The Satisfaction of “DIY”

A confession: I’ve never been very mechanically-minded. I have always admired my father, who can build, repair, modify, or tear down just about anything with a motor. Still can, even at 80 years old. I however, was not blessed with the same skill set. Any abilities I’ve acquired have come by learning from him, teaching myself, and much trial and error (emphasis on error).

Yet I’ve come to enjoy wrenching on motorcycles in recent years, learning their inner workings and what makes them tick, or how to trace down issues and repair them when they cease to tick. Maybe it’s just my (middle) age, and the intrigue of stepping into new territory, out of my comfort zone and into the mechanical world of my father. But I’m enjoying this. Busted knuckles, greasy fingernails and all, my evenings are occasionally spent tinkering on bikes in my garage, not just riding them. A little self-psychoanalysis has revealed a few reasons I’m digging this so much.

Challenge of the Task

Back in 2012, I obtained a 1999 Triumph Sprint ST and 1996 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 from a guy in town, neither of which had run in some years. Upon closer inspection I surmised, “I think I can fix these and get them running for next to nothing, with a little help from Pop.” So with the two steeds soon in my shed, I set to learning each bike from their manuals, and taking them apart with the assistance of my pappy. After new batteries and plugs, some strategically placed contact cleaner, and some carb/injector cleaner, the Triumph was growling like a British bulldog, and the old Vulcan drew a buyer as soon as we got it running. The whole experience was at first kind of daunting, when I first surveyed these non-running bikes sitting in my basement, wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?” Soon the challenge overcame the trepidation, and I’ve since fixed/flipped about 20 bikes over the past several years.

Getting Intimate

Granted, that may sound a bit weird, but I’ve come to realize that the appreciation of my motorcycles is enhanced when I’ve spent time, effort, and resources wrenching on them. Even if it’s only changing my own oil/filter, plugs, air cleaner, etc., I feel more connected to the bikes, more in tune with each, when I’ve spent time “under the tank” with them. Another bike of mine is a 1998 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic that I’ve owned for about 18 years. I’ve ridden all over the US of A on her, and handled much of the basic service myself, as the years have gone by. I’ve come to know her sounds, smells, vibrations, strengths, quirks, not only by riding, but also by diving in and getting my hands dirty with her. This all actually reminds me a lot of my relationship with my wife…but I better not go there (wink).

Penny Pinching

There was a time that whenever my bike(s) needed maintenance or repairs, I paid a local dealership or bike shop to do all the work, much to the chagrin of my dad, who often offered to help work on them with me, and my wife, who never appreciated the invoices. Plinking down $300 for a front/rear brake job, or $400 for a carb overhaul, even $100 for an oil/filter change, got ridiculous. I decided to listen to the wisdom of my father, and the threats of my wife, and learn how to do some things for myself on my two-wheelers. The quid I’ve saved over the years has been phenomenal, especially in some tight economic times. Besides, I’ve been able to turn some of the cash saved back into the bikes, in the way of improvements, accessories, riding gear, or road trips. Priceless.

Satisfaction of a Job Well Done

There is nothing like the feeling of stepping back after completing some work on your bike, and admiring your handiwork. The first time I ever installed a set of aftermarket slip-on pipes was on a 1993 Suzuki VS800 Intruder some years ago. With the help of a friend, we fitted them in properly, retuned the fuel/air mixture some, then fired it up. The roar that bike gave as it sprang to life with those pipes was thrilling for me. And I did that- with a little help from a riding bro. Huge sense of accomplishment.

I’m certainly nowhere near as skilled as my gear-head old man, and I’ll never be a certified motorcycle mechanic. Not trying to be. But I can do some basics, I’m learning more with each project, and enjoying the whole adventure.

Now, back to that chain and sprocket swap!


*Article first penned for my friends at Born To Ride.

1 Comment

  1. David

    Wrench, ride, repeat!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *