Getting it on the road

Late December in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia may seem an odd time to be thinking of life on two wheels. But for enthusiasts and the dedicated, we keep our eyes on the Weather Channel, we keep the battery on a trickle charger, the tank topped up with fresh petrol, the chain lubed, and the tires properly inflated in hopes of finding the odd 50- or 60-degree day and dry pavement to get the bike out of the garage, and get it out on the road, calendar be damned. So my greetings to my fellow bike junkies, and like-minded die hards in the less tropical latitudes who like me ride and think about motorcycles year-round.

I dreamt of someday riding motorcycles when I was a child, maybe five years old, being first exposed to these fast machines by fun-loving Adam John, my grandfather. Grandpa took a very young me for a wide-eyed first ride on the pillion of his sparkly red 175cc two-stroke Montgomery Wards street bike up and down the sand lanes surrounding his home in northeastern Michigan. I know now that my mother must not have been watching — if she’d seen it, she definitely would have had a word with her old man. When I finally dismounted from my first smoky, noisy, bumpy ride, I knew for sure that I got away with something, something wonderful.

Now, many years later, and I’m only more enthralled with motorcycling. For the last ten years, I own a relatively complicated older-school bike, a 1996 Honda VFR750F: water- and oil-cooled V-4 engine, six-speed manual transmission, hydraulic clutch and brakes, and a bank of four balanced carburetors, chain drive to the wheel through a single-sided swingarm. But unlike more modern rides, it has no on-board computers. This biker appreciates relative simplicity — the clutch and throttle are my traction and launch control. For the last decade, I’ve gradually learned my way around the bike with my basic metric wrenches and sockets, voltmeter, a brake fluid speed-bleeder, and the easy availability of replacement parts.

Numerous rereads of Robert Pursig’s “Zen . . .” classic have me (as a matter of budget first, character next, and my intense interest as well) diving into the bike myself when it needs a repair, or an upgrade, such as a brake-light flasher, and a 12V accessory port in the dash. Pursig proposed that it is both satisfying, and maybe necessary to do your own wrenchwork. I took to heart in particular his caution that dealer/motorcycle shop mechanics vary widely in skill and dedication to their craft — the customer is their “cost-center”, after all. Conversely, when you know that you’ve done the repair right, with your hands, and your bright and focused brain, and you know your motorcycle isn’t going to let you down on the road because of your “repair”, every ride is a relief, and that much more enjoyable.

My mindful rules for motorcycle maintenance, upon reflection, have some general applicability to life outside the motorcycle garage: proceed with caution — try not to break something while fixing something else; prepare for the job by reading the owner’s and repair manual before you start; don’t ignore a problem (broken or worn part/tires that need replacing); do not overtighten — use the torque sensing socket wrench, use properly-gauged handtools; keep your brain engaged for the duration of the work.

Our guiding mission at MotoPresent, this blog, the vlog and YouTube channel, is to encourage mindful practices in motorcycling. It’s that simple. What are mindful motorcycling practices? We always want our minds engaged with our body when we ride, for a better and safer ride. More focus on where you want to go, and less distraction by thoughts, shiny objects, or an avoidable road “target”, make all our time on two wheels more fulfilling. We have real-life lessons to share, observations and tips that we wish for you to carry with you wherever and whenever you ride. And we’ll try to take you with us when we ride, so we can share the experience even when we’re not together. It all starts here for us happy folks at MotoPresent, so let’s get it on the road, together, mindfully!

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