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Your Pre-Ride Checklist

Your Pre-Ride Checklist

by Cliff John May 29, 2020

While you might be itching to hit the open road anytime, is your motorcycle ready? Keeping to a consistent maintenance schedule helps you have a safe, stress-free ride. Otherwise, you may be up for a sudden repair, or worse — down on the pavement.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation developed the T-CLOCS inspection, with each letter identifying a different area. While the MSF recommends you examine your bike's condition shortly after a ride, it's also a comprehensive pre-ride checklist. Let's run through some basic motorcycle checks you can perform in your garage.


Keep a tire gauge handy to check that your air pressure is at the right level. Bring a gauge along while touring, too, since the journey can take you to changing temperatures and influence tire pressure.

Keep a tire gauge handy.

Inspect the rubber for any bulges or punctures, paying special attention after riding so you don't return to a flat. If the tire has lost at least half of its tread or developed cracks, it should be replaced.

While you're at it, ensure your spokes or rims are tight and undamaged and that your wheels spin freely.


Take a look at the shape and condition of the handlebars and their grips, and ensure they turn freely. For the throttle, levers and pedals, feel whether they're mounted tightly enough, functioning and lubricated as necessary.

Now's also a good time to check that the bike's hoses and wires are routed cleanly, aren't frayed or kinked, and won't pull on the steering head.

Lights and Electronics

Check how clean and secure the battery terminals are. Search for any burnt-out bulbs on the headlamp, brake light and turn signals (on both ends). Test out the switches so the lights activate when they should, and verify that your reflectors aren't cracked or dirty.

Test out the switches to ensure the lights activate when they should.

Oils and Other Fluids

Check the levels of all the fluids keeping your motorcycle running smoothly, including the fuel, engine and gear oil, coolant and hydraulics. You can use your model's sight glass or examine the tanks — keeping these fluids topped off as needed is a crucial part of an effective motorcycle maintenance checklist.

See if you spot any leaks around the gaskets, housing, pipes, lines and other seals.

If you need an oil change, check out the video below where we walk you through how to perform an oil change on a Harley-Davidson with a Milwaukee-Eight engine. 

Chassis and Suspension

Look over the frame and the mounted accessories for damage, and push and pull around the wheels for excessive play.

You're most likely to notice any trouble with the front or rear suspension during a ride, but it still helps to inspect for equal balance beforehand. Verify the tension of your Harley's belt drive or the bike's shaft or chain. Look out for any missing or loose bolts, clips and other fasteners around the motorcycle.


The stands should be free of bends or cracks, and the tension springs should keep the parts squarely in place.

Lastly, make sure your mirrors are clean and positioned properly while seated, even if you haven't adjusted them recently.

We won't deny there are plenty of systems and components to glance at. The more you run through your motorcycle's pre-ride checklist, though, the sooner it becomes second-nature and the longer your ride will last.

Looking for extra tips on motorcycle features, performance and care? You'll find more articles on the Fat Head Cycles blog, or on our YouTube Channel

Cliff John
Cliff John


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