We all know the cliché: The motorcyclist who is intimately acquainted with all the parts of his motorcycle. His man cave may not have a TV, but it has a bike lift. Then there are the tools, cabinets of them. However, like most truisms, they are only partially based in fact. Yes, there are home mechanics who fit this description perfectly, but there are also tons of riders who never turn a wrench on their bikes. Is the distinction the difference between hobbyists and and dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts? It would be easier if the answer were that simplistic, but the reasons people have for wrenching – or not – on their motorcycles are as varied as the people out riding bikes.

Where do you, MO faithful, weigh in on the motorcycle mechanic’s scale?

  • Mahatma

    I’m in the sad bolt-on group:( Maybe it would have been different if I didn’t have to stand in the street to fix my bike though….;)

    • Evans Brasfield

      I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had this problem. I’ve always had at least a car port. In one apartment, I had a flea-infested “bike cage” that I could use, but I’d have to spray once a week or so to kill the fleas deposited by the stray cats who lived in there when I wasn’t working on my bike.

  • Campisi

    I’m capable of jobs more complicated than the basic adjustments I’ll generally undertake, but beyond that I go to a shop. I buy new(er) bikes so I don’t *have* to work on them. Rather be riding.

  • Zimmerframe Racing

    Maybe it’s just my local area, but years ago after having shops and dealers perform subpar work, I began doing my own wrenching, reckoning I’d rather spend the money on “special tools” than pay shop charges to have them break mounting tabs, kink vent lines and forget to tighten motor mounts (all of which happened, and more). The problem with newer bikes is that the computers are getting more sophisticated, some including “no tamper” software that you can’t tune without a dealer computer.

  • kenneth_moore

    I’m happily in the basic maintenance/bolt-on group. I’ve done virtually everything possible on bikes and cars, and while I enjoyed it in my younger years (and couldn’t afford the shop anyway, I now find dropping the bike off and picking it up ready to go a few days later is well worth the money. Of course, having a shop that can be trusted is key to this strategy.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I find myself here, too. Now that I’ve got kids, I just don’t have the time to spend working on my bike – unless it’s for an article. So, I exchange money for the time to spend with my family. I can see myself returning to doing all of my own wrenching once the kids are older and require less time.

      • Bruce Steever

        Meh, ditch the kids. Focus on what’s important. :)

      • DickRuble

        If you wait for the kids to grow up you won’t remember where the wrench goes, or where it is. I say get an au pair (French or Italian) and start wrenching.

      • Mahatma

        Teach the kids to maintain your bike for you.You’ll never have a dull moment on your bike again;)

        • Evans Brasfield

          Now, we’re talking!

        • Gruf Rude

          . . . and you’ll never find your tools again.

      • TC

        Having kids is the main reason to retreat to your man cave and find something to work on.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    I kind of wobble between groups 3 and 4. I can do almost any maintainance chore short of valve adjustments (except air-head BMWs, I can do those with flint tools), as the last time I did a valve adjustment I dropped a nut down into the crankcase and the guy’s bike seized 6 weeks later. Luckily, he didn’t blame me. If you’re reading this, guy-with-CB450, I’m very sorry.

  • Keith

    Yes, I’m a wrencher. Cars and bikes…99% of all maintenance necessary. The reason why I wrench? I won’t pay shop prices for the ‘mechanics’ that wreck my vehicles. The older you get, the more stories you have to tell of the car, truck, bike, coming out in worse shape than when it went in.

  • Gruf Rude

    I was lucky enough to be born long ago and was able to apprentice as a mechanic. Working at a dealership got me bikes and parts at a discount, paid for higher education and ensured I had a specialty MOS in the Marines. I kept the bikes during the child-rearing years and so I don’t need computer diagnostics to keep them running now that I’m retired (grin!).

  • Buzz

    I’m basic maintenance also. I just don’t care to bust knuckles and swear.

    Since I switch bikes and brands so often, every time I would do something would likely be the first time.

  • Steve C

    I have 2 old Guzzis, a couple of hammers of different weight and a monkey wrench is all I need, maybe pliers if things get technical. I never fully recovered from adjusting the valves on my 97 Triumph sprint I used to own.

  • TC

    Most of the dealer mechanics have so many different brands to work on, plus ATVs and watercraft, that they do not have much expertise on a particular model, BMWs excepted. I have been working on my own bikes for 50 years, first thing I do when I buy a bike is get the shop manual. I had a new Yamaha FJR 1300 and took it in for some warranty work, the shop had it two weeks and never did fix it. I asked them to give me the part and I did it myself. (ABS cable).

  • ‘Mike Smith

    I should probably get the tire tools. I’m paying too much for shops to do it. I’ve done my own chain and sprocket, made my own fender eliminator, change the oil and brake fluid, clean the air filter, changed the battery and hooked up a battery tender. New brake pads are in the mail.

    • DickRuble

      Changing tires ain’t brain surgery. It only takes time and a lot of sweat.. However, how are you going to balance the wheels?

      • ‘Mike Smith

        I changed the rear on my R1 using some improvised tire irons, zip ties, and a lot of sweat and bruising on my knees. I balanced it by running a smooth metal pipe through the middle and propping it on two 5 gallon buckets and then spinning. It worked great, but was a ton of work, and I’m not really wanting to go through that again. I think it’s time to invest in the whole set-up (bead breaker, balancer, all that stuff).

      • Juliet Bravo

        Balancing wheels is easy. Google it.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Balancing tires is a very zen thing. I have the older, more expensive version of the balancer here:

      http://www.aerostich.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=tire+balancer

      Worth every penny!

  • halfkidding

    Well let’s see. The only new bike I ever bought was a 1980 KZ 750E. There was a recall for the cam chain tension-er and the dealer screwed it up by leaving it locked, which I discovered the next spring when I went to do the valve adjustment, which required camshaft removal, and the cam chain was slack as hell. The first and last time I didn’t do my own wrenching.

    That said with 8 or so bike subsequently and maybe 150k miles the only things I have ever done were valve adjustments, carb cleaning, steering head adjustment stuff, tires, chains,brakes, the occasional little electrical gremlin, etc. I am not bragging about anything. I simply had the simple mechanical skills necessary. The cost of dealer service for this stuff can be huge and a definite impediment keeping people from owning bikes.

    I hear it is common for Harley people to pay $1300 for an annual service visit. Eeek.

  • Evans Brasfield

    Don’t forget:

    • Gruf Rude

      Actually good advice for a ‘clicker’ torque wrench . . .

      • DickRuble

        Yeah, the ratchet must be an April fool’s joke..

  • Sentinel

    I’m in the “human shop manual with motor oil in my veins” category. lol

  • RPJ

    Been turning a wrench since 1975 & did it for a living for over 10 years. Very rarely will I let someone else work on my bikes.

  • Juliet Bravo

    I’m the guy with his own lift and all the tools. Change tires, adjust valves, sync carbs, I will try to do whatever. Shop manuals, forums and YouTube are great help.

  • mugwump

    I recently had some work done by a shop to show proof of servicing other than just my word. Short story, that won’t happen again. I may go BMW just because they are the only shop within a couple hours that I might trust, if I need a shop. I’m sure there are good shops, just not around here.