Nuts About Bikes

Check it – before every ride

t-clockSteve went to fire up the bike to run a few errands and get the oil warm. Since he had spent a few days out of the saddle, he dutifully went through the standard safety checks – including tire pressure.

He had a successful run, got his errands done and stabled the bike.

The next day, he fired her up again – planning to hit the Harley dealer followed by a relaxed run on the back roads. Since he had just gotten off the bike last night, he skipped the safety check.

Getting to the dealer required a short jaunt on the highway, so he headed for the entrance ramp. “Something felt off, he recalls. “But I figured it was me.”

He pulled over for a quick visual inspection and nothing jumped out at him. Keeping on his way, the bike still felt spongy. The ride was uneventful but the weirdness continued.

“I knew something was up. The back end felt heavy, sluggish on cornering and braking,” he said. He made it home OK and once back in the garage, really gave the bike a once-over. “I checked the tire pressure. The rear was down to 20 lbs. So I looked harder and discovered the nail in the back tire. It’s a moment of panic – realizing I had done highway speeds with a nail in the skin,” he said.

His mistake, of course, was not checking the pressure on day two. Had he done that, he would have discovered the problem and not put himself at additional risk.

Lesson learned. Riding is risky enough.

I had a similar experience. 100 miles from home, we were enjoying an amazing day tooling along the river road beside the Delaware. We had spent the morning making our way to the annual antique bike meet at the Warren County Fairgrounds in far northern New Jersey and were headed south, enjoying the scenery along Rt. 29 on the Jersey side and 32 on the Pennsy side.

The bike started feeling strange around New Hope, sort of slippery, almost like the clutch was slipping. I was on an older bike at the time and chalked it up to age. I knew there was nothing I could do about a slipping clutch on the road, so we rode on, planning a later investigation.

We made it home without incident and I started checking. The chain was way loose. I had recently done some wheel work and had failed to adequately adjust chain tension. Another moment of panic and counted blessings. Throwing a chain at 50 mph would have surely ruined my day. Another lesson learned.

What I should have done was stop – pull over – and do a complete head-to-toe check. Adjusting the chain en route would have taken some time but it would have been well worth the investment.

T-CLOCK could save your bacon

One of the many benefits of taking MSF rider training was discovering the T-CLOCK regimen - which would have made each of these rides less risky.

T-CLOCK is a simple but thorough checklist that takes the mechanical and safety check through the entire bike – beyond air pressure and oil level. The title is based on an acronym:

    • T: Tires & wheels
    • C: Controls
    • L: Lights
    • O: Oil
    • C: Chassis
    • K: Kickstand

Download the checklist - PDF

Each category is subdivided into specific inspections. If there’s one safety rule that we should all make non-negotiable, it’s this one: do a T-CLOCK check before every ride. Run at least two copies – one for the garage and one for your saddlebag.

Want to be safe and increase your odds of making it home in one piece? Become a T-CLOCK zealot. It only takes a few minutes but it could save your life. Keep the shiny side up.

- Sal, Editor
February 2007

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