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We all know we should perform a pre-ride check, but let’s be honest, we tend to skip them from time to time (or more frequently), don’t we? We’re only human, and that silly little check before we hit the road isn’t that important, is it? It’s not like we’re flying an airliner thousands of feet above the ground with hundreds of people on board. While we may think that only our lives are at stake when we ride, what happens to us can affect others both directly and indirectly.

The reality is that your pre-ride check, when done regularly, only takes a few seconds to perform. You can even start it as you walk across the parking lot towards your bike. How’s that for multi-tasking? So, read on to see what we, here at the hallowed halls of MO, think you should do before every ride. If you’ve got your own additions to the list, add ’em via the comments.

  • MrBlenderson

    Great article, I do most of these every morning before heading out.

    I’d like to add that I check the throttle as well, making sure that it rolls back smoothly and snaps closed when released.

    I also double-check that all of the zippers on my backpack, jacket pockets, and overpants pockets are zipped up and my coffee mug is secured in it’s side pouch. Don’t need to be riding with a Hansel and Gretel trail of belongings behind me.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Oh, come on, guys. Modern bikes are amazingly reliable. We already spend ridiculous amounts of time preparing for the ride with all our multi-layered clothes, scarfs, straps, zips, buttons… It takes so long, that it’s often faster to take a car. Yeah, i know we do that for fun, but still… If you commute every day, there is no way you can spend an hour in total for preparations with all these checks and an hour for ride itself.

    • fastfreddie

      I check the tyres every other fuel stop,brake fluid is easy-just replace every other year.Chain whenever it starts visually sagging (what can go wrong unless it’s dragging the pavement?).Oil maybe once a month now that I got a reliable modern bike.Tyres are easy:If the steering gets sluggish,most likely front tyre has dropped pressure.

      Depends really how OCD one is I guess…

    • Jay Stevens

      Oh, come on. It took way longer to read this than it would to check your bike.

    • Dan Droik

      lol, it’s not like your life depends on your tires, brakes and whatnot… I guess your life isn’t worth 5 extra minutes.

    • Frank Langham

      I have to bend down and remove my DISC LOCK, anyway … It takes just seconds to wiggle my calipers, literally kick the front tire, and glance at the oil-level glass … As I walk around the rear to stow my Disc Lock in my pannier, I check my rear tread, kick the rear tire, give the chain a little lift with my glove. … As I climb aboard and unlock the steering, I also bounce on the seat and, then, on the front forks while craning my head around and looking at the tire-pressure “squash-factor” (do they LOOK flatter than usual). … I also steal a glance at the front brake fluid level. … I crank the bike up and, while I am giving it about 20 seconds to circulate the oil (at idle), I check the instrumentation, fuel level, look for trouble lights (and symbols) and just listen to the motor. … I live on an ally so it is a slow ride of 30 yards to the main street so I do check to make sure my ABS light has “gone out” and I make a little hard-stop with both the front and then the rear brake. … If I have to wait for traffic, I will probably push the steering from-lock-to-lock and rev the throttle a few times. … This is all REFLEXIVE and can ALL be done ON THE FLY, as you unlock your disc, store your lock, mount the bike, and work your way through your “initial taxi maneuvering”. … Takes no time. … I am as worried about possible trolls and haters as I am about expected wear and common failures. … Slow tire leaks are fairly common and they can sneak up on you and cause a failure under hard handling.

    • Zinkey

      Ha ha I hear you! I’m one of those riders that doesn’t treat their bike like a supermodel and be at their beck and call for every little thing. Yeah they may appreciate it and even treat you better for all the attention but sometimes a little ‘treat em mean to keep em keen’ is beneficial for laying down a relationship based on mutual respect and equal importance. Not to say the pre-ride checks don’t make sense as obviously they do, but sometimes life, running late for work and downright coolness (perceived or otherwise) means you just jump on that baby and fly!!! I know this may be a bit ignorant and cavalier of an attitude but I just love my bike and riding so much I don’t wanna waste too much time not doing it. And it’s nice to hear someone saying a similar thing Alexander Pityuk

  • Tim Kern

    Sure, if you have a sight glass you can actually see through! Where is that? And who’s going to hold the bike precisely vertical as you look? (Center stands are rare these days.) And if you do it yourself, who’s going to help pull the bike off your crushed body?
    Of course it helps if your oil is as dirty as the sludge in that photo, but I suspect they did that so there would be some contrast.

