Motorcycle Basics - TCLOCs and Why Every Rider Should Use It

It’s fair to say every active rider is either on their motorcycle enjoying the open road or daydreaming about when they’ll next be in the saddle again.

Not surprising then during those pre-ride moments of giddy enthusiasm bikers may miss a crucial an important step needed before any two-wheeled journey. No, this mandatory moment isn’t when a biker does one last check in the mirror to rate themselves on their coolness factor or to see how the new leather or helmet is fitting.

Just as riders should ensure they’re correctly kitted up for a ride, the motorcycle also needs a once over to ensure its ready as well. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has created what’s widely considered the checklist for this type of once over.

And they should know, the MSF is an internationally recognized developer of the comprehensive, research-based, Rider Education and Training System which promotes lifelong-learning for motorcyclists and continuous professional development for certified RiderCoaches and other trainers. MSF also actively participates in government relations, safety research, public awareness campaigns and the provision of technical assistance to state training and licensing programs.

“A pre-ride inspection should be as routine and automatic as checking the weather forecast before heading out for the day. There are a lot of things to check on motorcycles before you go riding, but performing a pre-ride check shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Memorizing the T-CLOCS acronym makes these steps easy to remember and easy to perform before every ride,” Mark Wing, MSF’s manager of program development and implementation said in a press release in 2014.

So what is it?

T-CLOCS is an acronym which stands for Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Sidestand. These are simple, easy-to-access items that anyone who rides should be able to identify and check, all in three minutes once its bee completed a few times.

Here is a detailed check list and we’ve included a video below, both are from the MSF. The checklist should be used, but Clutch and Chrome will go over some highlights.

T is for Tires and Wheels
This part of the check will cover a motorcycle’s Tires, wheels and brakes. Does the tread look good on the tire? A motorcycle that has stood for a while can have cracked rubber on the tires. Of course the depth of the tire’s tread should be checked having at least a 1/16 of an inch, about the distance between Lincoln's head and the top of a penny.

How is the pressure? If this is a cold ride, air might need to be added.

If the wheel has spokes are any bent? If cast, are there dents or cracks? Are the wheels bearings good? Make sure there’s no ‘play’ or flex when the wheel is manhandled.

Finally, check the brakes for wear and tear.

C stands for Control
A rider is looking at their handlebars, levers and pedals, cables, hoses and throttle in this checklist category. Are they straight, lubricated or show any signs of being cracked or cut depending on which item is being checked. A great example would be checking the throttle. Not only should a rider make sure turning the handlebar doesn’t rev the engine, the grips shouldn’t have any type of play when twisted.

Cables should be free from other parts of the motorcycle with no pulling when the handlebars are turned.

L would be for Lights and Electrics
Does the battery look good and is everything connected as it should be? Are the headlight(s) working and aligned correctly? Turn on and test the turn indicators, brake lights and flip the various switches. Not only does this give the rider a great opportunity to walk around their pride and joy, it ensures everything works as it should. Are the mirrors positioned correctly and do they retain their position. Older mirrors become worn and can be buffeting out of place by wind.

Make sure none of the electrical wiring is worn or frayed

O refers to Oil and other fluids
Essentially the rider is making sure everything that should be filled is and nothing is leaking out. Motorcycle gas gauges aren’t the most accurate in the world and pushing a motorcycle far from fun. While running out of gas is embarrassing, not having enough oil can be destructive for a motorcycle.

Transmission fluid as well that found in a shaft drive should be checked to make sure they meet recommended levels.

Obviously leaks are not good for any fluid and though gasoline is the easiest to detect from the tell-tale smell, oil, hydraulic, coolant and drive shaft leaks need to be looked for.

C is for Chassis
This section of the checklist covers the motorcycle’s frame, suspension, drive system and fasteners. Typical signs of trouble on the frame would be flaking paint and cracks. Forcing the motorcycle down to check the suspension and ensuring there is smooth travel on the front forks ad rear shocks is quick and easily done. Whether a motorcycle is driven by belt or chain, the tension should be checked. Belts need to free of frays and chains should show signs of lubrication.

Last and certainly not least S stands for…..stands
Whether a center or side stand, riders should look for cracks and whether the stand is bent. It should spring back in place and hold its position.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, once a rider has made their way through this checklist a few times, not only will it become quicker but what to look for will also be easier. There are many great tips about all the different categories as well as a visual walk through of the best way to test for each checklist item.

“Before every ride, each motorcyclist should inspect their motorcycle,” said Ty van Hooydonk, MSF’s director of communications. “This step-by-step video makes it easy. A few minutes of prep can keep your motorcycle running right, keep you from getting stranded on the side of the road, and maybe even prevent you from getting injured.”

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