Cycle Therapy

24
2010
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There are sound, practical reasons for owning a motorcycle that transcend fantastic gas mileage and low buy-in cost. I speak of the therapeutic aspects of motorcycle ownership.

Knowing you have one; that it’s out in the garage – ready to go whenever you are.

Just looking at it – even if you can’t ride it today.

Because there is always tomorrow.

The “Dr.” is always in. No need to make an appointment. Whenever you feel the need, he is there, waiting and ready – maybe even in your TV room. So long as you remembered to keep the trickle charger hooked up – and didn’t forget the fuel stabilizer in the tank. Roll it around the room once a week or so, to keep the tires from flat-spotting.

When you do get to ride, your worries recede  . . . because they have to. A bike is not like a car – especially modern cars, which practically beg you to fall asleep at the wheel and then nag you for doing it.

On a bike, you’re presence – of mind and body – is required.

It is up to you to keep it upright. If you don’t, it won’t. There is no Lane Keep Assist or Automated Emergency Braking. The only assistant along for the ride is  . . . you.

It is your job to keep track of what gear you’re in – and to operate the clutch. To be smooth. If you forget to downshift when downshifting is called for, the engine will bog and you’ll feel stupid. If you forget to pull in the clutch as you roll to a stop, the engine will stall – and you’ll look stupid.

Bikes are not for the stupid. Not for very long, at least.

Some bikes have kick starters. Few things in life are more satisfying than physically starting an engine by a well-choreographed forceful downstomp. Buttons are for people who’ve fallen – and can’t get up.

Since you have no air bags and there are lots of gadget-addled people in cars not paying much attention ton anything going on outside their cars, you grok the importance of paying attention to them.

Which keeps your attention lit on the scene at hand – and not what went down at work or what is waiting for you at home. Few things keep you in the moment like a bike does. It is a kind of time machine that makes time stand still. There is no past or future. Just right now.

For as long as the ride lasts.

It is a taste of the psychological ease our early ancestors must have enjoyed on those days when the sun was warm and their bellies full and everything seemed well.

And was.

There is a secondary therapeutic aspect: Wrenching.

Bikes, most of them, are still primarily mechanical things – tangible things. Not cell phones that roll. Their machinery is also largely accessible; you can lay your hands on just about anything. The engine – all of it – is literally right in front of you. Not buried under a plastic shroud. Not crammed up against a firewall. You can sit beside it, examine it from almost any angle.

It can actually be fun to change the oil, replace the spark plugs or do a brake job – which jobs generally don’t require jacking up anything and (usually) no special tools. The act is a kind of communion which creates an emotional bond between man and machine. There is the immense satisfaction which comes from doing it yourself – which satisfaction is denied to owners of cars whose complexity and impossibly inaccessible packaging and necessity for specialized tools and “diagnostic” equipment has made them forbidding, remote and as difficult to bond with as a wire-mesh wet nurse.

Even newer bikes with fuel injection are easy to deal with by dint of the fact that you can get to the injectors without disassembling a third of the engine. And the FI is still relatively simple throttle body or port injection, not direct injection as in almost all new cars.

Bikes are still what cars would have been had “the government” – busybodies and control freaks with badges and guns – stayed out of the car business. Of course, “the government” has decided to get into the bike business, too – and the new stuff is being encrusted with the bad stuff which has ruined cars as other than Transportation Modules.

But the good news is this creeping rot only began a few years ago – so you don’t have to go back 20-plus years to avoid it, as is the case with cars.

Go back to the early 2000s and before and you’ll be dealing with carburetors – and no electronic controls at all. Just a few electronic devices – such as the battery/generator and ignition system.

All of them under your control.

The bike is your co-conspirator, not your nanny. It has no event data recorder; no Intelligent Speed Limit Assist. It does not pester you with annoying buzzers for doing something a bureaucrat who imagines himself to be your parent or – worse – your owner – thinks you ought not to do. As all modern cars do.

It is as autonomous a vehicle as ever existed.

Get one – and ride it – while you still can.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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24 COMMENTS

  1. I wholeheartedly concur! In fact, this past Sunday I did a 240 mile therapy session on the beautiful rural twisty roads of south central Virginia. It definitely has a way of making your troubles seem far away.

  2. Okay Eric,,, I have to use a button to start my Road King,,, and it has ABS…. Didn’t want that but you had to order it without and it cost more…. lol. I’ve owned everything from a Whizzer to a Jawa (Automatic). Believe it or not the new Harley Milwaukee Eight seems like a good engine…… so far. Doesn’t have the oiler leak,,, they left a little shake and it is reasonably quiet. 4 valve and dual plugs per cylinder.

    Off topic. ZeroHedge has a article explaining where Tesla gets its money. The headline is

    “The ‘Secret Source’ of Teslas Cash has been revealed”
    A Bloomberg source…..

    You’ve been talking these greenhouse credits for years. Their article seem to imply this is secret and new. Kind of made me chuckle…… I’m a little curious why this has just surfaced on mainstream news. Anyhow FYI….

  3. “Even newer bikes with fuel injection are easy to deal with by dint of the fact that you can get to the injectors without disassembling a third of the engine.”

    You have never tried to remove the carbs/FI on a Honda V4 have you? 🙂

    Four carbs(early), FI(later) buried under the tank and in the V with very stiff rubber connections to the head. Doable but lots of swearing and pulling harder than seems prudent.

