Monday, 15 April 2013

DIY Motorcycle Maintenance and Repairs

Our workshop in Bosnia.
I'm not the worlds worst amateur mechanic.‭ ‬Fact.‭ ‬You see,‭ ‬I have a certificate that says I am a qualified mechanic therefore technically I'm just a really terrible mechanic.‭ ‬I may be overstating the case but it's not by much.‭

Lifting a pack with a 434's crane. Got quite attached to that hulk.
It seems a long time ago now that I was an Army mechanic specialising in light armour.‭ ‬I've been up to my ears in oil and mud many times but I wouldn't claim to have been good at it.‭ ‬I was good at fault diagnosis but terrible at fixing things.‭ ‬Bolts would sheer off as soon as look at me while my tool box had an incredible ability to loose tools. Engineering hygine wasn’t my forte either.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬I got out of that line of work and into teaching which I'm better at though by how much is a matter for others to decide.‭

Now that I'm not employed as a VMii‭ (‬Vehicle Mechanic Class‭ ‬2‭) ‬I usually feel I should be doing more to keep up and refine the skills which I keep forgetting I never really had.‭ ‬Why‭? ‬The reasons are two fold really.

Firstly,‭ ‬pride.‭ ‬Put simply,‭ ‬when faced with a job that probably doesn't require specialised tools or an engineering degree,‭ ‬I can't help thinking I should be doing this for myself.‭ ‬Plenty of other people with no formal training seem able to look after their bike's every need.‭ ‬Should I not also be able to do so?‭ ‬It's a well known fact after all that people who don't change their own oil,‭ ‬overhaul their own suspension or fit new chains themselves aren't really real men.‭

At the dock yard on our way to Kosovo.
Secondly,‭ ‬as much as I love having a mechanic I know I can trust to look after my bike properly and not charge over the odds,‭ ‬fixing stuff yourself has its benefits.‭ ‬Firstly,‭ ‬you have more money left at the end of the day.‭ ‬Secondly,‭ ‬you don't have to drop it off or pick it up or wait for him to be available to work on it.‭ ‬Do your own brake job and you'll have those seals out,‭ ‬callipers nearly clean,‭ ‬resealed and refitted,‭ ‬breaks not quite bled properly and a few washers unexpectedly left over by four in the morning no problems.‭ ‬It's a no-brainer really.

At the end of the day,‭ ‬if you can do it and don't have money to burn,‭ ‬maintaining your own bike makes a lot of sense.‭

As I alluded to earlier though,‭ ‬I did a brake job on my bike.‭ ‬It badly needed doing because all three callipers were seized or seizing.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the parts alone cost over‭ ‬£110.‭ ‬Despite having never had the pleasure of overhauling break callipers,‭ ‬I decided to go it alone.‭

What a mess.
Things went OK.‭ ‬It took probably ‬6‭ ‬hours of work to complete the overhaul (that doesn't include making brews, scratching heads, crawling all over looking for lost bits etc) and I learned a lot from doing it.‭ ‬I also made an unholy mess of my garage and got brake oil everywhere.‭ ‬The back brake was perfect when completed but the fronts wouldn't bleed.‭ ‬Following advice from a forum I eventually cable-tied the brake lever to the handlebars overnight holding the brakes on with what pressure there was.‭ ‬This as it turned out,‭ ‬ruins the brake lines.‭ ‬Even once Alan had bled them,‭ ‬they were still spongy.‭ ‬So a job almost well done,‭ ‬on an absolutely critical system.‭ ‬Ah heck,‭ ‬I wanted steel hoses anyway.‭ ‬The point is,‭ ten‬ hours of my life and it still had to go to Alan to finish the job.‭

In the past I've made a mess of all sorts of things,‭ ‬mainly because I didn't quite understand them.‭ ‬The YBR250‭ ‬killed its wheel bearings because I wasn't getting the chain adjustment quite right.‭ ‬I killed the chain on the GT250‭ ‬about the same way.‭ ‬How can a motorcyclist not be good at adjusting the chain‭? ‬Actually,‭ ‬looking at a lot of peoples bikes,‭ ‬they mostly just don't adjust or lube them.‭ ‬But for me,‭ ‬surely that's just unacceptable.‭
My bike getting the attention it deserves. Alan's.

There are other examples of my incompetence but I won't go into any more.‭ ‬The case for the prosecution is clearly made.‭ ‬I've been tried and found wanting.‭ ‬As I said in my last post,‭ ‬if I was rich,‭ ‬I would be paying Alan to come to ours weekly to maintain the fleet of motorbikes I would own.‭ ‬In order to satisfy my manly need to break things with tools,‭ ‬I would keep a simple old banger.‭
Unfortunately,‭ ‬this is not an option.‭ ‬Now I have a worrying situation with the Wee.‭ ‬It's Secondary Throttle Valve,‭ ‬or possibly the linkage,‭ ‬is seizing up.‭ ‬Alan got it going again with some duck oil last time he worked on it but they're sticking again now.‭ ‬Really,‭ ‬it needs removing,‭ ‬stripping and lubing properly.‭ ‬For Alan that would be a good two hours,‭ ‬maybe three.‭ ‬It needs a new air filter as well so while the box is out,‭ ‬it would be daft not to change that.‭ ‬The air filter I would do in a heartbeat.‭ ‬But me take my own throttle bodies off‭? ‬I think we both know that's not the best idea in the world.‭ ‬On the other hand,‭ ‬we've somehow ended up with two holidays to save for.‭ Oh, and the clutch is dragging a bit. ‬Now,‭ ‬where's the‭ ‬12mm spanner got to‭?


  1. Don't feel lonely! There is a whole line of want to be mechanics waiting to make stuff ups on their bikes.
    I stripped the clutch down on my Vstrom countless times to find why it was slipping. It wasn't until I was pushing it onto the trailer to take to the bike repair shop that it righted itself. That was 12 month ago and it still going fine?????
    All a part of the adventure isn't it?


    1. Clutch on mine is dragging. I've a few theories as to why that might be and they all cost. I realise I'm not alone. Thanks for dropping by.


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