To avoid embarrassing accidents and unwanted repair bills, you want to do a T-CLOCS inspection to make sure that your motorcycle is roadworthy.

Not just every other week, but before EVERY ride. And the good news is – you don’t need to be a professional mechanic to do this.

You don’t even have to be an AMATEUR mechanic. 

With the T-CLOCS inspection, you can ensure that your motorcycle is roadworthy in just a matter of minutes.

In this blog, you’ll learn:

– What “T-CLOCS” stands for

– What to check for, and more importantly – HOW to check them

Want a helpful checklist to make your next T-CLOCS a breeze? Download your FREE T-CLOCS checklist here.

T-CLOCS – What it is and What it Stands For

“T-CLOCS” is a common and helpful acronym to memorize when you need to carry out a basic pre-ride inspection (it’s also great for when you’re buying a used motorcycle.)

In short, T-CLOCS stands for:

T – Tires, Wheels, and Brakes

C – Controls

L – Lights and Mirrors

O – Oil and Fluids

C – Chassis

S – Stands

OK, so now you know what it stands for, but how do you actually inspect these things? What do you check for? 

What are things supposed to be like and NOT be like?

Prefer to get this information in podcast form? Listen to the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast episode about the T-CLOCS inspection:

T = Tires, Wheels and Brakes

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Since your tires are what keeps your motorcycle on the road (quite literally), ensuring that your tires are in good condition is vital. 

The primary things you want to check are:

– Tire pressure

– Thread depth

– Wheel bearings

– Condition of the tires

NOTE: Do these inspections when the tire is cold (i.e. when the motorcycle hasn’t been used for 30 min to 1 hour). 

How to check your tire pressure

The tire pressure is easily checked with a tire pressure gauge:

 

  1. Slide it over the tire’s filling knob – your pressure gauge should show the pressure level.
  2. Check that the reading from the gauge corresponds with the recommended amount in your owner’s manual.

Underinflated tires may cause:

– Reduced stability

– Increased tire wear

– Greater risk of defects

– The risk of “motorcycle wobble” to increase

Overinflated tires may cause:

– A stiff ride (as a result of a worsened suspension)

– The tire wears out more quickly

How to Check Tread depth for Your Tires

The easiest way to check your tread depth is with a special tread depth gauge. If you don’t have one, you can also use either:

– A US penny,

– A British 20p coin

– An old Swedish 5-kronor coin

1: Stick the penny, 20p coin, or 5-kronor coin into your tire’s tread groove.

2: If the coin’s raised edge is hidden by the tread groove, your tread depth is greater than 1 mm, and you’re good to go.

The legal limit may vary depending on the country you’re in – for safety, it’s recommended to have a minimum tread depth of 3 mm.

Tire Condition

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The tire’s condition can be inspected visually. Look for:

– Any abnormal wear and tear, as well as any objects wedged into the tire (e.g. screws).  

– Visible cracks in the tire’s sidewall.  If you see any cracks (also known as “dry rots”), replace the tire before you ride your motorcycle. 

Riding with cracks in the sidewall isn’t worth the risk.  If you continue to ride with a tire in this condition, you might experience a tire blowout.

Also, check the tire’s expiration date, located on the sidewall. Usually, it will read something like:

“3522”

In this case, the tire was made on Week 35 of 2021. 

But there’s more to inspect other than just the tire; there are the wheels too. 

Check that your wheels are free from dents. 

If your motorcycle’s wheels have spokes, check that the spokes aren’t broken or cracked. You can do this by giving the spokes a light tap with e.g. a spanner. 

– If you hear a “ding” sound, the spoke is tightened properly. 

– If you hear a dull “clunk” sound, the spoke needs tightening.

Wheel bearings

The best way to inspect the wheel bearings is to:

 

  1. First, put the bike on its center stand. 
  2. Grab the top part of the tire, and the bottom part of the tire and flex them together.
  3. Listen for any clicking sounds – it might indicate broken wheel bearings
  4. Put a spin on your wheel and listen for any growl sound – if you don’t hear one, you’re fine.

