Before even hopping on a motorcycle, it’s a smart decision to ride about the mechanics of the machine and familiarize yourself with key concepts. Having an idea in your head is going to come in handy when you’re faced with common beginner problems or later on when you’re on the road.
That’s how you really get a handle on the motorcycle. Let’s get started.
Motorcycle Basic Controls
Most motorcycles have the same controls; but you should always check the owner’s manual since the locations and shapes of some features will vary between makes and models.
Motorcycle basic parts:
- Electric start button – usually yellow or white.
- Engine cut-off switch – above the electric start button. Usually red.
- Above the right throttle is the front brake lever.
- Indicators (blinkers)
- Headlight dip switch (high beams/low)
- Clutch lever.
Between the handlebars, you find the ignition key. Ahead of the handlebars, you will also see the speedometer, odometer, and the tachometer.
Older Styles and Off-Road Bikes
Here’s some special considerations if you are on an older model or have an off-road bike:
Fuel petcock – these are usually attached to the left near the carburetor. You can lean down to switch the gas tank when the fuel is getting low and you need to get to the gas station ASAP.
Kick starter – off-road bikes have kick starters more commonly than street bikes. The kick starter works when you push down on the lever, turning the engine crank and causing the pistons to put pressure against the spark plug. Fuel ignites to start the engine.
What To Check Before Your Ride Every Time
Professional schools throughout the country use the acronym T-CLOCs to help you remember what you should check before heading on your bike. These checks should be done at least once a year, depending on how often you are riding your bike. If you ride every single day, you will have to use T-CLOCs much more often.
- T – Tires
- C – (Main) Controls
- L – Lights & other controls
- O – Oil & other fluids
- C – Chassis
- S – Stands
Check the air pressure and look at the condition of the tires. Are they worn down? Cracking? What is the condition of the spokes? Do you note any air leakage?
Next, look at the rims, bearings, seals, and casts. Does each brake work as it should? Does the bike fight you when turning or slowing down?
The main controls include the handlebars, cables, hoses, levels, pedals, and throttle. Make sure the condition of the hoses is good and that everything is properly lubricated. The bars should be straight, and the throttle should move without resistance. Ensure the hoses aren’t cut or leaking. Any bulges, chafing, cracks or fraying of control cables needs to be repaired.
Lights & Other Controls
This includes the battery, wiring, tail and signal lights, switches, blinkers, headlight, and reflectors. Is everything illuminating? Do the blinkers flash right? Is fraying or kinks in the wiring? Are the beams strong enough in the dark?
Oil & Other Fluids
Check the gaskets and seals for any leaks. Ensure the oil level is good, along with other fluid levels. Check for sediment in the coolant reservoir.
The chassis is made up of the frame, suspension, chains, belts, and fasteners. Nothing should rattle. Nothing should be frayed, cracking, peeling, or chipping. Ensure that everything is tight and that there is tension in the belts and chains.
Check for cracks or bends in the stands. Springs should hold their position without looseness.
Basic Mechanics of a Motorcycle
Being that a motorcycle rides on two wheels, it is designed to lean to either side. Through balance and input from the ride, the motorcycle maintains an upright position. Many beginners are afraid that the bike is going to fall over if they lean too far, but that’s not the case. Through the forces of physics, such as friction, momentum, and gravity, it’s nearly impossible for a bike that’s going to straight to fall over.
Another reason the motorcycle stays upright is the force of the pistons in the engine. These pistons move up and down, creating a force that helps the moving bike maintain it’s upward position.
The tires of motorcycles are designed to be rounded, ensuring that as the bike rounds a corner, the same surface area of the tire remains on the ground.
For the beginner, all you need to know about the chassis is how to sit properly. When positioned properly on the bike, your wrists, knees, and back will be comfortable. You should also be able to engage your core and thigh muscles when using your body to maneuver.
Most bikes are manual transmission. The clutch keeps the bike moving but also controls the speed by using friction. Clutches are usually bathed in the same oiled the engine uses, so if you ride the clutch for a while, you won’t cause damage. However, some bikes are different, so refer to the owner’s manual.
Wrapping It Up
For the new rider, your focus should be memorizing where the controls are and what certain parts of the bike do. By learning the general location, you can drive much more safely (and not while staring at the handlebars).
Remember, the everything takes practice. In the same way you learned to ride a bicycle, you need some patience with riding a motorcycle. With that, you’re ready to begin!
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