    • Frank Langham

      I have a Wee-Strom (Gladiator) and my sight-glass is very clear. … I do not worry about level too much … I just pull it up off of the side-stand to an approximately vertical stance and CHECK TO SEE IF THERE IS **ANY** OIL … I may rock the bike, left and right, just to assure that there is a MODICUM of oil in there, and that I am not running dry. … Adds less than 5 seconds to my mount-up.

      • Tim Kern

        A MODICUM should be just about right. 😉

        • Frank Langham

          “Acceptable Minimum” … A “Base Amount”.
          At least make sure I can see SOME oil … AT LEAST.
          (without getting overly specific about “how much”).

  • Scott Diamond

    Top 10 Things to Check before You Ride your Motorcycle – should include checking your tire pressure to prevent premature wear and give maximum grip, use the MOTO-D Tire Pressure Gauge for easy and accurate readings, 0-60 psi, auto-calibrates at turn on, and features a high-flex rubber hose with swivel chock http://www.motodracing.com/digital-tire-pressure-gauge

  • http://www.theleanmachine.com The Lean Machine

    Motorcycling can teach the fine art of risk management the hard way, or the easy way. The point of the article is to help you figure out how to manage your risks. Not managing them at all seems a little, well, dumb. The frequency of what you check can be adjusted to your particular risks, assuming you understand them in terms of their frequency, and impact. Will it matter if you miss a check on a brand new bike with new tires that was just serviced…probably not. Although being on a motorcycle usually means the impact of most risks are usually rather severe, as in deadly, so being smart about good habits when they matter the most is probably a good idea if you want to be an old motorcycle rider some day. 😉

  • Frank Langham

    I have to bend down and remove my DISC LOCK, anyway … It takes just seconds to wiggle my calipers, literally kick the front tire, and glance at the oil-level glass … As I walk around the rear to stow my Disc Lock in my pannier, I check my rear tread, kick the rear tire, give the chain a little lift with my glove. … As I climb aboard and unlock the steering, I also bounce on the seat and, then, on the front forks while craning my head around and looking at the tire-pressure “squash-factor” (do they LOOK flatter than usual). … I also steal a glance at the front brake fluid level. … I crank the bike up and, while I am giving it about 20 seconds to circulate the oil (at idle), I check the instrumentation, fuel level, look for trouble lights (and symbols) and just listen to the motor. … I live on an alley so it is a slow ride of 30 yards to the main street. That is when I do a check to make sure my ABS light has “gone out” and I make a little hard-stop with both the front and then the rear brake. … If I have to wait for traffic, I will probably push the steering from-lock-to-lock and rev the throttle a few times. … This is all REFLEXIVE and can ALL be done ON THE FLY, as you unlock your disc, store your lock, mount the bike, and work your way through your “initial taxi maneuvering”. … Takes no time. … I am as worried about possible trolls and haters as I am about expected wear and common failures. … Slow tire leaks are fairly common and they can sneak up on you and cause a failure under hard handling. The whole process is IN STRIDE and ON THE FLY.

  • juan

    I guess nobody pays attention to the horn but I find it useful specially on my 2014 Triumph Thruxton since it doesn`t make a lot of noise. I always use it at intersections when I notice the guy at the stop is looking the other way. I have been a rider since 1971 I had a few accidents because I was going fast but luckily no broken bones. I have 4 bikes all Triumphs 67,69,78 & 2014 I love bikes. Like I said love your horn and learn to use it. It could save your bike and your life.

  • Gary Salter

    I’ve always had a knack for noticing things others don’t, so as I walk up to my bike I can spot most any thing not right, but not all
    what I am guilty of is not always doing my chin strap up, mostly when I am going on a short trip to run an errand or two (I don’t always check my fly when exiting the men’s room either), something to work on