Tag Archive for maintenance

The Amateur Mechanic

I find working on my motorcycle both satisfying and humbling.

Some of my friends, including those who also ride, are often surprised I do some of my own maintenance. It’s simple stuff, mostly, like changing the oil and filter, changing the brake fluid, or swapping the brake pads. This week I changed the battery, and I hope to put new spark plugs and cables on her soon.

My mechanic friends, on the other hand, stop just short of patting me on the head and saying, “That’s cute, kid.” I don’t have the tools or the right combination of skill and desire to get much fancier than that. I don’t need the front wheel falling off the fork at 60mph, or the whole thing going wobbly because I didn’t align the rear axle.

Also, I find it’s the little things that kick my ass. Consider this negative battery terminal:

Designed by Satan

The access hole to get to it is just a hair bigger than the terminal block itself, and the cable connection blocks the view of the nut. To make matters worse, the cables and the chassis make it impossible to go at the nut straight on with a screwdriver. What should take seconds becomes several clumsy minutes of cussing and dropped screws.

I also have a superpower: I can banish screws into the fifth dimension, never to be seen again. When I first removed the positive screw port, it tumbled into the chassis somewhere. I heard it *clink* against metal, but it never made it to the ground. I searched all around the gap it fell into, rocked the bike to shake it loose, all to no avail.

Knowing my luck, I worried it was sitting neatly in a gap in the drive chain, waiting to get pulled into the sprockets and tear them apart. This led to a new experiment: opening the sprocket guard to double check. No screw, just more lost time and an opportunity to remove some chain lube build-up.

Another screw disappeared from the battery cover some time ago (probably when I installed the battery minder cables). This one was 25mm (about 1″) long. You’d think it’d have been easy to find. Nope. Fifth dimension, man.

I’d also been searching for the radiator fill cap for some time. As in, since last season. Yes, you can laugh. The coolant reservoir is easy to spot. Even after consulting my trusty Haynes manual, I just could not find the damned fill cap. Someone even tried to tell me my bike doesn’t have coolant, just a radiator fan, because it’s “only” a 600.

I looked it up again this week while I had the manual in hand, noted again that it said “behind the passenger foot peg” and consulted the photos. No, still not making sense. But then I shifted perspective a little, saw a knob, leaned down farther. . .

“AHA!” So loud my daughter came outside wondering if I’d broken something, or if I’d tipped the bike over on my head. (She has such confidence in her dad.)

The cap was tiny, it was camouflaged, and it’s probably also a fifth-dimensional object only visible when the stars align in proper configuration.

Okay, maybe not. But the tube itself is no fatter than a #2 pencil, so it probably just didn’t register as a the reservoir fill in my mechanically-challenged brain.

(Side note: I felt a lot less stupid when purchasing the coolant today. I hit an auto parts store and told the clerk I just needed coolant for my motorcycle. He looked at me like I was speaking Greek, and no shit, I had to repeat it twice and say, “You know, the stuff that goes in a radiator?” before he pointed me to the right aisle.)

There’s a lot of satisfaction in saying, “I did this!” Even for simple tasks. It reminds me I’ve got a lot to learn, too. It’s kaizen: continual improvement. Just like my wife, Lenore’s pretty good at keeping me in my place.

Now on the Summer agenda is flushing the whole coolant system. This requires removing the gas tank, which the Haynes manual rates as two wrenches (of five) in difficulty. We’ll see.

Hard to believe I’ve had Lenore for eight years now. I’d like to upgrade before long, but in the meantime, she’s been a great practice bike. If I can keep her running, I should be able to do the same for the Harleys and Indians I’ve been eyeballing.


About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Lenore’s Last Days

The temps hit 70+ degrees on the ol’ Fahrenheit scale in central Illinois, and as I chauffeured the Wife & kids around for lunch and grocery shopping, it hit me this may be the last day of nice weather to get Lenore ready for her winter hibernation.

Oil change, after dark, no stand. That's how I roll.

Oil change, after dark, no stand. That's how I roll.

Unfortunately I neglected to account for the earlier sunset, so by the time we got home and I got to work, the sun decided to abandon me. Even better, the last guy to replace the oil filter put it on too tight, and after my failed attempts to use a new strap wrench to remove the filter, I resorted to hammering a screwdriver through the filter and using the screwdriver handle for leverage.

Hey, it worked.

2.25 quarts of 10W30 later and Lenore purred like a kitten. I put on a pair of goggles and took her for a quick spin around town, reminded her we’d still be together in the Spring. She told me she’d heard that song before. She reminded me I’d promised to take her on a road trip this year, that she’d get to see some sights in the great Midwestern wilderness.

“Hey, baby, I have a wife and kids,” said I. “A wife who works now.”

“Likely excuse. You ride me around town, take your pictures, then lock me up again. You don’t love me.”

“Hey, don’t talk like that, baby. You know you’re my girl. And the minivan, she means nothing to me. Now hold still while I check out your undercarriage.”

I pulled her in and shut her off before things got weird. I best take one of those promised road trips next year so she doesn’t turn spiteful.

No leaks around the filter or drain plug make Mike a happy rider. I had a hard time seeing the coolant level, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow in daylight. Then she goes on the battery minder until we get some unseasonably warm weather again or the cold gives up the ghost at the end of Winter. Next Spring she gets a new chain and sprockets.

I make do working on the ground in the driveway, but I keep thinking a hydraulic lift would be more convenient and allow me to do other bits of maintenance on the bike myself. I hit Amazon to get an idea of pricing, and I discovered this slice of interesting marketing:

Black Widow lift

Change your oil, baby?

In the ’50s, TV told us women vacuumed their homes in nice dresses and pearl necklaces. Today’s liberated women have moved on, preferring to do motorcycle maintenance in fuck-me pumps and Daisy Dukes. Ten more years and it will be brain surgery in bondage gear.

Hooray for progress!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concept of putting a woman in an ad. I have a penis, and it tends to make a lot of decisions for me. If the ad were for the bike, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

But it’s a hydraulic jack. What can possibly be sexy about a hydraulic jack? (Oh, right. Thanks, Rule 34.) Even worse, they’ve covered up a significant portion of the very item I may be interested in purchasing. If I hadn’t found it in a search for a specific product, I’d have assumed they were trying to sell me the bike.


Lenore’s about done for the season. If I’m lucky there will be a day or two I can sneak out with her this week, but after that, it’s all preparation for the cold white stuff to bury us.

I need to move somewhere warm.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.