The Circumstances That Keep Interfering With Our Passion
*We welcome guest contributor Christian Pierce to Road Dirt. We hope you enjoy his ruminations.
We all have dreams and aspirations but sometimes no matter how hard we wish or try, life happens, and plans get delayed for days, weeks, months, or even years. In a world currently coping with a global pandemic, I’m sure life is happening to a lot of folks out there right now, as we take the appropriate steps to endure this trying time.
So, what are we to do? We could watch the news and obsess over the flood of information or we could enjoy the solitude and find something to occupy our time. For those of us in the automotive community (be that cars, trucks, or motorcycles), spinning a wrench can be pretty cathartic. In fact, I believe someone once referred to it as a moment of Zen. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but focusing on the inner workings of a carburetor or a master cylinder usually helps me clear out all the noise for a bit. And like any gearhead, I’ve got bikes in varying states of repair that could always use a little time and attention. To be honest, some have needed attention for way too long, but as I said, life happens.
Personally, I take solace in knowing distractions are a universal experience. Actor Jason Mamoa (known for his roles in Aquaman and Game of Thrones) addressed this recently, when he posted a short film about this subject to YouTube entitled, “Where the Wild Stomped In.” As is often the case, Mamoa got involved in motorcycling at a young age, buying a 1957 Panhead he named Mable (after his grandmother) at age 19. He rode that bike, like we all do in our youth, until the tires wore off. Thanks to Mable, he was now fully invested and looked for ways to feed his new addiction further. He bought an old, broken down motor (a Harley Knucklehead) and envisioned putting it back together one day. Instead things got in the way, life happened, and the motor sat while he got married, had kids, and enjoyed a blossoming career as an actor. But he didn’t give up, he just got delayed. At age forty, he returned to that project and with the help of friends he got that tired motor running again, in a sidecar rig that he could enjoy with his kids. Seeing that film again recently has been nourishing to my soul, as I’ve sought inspiration to bring life back to motors that have sat peacefully in my garage long enough for dust and cobwebs to overtake the machines.
Ten years ago, I bought a 2002 Suzuki Bandit 1200 and I purchased the bike for a single purpose. At the time, I typically rode sport bikes (CBRs, Super Hawks, Ninjas, etc.) but those bikes were not suited for the task at hand. You see, a couple friends were riding from the East Coast (I’m based in Atlanta, my friends resided in Fort Lauderdale) to Colorado Springs for a conference dedicated to motorcycle studies. Anyway, I wanted to go and knew that I needed a standard or sport tourer to make the trip more comfortable. While the Bandit was powerful enough, the naked version left me exposed to the wind and the elements, and the oil-cooled engine would likely not enjoy the summer heat it would be forced to endure across the Midwest. But after taking the bike for a spin, I knew it was the right rig for me. So, I bought the Bandit and started prepping it.
In the midst of readying the bike for the rigors of a long ride, I also made preparations for a parallel project on that trip. In addition to the cross country tour, I was going to use that journey to create a photo diary of my travels. This wasn’t going to be a simple journal, instead I planned on breaking out a small sign that read “Will you marry me?” and with help from my riding partners and local residents, I would take roadside photos as a means of proposing to my girlfriend (who was flying to Colorado Springs to meet me for the conference and had no idea what was going on behind the scenes). And so, I rode that bike to the Rockies and back on a mission.
A few weeks after the ride, I presented a photo book to my girlfriend that outlined the trip and ultimately served as a proposal of marriage, as she flipped through the images of me with the sign. And if you were wondering, she enthusiastically accepted. We are still married to this day and while other bikes have come and gone in my/our collection, the Bandit stayed tucked away in the garage. After being parked for a period, the carbs varnished over and it simply quit running because, life happened.
The bike got pushed into a corner and remained there for some time. After a couple of years of wasting away, I rebuilt the carbs but did a poor job of tuning them. While I’d wrenched on my bikes for a while, I knew only enough to get myself in trouble. It was then that I decided to enroll in trade school and get a degree in motorcycle repair. The classes proved eye opening, and while I’m still more of a shade tree mechanic than a skilled dealer technician, it has given me more confidence to fix my bikes and problem solve as I go. The carbs on the Bandit got a second look and I rebuilt them again, but as I did, an overflow line in the fuel tank developed a leak and began pouring fuel on the ground. Once again, life happened and the bike waited patiently for me to return.
Then in December 2018, I was laid off from a job I loved, from a company I’d devoted more than 15 years of my life to. With the stress of suddenly being unemployed, I sought refuge in the garage and the Bandit’s leak got the attention it needed. I cleaned out the tank and resealed it, but soon after I found fulltime employment and jumped back into my career with both feet. Nearly back together, the Bandit called to me any time I opened the garage door, but with other bikes to ride and other vehicles to drive, it was never a priority. And that’s how projects like this often go; they’re not a priority until you make them one.
Given the stress of working from home, entertaining and educating my kids, and supporting my wife as she does the same, I needed an escape. I needed something I could do at night or for a couple hours on weekends to get my mind off of everything else going on in the world. The Bandit was ready and waiting. I prepped the tank, installed the petcock and fuel gauge, replaced the associated gaskets, and ran the lines to the correct connections. With a new battery and a fresh tank of gas, it fired backed up, albeit a little rough at first, but after a few adjustments it settled down and I took it for a spin for the first time in years. I’d forgotten how heavy the bike feels compared to the smaller sport bikes I’m accustomed to riding, but I was proud of the accomplishment. I was proud to see this bike rolling down the road after some much needed TLC. I started with a short test ride and then took it on a longer excursion which brought back memories of that life changing ride ten years ago. I was brought back to all the stops I made along the way, asking folks if they’d take my picture as I held that sign. I was reminded of all the people who went out of their way to assist me. With those thoughts flooding back, I was excited to have the Bandit on the road, but then life happened again.
The next day, I went into the garage to find a puddle of fuel under the bike. The diaphragm in the petcock had let go and gravity caused fuel to drain into the airbox and out the breather tubes. The fuel ruined the air filter and made a rather dangerous mess in the garage that required an extensive cleanup and a fair bit of fumigation. It also drained into the engine block, but thankfully, I caught that in time and replaced the oil before that situation got any worse. I was able to order a replacement petcock, air filter, and a couple of needed gaskets. Those parts just arrived and I’m confident that I’ll have it up and running again this weekend. That is until life happens again…
Yet, I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone. During daily walks through my neighborhood, I’ve noticed other folks resurrecting automotive projects in an effort to get them rode worthy again. A few houses over, a neighbor is rebuilding an old Chevelle and down the block someone is working on a Ford Falcon. This pandemic has been brutal from both a public health and economic standpoint, but the extended time at home has enabled us to focus on priorities and projects. Hopefully, once we come though the other side of this, we’ll be able to share the outcome of those projects with our friends and family. Personally, I’m looking forward to riding the Bandit again and making new memories with this trusted machine.