Friday, 6 January 2012

A Bikers New Year’s Resolution - The 15x30 list.

I have been riding bikes for some time and have covered a fair few miles in the past few years, all safely, without incident.  That makes me a competent rider, right?

No, of course it doesn't. 

There is one particular aspect to my motorcycling that I have not been happy with for a while and my New Year's Resolution is designed to correct this, but I need your help, my readers.

The issue I need to put right is my motorcycle pre-ride checks.  The problem is, I rarely do any, preferring instead to just jump on the bike and start riding as soon as possible.  In my years of riding I have given this topic almost a complete lack of attention which has resulted in the fact that I struggle to think of what it is I should be doing and that is where I need your help. 

I would like to use a list of pre-ride checks that actually makes sense, and that I can print out and pin to the wall of my garage as a reminder.  I have looked on the web and found quite a few lists, but these are either incomplete, exceesively detailed, or are simply wrong.  Some don't make sense about how often the checks should be done.  In short, I can't find one that works for me.

I have therefore used what I have read on the internet and created my own checklist, but I would like a few others to review it and suggest any necessary changes or additions.  I will then collate any and all comments, modify the list and hopefully this will become a useful list that not only I can use, but others if they want to.  I will publish the final amended checklist on my blog for anyone to copy and use.

To make it obvious what checks should be undertaken when, the top part of my list shows what checks should be made at the start of every riding day.  These are the absolute must-do safety checks that should happen every time you ride.

The second part of the list contains all other checks.  In this second part, the higher the item is on the list, the more often it should be done.

I would be happy if you would let me know what you think and please pass it on to as many other bikers as you wish, so that we get as much useful input as possible.

Part One.  Checks you should make at the start of every riding day....

1. Before you move your bike, look underneath for any leaked oil or coolant.  In fact learn to do this every time you approach your bike.
2. Check all lights are working correctly.  This must include
          high / low beam headlight
          rear tail light
          turn signals / indicators
          brake light (check operation from both front and rear brake levers)
3. Check the horn is working
4. Rotate and look at the front and back tyres (tires) for protruding nails, stones caught in the tread, or any obvious damage
5. Quick check of front and back tyres pressures (as very few people will check the air pressure every riding day with a gauge, at least do a test by kicking the tyres)
6. Check brake operation, front and rear.
7. Pull on the levers and push on the rear brake lever (with your hand) to check they have a smooth and properley adjusted operation, with no catching. Ensure correct position of the levers when released.
8. Check the throttle operates smoothly, with no catching. Ensure the throttle snaps closed when released
9. Take a walk around the bike to visually check nothing appears loose or out of place.
10. Check the fuel level, and if applicable make sure the fuel tap is in the correct position.
11. Check all caps (oil filler, coolant, brake fluid etc) are tight.
12. Check mirror positioning.
13. Ensure you can see properly through windshield, visor, googles, glasses, sunglasses etc.
14. Ensure you have something on you with your emergency contact details.
15. Don't forget your helmet!

Note, some people say it is better to check these things at the end of every riding day, to ensure your bike is ready the next time you use it.  Before or after doesn't matter, so just do what suits you.

Part Two.  Frequent checks (the nearer the top, the more frequently they should be done).  Clearly different types of motorcycle will have different checks to be performed, so this list has been made as general as possible to suit most types of bike....

