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One for the Road: Mechanical maelstrom

By Shadow

One_for_the_Road

A woman sees she needs her oil changed in her car, makes an appointment with her local repair shop, has a cup of coffee and watches TV for a half-hour until her car is ready, pays the $29.99 bill and is on her way.

Her husband sees it’s time to change the oil in his car, goes to his local auto parts store and buys the oil, filter and necessary wrenches, and then picks up a case of beer. Next is series of mishaps, spills, fumbles and many downed beers and an ensuing DUI charge during his test ride, resulting in two days’ wasted time and a total cost of $2,350 (including fines and lawyer fees) for what should have been a simple oil change.

The joke is meant to point out the difference between men and women, but it made me think about my own mechanical attempts, which are often closer to the man’s experience (minus the beer and the DUI). My first foray into the world of motorcycle DIY was when I wanted to swap the stock buckhorn handlebars on my then-new Sportster with a set of Dyna Wide Glide bars. My friend Bill helped with the removal of the old bars and the running of internal wires through the new ones. I remember Bill handing me the Dremel to finish smoothing out the holes he drilled for internal wiring. It wasn’t as easy as I’d thought.

Undeterred, I learned to change the Sportster’s fluids and filters and perform other minor tasks. As the years went on and I added more bikes to my collection, I sometimes depended on shops to do even these simple jobs. I’d take it to the shop for other more complex work, and I’d ask, “Change the oil and filter while you’re at it, OK?”

Sometimes I’d acquire a part or accessory that really didn’t need professional installation, and I’d tackle it myself. Usually I managed to get the job done, but there were some botched attempts that I generally keep to myself. After all, I don’t want to reinforce the stereotype that women aren’t mechanically inclined.

One time I wanted to mount a Formotion thermometer onto my handlebar switch housing. It was a simple two-step task: Install the mounting bar onto the switch housing bolt, and then mount the thermometer onto the bar. The first step went quickly and I proceeded to screw the thermometer onto the bar. I turned the screw… and turned and turned and finally heard “Pop!” and then some oil ran down my arm. The screw was too long and I’d punctured the thermometer casing. After cursing my own stupidity I made a call to Formotion. I confessed to my misdeed and, to their credit, they sent me a new one at no charge.

More recently, I’ve had less and less time to futz around in my garage, plus the arthritis in my hands has been interfering with actions such as grasping tiny nuts, bolts, washers and such, making many tasks frustrating and time-consuming. But a year ago when I ordered a set of Slipstream products for my Switchback, they looked so easy to install I’d have been embarrassed to ask someone else to do the job for me. Included in the kit were a set of floorboard inserts, passenger footpegs, shifter peg, brake pedal pad and mirrors. With the exception of the recalcitrant floorboard inserts (it was a real struggle to pull the nipples through those holes), the entire installation was quick and easy. I did notice something odd—there was only one set of star washers with the mirrors, but the stock ones I took off only had one set, as well, so I just buttoned everything up and got ready for my ride to Daytona.

An hour or so into the ride, I noticed that the wind was pushing one of the mirrors back. I pulled over, tightened both mirrors and got back on the road. Later, I noticed the same thing, but now both mirrors were flapping in the breeze. I pulled over again, tightened everything and this time applied Loctite. Everything was fine for the rest of the day. The next morning, it happened again… and my entire ride to Florida consisted of a series of stops and starts of increasing frequency. Passing through Jacksonville I saw the Adamec H-D dealership, pulled in and they attended to the problem right away. Just as I’d suspected, each mirror required two star washers. Props to the service staff for getting me back on the road quickly. And thanks, guys, for not laughing at me.

Recently I needed to install a pigtail onto my Switchback’s battery to accommodate my new heated gear. This was my first bike with a security system, and I knew I had to disable it or deal with the ear-splitting alarm until the job was done. I couldn’t remember the code to disable the alarm so I figured I’d just pull the main fuse. I couldn’t wrestle the cover off. I called upstairs to the long-suffering Steve, who tries to avoid getting involved in my projects. Through trial and error, one of us finally touched the magic spot and it went “pling” and fell right off. The battery cover elicited a similar process and result.

Then I had to follow wires, pull them through teeny spaces and route the new wires through. Some had inline fuses so there were logjams every step of the way. And there was the extra wire I ended up with after everything was all buttoned up. I figured it was a ground to some other electronic gizmo on my bike and just affixed it to the battery cover bolt. Finally, after about 90 minutes (should’ve been a 15-minute job), everything was done, and miraculously, done correctly.

Something I tend to forget is the sense of satisfaction when I’ve completed such tasks, even if they are small, simple ones. And for that reason, I’ll continue to do the occasional oil change or product install. I’ll just have to make the time.

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