Well, no, I didn’t miss a week, but apparently I lost track of time a bit. Which is to say, this is the four-week report. The big news is that we picked up wrenches on Tuesday and used them, and so far as I know, no one got hurt.

The first tool-enabled exercise was to push a motorcycle backwards onto a lift, raise it up to a nice working height, remove the front wheel, and put it back on (properly). We’re not officially to torque wrenches just yet, so hopefully the one student bike that came in for the exercise was done with utmost care. (He survived to the next day, so I guess it was fine.)

Let it be said that staying late is generally a good way to learn by osmosis, if not by direct experience. In the case of Thursday (which is our “Friday”), though, the staying-late learning was largely dumb luck. I tend to stick around, what with not having to be anywhere else after class, and this Thursday that led to a raft of good stuff:

  • The Snap-on guy, Carl Jones, stopped by. That meant I got to ask him a couple questions in person and finalize my initial order of righteous, professional-grade tools.
  • Mike and I went for lunch, which is always good times. (Remember, he’s been a friend of mine for over 10 years.)
  • One of the HVAC instructors knocked on the shop’s garage doors to ask Mike a question no one else had been able to answer for him: Why does everything use alternators now instead of generators? Answers (per Mike):
    • Generators create a lot of radio frequency interference. So much so that a modern, computer-controlled vehicle would have trouble working at all as a result of the interference.
    • Generators require periodic maintenance, because the brushes wear out.
    • Generators can’t produce enough power to handle the needs of the modern vehicle with all of its accessories (electric wipers, power seats, radios, power windows, ABS, etc.) — certainly not within the underhood (underseat?) packaging constraints of modern cars and motorcycles. And really, power capacity is the main reason everything uses alternators now. (The difference between alternators and generators is a lesson for another day.)
  • I brought my new-to-me 1993 Suzuki DR650 into the shop to attach the headlight. (I received the bike with the original, rectangular headlight in a box of parts.) I needed to do this at the school’s shop because I needed several bolts to get the job done and didn’t know what sizes I’d need. (By the way, we call bolts and screws “fasteners”, because that sounds all educated and stuff. And because it’s the correct name.)

With that finished and Mike still ordering a long list of shop supplies online, I figured I’d scratch at a project that I started the first week of class: organizing the shelves of service manuals. I started with the easy ones, Suzuki and Kawasaki, which only use one shelf apiece. (Honda is maybe six shelves; Yamaha is three.) After that, I spotted one titled 2005-2006 Hammer 2006 Vegas Jackpot & Ness Signature Series Vegas Jackpot Service Manual, and I thought, “What the hell is that?” I simply had to pull it down and check it out.

It turns out this was a Victory Motorcycles service manual covering the rather handsome cruiser that I had, the day prior, goaded my toolbox group into removing/replacing the rear wheel on. Mike had already warned us that heavily chromed, belt-drive cruisers are about the hardest things to work on: their owners get upset if you ding the chrome (and rightly so), plus belt drives can be a bit tricky. This bike, donated by Polaris a few years ago, was a 2005 Hammer in “red with tribal tattoo.”

Well, with just 30 minutes left in the day on Wednesday, it turned out we had exactly enough time to remove the rear wheel. We didn’t go back to rear wheel practice Thursday morning, so the bike stayed up on the lift, sans rear wheel. I felt a tad guilty that I’d pushed for a project we couldn’t get finished, although Mike said we could tie it up Monday morning.

Flashing back to Thursday night (it was roughly 8:00pm by now), I decided that the shop manual was just the thing to help me reinstall that rear wheel and clear my conscience — and to learn something without having to compete to see who turns each wrench. I think it was 90 minutes later when Mike suggested we turn out the lights and go home, but damned if I hadn’t just finished the work. And now I know a few more things about belt-drive wheel installation, almost exactly 15 years after a I bought my first motorcycle, a belt-driven Kawasaki 454 LTD.

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