How to check your brakes

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Check your brake pads and discs – ensure that:

– The discs are free from cracks and grooves

– There’s no excessive wear on the brake pads

– Both the front and the rear brake hold the bike in place

The brake lever or pedal should feel tight when you apply them

For the best possible coverage, test the brakes accordingly: 

– Front brake only

– Rear brake only 

– Both brakes together

C = Controls

motorcycle controls inspection

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Handlebars

Check that your steering bearings are working by:

1: Turning the handlebars to the left and to the right – they should be able to turn freely without any play or resistance. 

If you encounter resistance while turning the handlebars, your steering head bearings may need to be replaced.

Cables and hoses

Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

Inspect your hoses for any leaks, bulges, or cracks. Then, do the same thing with your cables, checking for chafing, and making sure that they’re lubricated.

Throttle control

While the engine is switched off, grab and turn the throttle towards you or away from you, before releasing it. 

The throttle should spring back into its original position with no problems whatsoever.

If it doesn’t, your throttle could be sticky – whatever you do, DON’T ride your motorcycle in this condition – have it towed to a professional mechanic immediately. 

L = Lights and Mirrors

motorcycle headlight checks

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Headlight

– Check that the headlight’s high and low beam comes on – the light switch is usually located on the left side of your handlebars. 

– Check that the wires connecting the lights are free from chafing and cracks.

Turn Signals and Brake Light

To check that the rear brake light is working:

– Apply your brakes and verify that the red light comes on.

 

NOTE: Just like when you checked the brakes themselves, remember to verify that the brake light comes on when the front and rear brakes are applied individually AND together.

– Make sure that all lights are clean and without cracks

– Check that the indicator lights come on when you signal left and right, and when you press the “hazard light” button on your dash

Get the Free T-CLOCS Checklist

Mirrors

mirror checks

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– Check that your mirrors are free from cracks and that the mirrors are fastened, and aimed correctly.

If you see parts of your elbow or torso in the inner corner of your side mirrors, your mirrors are adjusted properly. 

 

For more information about proper mirror adjustment, check out this video from YouTube channel MCRider:

O = Oil and Fluids

IMPORTANT: Before you check your oil, make sure that the bike is cold – if you check it while it’s still hot, you can get severely burned. 

– Check that the oil, fuel, and other fluids are filled up and that there aren’t any leaks coming from the hoses, tanks, and/or pipes.

If your motorcycle has been stationary for a long period of time (e.g. during winter storage), you also want to check that the fuel hasn’t gone bad – this kind of “bad fuel” will damage your engine. 

Here’s a video from the YouTube channel Vintage Steel (link) that shows you how to check for bad fuel:

If your motorcycle is electric, ensure that the battery level is sufficiently charged.

C = Chassis

Photo by Giorgio de Angelis from Pexels

– Check your frame and suspension – verify that there are no missing bolts or screws.

– Compress the suspension at both the front and rear to make sure that that the suspension and rear shock absorbers travel smoothly.

There are also some checks that will vary depending on whether or not your motorcycle is chain or belt-driven.

Checks for Chain driven motorcycles

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– Check that the chain is well-lubricated and that the tension and slack are both sufficient.

Ideally, the chain slack should be between 20-35mm. Check your owner’s manual for the exact measurements. 

– Check the sprockets aren’t worn – if they are, the edges might have a shape similar to that of a shark fin.

Checks for belt-driven motorcycles

Unlike their chain-driven counterparts, belt-driven motorcycles don’t require as much maintenance, but that doesn’t mean you can skip this part. 

The main thing you want to check is that your belt is tight and clean.

For more information about how to maintain your drive belt, check out this video from Ari Henning over at the Motorcyclist Magazine:

S = Stands

kickstand

Image by TheFunkypixel from Pixabay

Congratulations, you’re almost done – all that remains now is the “S” – as in “S” for “Stands.”

– Check that your motorcycle’s kickstand isn’t cracked or bend out of shape. 

– Make sure that the stand will spring into place and supports the weight of your motorcycle.

You can check this by simply putting the stand as you would when parking your bike. 

– If your motorcycle has a center stand, repeat the same checks you did for your kickstand.

Take good care of your motorcycle with T-CLOCS

A simple inspection is all it takes to save yourself and your bike from a nasty accident.  

But perhaps you feel like it’s a little too much to take in? How could you possibly remember it all?

A checklist could come in handy – and today’s your lucky day because I’ve got a checklist that will help you ace your next pre-ride inspections and feel like a professional mechanic. 

Get the Free T-CLOCS Checklist