If you're familiar with the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you know that the book is about neither Zen Buddhism nor motorcycles. It is a life instruction book about the importance of blending technology with soul. As an avid motorcyclist, your ride is your soul, but if you forget about the importance of maintaining it, you're jeopardizing not only your bike, but your life and the lives of others. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars. Making sure your bike is in tip top condition is one way you can reduce your risk while enjoying the ride.
It's time to pull your motorcycle out of storage for the first ride of spring. But before you hop on, there are a few things you need to check and do so that your first ride doesn't end up with you stranded on the side of the road or in an accident. Because specifications differ for every make and model of motorcycle, you'll need a good manual for your specific motorcycle. You'll also need a quality set of tools—not the little packet of emergency tools that came tucked under the seat when you purchased the bike.
- Lights are essential for helping you see in low light/low visibility conditions and to help other drivers see you. Make sure all your lights (headlights, brake lights, tail lights and signal lights) are free from dirt and functioning properly. Also make sure your battery is fully charged and holding it so that your lights don't run out of juice while on your ride. This is also a great time to make sure your horn is working.
- A problem with your bike's tires can affect performance and handling. Check the tire pressure while cold, and compare it to the manufacturer's specifications. Make sure the spokes are straight and tight, the rims aren't dented, and there is at least 1/16 inch of tread. Also make sure your brakes stop the tire rotation.
- Check your fluids. Gasoline is a mix of chemicals and when left sitting for months, some can evaporate resulting in a brown residue that can clog the carburetor. Drain the gas and use a carburetor cleaner according to instructions. Check oil, brake, and clutch fluid levels and add more if necessary. If they are muddy colored, they should be replaced.
- Check the chassis. Improperly adjusted suspension can affect how your bike behaves. Sit on the bike and rock it to make sure it moves smoothly. If the front or rear bounces excessively, you can adjust the suspension according to your owner's manual or take the bike to your mechanic. Make sure the drive train (the chain, belt or shaft that transfers power to the rear wheel) is in proper working order. Check your manual for proper chain stretch. Replace the belt if it is worn or cracked.
Always keep a record of the maintenance tasks you perform, both so you can stay on top of regular maintenance and for evidence of proper maintenance should you be in an accident. If you fail to stay on top of regular maintenance for your motorcycle you are putting yourself in danger. If your negligence contributes to an accident, you may not be able to get compensation.
However, if a manufacturer defect contributed to an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost time at work, and more.
Common Manufacturer Defects
Pay attention to manufacturer warnings and recalls. If one of your bike's components has a defect, replace or repair it according to the manufacturer's instructions. However, don't rely solely on the manufacturer to warn you. Regularly check the following components:
- Tires: Defective tires can cause blowouts and skidding, which can cause a loss of control.
- Brakes: Brakes that don't engage properly pose a serious safety threat.
- Handlebars: Handlebars that are not properly treated against the heat of the bike may crack and move, causing a loss of control.
- Fuel lines: Leaking or malfunctioning fuel lines can lead to overheating and pose a fire hazard
Providing proper upkeep on your motorcycle and paying attention to manufacturer warnings and recalls will go a long way in preventing accidents while riding your motorcycle. But nothing can guarantee a safe ride. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, it's important to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of a motorcycle accident attorney.