1. Check tyre (tire) pressures are correct level, using an accurate gauge.
2. Check tyre wear is within safe limits and there is no excessive tread wear across the tyre width.  If you know how and if your tyres have them, check the wear indicators.
3. Inspect the wheels for loose spokes or cracks in cast wheels.  Check the axle fixings are not loose.
4. Ensure the wheels spin freely.
5. Ensure brake and clutch lever retaining bolts are tight.
6. Ensure the mirror fixings are tight.
7. Check headlight beam alignment and there is no condensation inside the unit.
8. Check main engine oil level and (because it is easy to remember when you are checking the oil) also check any under-engine oil drain plugs are tight.
9. If you can, check the battery power level.
10. If applicable, check the bikes coolant level.
11. Check the operation of steering. Ensure no cables are preventing full steering movement or that any cable are catching / rubbing.
12. Check operation of front suspension / forks.  Ensure there are no excessive fork oil leaks.
13. Check rear suspension operation.
14. Check throttle, clutch and brake cables do not bind when the steering is turned.
15. Check the final drive chain (or belt) tension for excessive play / movement.  If you adjust the chain tension, ensure the rear axle nuts are properley tightened.
16. Check the chain sprocket for excessive wear / hooking.
17.  Lubricate the final drive chain.
18. Check tyres for cracks.
19. Check brake pad wear if you can.
20. Check brake fluid level, check brake hoses for leaks, ensure all fixings and bolts on the brakes are tight, from the levers all the way to the brakes themselves.
21. Inspect the fuel delivery system, pipes etc for any signs of fuel leaks and check fixings are tight.
22. Look at battery condition, battery fluid levels (if applicable), all battery conections are tight, and the battery is adequately fixed in place.
23. Check operation and integrity of centre stand and / or side stand.  If applicable, check the electrical cut out still works if the side stand is down.
24. Check gearbox oil level (if applicable).
25. Comprehensive look at all fixings, bolts, screws are tight.  Must include seat fixings, handlebar fixings, pannier and rack fixings (if applicable).  Look to see everything is tight.
26. Check wiring is not pinching or fraying
27. Check the drain plug in the final drive shaft is tight. Check any seals for leaks.
28. Check hoses for damage or leaks.
29. Look to see if any frame / swing arm paint is lifting or peeling which may indicate cracking.
30. Check the view in the mirrors to ensure you look cool.


Anonymous said...


T — Tires & Wheels
C — Controls
L — Lights
O — Oil
C — Chassis
K — Kickstand

this is the checklist they taught us at the riders' training course

Anonymous said...

here's a link to the webpage, with the TCLOCK list expanded and explained- hope this is helpful

Eve said...

Great lists Gary! Making sure you look cool should be higher on the list! Ha! You forgot one: Insure your healthy fear is in working order. That is a life saver!

Gary France said...

No Name – Thanks. I have seen the TCLOCK list before, but it has one major problem, in that it doesn’t give any indication how often the checks should be made as it gives them all equal status. Using that list, you should check the insulation on your wiring as often as checking engine oil or tire pressures. I want to use something a little more realistic.

Eve – I like your suggestions!

Trobairitz said...

That is a great resolution Gary.

I am guilty of checking only one thing before I hop on the bike - wallet? - check. Of course once on the bike I check petrol level.

I think I am lazy and don't think to check anything as 1) it is a brand new bike; and 2) I rely on Troubadour too much to make sure all is in order. Yes I am that spoiled.

Me thinks I need to be checking things more often.
Thanks for the reminder.

Dan Diego said...

Excellent reminders. I especially like the TCLOCK.

An important habit WHILE RIDING is SIPDA:

Scan (for potential problems ahead)
Identify (potential problems)
Predict (what the driver will do)
Decide (what to do)
Act (do it)

I learned this technique in an MSF course in the 90's and have used it ever since. I know it's saved my arse on a few occassions!

Be safe.


Gary France said...

Trobairitz – It is good that you have a Troubador to check things for you. Ensuring you have your wallet with you is actually a good item – it is a great place to keep some emergency contact information in case you are involved in an accident.

Dan Diego – I will try to remember SIPDA, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue easily!

Chillertek said...

Wow by the time you've checked all of those things it will be time to roll the bike back into the garage and pack up for the day.

The only things I ever do before a ride is tire pressures, oil the chain and how much petrol do I have.

Not much point I think in checking the oil level, it hardly ever uses any and if it was very low then it would be on the floor underneath the bike. There are warning lights for these types of problems.

By the way I own a 12 yr old jap bike so maybe other manufacturers bikes need more checks as they are not as reliable?

Rex J. Covington said...

Great List Gary, I'm like you, I usually just hop on my bike and go. But do check my bike on a weekly basis ( Sometimes every 2 weeks ). Tires, Belt, Oil, & Lights.

Geoff James said...

I have to say that I'm like Chillertek. The only thing I check on the day is my tyre pressures, which I'm anal about. When I want to go for a ride, I'm impatient to get going and to be frank, I'd skimp on a checklist simply to get going.

However, I don't ignore the checks. The bike gets cleaned regularly and my key checks are part of the thorough cleaning routine. If I ever have to tension my chain, which isn't often; I always use my laser rig to check wheel alignment - most markings aren't accurate enough and I NEVER trust tyre fitters to do it properly.

Similar to SIPDA, IAM has IPSGA and that's become a matter of habit this year.

bluekat said...

