There was a time when riders routinely performed a series of checks before hitting the road. A day’s ride almost always began with a pop of the gas cap to check fuel level, a swipe of the oil dipstick and a careful check of tire pressures. Today, thanks to technology, motorcycles practically manage themselves, requiring less of us when it comes to maintenance. Unfortunately, that’s made many of us complacent about performing pre-ride inspections.
Among the most commonly overlooked maintenance items are tires, yet the condition of these black hoops is vital to the handling of the motorcycle and safety of its rider. OK, so your bike has tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS), right? By the time you get a warning on the instrument panel, air pressures have already dropped to a level that can compromise safety. It doesn’t account for loads that call for higher tire pressures, nor can TPMS tell you when there is a nail in the tread.
So grab your gauge and get down to it. A quick glance or a kick of the boot won’t do the trick. Modern motorcycle tires have stiff sidewalls and don’t distort enough to reveal underinflation (see pictures above). While you’re there, check tire condition and look for foreign objects. It’s not uncommon for riders to unknowingly cover hundreds of miles with multiple metal objects lodged in their tires.
Getting on my knees and crawling around on the driveway to check tire pressures isn’t one of my favorite things. But wrestling with a blowout or sitting at the edge of the road with a flat tire is even less appealing.