To keep your bike in the best working order, ​one of the most important things is to get in the habit of LOOKING the bike over before doing anything else. Before touching it, sitting on it, starting it, just walk around the bike and look for anything out of order. Make this a habit and you’ll find potential trouble areas before they become a problem.

Then when you sit on the bike, before starting the engine, operate the brake and clutch levers, twist the throttle and step on the brake pedal to check for proper feel and function. Once you start the engine, listen for any unusual noise or vibration, operate the controls for lights, turn signals and horn and make sure your gauges and instruments are functioning correctly.

Keep in mind that not all rules or maintenance schedules apply to all bikes in the same way. The type of bike you ride, the climate, terrain and conditions on the road, as well as the load, and frequency, and type of riding all come into play. Always refer to your manufacturer instructions for specifics.

Every bike and rider is different, but these guidelines apply as needed. Washing your bike regularly and performing maintenance on your bike are smart habits that lead to safe rides.

Pro-tip: Get in the habit of checking your bike directly after a ride. If you wait until you are about to head out a leaky fluid or kinked hose could derail your plans.

Pre-Ride and Post-Ride Check

Before, during and after each ride:

1. Walk Around.
Our first suggestion is to get into the habit of looking over your whole bike, and walk around noticing anything amiss, such as:

  • Fluid leaks on the ground
  • Loose dangling parts
  • Objects stuck in the tires
  • Check tires for road damage
  • Make sure headlight lenses are not cracked or broken
  • Check for loose nuts or bolts and tighten if needed

2. Sit on your bike.
Without starting the engine, check these for proper feel and function:

  • Operate the brake and clutch levers
  • Twist the throttle
  • Step on the brake pedal
  • Move the handlebars back and forth to inspect for tight spots or binding. Rock the motorcycle front to back, while holding the front brake, to test for free play in the neck bearings

3. Start the engine.
Before you hit the road, check:

  • For any unusual sounds or vibrations
  • The controls for lights, turn signals and horn
  • Gauges and instruments are functioning correctly

4. Keep an eye out for changes.
Note the terrain and road conditions you ride for anything that may affect your bike:

  • If you encounter a pothole or road debris, take a close look at your tires on your next stop, or immediately, if you feel a difference in ride or handling.

Motorcycle Maintenance

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has developed a checklist, outlined here, using the acronym TCLOCS to help riders remember how to look over their motorcycle. Check these items consistently. Because of complexity, not all items are performed before every ride. However, proper maintenance will keep your bike in tip-top shape.

T: Tires and Wheels

Tires are the only thing keeping you on the road and the actual contact with the road is smaller than a business card, yet they carry all your weight, allow you to speed up or stop, and keep you on the road when leaning in turns. Needless to say, your tires deserve TLC!

  • Check tire pressure regularly – once a week would be ideal. Use the manufacturer’s guidelines and consider the riding you do.
  • Inspect tread wear and tear often
  • Check your wheels well during your post ride bike wash
  • Look for loose spokes, bent or cracked rims. Make sure the wheel turns easily but is not loose on the axle.
  • When on your bike check out your reflection in cars stopped beside you. Look for loose items you’re carrying, even something as simple as a shirt sleeve that could get caught in the rear wheel.

C: Controls

These are routine maintenance items to perform at regular service intervals. As mentioned above, looking over your controls before riding is critical.

  • Inspect levers to make sure they’re not bent or broken. Ensure they move freely.
  • Examine cables for fraying and lubricate them as necessary.
  • Assess hoses for cracks, leaks, bulges, or chafed areas.
  • Confirm throttle moves freely and closes easily. Lubricate as necessary.


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L: Lights and Electrics

Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure electronics remain in good working order. Frequently check battery terminals are clean and tight, and that the electrolyte level is accurate. Also, make sure there is no kink in the vent tube and it is hooked to the vent outlet.

During a ride, check your lights for operation. Ensure that headlights work properly. When riding, you can look at your reflection on cars stopped beside you, or on glass storefronts when you park your bike.

O: Oil Levels

Always keep an eye out for leaks. Fluid level should remain constant since modern engines don’t normally consume much oil unless there is a problem or you are racing. Smoke from exhaust is often an indicator of a problem with the engine. Faithfully check:

  • Oil levels
  • Transmission fluids
  • Primary Drive fluid levels

C: Chassis

  • Check the front forks and rear shocks for smooth riding and correct air pressure, if equipped.
  • Examine the suspension. Adjust for type of use and load.
  • For the belt, check tension frequently. Especially after riding on dirt or gravel roads, inspect for rocks and other objects.

S: Stand

Check the side stand for ease of operation and spring action at every stop while out for a ride.

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