Yeah, I could use some work on this too. I'm terrible about checking the bike, then I start to fret about it while riding. Do the tires have air? Is the oil okay? Is something is about to fall off...say, a wheel? Yep, definitely need to work on this!

Gary France said...

Chillertek – I agree and disagree at the same time. Yes, these things will take time, but not much time each day. The top list, containing 15 items you should do every day, will take about 3 minutes.

1. Takes no time as you do it as you approach your bike.
2. Takes 45 seconds and just might save your life.
3. Takes 5 seconds
4. If you have a centre stand, this will take 30 seconds per wheel
5. 10 seconds
6. 20 seconds
7. 15 seconds
8. 5 seconds
9. 20 seconds
10. 10 seconds
11. 15 seconds
12. 10 seconds
13. 5 seconds
14. 5 seconds
15. 0 seconds

That is 195 seconds and given time you would get faster at it. Is three minutes too long to potentially save your life?

I agree the bottom and much longer list will take much longer and these are the things I am saying you won’t do every day – maybe once every 10 days riding. Maybe I should have made that clearer.

For many people the items on the second list would be done every week or two.

Gary France said...

Rex – I think most things can be left for every week or two, but having thought hard about this, I am going to spend just that little bit of time doing the first list each day, as these are the items that if they go wrong, could spell result in disaster.

I have a friend whose front axle came loose when the retaining nut came loose. He nearly lost his front wheel at speed. A 20 second visual check would have prevented that.

Gary France said...

Geoff – Your comment surprised me, as I thought you of all people would have done more in pre-ride checks than most. I am going to try to convince you to take my resolution on board.

Look at the first list again. In my reply to Chillertek’s post I estimated how long the items in that first list will take. I am in Spain at the moment and don’t have a bike with me, so I cannot check this, but it is the weekend, so I want you to print off this post, go outside in that nice weather you are having and do the checks on the first list and time how long they take. It is the items on the first list only that I am suggesting get done every day.

In doing this however, be honest and time it as if you did the checks every day, not how long it takes you doing it for the very first time. I think you might be surprised.

At least check your brake light every day!

I absolutely agree with you about doing the main checks when cleaning the bike. Cleaning gets you hands-on and looking closely. What better way is there to check everything?

Gary France said...

bluekat – I sometimes have the same feelings when I ride. It’s silly really, because that stress of not knowing probably a) distracts you from your riding and b) does your health no good. A few minutes at the start of each riding day would ease those worries considerably.

Gary France said...

Danny – Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I took a quick look at your own blog yesterday and liked what I saw, so I intend to go back and have a better read. I got part way through reading about your long ride around America and got the feeling something bad was about to happen, so I need to go back and finish reading.

As for SIPDA, I think I do those things already, but intuitively, not through any conscious thought process. I believe it is the (P)redict part that I need to improve, so I am going to try it. I foresee a piece of tape being temporarily stuck on my handlebars with SIPDA written on it for a while, as a reminder.

Geoff James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geoff James said...

Tsk, tsk Gary!
After many moons as maintenance manager of NZ's biggest manufacturer, I don't leave things entirely to chance ;-). Not so much ignoring, as checking the things which need to be checked at a frequency that suits. I suspect that you have your tongue planted at least half in your cheek as you well know about overkill!

Don't get me started on rider responsibility to keep upskilled and safe thougg :-)

Nikos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nikos said...

What is the old IAM Advance riding acronym?


Weather (? - is that correct?)

Things I forget to check everytime are suspension pre-load and whether the top box lid is closed and locked!

I like to KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid

Gary France said...

Geoff – Yes, partly tongue-in-cheek, but you did genuinely surprise me. Knowing a little of your engineering background and I supposed that you are probably a careful person who looks at safety as an important aspect of life, I was hoping that you more than anybody else would be able to give me some words of wisdom about your well considered pre-ride checks :-)

After having read many of your posts about rider responsibility, that is an area I could learn much from the you, without a doubt!

Oh, bollocks, now I feel like going back to just kicking the tyres!

Gary France said...

Nikos – It too like KISS, but somehow I feel I have not been doing enough in terms of checking my bike is okay to ride.

I will add checking the top-box (and saddlebags) to the list. The number of times I have ridden off with my bags not secured is embarrassingly high.

Geoff James said...

Sincere apologies if I came across as party-pooping as that certainly wasn't the intent. I guess HOW you do your checks depends so much on your knowledge of the machine, your overall mechanical/experience and a raft of other stuff like whether anything has ever happened to you. There's rarely one best way to do anything.

