Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

This post is not really about Zen and it is only a little about motorcycle maintenance. In my attempt to get the bike back on the road, I had to conduct a little repair and in the process surrendered to a Zen-like understanding in all things mechanical.

Spring arrives later at the cottage, two hours north of Toronto, and as such, my motorcycle riding adventures would begin weeks after the first opportunity in the city. A foster cat delay in April meant the season opening ride would be attempted on the long weekend in May. I lumbered through a 16 point turn in the basement to direct the front wheel toward the door, huffing and puffing the bike outside to park underneath the protection of the porch. Unearth the helmet and gloves, line up the boots, select the best jacket.

Ready for tomorrow.

Standing beside the machine, I survey the instruments and buttons and levers, stating out loud each function, reminding myself of those lessons from another long weekend way back in September. Foot brake on the right, below the handle with the pull brake; clutch on the other handle, shifting gears with the left foot. I found the choke, beside the auxiliary tank knob, just above the key ignition. Light switch, power switch, kill switch – I think we are good to go.

Turn the key, neutral light illuminates; straddle the seat, straighten the wheel, bounce a bit, press the starter button. The cold engine turns and turns and turns, then click click click click.

Hmmm. Did I miss something? Right. Pull out the choke.

Press the button and it turns and turns, then click click click click.

What the? Okay try again.

Press the button and it turns, then click click click click.

I know that sound.

Press the button and click click click click.

The battery is dead.

Where is the battery on a motorcycle?

It is a Honda Shadow 750 from 2004 so I figured an owner’s manual would have disappeared long ago. Besides, we live in a paperless world. I’m a modern guy so I consulted that virtual manual in the ether, the font of all knowledge – You Tube.

There are no judgements with You Tube videos. The search engine does not smirk or laugh when you type in the question. The people demonstrating are grateful for the audience, delighted you have selected their instructions. The hosts cheerfully walk you step by step with careful explanations, extoling all their other helpful hints, inviting you to return. You feel empowered. You can do this.

Here goes. I am told to pull off this apparent cap ….oh wow!

Not a battery yet, but a compartment labelled, “Tool box” where I put in the key to open and discover a package of tools with the owner’s manual. Who knew? Flip to the section on batteries, complete with pictures instructing me to take off the seat except none of the devices in the kit match the screws and bolts holding it in place. Rummaging through my own set and a few minutes later the battery is exposed. All 3 X 4 X 6 inches of it, buried in the heart of the machine.

Before storing the bike for the winter, according to the manual, I should have taken the battery out and hooked it up to a trickle charger.

A trickle charger. Right.

Google tells me Home Hardware carries them but the local store in Apsley would have to order and it will arrive next week. When we are back in Toronto. Of course. A purchase through Amazon (haven’t I become the high tech guy!) because it had the best explanation for my search and I returned at the cottage a few weeks later armed with the device.

I attach it to the battery, as per instructions, and watch the slowly pulsing red light, ebbing between a dull and duller glow.

Come back in nine hours, as per instructions, and it is still not flashing the go ahead green signal.

Maybe tomorrow.

The next day the same hypnotic red. Switch the trickle charger to a different 12 volt setting (there are three different ones, and a six volt as well) and wait for another day only to find the same result.

I think the pulse is even slower, taunting me now.

The battery is warm to the touch; something is happening. So, with patience waning I take the plunge. My aging brain needs a reminder to reverse the steps for extraction, rediscover the wires and account for all the parts.

Before the seat is bolted, I turn the ignition, suppress the start button; the engine turns and turns, then growl and purrrrrrr…. eureka! Two loud revs to let the neighbours know before I shut it down to reinstall the seat.

Back in the saddle, ignition on, press the button and she jumps into action. Let ‘er warm, a twist of the throttle….sputter, cough, cough,….silence. Not warm enough I guess.

Press on. Cough, sputter, spit…..Silence.

The bike is out of gas.

Did you know motorcycles do not have fuel gauges? Your only clue is the mileage travelled after filling up, based on experience and cruising habits….all in very short supply after my truncated riding season. No portable gas can, my goal to ride on Father’s day is thwarted.

Hands together, eyes closed. Breathe slowly.

Maybe tomorrow.

Just a little Zen to learn this art of motorcycle maintenance.

One thought on “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

  1. I love this! I can see you going through all these motions too. Never mind, the first time I had to change the printer cartridge in my (then) new Samsung printer I was flummoxed. No manual had accompanied the machine, so it was obviously an intuitive action. Intuitive? There is no obvious sign of how to delve into the bowels of the printer … YouTube to the rescue and it took a nine-year-old (that’s what he said) boy to demonstrate with flair how to get the job done. He couldn’t see that I was thinking ‘what a clot I am’ and I was delighted to be enlightened 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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