Touring Tip: Thoroughly Inspect Your Bike Before Leaving Home

Jun 03, 2016 View Comments by

If there is one thing that touring motorcyclists really hate to experience on a road trip, it’s a mechanical breakdown. Unlike a day ride, a multi-day trip will often take riders far from home and possibly into unfamiliar territory where repair services may be scarce. Here are a few things to check before pulling out of the driveway which may make your trip a trouble-free one:

  1. Fluids: Check the date and mileage of the bike’s last oil change and start a trip with fresh oil and filter rather than risking having to do this service on the road. For bikes with a radiator, the coolant level should be checked and topped off, if necessary.
  1. Tires: It’s highly advisable to not start a long trip with tires nearing the end of their tread life. If the planned trip is many thousand miles long, tires may have to be changed while on the road, but starting with worn tires may necessitate two new sets of tires while underway. Some riders go so far as to set up their desired model of tire at a dealer along the intended route. With the vagaries of unpredictable weather conditions and other hazards on long-distance rides, fresh tires are an important safety consideration.
  1. touring tipControls: A broken clutch cable or the malfunction of another mechanism essential to operating and controlling the bike can leave a rider stranded and potentially vulnerable. Make sure all hand and foot controls are working properly and in good condition.
  1. Final Drive: Although shaft-drive motorcycles require less attention than chain-drive bikes, it’s still important to make sure the rear drive fluid is refreshed timely. For chain-drive bikes, the condition of the chain and sprockets should be checked for excessive wear and replaced if indicated. It’s important that the chain be adjusted according to specifications in the Owner’s Manual and that a can of chain lube be taken along for periodic oiling.
  1. Brakes: Properly functioning brakes are important for safe riding. Front and rear brake pads should be inspected and replaced if necessary. Brake fluid should be evaluated and replaced if indicated by either a dark hue or the lapse of too much time since the previous brake fluid change.
  1. Nuts and Bolts: A bolt or nut coming loose while traveling at speed can cause anything from a relatively minor annoyance to a life-threating event. Regularly inspect and verify that key nuts and bolts are at their proper torque. Apply thread lock to any that are likely to come loose from vibration. This is an especially important precaution if there will be any off-pavement riding.
  1. Battery: My experience with motorcycle batteries is that even with the best care they usually last about three or four years. Because bump-starting a big touring bike isn’t a recommended way of staying in shape, don’t leave home on a multi-day tour with a battery that’s over two years old.

Although the above seven items should be on every rider’s pre-trip checklist, there may be additional items, depending on individual bike and rider circumstances. Another pre-ride checklist should cover the items to be taken on tour. This will be the subject of next month’s touring tip.


Text: Jim Parks

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Tags: Categories: Touring & Safety Tips