You and your motorcycle

Pre-ride motorcycle check

The time to find out whether there is anything wrong with your motorcycle is before you ride - not in the middle of traffic.

It's a good idea to thoroughly read your motorcycle's handbook before you start riding, so you know about your motorcycle's features. You should check that each of the following items is in good working order before you ride.

Controls

Make sure your controls are in good working order before you start out. Remember to check the following.

Brakes

Try the front and rear brakes one at a time. Make sure each one holds the motorcycle when it is fully applied.

Clutch and throttle

Make sure these controls work smoothly.

Cables

Check the cables for kinks or broken strands. Make sure cables are lubricated.

Control and adjustment

You should make sure that you can operate all hand and foot controls when you are seated comfortably on the motorcycle.

Tyres

Make sure your tyres are in good condition. You need to check the following features.

Pressure

The motorcycle won't handle properly if the air pressure is too low or too high, as braking and steering will be affected. Check your owner's manual for the correct tyre pressure for your motorcycle. Incorrect tyre pressure is a contributing factor in motorcycle crashes.

Tread

Worn or uneven tread will affect the handling of the motorcycle and can make it harder to control on slippery or uneven surfaces.

Damage

Check for cuts, nails stuck in the tread and cracks in the sidewalls. Remember, a blowout on a motorcycle can be extremely dangerous.

Lights

Keep all your lights clean and check them regularly.

Indicators

Check that all bulbs are working and the lenses are clean.

Headlight

Check the headlight before riding. Pass your hand in front of the beam to make sure the headlight is really on.

Try your dip switch to make sure both high and low beams are working.

Hazard lights

If your motorcycle has a hazard light switch, check that it is working.

Tail and brake light

Try each of your brake controls and make sure that each one flashes your brake light.

Horn

Check that your horn works.

Chain

Check the drive chain or belt for lubrication, wear and adjustment. Your owner's manual will explain how to correctly adjust these.

Mirrors

You need to have a good view of what's happening around and behind you - for this, you should have two mirrors.

Clean and adjust them before you start, as it's difficult and dangerous to ride with one hand while trying to adjust a mirror.

Adjust your mirrors outward far enough to see around your own body. Adjust each mirror so that it lets you see about half of the lane behind and as much as possible of the lane next to you.

Adjust your mirrors for the best view

Adjust your mirrors for the best view

Petrol and oil

Check your motorcycle's handbook for the correct grades of fuel and oil. Make sure they are at the correct levels before you start riding.

Running out of petrol can be dangerous, especially if it happens when you can't get off the road quickly. Make sure you know the position and operation of the fuel tap. Don't ride long distances with the fuel tap on 'reserve'. The reserve tank should only be used to get to the nearest petrol station.

Lack of oil can cause your engine to seize. This could result in your rear wheel locking, causing you to lose control.

Special checks when riding unfamiliar motorcycles

Research shows that you are more at risk when riding an unfamiliar motorcycle. Before you ride a motorcycle you haven't ridden before, you should:

  • make all the checks you would on your own motorcycle
  • find out where all the controls are, particularly the indicators, horn, headlight switch, fuel control valve and engine cut-off switch - make sure you can find them when riding, without having to look
  • make sure you know the gear pattern
  • work the throttle, clutch and brakes a few times before you take off - controls react differently on different motorcycles.

Ride cautiously until you are used to the way the motorcycle handles. Test the brakes to get the feel of how they operate. Take turns and corners slower and give yourself extra stopping distances.

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Last updated: 19 February 2015