motorbike brakes

Motorcycle season is finally getting into gear so it’s a great time to remind all riders of the importance of pre-ride checks. Pre-ride checks are a crucial step towards a safe ride and one that takes place before you even hit the road.

Most riders know that proper maintenance of your motorcycle is essential to avoiding potential safety risks and injury. But proper maintenance doesn’t just mean a few tune-ups a year. To ensure that your motorcycle is in prime riding condition proper maintenance should include regular pre-ride checks to inspect your bike and gear for any defects or wear that, left untended, could lead to inconvenient or dangerous problems.

Pre-ride checks can take as little as a minute to complete although more thorough checks should be done every few rides. Shorter pre-ride checks, which should happen before every single ride, should include checking that:

  • No fluids are pooling beneath your parked motorcycle
  • All nuts and bolts are present and correct
  • Cables are properly adjusted and lubed
  • Brakes, clutch and throttle are all operating smoothly and with the correct tension
  • Tires have good pressure and are free of punctures, cracks or dangerous wear
  • Lights and turn signals are working
  • Mirrors are adjusted properly

The T-CLOCS System – Check your tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis and stands

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends using the more thorough “T-CLOCS” system, which stands for “tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis and stands,” to remember some of the more important elements to inspect during your pre-ride check. Before going out on a ride it’s important to make sure these important elements on your bike are functioning properly and aren’t flat, frayed, cracked, leaking, loose or worn to a dangerous degree. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation provides a detailed, printable checklist on their website that explains specifically what to look for.

The T-CLOCS system recommends examining the following as part of your pre-ride check:

  • Tires and Wheels
    • Tires
    • Wheels
    • Brakes
  • Controls
    • Handlebars
    • Levers and Pedal
    • Cables
    • Hoses
    • Throttle
  • Lights and Electrics
    • Battery
    • Headlamp
    • Tail lamp/brake lamp
    • Turn signals
    • Switches
    • Mirrors
    • Lenses & Reflectors
    • Wiring
  • Oil and Other Fluids (hydraulic fluid, coolant and fuel)
    • Levels
    • Leaks
  • Chassis
    • Frame
    • Suspension
    • Chain or Belt
    • Fasteners
  • Stands
    • Centre stand
    • Side stand

Check Your Safety Gear Too

You should also include your safety gear when performing pre-ride checks. Your helmet, gloves, pants, jacket and footwear are all essential elements in reducing any potential injury following a motorcycle accident. Checking your gear regularly will make it more likely that they will actually protect you in the unfortunate event of an accident.

When examining your helmet make sure nothing is loose, cracked, broken or damaged and ensure that the foam and liner inside is comfortable and snug around your forehead, temples and the back of your head. Make sure you can still see clearly through your visor, and that any seals on your helmet are still intact. Also check to make sure that any chin straps haven’t frayed or broken.

Post-Ride is Another Great Time to Check Your Bike

You should also consider post-ride inspections to catch anything that might have come loose, started leaking or punctured your tires during your ride. Performing a post-ride check also gives you a chance to have any problems fixed before your next planned ride.

This is also a great time to give your bike a wipe-down or wash (after the engine has cooled) to prevent any grease or dirt from collecting and causing damage to the mechanics or body of your motorcycle.

Get to Know Your Motorcycle

Motorcycle tire repair

Pre-ride checks are a great way of getting to know how your motorcycle is meant to look and feel when it is functioning properly. The more familiar you are with how your bike looks in its prime, the better you’ll be at catching issues when they come up. You’ll be able to catch small, easily fixable problems before they become big, expensive or dangerous problems.

Many issues that could occur with your ride do not happen suddenly, but occur slowly, over time, such as leaking fluids or fraying cables. For example, if you regularly squeeze your brakes before turning on the engine you’ll know how they are meant to respond.

Regularly inspecting your motorcycle and gear for any defects before you go for a ride is an essential part of making sure that you, your passenger and those around you stay safe and have a great ride!

If you or a loved one is injured in a motorcycle accident, contact one of the experienced critical injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando LLP for a free consultation.


Nick Todorovic


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