Road Rash: Fix This!

Oct 06, 2015 View Comments by

Road Rash: Fix This!Just Put the Wrenches Down –

At a recent RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend, I was talking to Ken Freund during dinner when our conversation turned to the corner of southeastern Ohio that I call home. Ken recounted how his car broke down years ago on I-70 in my hometown, and how he dropped the transmission and replaced the clutch plates at the side of the road. I recall thinking I’d probably have a better shot at performing an emergency appendectomy on myself with a rusty pocketknife than I would at installing clutch plates in a car. I guess that’s why Ken writes the technical columns and I don’t.

It’s not that I’m inept at working with my hands or using tools, it’s just that vehicles, and motorcycles in particular, leave me lacking in knowledge, tools, and patience when I attempt to work on them. It’s as if they sense my anxiety and throw up every bit of resistance that they can summon. “You’re not a real doctor, and the clothes are stayin’ on, bud!” I’ll change the oil, adjust the chain, clean the air filter, and even change a tire on occasion (I swear that each tire change will be the last), but that’s about the extent of it. Let’s run through a scenario of how things normally progress when I overstep my mechanical bounds.

Disassembly is generally the first step of any maintenance procedure, and the first blows of the gauntlet usually land here. Although I have a reasonably well-stocked toolbox, I always seem to be lacking a couple of tools, usually a socket, extension, or adapter of some type. Procuring these tools is at least a one-hour, 30-dollar proposition, which I grudgingly chalk up as an investment that will save me money in the future. With the proper tools now in hand, I naively wade into the project like Custer heading for Little Big Horn.

Round two usually involves my twisting the head off of a bolt with the shiny new tools. Back to the store again for an Easy Out tool and a six-dollar carbide-tipped industrial grade drill bit (lasts six times longer than standard bits!) to drill a hole in the bolt for the Easy Out tool. I generally find that the bolt is made of the same steel as the drill bit, and that the bit has a working life of about thirty seconds before the tip is glowing and hot enough to brand a steer. Another trip to the store and three drill bits later, the hole is ready for the Easy Out.
This is a critical stage of the work, as the bolt is badly wounded but still very dangerous. With a dying gasp, the bolt nearly always manages to snap the Easy Out tool off in the hole. I now have a beheaded bolt with a broken tool protruding from its center like a wooden stake in a vampire’s heart. If it’s not a critical bolt, I’ll simply do without it, or see if some Velcro or nylon cable ties can come to the rescue. Otherwise, it’s off to the dealer with two problems to fix instead of one.

Although I’m occasionally able to successfully remove all fasteners, I always manage to drop a couple of nuts or bolts onto the bike. I’m convinced that each and every motorcycle has its own miniature black hole portal to another dimension located somewhere behind the cylinders. Any dropped item is, for all practical purposes, simply gone. Probing the area with a magnet-tipped wand or tipping the bike to dislodge the part is futile, and care must be taken to insure that the magnetic wand does not get sucked into the portal as well.

So it’s off to the store again for a replacement bolt. I won’t find it, of course, but I’ll try anyway. My odds of winning the lottery are better than finding a metric bolt with the right thread pitch, length, head style, hardness, and finish as the original. No problem; the dealership can order me one for only $4.95. It should arrive in 7 to 10 days.

The majority of my do-it-yourself attempts at bike maintenance end up with the bike at the dealership service department after several hours of nonstop frustration. The problems I create become my main focus, and the original repair becomes a secondary concern to simply getting the bike back together. Although I rarely follow it, I’ve developed a simple three-step process I strongly recommend to you for your bike maintenance needs.

Step one: Earn money performing tasks that you are adept at.
Step two: Give that money to a good mechanic when your bike needs attention.
Step three: When the money involved in step two approaches the money involved in step one, buy a new bike.

For the record, I do plan on taking my own advice in the near future, but just out of curiosity, has anyone had any experience checking or adjusting the valves on a Ducati? 
I watched an online video and it doesn’t look all that difficult . . .


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