T-CLOCS is an acronym used to remind the rider of things to check on the motorcycle as a pre-ride checklist and safety measure. It's heavily encouraged by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation as a quick equipment check before every ride, similar to a airplane pilot doing a pre-flight inspection of the working condition of an aircraft. You can do quick checks of the minimum safety measures, or a thorough check while washing or doing maintenance on your bike. Your safety is in your hands.
Under-inflated tires are the leading cause of premature tire failure, so first use a reliable air gauge to make sure tire pressure is adequate. Check the owner's manual and/or look for a sticker on the frame of the motorcycle. Check the overall condition of the tires, front and rear, for objects in the tread, cracks in the side walls, wear bars, and tread depth. While checking the tires, also check the wheels for dents or warps causing them to be out of round or out of true. Check for loose spokes by putting the bike on the center stand and spinning the wheel with your hand. With the other hand, drag the tip of a screw driver lightly over the spokes and listen for a "ring" as the screw driver hits each of the spokes. I you hear a "thud", that means you have a loose spoke and should have it repaired. It's recommended you have a dealer who is competent in truing wheels as one who does not have the required skills to true a wheel can easily do more damage to the wheel. If the bike has cast wheels, look for dents or cracks in the wheels.
- T stands for check you tires and wheels.
Checking over the chassis of the motorcycle includes making sure the front and rear suspension is adjusted appropriately to the ride you're going to encounter. Are you going alone, or with a passenger? Are you carrying luggage, and a passenger? Are you going to be riding hard through curves? Adjust your suspension accordingly. Consult your Motorcycle Owners Manual (MOM) for correct adjustment settings and how to do it. Other Chassis inspection includes freedom of movement for all suspension units. Do the forks move smooooothly and do they rebound? Do your steering head bearings move smooooothly without any "notchy" feeling? Does your swing arm move smooooothly, and is there play in your swing arm bearings? While checking all these items, as with checking the tires and wheels in the previous step, you will want to look for loose, worn, or broken fasteners, etc., on the bike.
Since being visible to other roadway users is key to being safer on the road, make sure all your lights and electrics work. This includes headlight (high and low) beams, tail light, brake light, and turn signals. Does the horn work? How about instrument lights? Do you know where the switches are without having to look for them while riding? Do you know where the fuse block is? Do you carry extra fuses, bulbs, and tools to use to change them?
- L is for lights and other electrical components.
Newer motorcycles might have a sight glass on the lower side of the engine on one side or the other. Consult your owners manual to determine the correct fluid level of the engine's crankcase oil. Add a little when necessary. It's much easier and cost effective to have an extra quart of oil in the garage and just "top it off" when necessary than to have to find a quart of oil and only use a portion of it while you're out on the road. Some motorcycles have a single reservoir of oil for both the engine and the transmission. Some have separate oil reservoirs for each. Look in your MOM to find out what yours has and what it requires for oil in each of them. Other fluids your bike might require are coolant if water cooled, brake fluid for both front and rear hydraulic brake reservoirs. Look in MOM to find out about your bike. Another fluid that is frequently overlooked (especially when starting a group ride) is fuel. It's just bad form to meet your group for a ride, then announce you have to fuel up before the group leaves for its ride. This makes the entire group wait for you while you fuel up. Make sure you have a full tank when you arrive at the start point of the group ride!
- O stands of oils and other fluids
Controls include checking your front and rear brakes for smoooooth cable action and that they both return to their original position when used and released. If the cable drags it's usually a sign that there is a frayed cable inside the housing. It's only going to get worse. You might as well fix it right away. Check the cable ends, check the cable tension, check the cable adjustment necessary to make certain the control will operated correctly. Check with MOM!
Not all bikes have center stands these days. If you're lucky, yours does. It make maintenance much easier. The center stands and the side stands are held in place with springs. Usually it takes more than one spring to hold the stands in place, either up or down. Check and lubricate the springs as necessary to make sure they're operating smooooothly. The stands should stay in place when up, or they will present a hazard to you while riding. If you're parking on asphalt, make sure you have a side stand puck to put under the side stand in case the asphalt (tarmac) is warm enough to allow the side stand to sink into the pavement. A switch plate cover is cheap and works well. Tie a string through one of the screw holes in the plate cover and tie the other end in a loop to place around the left handle grip on the bike while parked. This reduces the likelihood you'll ride of forgetting to pick up your side stand puck. I speak from experience.
- S stands for side stand and center stand
Good luck with your motorcycle. It sounds like you're relatively new to the world of motorcycles. If so, I hope you'll find it as much fun as I've had over the last forty-three years of riding and teaching.