Saturday, September 12, 2009

T-CLOCS pre-ride check: Open letter to the MSF

I recently visited with Memphis, an MSF franchise, where Vickye Cunningham kindly invited me to audit their Basic Rider Course.

T-CLOCS, the MSF's pre-ride checklist, came up for discussion.

I agree that the pre-ride check is an essential part of getting your bike ready for the road, and I do a slightly edited version of the check most of the time I ride. Hurt found that four percent of accidents were caused by bike defects, and Maids found a much lower rate of about 0.3 percent. But Maids also found that the existence of a bike defect that was not the primary cause of a crash was much more likely to get a biker killed. This makes sense. If your brakes fail when a cage pulls out in front of you, your chances of avoiding a headslam are much reduced.

Whatever the numbers, bike defects do cause crashes and deaths, and even if the numbers are small, this is one tiny part of the safety equation that bikers can control.

Bikers should all be doing T-CLOCS before each ride as a matter of course. Having ridden with hundreds of bikers, and been there as bikes are loaded up after overnight stops, I can honestly say that a tiny percentage of bikers seem to actually do the T-CLOCS checks regularly. Many bikers I have spoken to have rather lame excuses for not doing T-CLOCS, and I have seen a few near-accidents that could have been avoided by T-CLOCS.

The reason why seems fairly clear. T-CLOCS is a superset of all the possible checks, and some are not needed on all bikes. There are 71 boxes to check off on the T-CLOCS list, including items like spokes, drive shafts and center stands, which a lot of bikes don't have, inaccessible items like battery terminals and rear brake master cylinders, and redundant items like fuel levels, which are probably not necessary to check if you have a reliable fuel gauge or warning light system, or if you keep track of your fuel consumption.

The T-CLOCS list is probably the best that the MSF can do, but I don't think it works, and it could be made a lot less onerous. The only real way to do this is for the bike manufacturers to publish a short pre-ride checklist tailored for each model of bike, and distribute the list as a laminated card with every bike. The list should contain only the items which actually go wrong in practice, and are real safety issues. Maids focuses on brakes, tires and lighting problems as the major contributors to crash deaths. The motorcycle manufacturers already publish maintenance checklists as part of the owners and workshop manuals, so there is no added liability, and the cost to the manufacturers of printing the checklists would be a matter of a few cents per bike. The checklist might become an incentive for manufacturers to add automated checks of some of the potential problem areas. Even a dumbed-down, simplified list would be better than a checklist that is not done.

The MSF role would then become to encourage bikers to follow the shorter, easier, pre-ride checklist for their bike, which would be less onerous for the biker, and might be more likely to be followed in practice.

The MSF's detractors, like hysterical misinformationist Wendy Moon, claim that the MSF is a creature of the manufacturers and acts only in their interests, sometimes to the detriment of biker safety. This is an opportunity for MSF to pressure the manufacturers to do the right thing and improve motorcycle safety at minimal cost to themselves.

While MSF is at it, they also have an opportunity to get out in front of the ABS issue. The writing is already on the wall for ABS, and MSF has another chance here to promote safety and also protect their members interests. Surely they can make the case to their members that only live bikers can buy their products? The role of the conscience of the industry is a natural for MSF if they can rise to the challenge. Harley Davidson has shown the way by making ABS standard on all their bikes, and my helmet is off to them for that. There is no real way the other manufacturers can continue to deny ABS. The large increase in numbers of ABS equipped bikes will eventually produce some good statistics about its efficacy. The smart money is on the news being good, and who wants to be seen to be neglecting the ABS as a standard option and basically cashing in bikers lives to save a few dollars in manufacturing costs? That's a PR and product liability nightmare.

How about it, MSF? Here's a couple of opportunities to do the right thing for safety, to look good, and to put the lie to allegations of industry bias.

In the meantime, all we can say to bikers is: keep doing your pre-ride checks, check as much as you can from the T-CLOCS list, bike defects can get you killed.


Blogger tedder said...

"hysterical debunked misinformationist Wendy Moon". Way to class up the joint.

September 12, 2009 11:37 AM  
Blogger ET said...

Wendy Moon puts out bogus 'information' that uses fabricated data to imply that MSF training is dangerous and actually increases the accident rate. As lack of skills and poor road strategies are a major cause of crashes, and as training is the way to address that problem, the exact opposite is the case, and Wendy's 'advice' may in fact be costing bikers lives. I don't know how she lives with her conscience, probably jsut doesn't have one. As she refers to me as an 'obnoxious Internet troll', I think hysterical misinformationist is both accurate and fair comment. Why don't you just read my response at before you go off the deep end?

September 12, 2009 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first comment is I don't think there is anything wrong with getting motorcycle training. It's just the right thing to do. Second, the MFS is paid for by motorcycle maufacturers, not exactly the people who are going to tell you the truth about motorcycles, so anything you get from them is going to be watered down to start with. Therefore, if you want to learn motorcycle safety you need to go to a vendor outside of the motorcycle industry to learn skills that will contribute to your longevity as a rider. Third, we don't need the government making a bunch of compulsory regulations based on what manufacturers are willing and will allow the legislation to pass. It's just not the way honest brokers in motorcycle safety will ever have a uniform standard of training that will reflect real-world skills required to survive on today's motorways. Just a thought.

April 7, 2010 9:11 PM  

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