I’m a big believer — and occasional practitioner — in facing down the things that scare you.
In my experience, shining a light on your fears often reveals that the monster stalking you is rather harmless, if it even exists at all.
Conversely, avoiding what scares you is a sure way to make that thing all the more fearsome. I know this dynamic far too well as a chronic procrastinator.
This weekend’s challenge was putting sliders and a radiator guard on my Yamaha MT-03. In the five months I’ve had the bike, I’ve done some minor work already: adding a windscreen, replacing the stock mirrors with bar-ends, and cleaning and lubing the chain. But installing the sliders and radiator guard would be the most “major” work so far.
This job scared me because it would involve removing engine mounting bolts and learning how to use a torque wrench. Engine mounting bolts! Shouldn’t that be left to a professional? What if the engine falls off while on the Thruway because I didn’t tighten the bolts enough? What if something cracks because I tightened the bolts too much? (This is exactly what a torque wrench is for, BTW)
Despite being plenty confident in working on my bicycle, so far moto wrenching has been mostly anxiety-producing. The stakes are so much higher (I don’t ride my Brompton at highway speeds) and the mechanism is so much more complex (the brake lines have fluid?!?).
But many veteran riders champion learning motorcycle maintenance as an essential part of the experience and a great way to save money. So as someone who is both all-in on my passions and also pretty frugal, I’m diving into the DIY. Fortunately, there are many fantastic and free sources of information about wrenching out there for anyone who cares to look. (Ari Henning, you’re a hero to millions of motorcyclists.)
After circling the job for two weeks, I finally took the plunge this weekend and installed everything over the course of two hours in my “workshop,” an unoccupied area of the garage under our condo.
I wheel my bike over from its usual parking space (a sliver between two rows of cars), lay down some cardboard to kneel on, and organize the tools and parts near me. Then I get to work. Everything takes a long time because I’m super-cautious and conservative.
The garage attendants will sometimes come over to ask what I’m working on. There’s several other motorcycles parked in the garage, all of which are much more expensive than mine, and appparently I’m the only owner who works on his bike there. I’m always happy to explain what I’m trying to do and they always seem a bit amused by the effort.
It was a pretty easy job, all things considered. If I had to do it again, I’d probably finish in 30 minutes. Surprisingly, the task I thought would be easiest (installing the radiator guard) was the hardest because of the tight clearances around the radiator. The task that scared me most (mounting the frame sliders) turned out to be extremely easy once I learned how to use the breaker bar and the torque wrench.
The sliders look cool on the bike and hopefully will add some protection for the engine and vital parts in the event of a crash or tip-over. Of course, I hope never to find out how effective they are in those situations.
Next up: changing the oil and filter at the 4,000 mile mark. I have 600 miles to build up the courage for it.