How to inspect your motorcycle before riding
Last updated: January 1
It may be tempting to jump on your motorcycle and ride off without another thought, but it's important to make sure your bike is in good condition before you hit the road. Experts recommend conducting a quick pre-ride inspection before each trip.
What should I inspect on my motorcycle?
For those already familiar with their bike, the MSF provides the following guidance on some of the parts to inspect in each area:
Tires and wheels
Make sure both tires are in good condition before starting a ride. Ensuring there are no embedded objects and bulges, and monitoring the wear of your tires may contribute to a safer ride. It's also a good idea to check your tire pressure, especially when it's cold outside, to make sure they have enough air.
While you're looking at the tires, take a look at the wheels to make sure everything looks in order. Keep an eye out for bent, broken or missing spokes, for instance, and watch for excessive grease, which may indicate a cracked seal.
Finally, check your brake pads and discs for wear, and make sure both brakes work.
It's important to know that each of your bike's controls are in working order each time you ride. Check that your hand grips are securely in place and that your handlebars are straight and turn easily. Make sure your throttle easily moves and doesn't make a revving sound when you turn the handlebars.
Test your levers and pedals, too, to ensure they are properly adjusted and have no bends or cracks. And don't forget to look over your cables and hoses for visible damage, such as cuts or kinks.
Lights and electrics
Your motorcycle's battery is crucial to starting and riding your bike, so it's important to make sure it's in good condition. Take a look at the battery terminals to make sure they are clean, and check that the electrolyte levels are correct.
Give your lights a once-over, too, making sure your headlamp, brake lights and turn signals are working. Look over any wires and switches to ensure they are in good condition, and check that your mirrors are clean and don't have any cracks in them.
Oil and other fluids
Your motorcycle relies on a number of fluids to keep it running. Before hitting the open road, check that your bike has enough fuel, engine oil, coolant and hydraulic fluid and transmission fluid. Also, take a look at your bike's gaskets, seals and hoses to make sure there are no signs of fluid leaks.
It's also a good idea to make sure the body of your bike is in good condition. Check for cracks in gussets and make sure there's no damage to accessory mounts. Test your bearings and bushings, too, by pushing and pulling swingarms and forks to make sure they are properly functioning. Don't forget to take a look at the chain or belt to make sure it has the right tension and that the chain is lubricated and its teeth are engaging.
In addition to ensuring your bike runs well, it's important to make sure it can support itself when you end your ride. Take a look at the condition of the center and side stands — if they are cracked or bent, you may want to get them repaired. Also make sure your stands' springs have enough tension to hold your bike upright.
What if I detect a problem on my motorcycle?
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) suggests checking six areas before each ride. It uses the acronym T-CLOCS 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 (C) and stands (S).
If you're not familiar with your motorcycle's controls or parts, you may want to consider taking a course, such as the MSF's program for new riders, which includes a review of T-CLOCS. It's also a good idea to consult your owner's manual for your bike's specific maintenance needs.
In some cases, you may be able to easily address an issue yourself. For instance, you may want to top off your coolant if you notice the level is low. In other cases, you may want to bring your bike to a repair shop so a professional can assess any damage and make repairs.
Sometimes, you may be tempted to address a problem yourself, but it's a good idea to consider whether you have the skills and resources necessary to complete the task. For instance, if you discover a nail in your tire, don't pull it out right away, especially if you don't have a tire repair kit on hand, says Motorcycle.com.
Though there are several components to review, a motorcycle pre-ride check can usually be completed pretty quickly, according to Motorcycle.com. Conducting checks on a regular basis are a good way to familiarize yourself with your bike so you'll be more likely to spot problems as they arise.
Then, once you're assured that your bike is in good working order, you can head out on the road knowing you've taken important steps to help you and your motorcycle stay safe along the way.