A motorcycle safety checklist for spring

Richard Petty on his Honda MotorcycleI’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.

Bike inspection

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.

First ride

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. 

by Richard Petty on Wed, Apr 03 2013 7:17 pm
Posted by Richard Petty on Wed, Apr 03 2013 7:17 pmRichard Petty is an enterprise solution architect for American Family Insurance.


Chris said on Apr 04, 2013
Sounds like you finally broke in that Hionda, should be good for another 100K, come back out to California so we can do that road again!
Mark Baker said on Apr 04, 2013
Great article Richard and even better advice. To all you other riders out there, keep the shiny side up and your helmet on.
Mitch said on Apr 05, 2013
Well done Richard - we can't get enough responsible motorcycle literature disseminated!
I believe you left out the often overlooked "Parked Motorcycle Syndrome" and how that can lead to over eager riders in early spring.
Richard Petty said on Apr 06, 2013
Yes, Mitch, many riders suffer all winter from PMS. Hopefully with the onset of Spring it will be alleviated soon!
Vicky said on Aug 20, 2013
Sue, do you travel with a good first aid kit? When I hit the trail I plan to have on hand a cevnrehopsime first aid kit that includes a wide-spectrum antibiotic. I would also like to take along a canine first aid kit that includes not only antibiotics, but also activated charcoal (for neutralizing poison), atropine sulfate (for eye injuries), kaopectin (antidiarrheal), etc. It's a safe assumption that a doctor or vet won't always be available on the road, so it's good to be prepared.
xcel energy said on May 07, 2013
thanks for share
Richard Petty said on Apr 06, 2013
Chris, I would love to get back out there soon. Those are some of the best roads in the country, and some of the best people I know live out that way!

Thanks Mark! Watch out for that sand in the corners this time of year.

Add new comment