I mentioned last week bringing my new-to-me Suzuki DR650S into the school’s shop so I could attach the headlight. What I didn’t mention was that afterwards, only the right turn signal worked, and hitting the brake dimmed the headlight significantly. A day later with no one touching the bike, the only light working besides the headlight was the brake light, but only when the ignition switch was turned to the “park” setting.

In other words, I had given myself an electrical problem to diagnose and repair. Whereas in the past this would annoy me, now that I’m in school to do this sort of work, it’s actually sort of exciting.

Almost every week, one or more of Mike’s former students will visit class, usually on a Monday morning when most motorcycle shops are closed. We had four visitors this week, one of whom has been a mechanic for over 10 years and is very highly regarded in Atlanta. Asked what skill new mechanics struggle with the most, he answered “electrical.” So yay to the DR650, for it gives me something to practice on.

The same Monday, we performed “T-CLOCK” safety checks, and I brought in the DR650 for this.

  • T – Tires and wheels
  • C – Controls and cables
  • L – Lights and electrics
  • O – Oil and fuel (and other fluids)
  • C – Chain and Chassis
  • K – Kickstand

This was originally written as a pre-ride safety check to be used before every ride. I defy you to find anyone who does the whole thing for every ride, or even every month. But it’s a good list. Here’s a detailed form if you want to check it out or use it yourself.

In the case of the DR650, my toolbox group and I found a few spots of concern.

  • The steering head bearing clicks when you pull on the forks — it’s not an immediate safety problem, but it means it’s time to replace those bearings. Typical bikes seem to need new ones every 20,000 to 50,000 miles; more often if the person installing them is a knucklehead.
  • We found that the clutch lever was sloppy and the action creaky, so we lubricated the cable and the pivot. It’s still sloppy in one direction (up and down), which I could probably fix with a couple shims.
  • There seems to be a minor fuel leak, since there was a drop of it on the bottom of the carburetor. (This could be related to a problem I notice when I ride the bike, which is that my pants smell like fuel when I reach my destination.)
  • There is a minor oil leak around the shift lever shaft.
  • The rear shock bushing seems to be worn.
  • And the kickstand was cruddy, so we removed it, cleaned and greased the pivot, and put it back on.

This practice came in handy a day later, when I rode down to Fayetteville to inspect and road test a 1995 BMW R1100RS for a friend who lives in North Carlina. I ended up with a detailed list describing the bike, and it felt good writing it up and sending it to him so he can make a decision whether to come and buy that bike or stay home.