In this world we live in it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what is truly important. Of course, family, friends and one’s own self are still at the top of the list for many of us however, money, image and social standing can easily cloud those values. What comes on the list after family, friends and one’s own self is where most of us go astray. I had a rare chance to see what comes after these important items. Giving back, or better yet, paying forward.
Recently two custom motorcycle builders spent a day of work, education and fun with the Bernice MacNaughton High School Bike Club kids. The builders were Bob McKay of McKay’s Cycle Creations and Luc LeBlanc of Kent County Custom. The event took place at KCC, Luc’s shop, in Shediac Bridge, New Brunswick November 1, 2007. Bob travelled the 1,300 kilometres or so from Kingston, Ontario to visit with family and friends and to hang out with the club. The day was a great personal success for all involved.
Along with Luc and Bob, the kids of the club that attended were Seth Bagley, club captain, Mark Vale, Jeremy Gould, Randi Briggs, Chris Lutes, Kyle Arsenault and past club captain, Justin Merrithew who took a day off from his Machinist course to help out. I was there to supervise, I am Marc Mazerolle and I manage the BHMS Bike Club.
The day started out at 6:30 a.m. when we met at the school to load up our bobber project bike we call “Betty”. A year and a half ago we started this project after receiving a donation of a frame and challenged to build a motorcycle. Previous to this, we had spent two years building custom bicycles. The goal was to have the kids design, plan, raise funds and build a bobber style full custom bike from scratch. Once “Betty” was loaded on the trailer, and the kids in the numerous cars, we drove the 25 minutes to Luc’s shop. Luc was already at work getting ready for the day when we arrived and a few minutes later Bob showed up, then things suddenly went into over-drive.
Bob and Luc put the kids to work right away, disassembling “Betty” to prepare for the day’s work, all the while both Bob and Luc were dispensing their style of education to the kids through stories and past experiences. “Sometimes you gotta take two or three steps back to make ten steps forward,” Bob told the kids as they proceeded to remove the primary, the seat, the gas tank and oil tank. The bike was being stripped to get to the rear wheel assembly for final alignment and spacer fabrication. Once disassembled, Betty looked bare and almost back to where we had started 16 months earlier. Bob and Luc laughed as they looked at the faces of the kids who suddenly realized that they had a lot of work ahead of them that day.
The work, though very important, became secondary as the kids learned how to do preliminary alignments. What they truly were starting to learn was how to think, a valuable skill in any trade. Watching and listening to Bob and Luc together, the kids learned it’s important to ask questions when you don’t understand something, “when in doubt, ask someone”.
Once Betty’s rear wheel assembly was buttoned up, we turned the bike around on the hoist and started on the front end, more disassembly with the entire wide glide coming apart, Bob was going to show the kids how to rebuild a front suspension system. Betty’s front-end was a hodge podge of various front-ends, trees from a Heritage Softail, legs from an FLH and forks from an old Shovelhead. The forks were wrong for the legs and Bob explained why, while Luc supplied us with some that would work, but happened to be slightly bent. Bob and Luc showed the kids how to check and then straighten the forks and how to rebuild the front-end. We found out we needed a new front axle as the one currently in place was the wrong size. One was quickly ordered from our local H-D dealership, Toys for Big Boys, along with new wheel bearings and a spacer kit. This would complete the front-end of the bobber.
Once this was done, the kids went to work on mounting the hand-made rear fender to the bike. “If you over think the construction of the bike, it will never get built.” Bob commented to me after I explained how we wanted the rear fender mounted. It was originally planned to have the fender removable to help access the rear tire. Bob and Luc quickly pointed out that the rear tire would have no trouble coming out through the rear and that the fender could be permanently mounted. Bob had hit upon something that rang true with all of us in the Bike Club. We had been over-thinking our design; this bike didn’t have to be a Master Builder level show bike. It just had to work, be safe and look good. I had been over-thinking and it may have slowed our progress. Luc and the kids bent some round stock and welded it to the frame and fender. Now the bobber finally has its fender, it’s straight and we can move on to complete the rest of the fabrication stage.
All in all, the day had the kids living and learning from 45 plus years of experience between Bob and Luc. Experience brings wisdom, wisdom brings a valuable sense of confidence. Luc and Bob brought all of that to the table and we ate it up and asked for seconds. We learned to listen, to think critically and that over-thinking may actually delay a project more than help it. The day was a great demonstration of two builders giving back the most precious and valuable of donations that the club could have enjoyed, time and experience.
Bike Club‘s Randi Briggs had this to say, “Luc and Bob showed me how to figure out tough problems, I got to know them and my fellow Club members better that day. This trip really helped me figure out what I may want to do after I have finished High School”. Jeremy Gould commented, “It was an awesome day, just awesome”. And Mark Vale was heard saying, “It’s days like this that made joining Bike Club worth while”.
To see more of the day, log on to the BMHS Bike Club’s Website at www.bmhsbikeclub.zoomshare.com