5 checks in 2 minutes: The TMC check

Let’s be honest, how many times since you first read your bike maintenance manual have you checked the chain, brake pads and fork seals?

Probably not as many times as you should have.

Of course, there are many of you out there who regularly check your bike each time you ride. But many of us, especially if we are commuting daily, either don’t have the time or have too many other things to think about, like security chains or putting your wets on.

This isn’t ideal. Leaking fork seals or low grip from worn brake pads is seriously dangerous. A broken chain could wreck your engine.

But you can significantly reduce the chances of that happening by doing five quick checks that together should take no more than two minutes. Two minutes that really could save you or your bike.

We’ve called it the TMC: the Two Minute Check and we’re going to bang on about it until most bikers have not only heard of it, but regularly do it.

You can download a printable version of the TMC here.

What you’ll need to do a regular TMC

You need a minimum of three things to do the TMC each time:

A light source for peering at brake pads
A tyre pressure gauge
A spanner the same size as your chain adjustment bolts (you may also need an alley key on some bikes).

Performing the Two Minute Check itself

It’s important to remember that this is not a full safety or mechanical check – it’s a simply an easy yet vital method for checking critical operations on your motorbike, checks that most of us rarely remember to do regularly. If we remember of weekly TMC, then at least we are giving ourselves a better chance of not having an accident or worse.

The TMC is a 360º tour of the bike, starting at the front

– Front forks

Get down on at least one knee and inspect the fork seals for any signs of fluid. This is the hydraulic fluid that is used to dampen the motion of each fork. If you see fluid, book a trip to the workshop or if you are doing it yourself get all the fork service elements you’ll need. Depending on the severity of the leak, you’ll be OK for a short, gentle ride. If the leak is severe, don’t ride the bike. This should take 10 seconds.

– Brake pads

While you are down on your knees, take your torch and shine it into the brake callipers to see how much of the material that grips onto the brake disc is left. It will be darker or lighter than the material at the calliper end. You need to see at least 3mm each side. Again, this should take 10 seconds.

– Tyre pressures and tread

Now move to the left of the front wheel and check the tyre pressure. Taking the cap off and replacing it is probably the longest task in the TMC, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 seconds per wheel. After you’ve done check 4, remember to also do the rear wheel. If either pressure is not at the manufacturer’s PSI, get yourself to the garage (or you may have an inflator at home).

While you are there, take the opportunity to visually check the tyre tread depth. If you think it may be below the legal minimum of 1 mm across ¾ of the width of the tread pattern and with visible tread on the remaining ¼, don’t guess. Either get a tread depth gauge or stop by a tyre retailer.

A kit to check both pressure and tread depth costs less than £5 on Amazon.

– Oil

Before you move on to the rear wheel pressure, stand next to the bike and using the handlebar, pull the bike upright (if it’s not already on a stand). You can use your left leg to brace the bike to make sure it doesn’t come too far towards you. Count to 5 slowly to let the oil level settle then check the gauge (which is nearly always on the right-hand side of a motorbike), to ensure the oil is neither above or below the level markers. Top up/drain if you have the time, but this check should only take 10-15 secs tops.

– Chain

After remembering to do the rear tyre pressure, move around the back of the bike and move the chain up and down at the centre point between the rear wheel and where everything disappears into the engine. The chain should move, as a rule of thumb, about 3.5cm (1 1/2”). If you don’t have the bike on a centre stand (or rear paddock stand), push the bike forward so the rear wheel turns one-quarter turn and repeat the same check until you’ve feel you’re around the chain. If the chain has more slack than is safe, then immediately take the time to adjust it.

If you have one the Chain Monkey is a great way to keep your chain at its optimal setting

The TMC might take a little longer than two minutes the first time you do it, but if you’re doing it weekly you’ll soon get quicker.

The hardest thing about the TMC is remembering to do it. That why we strongly recommend having a very regular time or occasion to do it. If you ride daily, you could perhaps do it every Thursday morning (better than Friday’s because you might not ride in every Friday). If you only ride weekends, how about making the first ride of the month the TMC ride?

Biker & Bike Two Minute Check


Get yourself sorted:

Download a printable TMC and use it!

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