Don't just ride a bike, KNOW how a bike works

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Don't just ride a bike, KNOW how a bike works

#1 Unread post by coffee_brake »

I'm disgusted with folks who want to have a bike and not do what it takes to keep it on the road.

I'm fed up with folks who plead they don't have a lot to spend, buy an older bike because it's so much cheaper, and then a month later bemoan that it won't start, without trying to learn what's wrong or how to fix it.

I'm tired of hearing the stories about how this Honda or that Harley were "bad" bikes because they left someone on the roadside.

Having a motorcycle is NOT just like having a car. You can own a car for years and years, and never have it leave you stranded. But after about 18 months on a bike, it begins to need things that you should address, if you don't want to push it or worse, call a tow.

If you want some exotic, complex, expensive motorcycle that has multiple computer systems and FI and ABS and/or fancy buttons and switches and options, then you usually get to pay for a tow, then a professional mechanic when something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, as it does on all mechanical things.

But if you have found a suitable motorcycle of a plainer kind, and STILL won't embrace the fear, the toil, the thrill, dare I say the adventure, of learning to trouble-shoot a motorcycle, then there is much less respect in the fact that you ride.

If the armored knees of your riding pants have never been a welcome barrier between you and the hot July asphalt as you confirmed fuel flow from both the tank and the float bowl; if you have never soiled your gloves because you needed to adjust your throttle or clutch cable at the gas station; if you have never found yourself looking for some shade on the roadside because the engine has just stalled and you're holding the clutch and shifting to neutral, looking for the best, safest place within rolling distance to figure out what's wrong; if you have never heard a certain "click" or "slap" or "tap-tap-tap" and known exactly what it was coming from the engine or chassis, then....maybe you have a lot to learn, or maybe you're able to always call for a tow, or maybe you ride in fear.

Ladies, don't just ride a bike. KNOW how a bike works! It's not that hard: hydraulics, internal combustion basics, the most elementary of fuel and spark tests, even how to plug a tire with a nail in it will make you more than just someone who owns a bike; it will make you a RIDER.

Do please pardon a woman rider's rant here; but you cannot know how often I face the same questions, over and over: why won't it start? Why won't it rev past 3k? why won't my brake light come on? Why is the battery dead after every ride? In my local community, my riding buddies who aren't rich call ME when they need work done, because the local shops are going to rape them. And they are expected to help do the work and learn as they watch.

Honey, FIGURE IT OUT! if there weren't TONS of help available for free, right there on the web for you to find, it would be like the old days where we made our man a sandwich and brought him a cold beer while he turned wrenches on our Shadow and everybody was happy. But the fact is, if you can learn to ride, you can learn to wrench. And only the ones who are willing lift a finger to work on their own bikes, getting dirty and possibly busting a knuckle in the process, get to call themselves real riders.

This does NOT apply, I guess, to the self-professed "girly girls" who know they have no intention of breaking a nail while pulling the tank to chase a wiring short. These kinds of riders know from the beginning that they are not going to plead anything but "female" or "single mom" or "dival" and there's no shame in that. But if you saw the rebel image of a biker and shivered, if you felt the lift in your heart when your bike started for you the first time, if you ever thought for a moment you should fold your wings when you reached a stoplight...then your bond to your machine is not just ignition-key-deep. You might need to get a set of wrenches and love that machine properly, Darling.
Jenn S.
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2005 Concours
2001 Vmax
1992 CB750

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Re: Disgusted....

#2 Unread post by Lion_Lady »

On some level, I've got to agree with you, Jenn. But not entirely.

I do agree that it is illogical to expect a motorcycle to "just start" after it has been sitting unused for 3 or 6 or more months. I envy you your enthusiasm for wrenching and I wish I had the interest in delving as deeply into how my bike works as you do. I do my T-CLOCS more or less regularly, in an effort to avoid being stranded.

I ride for fun. And I am willing to change the oil and adjust the valves. The basic maintenance stuff. I would even endeavor to plug a tire (I carry a plug kit, but haven't used it). But if I find myself stranded on the side of the road with a dead bike, I'll spend a bit of time trying to puzzle out what's wrong. But chances are pretty good I'll be pulling out my cell phone and calling for help or a tow.

It is disappointing how few riders have any understanding of how their bike works beyond filling with gas and turning the key. On that I think we agree.
Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity - Alice Paul

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Re: Disgusted....

#3 Unread post by Loonette »

I don't like the judgment that "only if you're willing to work on your bike, can you call yourself a 'real rider'". I do quite a bit of my own work on my bike, and sometimes I brainstorm and work on mechanical issues with my husband's assistance, but that's because that's how I want to manage my life. The fact that I place 1600 CCs between my legs and take the risks of riding is what makes me a "real rider". If you don't like answering questions from the "girlies", than just don't answer them. Maybe you'll feel more at peace with the other types of riders in the world and not so stressed out about someone else's problems. Having a condescending attitude is only alienating those who might benefit from your knowledge, Darling.

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Re: Disgusted....

#4 Unread post by blues2cruise »

I call myself a real rider, but I don't have the ability or the space to work on my bike. I have back problems that prevent me from being bent over very long and my hands aren't strong enough any more to do any "real wrenching".

I can trouble shoot a few things, but need help in the execution.

I carry the enhanced BCAA (AAA in the USA) so that if I run into problems I can make a phone call for help.

I don't feel any less worthy because I can't do the work myself.

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Re: Don't just ride a bike, KNOW how a bike works

#5 Unread post by faded sun »

I understand your sentiments and they are valid. But I don't think less of anyone because they are not mechanically inclined. It is a thrill to make something work for sure, or to build or rebuild something and you definitely have a different degree of 'ownership' when you do that. Some folks just won't have the time or ability for that. In the end it is how you feel about it personally and I respect that. Sounds like you are enjoying the experience fully and that is totally cool. I am happy to see so many lady riders out there - a friend of mine just bought a Ninja 250 for her first bike and it is great to see another lady on the road. I salute you all.


Ride Safely. Respect nature. Always wear a helmet.

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