BEFORE THE ROAD – BIKE INSPECTION
One of the most important things you can do to reduce your riding risk is to inspect your motorcycle every time you ride. By following the “T-CLOCS” checklist, it’s easy to remember what to check. It only takes a few minutes – and could make the difference between an awesome, enjoyable ride and a frustrating roadside debacle.
Doing basic maintenance yourself can save you time and money in the long run, but don’t venture into the land of do-it-yourself if it’s not your natural habitat. The risks just aren’t worth it. If you are the least bit unsure about any of the procedures mentioned below, see the experts at your local Harley-Davidson dealership.
TIRES AND WHEELS
Inspect your wheel rims for dents and cracks. Make sure that the spokes are tight and straight. Check tire pressure often – daily when you are touring – and always use a good gauge. Consult your owner’s manual for correct pressure and load rating. Air pressure can change with the air temperature.
While you’re at it, inspect the tires. Remove any objects stuck in the treads that may cause a puncture. Check for sufficient tire tread. Replace them if less than 50 percent of the tread remains, or if there are any cracks, cuts, or signs of distress. (Tires should be changed by your dealer. They are expertly trained to replace tires and to inspect your wheels.)
TIP: If you strike an object, such as a curb, at speed, severe internal tire damage may result which is not visible from the outside. In such a case, have your dealer remove and inspect your tires.
CABLES AND CONTROLS
Next you’ll want to check the controls to be sure they operate properly. Inspect the front and rear brakes, throttle, clutch, and shifter. Squeeze the clutch to feel if it is operating smoothly. Squeeze the front brake; it should feel firm and keep the motorcycle from rolling forward when pushed. Check the rear brake in the same way. Replace broken, worn, or frayed cables at once.
TIP: Visual inspection of brake pads can be made without removing the caliper by viewing each caliper with a flashlight. Check your owner’s manual for acceptable minimum brake pad thickness. (Note: Always replace brake pads in pairs.)
Check your headlight(s), directional signals, tail light, and brake light every time you ride. Not only do they help you see where you’re going, but they are your best way of being seen by others. If a light is out, it is often easy to change it yourself. Consult your owner’s manual and/or service manual for correct type, and removal and replacement procedure. If replacing a headlight, consult your owner’s manual for proper headlight alignment.
TIP: If your turn signal indicator light is on but not flashing, check the bulbs. It may simply be a burned out bulb in one signal that is causing the other signal (and the indicator light) to not flash.
OIL AND FLUIDS
Start by checking your fuel supply. Check the engine-oil level according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. Harley-Davidson® motorcycles are designed to make oil changes easy. (If you do it yourself, don’t slack off on the maintenance schedule. And make sure the old oil is properly disposed of. It should be sealed in an approved container and taken to a legitimate oil disposal facility.)
You can double the life of your battery by checking and correcting its water level regularly. However, since the 1999 model year (and longer for some models) all H-D® and Buell® motorcycles have sealed, maintenance-free batteries.
If you have an older model, consult your owner’s manual for the proper battery maintenance procedure. For those who can’t ride as often as they’d like, install a battery charger with a convenient disconnect. If you travel often, for instance, the charger will help you avoid a dead-battery homecoming.
Check for any fuel, oil, or hydraulic fluid leaks. Give the cases and lines a once-over to make sure there are no leaks.
TIP: Engine oil is a major factor in the performance and service life of the engine – especially when temperature extremes are involved. Base your choice of engine-oil grade on the lowest temperature you expect to experience before your next oil change. Consult your owner’s manual for exact recommendations.
Inspect the chassis for cracks at gussets and accessory mounts. Check the steering for smoothness by turning the handlebars through the full operating range. Test the suspension for smooth, damped movement, and be sure to adjust it according to the load you’re carrying and your riding style (consult your owner’s manual). For high-mileage bikes, inspect the drive belt and sprockets.
TIP: If your Harley-Davidson motorcycle is equipped with an air-adjustable rear suspension, a good rule of thumb is to add three pounds of pressure to the rear shock for every 10 pounds of additional weight (passenger or cargo). Just be sure to check your owner’s manual for your bike’s upper limit.
Check for cracks or bending in the metal, and make sure there’s enough tension in the spring to hold it up and out of the way when riding. A dangling stand is a real hazard. Also, before you start riding, sit on your bike and take a look in the mirrors to be sure they’re adjusted properly. Even if you don’t think you’ve moved the mirrors, do a quick check just to be sure.
TIP: Your sidestand can easily sink into soft soil or hot asphalt. To avoid a potentially hazardous situation, consider carrying a small flat block of wood with you at all times to place under the sidestand when parking your motorcycle on dirt or asphalt.