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Month: June 2018

Motorcycle Maintenance = Life

When I was 15 years old the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” came out. Having spent the majority of my high school daze in the garage working on any one of a large number of motorcycles, the title appealed to me. Maybe there was something meditative about working on bikes. Maybe all that pain and suffering at the hands of foreign-built machinery had some higher purpose in my spiritual evolution. But then again something about it seemed pretentious so I never read it. As we get older we lose our ability to spot pretentiousness. This skill is at its most refined in our teenage years. One reason why teenagers hate everything. I know I did.

To me motorcycle maintenance is an opportunity to experience the extremes of every emotion and physical reaction that we possess in a compact amount of time. There’s the obvious ones; patience, perseverance, creativity, and problem solving. There there’s the physical; busted knuckles, thrown objects, broken stuff, and cussing. Lots and lots of cussing. We can experience the very best AND the very worst of ourselves while fixing a motorcycle. So, it is not really a spiritual journey, but simply a reflection of our varied lives.

Working on a motorcycle is not art either. Unless you are some rich bastard just slapping a bunch of primo parts onto a frame that someone else powder-coated and someone else built the motor for. I am about as far away from that as possible. My goal, whether forced upon me or not, has always been to spend as little money as necessary. I guess that’s a big reason I still ride a two-stroke. One of the unwritten agreements I have with my wife is that I can have a dirt bike, as long as I don’t spend money on it. That suits me fine as I get satisfaction out of fixing things and doing my own work.

If motorcycle maintenance is neither a religious experience nor art, what is it? Motorcycle maintenance is life itself. Every single lesson of any value in life can be learned while wrenching. And what you do, or don’t do, in the garage is a reflection of the rest of your life. It is a mirror to your soul. Think of all the garage motorcycle mechanics you have known. They vary from meticulous, clean, neat, and thorough to lazy, sloppy, and careless. These descriptions apply not just to their mechanical skills, or lack thereof, but to all aspects of their life. Some people prefer to be alone. Others need company to keep them going. And, let’s admit it, some of us are just smarter than others. All these things play out on the garage floor the day before a big race trying to figure out a major problem.

So, the next time you are evaluating your friendships, or considering expanding your friends list, spend a little time with them working on their bike. You will learn everything you need to know in a fairly short period of time. Just remember though, your friends might be doing the same thing with you.

Memories, of the way it used to be…

Everyone who has raced motocross started out somewhere, and by somewhere I am referring to a specific track. By necessity this usually turns out to be the closest track to your home. For me this was a place called Argyll Raceway, otherwise known as Campbell’s Ranch, just outside the metropolis of Dixon, California. After graduating from high school in Vacaville I went to live and work in Dixon on an egg ranch with 30,000 chickens. And by “metropolis” I mean there was nothing there. Nothing. Well, 30,000 chickens anyway. Then if you went a little outside of Nothing you would find Argyll, on the way to the dump. Countless hours of my youth were spent driving to and from the track, racing there on weekends, and practicing during the week.

I cannot possibly tell you how many times I was there, from the time I was 15 on a brand new Suzuki TM125, to the late 70’s on my Husky CR360. My Dad was friends with old man Campbell and I went out many times on weekdays after school in my ’66 Chevy stepside. It has been over 40 years since I have been there, but I can still remember the rubber-band start, that first turn, the super tall tabletop, the long back straight, and especially the Matterhorn. Amazing that after all this time I can remember the whole track turn for turn.

It was usually hot and dry. And by hot I mean really hot. They had rice husks mixed in the dirt to loosen it up make it manageable, but it was always very windy out there and that rice husk was constantly blowing in your face. I raced the 100 class on my step brothers RM100, 125 class on my Suzuki TM, 250 class on my CR250 Mag Husky, and Open class on my CR360 Husky. The two Huskys I purchased from a good friend, Ted Rogers, who was one of the top CMC Pros. I saw so many legendary racers there. Danny “Magoo” Chandler stands out. There was always an electricity in the air when he raced, a feeling of impending doom. When he didn’t win he usually crashed. And nobody crashed like Magoo. So many races. So many years. So many memories.

I can understand why local pros, who are experts at a particular track, will often do well against established stars at that track. There is something to knowing every turn, every jump, every single little bump that gives you an advantage. I was able to turn this knowledge to my advantage from time to time, allowing faster riders to make mistakes that I avoided by taking a different line. I never did all that well, but I would guess Open Class was the best for me. That 360 hooked up so well. It had narrow gear ratios and I knew how to dump the clutch in second and launch straight as an arrow. That was the best part about that bike, as Husqvarna’s never were known for their cornering prowess.

Even after ALL THESE YEARS, in my dreams I still go back to that track. It is still there, here. I know it’s not the same. It may not have even been exactly as I remember it. Those memories are colored with my mind’s paintbrush, no one else’s. But those are memories that will stay with me forever. Nothing could take them away.

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