Your Motorcycle

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There are plenty of things on the highway that can cause you trouble. Your motorcycle should not be one of them.   To make sure your motorcycle won’t let you down:

  • Start out with the right equipment.
  • Keep it in safe riding condition.
  • Avoid add-ons or modifications that make your cycle harder to handle.


First, make sure your motorcycle is right for you. It should “fit” you. Your feet should be able to reach the ground while you are seated on the cycle.

Crashes are fairly common among beginning riders — especially in their first six months of riding. Don’t try a “big bike” until you have a lot of riding experience.

No matter how experienced you may be, ride extra carefully on any bike that’s new or unfamiliar to you. More than half of all crashes occur on cycles their riders have used for less than six months.

A few items of equipment are necessary for safe operation. At minimum, your cycle should have:

  • Headlight and taillight
  • Front and rear brakes
  • Turn signals
  • Horn
  • Two mirrors

These are just minimal requirements. It’s also a good idea to have reflectors all around —especially on the rear of the cycle.


A motorcycle needs more frequent attention than a car. A minor mechanical failure in a car seldom leads to anything more than inconvenience for the driver. When something goes wrong with a motorcycle, it may cause a crash.

The only way to head off problems before they cause trouble is to inspect your motorcycle carefully and often. If you find something wrong, fix it right away. In addition to the checks you should make before every trip, here are some checks you should make at least once each week:

Tires—Look for cuts or nails in the tread and cracks in the sidewalls. Check for excess or uneven tread wear. Tread problems can make the cycle hard to handle, especially on wet pavement. If the wear is uneven, check wheels for balance and alignment. Check the air pressure with a gauge to make sure each tire is at the level recommended by the manufacturer. Improper air pressure can affect your cycle’s braking and turning. Low pressure also can lead to blowouts.

Wheels—Check the rims for cracks, dents, or rust. Check for missing or loose spokes on wirespoked wheels. Lift each wheel off the ground and spin it, listening for noise and looking for out-of-line motion. Shake the wheel from side to side, checking for looseness.

Cables—Check brake, clutch, and throttle cables for kinks or broken strands. Replace as necessary. Lubricate the control mechanisms at both ends of each cable.

Oil—Keep the oil up to the recommended level. Lack of oil can make your engine seize.

Drive Train—For a chain-driven cycle, make sure your chain is adjusted properly. Check the sprockets for worn or bent teeth. For a shaft-driven cycle, look for grease on the shaft unit. If the housing is greasy, check the grease level and make sure any grease plugs are fitted tightly.

Fastenings—Check for loose or missing bolts, nuts, or cotter pins. It’s easier to spot missing items if you keep the motorcycle clean.

Brakes—Make sure the brakes are adjusted properly. If you hear a scraping sound when stopping, check the brake system—linings, calipers, and linkage. For hydraulic brakes, check the fluid level.

Lights—Check all lights for lens cracks or dampness inside the lens. Also look for rust spots on light casings.