I’m an avid motorcyclist. My primary ride is a Honda CBR1100XX with more than 100,000 miles on it. I’ve toured all over the U.S. and Canada on my bike. I simply love to ride.
Given a choice of how to get from point A to point B, I’ll almost always choose the motorcycle over a “cage”.
Living in Wisconsin, the winters are especially hard for me. Roads covered in ice and salt are not motorcycle friendly, so my bike sits patiently in the garage, waiting for spring. When that first warm day arrives in March or April, I can’t wait to go out for that first ride of the year.
But before I hit the road, I make sure I’m ready – and that my bike is ready, too.
Some simple checks of the bike are a great way to make sure that first ride is a safe one. The methodology I use is the TCLOCK approach.
- T – Tires and Wheels
- C – Controls
- L – Lights
- O – Oil
- C – Chasis and Chain
- K – Kickstand
You can find a great worksheet for this approach here.
Inspect the tires looking for tread depth and wear. Check tire pressures. They have most likely dropped to unsafe levels over the winter months. While you’re down there, inspect the wheels, too. If you have spokes, look for anything broken, bent or missing. Give the rims a once over, and spin them to ensure the bearings are in good shape.
Check the action of all of the levers, including the clutch and brake levers on the handlebars, as well as the rear brake and gear shifter. Spring is a good time to lubricate any cables and inspect for fraying and kinks.
Lights and battery
Make sure the headlights and turn signals work – front and back. Check the electrolyte level in the battery and make sure it’s fully charged.
Check the engine oil level, and if appropriate, check coolant and gear oil for shaft drive bikes. Check brake and clutch fluid levels. (Note that if your brake fluid is low, it’s a good sign that something is wrong – either your brake pads need replacing or you have a leak.)
Chassis and chain
Clean, lubricate and adjust the chain. If your bike is belt drive, adjust the belt tension. Check the steering head bearings. Inspect the forks for leaks and smooth travel. Give the bike a once over for loose bolts and fasteners.
Make sure the side and center stand springs are in good shape. Then check the side and center stands and ensure they’re lubricated and operate smoothly.
Ready to ride
Spring is a good time to inspect your riding gear. Given the amount of riding I typically do, I’m a big fan of the AGATT approach: All Gear, All The Time.
Give your helmet a once over. Look for signs of wear. Make sure the face shield closes securely and the vents work. If you’ve experienced any “dietary expansion” over the winter, it’s a good idea to make sure your jacket and pants still fit. Boots and gloves should be checked over and replaced if they are worn out.
There’s a good chance sand and leftover salt are on the roads, so take it easy on the corners. And remember, cars haven’t had to worry about motorcycles all winter, so they’re probably not looking for you and won’t see you. Give them a little extra space.
What would you add to my list? Leave a comment. Then enjoy the riding season – no matter where you live.
Editor’s note: Find more motorcycle safety information on the American Family Insurance website, including how you can protect your two-wheeled dreams.
For many people, getting an insurance policy is pretty straight-forward. You have something you need insured, you call an agent, he or she takes your application, calculates your payment, the company issues a policy and presto! You’re insured.
That works in some cases, but in many others – especially farms and businesses – it’s more complicated.
I’m one of 13 loss control specialists for American Family Insurance. My job is to go to a farm or commercial business we insure (or want to insure) and assess their current level of safety. After I inspect a property, I’ll go over my findings with our customer – or potential customer – to explain how they can reduce their potential for accidents, injury, and property damage.
I actually do two very important jobs for American Family.
The first is to consult with our largest accounts and help them reach the highest safety level possible in their operations. I look for potentially dangerous conditions and recommend ways to head off a problem before it occurs. If I see something that’s dangerous, I can suggest ways to correct the problem, or, if necessary, suggest replacement equipment that is safer. I can also train a customer’s employees in proper safety procedures and show them how to do their job with safety in mind. This creates a win-win since it reduces their likelihood of a loss, but also bolsters our retention and profitability.
My second job for American Family is to look over a property or business we’re considering insuring. An agent or an underwriter might ask me to see if there is anything that might be unsafe, dangerous, or could cause an injury. My safety review not only benefits the company, but is a real help to a prospective customer. In some cases, I’ve seen unsafe equipment that presented a fire hazard. When I explained it to the prospective customer and told them everything in the building could be destroyed if changes weren’t made, (in one case, the building was filled with antique tractors!) they were very grateful since they never realized the risk was there.
Many times I point out something a prospective customer sees, but didn’t realize was dangerous such as a missing machine guard or hand rail on stairs. I often hear, “I’ve seen it that way for years and never thought it was unsafe. Thanks for pointing it out.” Hopefully, by pointing out an unsafe condition or piece of equipment, I can prevent an injury or loss.
Some people may think, “Why bother? That’s what insurance is for.” Truth is no one wants to see someone injured, equipment damaged or property lost because of unsafe conditions. By working with our customers to identify and correct unsafe conditions, I can hopefully prevent an injury or death and avert an accident that puts someone out of business.
Editor's note: Small business owners, farmers and ranchers can receive free monthly tips and loss control information from American Family Insurance. Sign up for our Business @dvisor email newsletter on our website.
Getting old stinks.
It sneaks up on you. And before you know what’s happening, things you used to do with relative ease are either more difficult or even impossible.
I never had to take breaks when I cleaned the house, or stop at the top of the stairs to catch my breath, but there I was, doing both. I noticed I was really tired by late afternoon, which made me less productive at work.
For a long time, I just accepted this as an inevitable part of aging. Exercise? Sure, I took walks with my husband around the neighborhood, but I didn’t do anything too strenuous or physically challenging.
