1. Concerning life and death, motorcycles are more like airplanes than automobiles. A mechanical failure with a plane or a bike could be life-shattering, whereas with a car it's usually just an annoyance. All pilots know this but, unfortunately, most motorcyclists don't. Because of the imperative need for a safe machine, pilots have a routine of things to check prior to each and every flight they make. Herein are a few things that all of us bikers should get into the habit of checking on our machines before we go for a ride. Check the tire pressure with a gauge and then squeeze the tire as shown above. We know it is unreasonable and unbelievable to think a rider is going to use a gauge every time before a ride, so getting used to how a properly inflated tire feels will ensure that a two-second squeeze will be close. At least the rider will know his tires are not on the verge of being flat.
2. After checking the front tire, give the rotors a shake to ensure they're not binding in the calipers because of warpage or a stuck piston. Next, check the brake lines around the tire and at the places where they flex due to suspension movement. Just running your hands along the line is good enough. You don't even have to look at your fingers for fluid, you'll notice the annoying, sticky feeling right away. After checking the brakes give a quick look and grab at the axle nuts and pinch bolts to make sure everythingis in place and nothing is loose. The important thing is to check all components that don't have a back-up--the components whose individual failure will cause a catastrophe. If your bike has a speedo cable, check that too. We know of a rider who crashed when his cable became entangled in the front wheel.
3. After checking the rear tire and rotor, take a quick look at the chain (if you have one, that is). It's best to use your hand but chains are dirty, so we know that many riders prefer to take a shortcut by using the toe of their boot. But use your hand initially so that you can establish the feel. The chain should lift fairly easily, about an inch, at the center point between the sprockets. Relaxed, the chain should show some sag and not look taut. Pushing on the chain also offers the added opportunity to see if it resists at any one point because of tight spots. If it's out of adjustment, you know what to do. If it has kinks, dump it. After you get used to how a properly adjusted chain feels, it's safe to resort to using your foot to see how far and smoothly it lifts. The point is, having a routine that takes merely seconds will get you to do the checks. If it's too much like work we know you won't bother. We wouldn't.
4. Lastly, as you're getting on the machine check the controls to make certain that they function properly and don't fall off in your hand. We know of a rider whose bike fell over on its right side while parked and when he later mounted the bike for a ride, the brake lever fell into his hand. It was fortunate that he first gave it a quick pull while parked, rather than when he approached his first stop. Twist the throttle, squeeze the levers, move the bars lock to lock and grab all of the control's mounting bolts to make sure they're there and not loose. Good racing mechanics know that part of their job is to "make love" to the machine before a race. When all the work is done and the bike is ready to race, novices take tea--pros give their bikes a rubdown, a quick polish, and cop a feel. The primary reason for this is not to make the bike look good, that's just the excuse. Touching the machine all over can reveal hidden problems, and ensure that it is ready for the track.