For every motorcycle lover, the moment you wake up, your motorcycle craves the same attention as a jealous wife. We bet you’ve been itching to take your bike for a nice long ride. Perhaps taking it up the twisties of Marilaque, or the long SCTEX stretch all the way to the cool breeze of Baguio. However, if your steed has been in hibernation for quite some time, there is a need to follow a simple protocol to assure you a safe ride, especially for these long hauls.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has provided a simple checklist to serve as a proper guide to keeping your motorcycle in tip-top shape and ensure safety on your next journey. The procedure is known as T-CLOCS, a simple acronym meant to extensively cover your bike’s safety and roadworthiness from tip to tail. It covers a simple checklist that starts from your Tires, Controls, Lights and Electrics, Oil and other fluids, Chassis, and Stands. I will discuss all these parts one by one on how you should generally go through each part of T-CLOCS.
Tires and Wheels
Your tires are that part of the bike that makes contact with the road. So, checking your tire condition is paramount. First, do a visual inspection. Does it seem flat or deflated? Check your tire pressure and see to it that it is according to your owner’s manual or it matches the numbers usually specified on the side of your bike (usually around 30-40 psi). Avoid inflating your tires to its maximum capacity as this could also affect its wear and fuel economy. Also, check for foreign objects stuck to it that could potentially cause a flat. Feel it around by touch if you can see any unusual bumps or threads sticking out. If so, take it to a professional to have it repaired or replaced. Check on your tire’s tread and look for at least 0.8 mm of depth at the most worn point.
The wheels are also just as important. Put the bike on a center stand or make sure that it's securely sitting upright. Slowly roll the wheel to make a visual inspection of any dents or dings. Spin it a little faster and look out for any wobble. Anything more than 5mm out horizontally or vertically is unacceptable, and have it repaired by a professional. When you spin the wheel, see to it that it spins smoothly. Look out for any excessive resistance or crunchiness as this could be an indication of worn-out bearings. Inspect the bearings for any seals, tears, rips or cuts. If a copious amount of grease is oozing out, it’s due for replacement. If your wheels have wire spokes, see to it that they’re all tight. Tap them lightly with a wrench and you should be hearing a ping, rather than a thud. Otherwise, it might not be as tight as it’s supposed to.
Roll the motorcycle back and forth and engage both brakes to see if they’re both working. Also, do not forget to check the wear of your brake pads. They should all have the same thickness from wear and tear more or less. However, make sure that your pads are still thick enough to bite without damaging your discs. Also, inspect for unusual scratches along the surfaces of your brake’s discs. This could be a sign of worn-out brake pads.
Controls would include all the components of the handlebar namely, the throttle, clutch, brakes, and switches. The handlebar controls the steering of the motorcycle. It should be straight, tight, and secure. Mount on the bike and grab the bars and turn it from side to side making sure that it moves smoothly. Set it straight and make a visual inspection with the front tire to make sure that they are aligned. Squeeze the levers and check if they have any sort of play. The cables should be tight and they should work very smoothly. If they’re adjustable, set them to a position that gives you the most comfort. Check the cables for any frays or slack, make sure that it has no bad kinks or sharp angles and lubricate if necessary.
Twist the throttle and see to it that it moves freely and smoothly. After giving it a full twist, let go of it and see that it snaps back into place. The last thing you want is your throttle getting stuck on full lock while on the road as this could lead to disaster. Check the foot controls of both the rear brakes and the transmission. Look for any bends, cracks or any breaking points on the rearsets that are visible to the eye. Engage them and see to it that it operates smoothly and without any excessive play.
Lastly, inspect all hydraulic hoses. Just like the cables, watch out for any bad kinks or sharp angles. Check for any cracks, leaks or bulges which could be signs of age. Otherwise, have it repaired by a professional.
Lights and Electronics
Your motorcycle’s battery is the heart of your motorcycle’s electrical system and it is usually always hidden from plain sight. Thus, you would have to pry through its covers in order for you to see it. Inspect the battery terminals and see to it that it isn’t rusty, or acid is building up thereto. A clean battery terminal ensures uninterrupted transmission of power between the battery and its electrical system. If the battery isn’t sealed, check its electrolyte levels and refill it with distilled water if needed. Check all wires for any fraying, chafing, or missing insulation. Wires are not supposed to be pinched and connectors should always be tight.
Check all the control switches from your handlebars and see to it that the headlights are working. Switch on high and low beams to make sure they both work. Switch on both turn signals and inspect the signal lights on both the front and rear making sure that they would be visible even from a distance. Carry some spare fuses with you before a long trip for those quick roadside fixes.
Oil and Other Fluids
Oil is the lifeblood of any combustion engine. Ensuring healthy levels and frequent oil change could prolong the life of your beloved motorcycle. Its levels could be inspected by either a dipstick or by a sight glass, once you put the bike upright. Add oil as needed and make sure to go through an oil and filter change as scheduled or even more frequent than required. Inspect the engine for any visible leaks. This could mean its seals and the gaskets could be faulty. If so, have it repaired by a professional immediately.
Check the brake fluid reservoirs and see to it that its levels are according to your motorcycle’s manual. Check for any cracks or leaks along the reservoir and the hose that it runs to. The last thing you want is for you to lose your brakes while traveling at high speeds. For liquid-cooled engines, always inspect your radiator’s coolant. See to it that it is within the levels stated in your manual. Insufficient coolant levels could lead to your engine overheating. No matter what, do not open your radiator cap if your engine is hot. All these fluids should be checked and replaced periodically to keep your motorcycle in good running condition.
Last but not least, check your fuel levels. Before heading out, the last thing you want is for you to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with nobody in sight to help you all because you forgot to fill your tank. Besides that, make sure that you fill your tank with the correct octane requirements appropriate for your motorcycle’s engine. This would keep your bike’s engine in good running condition and protect it from wear and tear for years to come.
Chassis or Frame
The bike’s engine and suspension are mounted to the bike’s chassis or frame. The swingarm is where the chain or shaft goes through in order to send power to the rear wheel. For as long as the bike has never experienced a major drop or crash, a motorcycle’s frame’s structural integrity would remain intact. Also, check for any signs of rust or corrosion along with the frame and swing-arm. Scan for any cracks or lifting paint. Make sure that all nuts attaching it together are all nice and tight.
The bike’s chain should have just the right amount of slack and tension, in accordance with the bike’s manual. Too much tension could cause the chain to break at high speeds or over bumps, while too much slack could cause it to fall off or miss teeth. In order to adjust a chain, wrench them accordingly with the right tools. Otherwise, have it done by a professional. The same goes for belt-driven motorcycles. For shaft-driven motorcycles, you wouldn’t have to make these periodic adjustments but fluid levels should always be checked and replenished if needed. Also, check your bike’s maintenance schedule to find out when you need to change fluids.
Compress the suspension on both the rear and front. You shouldn’t be hearing any creaking sound and it must compress smoothly as you add pressure. It should neither be too stiff, or too soft. The steering head and swingarm should both have a smooth action and without any sort of play.
Last but not least, the bike’s stand should function properly. A bike may or may not include a center stand but all bikes would generally always come with a kickstand. Its sole purpose is to keep the bike upright. Make sure that the stand doesn’t have any cracks or weak points. Its spring should always hold it in place and should never drop while traveling. Practice kicking the stand and make sure it drops down smoothly and stays in place even when kicking it back up. If it doesn’t, it is more likely because of the spring’s lack of tension that’s causing it not to hold in place. In any case, have it replaced immediately as this could put you in grave danger especially during high speeds.