Then American Family Insurance offered a yoga class during the lunch hour.
My friend said, "Come on, it will be fun." So I took the plunge, paid my fees and signed up. The instructor was a young, perky woman with a pleasant smile who made me believe I could actually do it.
One thing she said that opened my eyes was, as we age, our balance is one of the first things to go. We did a lot of balancing poses, and she was right. I could barely stand on one foot for more than a few seconds. I learned about the plank. Apparently, if you could do that position, your core muscles would get stronger. The plank is the position you are in before you do a push-up, and a push-up was something I couldn’t do.
All this was new to me, but very exciting.
I started standing on one foot while stirring spaghetti, washing dishes and brushing my teeth. Every time a commercial came on TV, I would hold a plank for as long as I could. I felt myself getting stronger and having more confidence.
Then, for the first time in my life, I did a push-up! A real push-up, from my toes, not my knees! I showed my husband. I showed my daughter. Soon I could do five in a row. Every single night, I did five push-ups before I went to bed.
Yoga turned into Pilates, which challenged me even more. Lunges helped my legs get stronger. Stretching, bending and twisting all improved my posture. After a few years of yoga and Pilates, I felt like a new person.
Then, the best thing happened. American Family dedicated a whole room to fitness.
More classes were added, including boot camp. I have to admit, boot camp was a scary thought. That is one giant leap from standing on a yoga mat. But that same friend said, "We can do this." And we did.
We ran around the pond. We learned to have a love/hate relationship with burpees (from a standing position you lower to a crouch, throw your legs out together behind you, then pull them back up to a crouch, then stand again). We got muddy. We made friends, we laughed and we got healthier.
My new love is Zumba, modeled after Latin dance. The night we have Zumba class is my favorite night of the week. The music is fun, the moves are exhilarating and the sweat is for real.
Today I can do 20 push-ups, run for two miles, clean my house in half the time, run up four flights of stairs without being out of breath, and by late afternoon, I'm excited about my fitness class coming up.
I'm healthier, happier and more confident than I've been in a long time, all thanks to the fitness classes offered at American Family as part of our benefits. I'm a 57-year-old grandma who can beat my 27-year-old daughter in a foot race.
The chance to take part in these classes, and the wonderful instructors who teach them, literally gave me back my life. I encourage anyone – young, old or in-between – to take advantage of these great opportunities to get more fit and healthy. You will never regret it!
Each year, when the weather starts to get colder and the ability to participate in outdoor activities becomes limited, do you find yourself asking, “What can I do to stay active during the winter?” While there are a lot of options, one people may not think of is officiating basketball. Yes, becoming one of us – a zebra!
Now I have to admit, when I started officiating basketball at age 15, it certainly wasn’t for the physical or mental stimulus; rather, it was a way to make some extra spending money while in high school and college. Fast forward a few years and things have changed significantly.
Yes, I still get paid to officiate, but now officiating is about being active, striving for the next level of competition, learning from veteran officials, camaraderie with other officials and a sense of personal accomplishment. This season will mark my twentieth being licensed as a WIAA official, thirteenth working high school, eighth working NCAA Division 3 women’s college basketball and my first year working NCAA Division 2 women’s college basketball. I ended my season this year at the Kohl Center, officiating the Division 1 boys’ championship game; which was my fifth state tournament assignment.
Most people don’t necessary think of officiating basketball as your typical workout, but it really is a good stimulus for your mind and body. The obvious relationship between officiating and physical activity is running up and down the court. Granted, some games require much more running than others, but overall, you do get a good cardio workout while officiating.
A friend of mine recently monitored his steps during a couple games using a pedometer and the results ranged from 2,500 steps to 6,000 steps (2,000 = 1 mile) per game. This is certainly not a scientific study, but it does give a good indication of the amount of exercise you can get from officiating.
Along with the physical aspects associated with officiating, it also requires a certain amount of mental focus and stimulus. On every single play, you have to evaluate the actions of the players, determine if a call should be made and then know and enforce the rules appropriately – all within a split second!
So … next fall, as the leaves start to turn and you think about how you’re going to stay active in the winter, consider becoming an official. It’s a great way to stay active and there is always a need at every level.
I have been an American Family employee for 25 years, and it’s always been a great place to work. One reason is all the wonderful co-workers and friends who surround me every day.
Another is knowing how much American Family cares and gives back to our communities, including the support of the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis.
I am originally from Madison, and my family still lives there. The summer of 2008, my 10-year-old nephew, Adam, was in the American Family Children’s Hospital, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next two years he was a regular at the hospital for treatments and checkups and we know he received the best care possible. He also felt loved by every doctor and nurse who had contact with him.
Adam’s greatest wish was to meet former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre. In January 2010, Adam had his dream come true through Make-A-Wish – Wisconsin. This is a memory our entire family will cherish forever.
Sadly, Adam passed away six months later, on Aug. 15, 2010. His doctor even spoke at his funeral on behalf of all the staff at the hospital who had come to know and love him.
My daughter was very close to Adam and is always looking for ways to honor and remember him. Last year she decided we should start a team and walk in Adam’s memory for Make-A-Wish – Arizona and “pay it forward” for all the support Adam received in Wisconsin from the American Family Children’s Hospital and those who take such good care of the patients and families who come there. We were able to raise $2,700 as a team and help make other children’s wishes come true.
This year will be our second year as Team “Amazing Adam.” The walk is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, 2013. We are hoping to exceed last year's amount. If you’d like to learn more about our team, here’s our team page.
It’s important to “pay it forward” because we believe every sick child’s wish should come true.