    But yup, still better than

  4. I’ve been overdue for cycle therapy for a long,long time. My first bike at 18 was a ’78 Honda Hawk. Sold that and purchased a ’82 Yamaha Maxima 650. I rode that for several years until I sold that. 26 years later, I’ve kept my MC license all this time with the intention of getting another bike. I’ve had that “itch” to get back into it but there is always something that puts it on hold. Oh well … maybe soon!

  5. I’ve been riding nearly daily for over 40 years. If it’s not raining or freezing I walk out to go somewhere and pass by the van and the mustang and jump on the V-Twin. Can’t say it’s kept me sane, but maybe a little saner than I’d have otherwise been.

  6. This is the truth. Since getting into bikes about 5 years ago at age 28, I’ve learned how to do oil changes, brakes, and most recently, pull the wheels off of my KTM 1290 Super Duke and mount/balance tires. It’s made me much more aware of how the bike, and also my Corolla daily driver, is operating.

    It also saves money. You can shop around when it comes to Corolla maintenance, but a Euro Superbike will require you to buy some tools and do some of this shit yourself. Even if there’s a guy nearby who knows how to do maintenance, he will charge a lot for that specialization. And now I have the tools and confidence to do a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t do before.

    • Friends that know KTM’s will help a lot. If your new to wrenching on bikes, the most important advice IMO is almost all bolts, etc… go to aluminum. Just don’t overtighten stuff, and use anti-seize on everything, and blue locktite on a lot. I even go as far as taking a brand new ktm almost completely apart to add anti-seize to everything. Crazy I know, but it also helps with accurate torque settings, and I use a torque wrench on almost everything. Best of luck, you have a very awesome machine.

      • Hi Chris,

        “…and I use a torque wrench on almost everything.”

        Yes, buy a got-damn torque wrench. There’s a subset of mechanics, who are bad, but think they’re good that insist that they’re “feel” is just fine. To them I like to joke, “yeah, you don’t need a torque wrench, tighten until it just starts to loosen, then back off an 1/8 of a turn.”

        Cheers,
        Jeremy

      • Haha thank you and yes Chris, I’ve purchased three different torque wrenches since owning this bike (one required for the rear wheel, which needed 250 NM!) as well as long life grease, loctite 243, and anti-seize. I also grabbed the service manual with all of the torque values listed. These are small amounts of money compared to the catastrophe of shearing and stripping bolts.

        Eric, ha so many great motorcycle names. Ducati has a bunch of solid names: Panigale, Superleggera, or just plain Monster.

        • John and Jeremy, I make a copy of the torque specs and hang it on my toolbox. After 40 years of wrenching on bikes, the fist 5-10 stripping everything, I realized I had my Uncles propensity to overtighten everything, so now I torque everything, haha. I think after bazillions of repetition I’ve finally got the 10-12 ft-lbs down with my hand without the t-wrench, but no other spec……….
          My son is following in my footsteps, must be genetic…….

          • Hi Chris,

            Indeed! Bike mechanicals are usually aluminum – very easy to hurt by strong-arming. I suffer the same problem you’ve got and so always use the torque wrench – especially on head bolts but also anything connected to the head, like the nuts on exhaust studs. Nothing says fun like snapping off a stud and then having to dig the stump out of the head. Or that sinking feeling when tightening a spark plug and it suddenly gets loose again…

    • Excellent, John!

      And, PS: Bikes still have great names, too… Super Duke, for instance! And: Vincent Black Shadow. Or Dark Knight. Goddamn!

  7. I’d love a bike, but my family has terrible luck with them and I’m in the tristate xD

    Still love em, just gotta move somewhere quiet and low-key

  8. I recently came into posession of a VW trike. No superbike by any means, but whoever built it put in a nasty lumpy cam and a VW header. Most liberating thing I’ve driven in years, even a little more than my willys jeepster pickup rat rod. You sit down in that deep saddle with those big forks out front and roll down the rural highway enjoying life.

    And if only I were still single, this thing is an absolute puss magnet!

  9. I just started riding an old harley from ’86 (an FXRD to be exact-1 year only bike) I added to my stable of jap bikes- man, new harleys don’t shake like the old ones and they are really quiet. This one is an evo, but at every stop light the front wheel is bouncing at idle along with the handle bars, and everything is rubber mounted. People cover their ears when I pass, and I got good -30Db plugs for myself

  10. My problem is that I always run out of road, and have to do that whack pivot like you do when walking the beach. Great and uplifting article. Had laughter tears in my eyes at the part about stalling and bogging and looking stupid. Been there.

  11. Have a new adventure bike on order. First new (semi) street bike I’ve bought in over 25 years. Waiting for it is like waiting for my first born to arrive. So excited.
    Some good news for you Eric: My son has turned into a bike guy, and so are all his friends……..there is hope, although it’s not a lot of hope considering the majority of their peers could care less.

    • Excellent, Chris!

      I have a busy day today – two radio interviews and I a deadlined article for another pub – but am hoping I can wheel out the Kz900 this afternoon… lord knows, I need the therapy 🙂

      • Was out this weekend on both the ’81 GL1100, and the ’82 CM250. The Wing had bad gas, bad battery, and carbs flooded the crankcase on Monday. Got all that sorted out by Thursday. The 250 gas and battery were fine, and it started up in just seconds, on Friday night. Just a few short local rides was enough to feel better this weekend!

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