Proactive Protection

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. 

Posted by Richard Petty on Wed, Apr 03 2013 6:17 pmRichard Petty is an enterprise solution architect for American Family Insurance.

Celebrating the dreamers among us

The ZimnysOurs is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.

We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.

Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires. 

We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.

Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.

Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.

It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.

Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website

Posted by Jack Salzwedel on Tue, Mar 05 2013 8:05 pm

Life insurance is about family

Terry (center) and her siblings and mother (right) during the life celebration surprise party held for her father​As a life-licensed agent assistant, I’ve always believed in the value of life insurance as a way to financially protect families. But in my Hispanic community, life insurance is not in our culture and is often difficult for some to believe in, understand or even talk about.

Because I’ve been in the insurance business for quite a few years, I understand life insurance. Unfortunately my close-knit Hispanic family had to be educated by experience. Eight years ago, my uncle, (my father’s brother) passed away after a massive stroke. He didn’t have medical insurance or a life insurance policy, and all of his children had to get together and pay for his medical bills and funeral expenses. My cousins still have outstanding bills they continue to pay many years after he passed away.

After my uncle died so suddenly, I talked to my father and siblings about the need for my father to purchase life insurance. A retired dentist/small business owner, my father was 62 and working a part-time job without health insurance. After his brother’s family’s experience, my father was open to it and we all agreed it was the right thing to do. We were able to purchase an American Family Life Insurance Company whole life 10-year/$100,000 policy with a term rider although my father had controlled diabetes and was overweight. My brothers, sisters, father and I all contributed to the premiums as a family.

Four years later, in August 2011, while the rest of the family was in Guadalajara, Mexico, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday, my father fell ill and was hospitalized in the Seattle area. Without experiencing advanced symptoms except a headache, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal cancer. 

Our family was shocked.

After discussion, my father opted to use the accelerated death benefit rider on his policy, and received 75 percent of the benefit proceeds in advance. Until he passed away on Nov. 11, 2011, he was able to live the last two and a half months spending quality time with friends and family in Mexico, including a huge life celebration surprise party we organized for him. The policy also paid for his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and other medical bills and funeral expenses, all without burdening my mother and our family.

I am thankful for the opportunity this life insurance gave our family. Without it, my father’s diagnosis, illness and passing would have been even more devastating. My story is bittersweet, but I believe in life insurance because I have lived it. That’s why I think it’s worth telling you.

Editor’s note: Need more info? Check out our 10 reasons to buy life insurance. Or give our Life Needs Calculator a try for help estimating the right amount of coverage to ensure your dependents are financially stable.

Posted by Terry Redrick on Fri, Feb 22 2013 7:58 am

Don’t wait for your world to stop

Belinda FoxIn the fall of my freshman year of high school, I’d just gotten my temporary driver’s license. My father and I were meeting with our insurance agent to complete my life insurance application at our kitchen counter. 

As I matured into adulthood, I carried that strong belief in life insurance my father instilled in me. My life’s road has brought me a great husband, two wonderful daughters, and a large extended family.

Longevity runs in my husband's family. His grandfather and great aunts lived to be almost 100. In October 2002, it came as a huge shock when my brother-in-law, Scott, 42, was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He passed away in eight weeks.

Thankfully, Scott had life insurance to provide for his wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 15. He had a whole life policy purchased by his parents when he was a youth and a Universal Life (UL) policy he bought as an adult. He also had life insurance through his employer.

There was money for his funeral and burial expenses, enough to pay off the home mortgage, funds to continue health insurance coverage for the family, and money to be set aside for his wife and daughters’ future financial needs. The family could also pay for the unexpected expenses that crept up in the month or two after Scott’s death – the home needed a new furnace, plumbing needed repairs and the car died. Thank goodness he had life insurance that was able to ease the burden on his wife during this time of great loss.

The world doesn’t stop turning when you lose a loved one. A family must continue. In May 2005, we lost my 21-year old nephew in a car accident. Yes, Zach did have a whole life insurance policy his parents had taken out on him when he was a small child. The reasoning was to have money available for final expenses. They used the proceeds for this purpose, and his family used the leftover money for charitable activities in the community, which helped them in the healing process. The last of the money was spent this summer with the donation of playground equipment. 

With my father’s passing in February 2010, his Universal Life policy covered his funeral expenses and provided for my mother to move from the old farmhouse to a more accessible home in town.

For whatever reason, my professional road led me to American Family in September 1997 as agent assistant for Herm Leitz (Ripon, Wis.). I have been life-licensed since 1998. What a privilege it is to work for a company that cares for and protects our families in their time of need. Life insurance isn’t just about money – it’s about security, peace of mind and healing to move forward.

Remember, the world does keep turning even though you feel it has stopped. Don’t wait for your world to stop to realize your family isn’t adequately provided for by life insurance.

Editor's note: Learn about the importance of life insurance on our website. You can also watch a video series about different kinds of life insurance products on the American Family Insurance YouTube channel

Posted by Belinda Fox on Fri, Feb 08 2013 9:13 am

The 12 meals of Christmas

Healthy holiday snacksThe last thing I want to do is lecture anyone on wellness, especially a week before Christmas. When I was at my heaviest, the thing I hated the most was having some skinny person tell me that it would be a good idea to lose weight.

Really? I had no idea. So none of that from me.

But I do like to share my observations as I wage this daily battle with diet and exercise. And I’ll start by violating my promise to not state the obvious: This time of year is a real killer if you’re trying to maintain even a somewhat healthy lifestyle.

Treat days, family gatherings, cookie exchanges, parties and everything else conspire against the stoutest of our will powers. It can be maddening. It almost makes you want to go live in a cave at the top of a mountain until it’s all over.

But you don’t have to be Mr. Grinch. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful to get through the holiday food season:

  • Plan ahead. Constant denial is no way to live, so allow yourself the indulgence of a nice holiday meal. Just plan for it. Decide what you’re going to have, and account for it in your food planning and exercise schedule for that week. Cut back a little the days before a party or big meal and make time for extra exercise. 
  • Control portions. OK. You planned ahead and hit the gym a few extra times. Excellent! But this does not absolve you from helping yourself to a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy the size of a basketball. Remember, you’re enjoying Christmas dinner, not laying-in provisions for a trek across Siberia.
  • Avoid delusion. No matter what Aunt Martha says, pie DOES have calories on a holiday. In fact, your average slice of pumpkin pie has about 325 calories. Oh, and a ping-pong-ball-sized dollop of whipped cream adds another 100. Go easy. (But be nice to Aunt Martha, even if her nutritional expertise is extremely suspect.)
  • Resist grazing. If your department is having a treat day, decide in advance what you’ll allow yourself and stick to it. And make just one trip to the treat table. Twenty M&Ms are still 20 M&Ms, even if you take them out of the bowl one at a time. And don’t get me started on the evils of cheese puffs!
  • Finally, don’t worry. Yes, these are great tips for a healthy December. But I know I’ll violate some, if not all of these rules during the next couple of weeks. You will, too. We’re human. But a few mistakes over the holidays shouldn’t take your eyes off the prize. Don’t worry about it, and just get back up and do your best the next day. My hope in sharing this with you is to at least give you something to think about. As a disclaimer, I’m by no means a nutrition expert, so feel free to take my observations with a grain of salt. (Wait. Should that be a grain of low-sodium salt substitute?)

The daily battle never really gets any easier, at least not for me. 

Do you have a wellness tip or two you’d like to share? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Posted by Scott Stanley on Wed, Dec 19 2012 8:30 amScott Stanley is a benefits consultant for American Family Insurance.
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