Whether you do your checks when cleaning or to a more formal pre-ride checklist, the important thing is that they are done. You've actually done me a service in making me wonder whether I do enough!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

I read your blog often, and didn't want you to think I had skipped an episode.

I have discovered that by taking a break from life in general, and going over the bike with a rag for a few minutes each day will uncover a lot more than a more hurried inspection a few minutes before I'm planning to leave.

This few moments in the garage by myself, away from the phone and other diversions have uncovered
a) the very rare loose fitting...
b) a "temporary" adjustment I made 2 years ago...
c) Electrical connections that benefitted from a tap or two...
d) Fluid I bought and never added...
e) Stuff in boxes that I meant to carry on the bike...

I find it best to take my time during these odd moments and I find a soothing state of enjoyment in it, as opposed to the marital nature of a checklist before going out the door.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Canajun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dar said...

Along with checking your tires they taught us in our riding class if you have a spoked wheel to run the tire gauge around the entire diameter around the spokes with the gauge, this will tell you if you have any issues with your spokes. It should have a musical sound and if one it out it will sound differently. Cell phone if you have one.

Gary France said...

Geoff – No apology needed and indeed in return, I wasn’t attempting to teach you something you already knew.

See, I knew you would have some wise words on the subject. You are of course right that it doesn’t matter how the checks are done, as long as they are. I was in Gibraltar yesterday and due to the small amount of land there and the ridiculous queues at the border (that motorcycles can jump), many people choose to ride small bikes / scooters for their commuting. Some of these bikes are in an appalling condition and bits are literally falling off them. My point is that generally, riders range from those like you that do take proper care of their bikes, to those that do nothing at all, except fill it with fuel.

I would have been scared to ride some of the bikes I saw yesterday and anything that we can do to encourage some to take just a little more care cannot be a bad thing.

Gary France said...

Jack – These are wise words from you. Similar to Geoff, you have both made a very valid point, saying there is no one correct one way of doing checks on your motorcycle and that finding the right way to do it, that fits you personally, is the best way. This is a very important point and one that I didn’t consider, so I thank you for making it.

In need of finding the right way that best suits myself, I am going to try both the check list and “soothing state” methods, an adopt one as my own.

I have now written about two-thirds of my book about my journey across the USA and am in Spain at the moment trying to move forward on the remaining chapters. Getting the balance right between writing the book, writing for my blog, reading other blogs along with occasionally commenting, getting out of the house to do other things and being sociable occasionally is difficult to get right.

I am not sure I would ever have been cut out to be a writer as staying on one task for a reasonable length of time has never been a strong point of mine. I flit between things that interest me, and that must waste a lot of time.

I too read blogs without commenting for a while. Reading your tales inevitably brings a smile.

Gary France said...

Dar – That is a very useful tip about the spokes and I am going to add it to my list. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,
a spare battery for the security fob that disarms the alarm could be of very good use. It is a cheep item to purchase, around 3 euro, and it could save the day.

Chris Luhman said...

T-CLOCS is MSF material. note S for stands (side or center) not K.
It is here:

SIPDE (search, identify, predict, decide, execute) was also MSF and was replaced by SEE (search, evaluate, execute).

An entire presentation on SEE here:

-chris @

Disclosure: MSF isn't the only strategy/system, but the one I am certified to teach. :)

Gary France said...

Anon – You are the first person I have heard suggest that. A terrific suggestion.

Chris – I remember seeing the T-CLOCS checklist a couple of weeks ago and thought it to be very good, but it gives no indication is to priorities, which would help greatly. For riding, SEE is much easier to remember and I will adopt it from now on. I looked at the whole presentation and it seems a little complicated. Presentations are of course given by talking and using the slides as a prop, so it is difficult to understand it all without hearing what the speaker has to say. I could read between the lines however, and the most important point is to just to remember to S,E,E all the time.

Steve G said...

Gary, I use Pressure Alert Caps on my bikes - these are avialable in the UK from a number of motorcycle factors. They are avialable with various 'set pressures'. When the tyre pressure is at or above the set pressure, the cap is green, as the pressure drops the cap displays amber and then red. I find these a useful visual indicator of tyre pressures - easy to check before every ride. Other bonus is that cap has the required pressure printed on it - useful when you come to check pressures and/or inflate the tyre. Steve G