As mentioned in my previous post, I’m studying to become a motorcycle mechanic at DeKalb Technical College, just outside the perimeter in the greater Atlanta area. Tomorrow marks the end of the second week.

As you might expect, we’ve not yet gotten too deep into the specifics of how to repair a motorcycle. What we have done is cover a lot of things important within the industry, frequently couched in anecdotes collected over the instructor’s career spanning roughly 35 years.

  • “You’ll never get rich working on poor people’s stuff.” Rephrased, this means it’s much nicer when you don’t always have to argue with your customers over whether to spend $1.50 on new axle grease as long as the wheels are already off.
  • Why air makes an ideal suspension spring but is actually crappy in application. (I owned such a bike at one time.)
  • One more to add to the reading list: Obsessions Die Hard, by Ed Culberson. (It’s about riding from Alaska to Argentina, including the 80 mile jungle gap normally avoided by taking a ferry or airplane.)
  • Ins and outs of professional grade tools from Snap-On, Matco, and Mac Tools. In brief: they cost a lot, but they don’t break while you’re in the middle of work, so you never get mad and throw them across the shop.
  • Chain drives, belt drives, and shaft drives, and why none of them is perfect but most are well-suited to the typical style of riding people use them for. (Touring: shaft. Sport: chain. Transverse V-twin cruisers: belt. Mostly.)
  • A straightforward definition of “scooter.” (It has to do with the rear wheel and engine being mounted as a unit, sharing a pivot somewhere in between. This means my Honda C70 Passport is really a step-through motorcycle and not a scooter. Not that there’s anything wrong with scooters! Also, the Honda Silver Wing is indeed a scooter, but it’s a very highway-capable scooter.)
  • A surprising amount of history about Harley Davidson and the design decisions and engineering behind them. It turns out that even as I don’t prefer Harleys personally, I enjoy expanding what I know of their history, and I find the engineering evolution of them to be fascinating. Knucklehead, Evo, and Twin Cam engines have been covered so far, along with a bit about the Softail suspension and the origin of the Electra Glide name. (Softail: Good looks of a hard tail without the spine damage. Electra Glide: Convention rear suspension, plus electric start. Yeah, it’s an old name.)
  • And a lot more about tools and buying professional tools.

In non-school, living in Atlanta news, my housemate found a $50 washer/dryer set on Craigslist being sold by someone non-flaky, so we picked that up tonight. Just in time, too. And I’ve apparently ridden my folding bike far enough to break a pedal spindle. Breaking it in the middle of a ride meant riding home with just my left leg. I even tied my foot to the unbroken pedal with some bungee cord.

Good times.

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