The motorcycle is a finely-tuned machine that when cared for loves you right back.
Unlike a car where you can get in, turn the key and drive off with little regard to what's happening under the hood, prior to heading out on your motorcycle staying on top of maintenance and getting into a pre-ride routine ensures a successful day carving switchbacks or commuting to work.
Riding low on oil or coolant can leave you stranded along with the resulting mechanic's bill and don't be surprised to see the blue lights of a police car if the red lights of your brakes fails to illuminate.
You may be ready to ride but before suiting up and sliding your helmet on take a few minutes and give your machine a once-over to ensure your motorcycle is ready to ride. Therefore, grab a rag and use the following as a guide to perform a pre-ride checklist.
1. Check Chain Slack and Lube
To loose? To tight? A chain with proper tension and the required lubrication prevents all sorts of havoc especially when at cruising speed on the highway. Always check the chain slack and while there, add a dose of your favorite chain lube for good measure.
2. Check Oil Level
Checking the oil level takes seconds out of your day and if you find the dipstick a bit low you'll be glad you did. If your motorcycle has a sight glass, stand the bike up off the kickstand to check the oil level through the glass. You can also gauge the oil's condition this way too. Top off, if necessary, so make sure you have a fresh quart at the ready.
3. Check Coolant Level
Just like the oil, checking the coolant level takes very little time. Even a short ride with low coolant levels can overheat the engine.
4. Check Brake Function
Roll your motorcycle forward and apply the brakes but do a more thorough brake check in the first minute of your ride.
5. Check Brake Pads
A quick look into the calipers lets you know how much life you have on the brake pads. Routinely checking should prevent ever having an issue so you can work a maintenance day into your schedule sooner rather than later.
6. Check Lights
Check the following operating lights for burned out bulbs:
- Turn signals
- Tail lights
- Hazard lights
- License plate light
7. Check Tires
Tires don't age overnight so determining the remaining tread life sometimes proves hard since you see the tires every day. Therefore, take a closer look and check for any cracking. It helps to write the mileage down somewhere when the tires were first installed to give you a benchmark. Check the tire pressure before every ride, too.
8. Don't Forget the Gas
Lastly, make sure you have enough gas. If you drained the tank on your last outing hopefully you have a filled portable gas can in the garage otherwise get to your nearest gas station.
Now you're ready to ride. Make the pre-ride checklist a habit before heading out but until then we created a printable version you can use as reference below.