Sunday, March 1, 2009

I know you’re excited to ride, but…

Remember that from when we are kids?  I know you want to, BUT…  I never liked that either, but (see there it is again,) this is something that you should review whether you’re new to the sport or have been riding for years.

As we creep into March, riding season isn't too far away.  Pretty soon everyone will be able to roll their two-wheeled friends out onto the driveway, zip up their chaps, and hit the area roadways. 

This is an exciting time of year for all riders.  I know what it's like to be pent up in the house during what seems like a never-ending winter.  I wanted so badly to get on my bike and just go, but I knew I couldn't do that without a few safety checks first.  Trust me, if there is something wrong with your motorcycle, you'll want to figure it out in your garage and not alongside the road somewhere without any tools.

Chances are, if you’re from this area, your bike has been sitting in the same spot for the last few months. You may want to do a pre-season safety check.  The first thing that you'll want to do is check the tires.  Look at the condition of the tread.  If the tread shows any considerable wear you will want to replace the tire before you get on the road.  If you are going out in the next month or two, chances are you may get caught in the rain and you want to have the best tread possible.  Don't wait for your next inspection, change the tire sooner rather than later.

After you examine the tread, check the tire pressure.  If your bike was idle for any length of time, there is a good chance that your air pressure has changed.  Even the slightest change in air pressure can make a big difference in the way your bike handles.

Check your oil and fluid levels.  You may have to dig out your owner’s manual to make sure you have the proper specs.  Look under the motorcycle for any signs of an oil or gas leak.  (Harley Davidsons haven't leaked on a regular basis since the mid-80's... so no jokes here, alright?)

Without a headlight, even in the daytime, you are setting yourself up for a bad scenario.  Make sure that it is working in both the high and low beam settings.  Check your brake light.  Grip the front brake and press on the rear break to make sure the light gets brighter when you apply pressure. 

Turn on both right and left turn signals.  Look at the front and rear signals as well as the indicator on the dash.  The dash indicator is often overlooked, yet it's the only light the motorcyclist can see to make sure their signals are on.  This is a good time for you to make sure your four-way flashers work too.

Look over your controls.  Look for anything that is loose or out of place.  Make sure there are no leaks along the lines and make sure they are rust free.  Once you mount your motorcycle, check the clutch and throttle.  Make sure they work smoothly.  The throttle should snap back when you let go.  The clutch should feel tight and smooth.

Adjust your mirrors BEFORE you put your bike into motion.  It's not easy to ride down the road with one hand while trying to adjust a mirror with the other.  Adjust each mirror so you can see the lane behind and as much as possible of the lane next to you.  When properly adjusted, a mirror may show the edge of your arm or shoulder--but it's the road behind and to the side that's most important.

While mounted on your bike, try the front and rear brake levers one at a time.  Make sure each one feels firm and holds the motorcycle when the brake is fully applied.  You will also want to try the horn.  I was almost involved in an accident last year when a person on a cell phone came into my lane on the Parkway East and I couldn’t alert them because my horn filled up with water from riding in the rain the day before and wouldn’t sound.  (The water eventually worked its way out and the horn eventually got louder.)

In reality, these are the checks that should be performed each and every time you take your motorcycle out on to the road according to the Motorcycle Operator Manual provided by Penn DOT.  While it may seem unreasonable to expect every rider to perform a safety check on their bike every time they take a ride, a pre-season safety check shouldn't be out of the question.

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