ESSENTIAL Pre-ride Safety Checks
Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous game, even on a good day but things are more likely to take a turn for the worse if your machine isn’t functioning as it should be. Mechanical failure can occur in even the newest of bikes, so it’s worth taking a few minutes before every ride to make sure that your motorcycle is up to scratch and running like a dream.
If you don’t have a regular maintenance regime set up for your motorcycle, it’s about time you adopted one; many motorcycle accidents could’ve been avoided if the rider took the time to test their brakes every now and again or made sure that their cables were moving smoothly or even if they checked that their tyres were at the pressure. What may appear to be the smallest detail can cause the largest of accidents, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to give your motorcycle a decent once over before heading out onto the road.
If your motorcycle has suffered from neglect then your chances of being involved in an accident will greatly increase; even if you can walk away from an accident on two legs, your insurer may not be so happy to help. Mechanical failure is a grey area when it comes to insurance and you may not come out of the situation very well, even if you have a genuine claim. The best way to deal with these mechanical failure cases is to prevent them from happening in the first place. If your brakes aren’t up to scratch, don’t ride until you can get the problem solved. If your cables are a bit worn out and aren’t giving you the control required, don’t take the risk of riding. If your tyres aren’t at the right pressures and cause instability when at speed, consider fixing these problems before they deal with themselves in a way that could see yourself of another injured.
Here is a list of pre-ride checks that you should go through before departure. Once you’ve got your bike started and you’re waiting for it to warm up, have a quick look at each of these features and make sure that everything is as it should be before going out for a ride.
Fortunately modern tyres are a lot more hardy and durable than they used to be back in the day but that doesn’t mean that they’re invulnerable to wear and tear. If they’re not in good condition, you should abandon your ride altogether. If there’s any hint of trouble, don’t take the risk.
Firstly, you should take a look at the surface of each tyre: is there anything that could cause a puncture or has already? Glass, nails and screws are the usual suspects. Run your hands along the tyres and if anything looks suspect, delay your departure until you’ve had a closer look.
Secondly, take a look at your tread. Bald tyres may not land you in an accident scenario but they may land you in hot water with the law. Make sure that your tyres are in shape in the eyes of the law as well as with regard to your own safety. If you can see any thread, don’t go anywhere!
Thirdly, examine your pressures. Take a look online on in your handbook at the optimum tyre pressures for your machine. The wrong pressures can make your bike handle like a shopping trolley at speed and that isn’t ideal at all.
For the majority of bikes, chains can easily be adjusted, replaced and cleaned up so there is no excuse for a chain in bad condition. During your pre-ride check, you should take a look at your chain. Is it properly lubricated? Is it tensioned correctly? Is it free of rust and other gunk? The same questions will also apply to a belt-driven bike too. You don’t want these snapping on you mid-ride do you?
Your cables keep you in control of your motorcycle and the slightest problem with one of them could potentially lead you into an accident scenario. If you haven’t replaced your cables in a long time, consider replacing them even if they don’t look worn – some problems can’t be seen until it’s too late. In the meantime, test each lever and see if your cable is moving freely and smoothly whilst keeping an eye out for any frayed areas. If your throttle cable sticks open at the wrong time and you can’t react fast enough, you may end up in trouble. If your brakes aren’t responding, again you’re asking for an accident. If your clutch isn’t responding, you might be in for a surprise when you pull away!
Bulbs can go at anytime and just because all of your lights were working yesterday doesn’t mean that they still are today. You should take a look at each and every light, whilst flicking your switches on and off. This includes your headlights, brake lights, tail lights and indicators. If something’s not working, it’s best to find out now rather than in the future, on that dark road just before sundown, when there’s nothing you can do about it.
Surely your brakes are the most important, right? Now is a good time to sit astride your motorbike and test your brakes; if you’re pulling in the front brake lever and still moving forward, even slowly, something is demanding your attention. The back brake isn’t as easy to test but you can try the same principal. If any wheel can be moved when a lever is fully pulled in or depressed, don’t even think about riding your motorcycle until the problem is fixed. If you’ve got drum brakes, it might be an easy adjustment or a new set of shoes; if you’ve got disks, you may want to check your fluid levels or the disc in extreme cases.
When you’re checking your brake fluid levels, you might as well round off your inspection with a general fluid inspection too. Check your engine oil, your coolant levels and (obviously) your fuel levels. If anything needs topping up, get it done before you hit the road!
Keeping an eye on your motorcycle’s health can help prevent potential accidents and give you a better understanding of your machine and its capabilities. It also allows you to identify small problems before they develop into bigger and more expensive ones too. The main reason for a pre-ride check is to make sure that your motorcycle is safe for you to ride above all else. In the event of an accident situation, you need your motorcycle to be at its best if you’re going to escape from the incident with minor or no injuries.