There have been countless times throughout my years when I’ve cursed at myself for not taking the time to learn about my bike before setting out on a ride. Or when I found out there was an easy-to-fix problem that had become a chaotic mess because I didn’t recognize the signs.
One instance, in particular, left me stranded on the side of the road just outside of Spanish, Ont., 10 years ago on the last day of my first big trip. I had spent three months on the road, riding almost every day from Ontario to Alaska and back. The concept of checking my drive chain rambled through my brain a few times, so I would tighten the chain and spray on some chain lube, but I didn’t know enough to spot the obvious signs of chain stretch during the last few days of my ride. I had left my chain loose and dry. In turn, it left me high and dry on the side of the Trans-Canada after it slipped and got jammed between my front sprocket and the engine case. I called CAA and was towed to Sudbury, where my dad met me to save the day – and night (we got home just after 1 a.m.) – and I learned a valuable lesson about basic care and maintenance of a motorcycle.
Last year was a good year to work on things I had often neglected. I didn’t have to burden myself with being social, so that left a lot more time for riding and forced me to step out of my comfort zone to work on my bikes. I made a conscious decision to learn about each of my machines and take responsibility for their reliability and condition. I had always wanted to learn more about that, but my fear of creating a more extensive issue, or not knowing whether something was right or wrong, had deterred me from trying.
My dad and I have conversations about this often when we spend time in his garage working on a bike he’ll have on the stand. We both regret not bonding together in the garage more often. Time often has been an issue, whether he was working or when we were just trying to get a bike going so we could get out for a ride; there always seemed to be a reason to save those “shop class” moments for another time.
My mom and I also made time recently for her to teach me painting. We draw, paint and drink copious amounts of wine any chance we get. We’ve realized that we missed out on something we had always wanted to do together, as we were too busy with life in general. Although I now live a few thousand kilometres away from my parents, we now take the time to bond whenever we can.
Dad gave me the confidence to find out how my machines work, and I now consciously work on my bikes by myself every chance I get. Not only am I excited to learn something new about the sport I love so much, but the feeling of independence I get is indescribable. My toolkit is growing each day and I no longer make excuses to avoid the problems I know may arise with my bikes.
I encourage you to take the time to teach someone a skill you love, whether they are your children, friends, neighbours or a stranger. Knowledge creates freedom and empowerment, and learning a new skill and becoming more comfortable with something you were once fearful of is incredibly empowering. Passing on knowledge is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer to someone.
Alternatively, if you want to learn something, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Whether that’s bike mechanics, painting, surfing or knitting – take that step. Knowledge can make us thrive, and it’s a great way to bond with someone through a new or an old passion. Ask someone to teach you. You may find, in turn, you’ve given someone purpose and added quality to their life by trusting them to pass on their knowledge to you.
I recently replaced the starter motor in my KTM 300 XCW. It was a simple task, but the confidence and happiness that overcame me when my bike started up with a press of a button for the first time was irrepressible. I will continue to push myself on mechanics. I’m taking baby steps, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding.
Every time I get worried because I’m not sure how to do something, I remind myself that millions of people have taken similar first steps before. If I break something or do something wrong, that creates an opportunity to learn how to do it right the next time.
And when all else fails, my dad is always the first one I call. My shop class continues…