I guess it was Robbie Robertson who said “The one thing you’ve got to learn is not to be afraid of it.” No idea what he was talking about, but I’ll say that having a classroom/lab environment in which to learn about things is a great way to stop being afraid of them. Since last Wednesday, that thing has been valve adjustments.

Valve clearance (aka valve lash): A very small gap between the valve tip and whatever device happens to push the valve open. Measured in thousandths of an inch of hundredths of a millimeter. Something completely absent on most modern automotive engines because cars have hydraulically-actuated valves, much like my Honda Pacific Coast.  But having non-hydraulic valves saves weight and complexity, and so it’s still the order of the day on motorcycles. And since such valvetrains need periodic adjustment, a motorcycle mechanic worth half a cent needs to know how to do it on any engine that comes through the shop.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. I’ve done it before on one or two of my bikes — that I don’t remember is a good sign that I’ve avoided doing it as much as possible. It’s different doing it on someone else’s bike, though, and that’s what I like about this whole mechanic business: I’m not fixing or maintaining my own junk, I’m fixing someone else’s machinery. So I can’t put it off, which forces me to do it, which eventually makes me not really worry about doing it.

This is a good thing, since I can guarantee my Kawasaki Ninja 250 needs a valve adjustment. And a carburetor cleaning, which we won’t learn until next year, but I already know the basics, so I guess I’ve got a Labor Day weekend project all lined up for myself.

Also, I need a Ducati so I can practice adjusting their desmodromic valves. No one else uses that system, and the school doesn’t have Ducatis rolling around like tumbleweeds, so we’re on our own if we want to fool with those. I want to fool with those, because they’re unusual and therefore inherently interesting. (Subliminal message: Sell me your Ducati Monster cheap. It’s to everyone’s benefit.)