OPINION: LESSONS LEARNED FROM DOING IT YOURSELF

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Everyone seems to have at least one project they swear they’ll get around to if they ever have the time on their hands. I recently came across a meme that essentially said if you don’t come out of this pandemic with a selection of new skills or finished projects that you were never short on time, you lacked discipline.

I don’t agree with this viewpoint personally, because it’s not as though we all magically have a surplus of time and motivation. Even for those who maybe aren’t working full-time at the moment, simple tasks like getting groceries or prescriptions now take far longer than before. A lack of food options means that most, if not every meal, is made at home. And that means dishes. Lots and lots of dishes. Then there’s the schooling and entertaining the children. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the mental hurdles we’re all trying to get over at the moment. Reading the morning news these days doesn’t exactly make you feel like springing out of bed to start the day.

That being said, I too have had a project that’s been collecting dust for far too long. Years ago I purchased my first motorcycle from a friend’s father. The 1984 Yamaha Maxim 750 had been taken care of well enough, but had sat for years without being ridden or appreciated. I happily rode it for a couple seasons but opted to sell it to finance a new bike purchase; something shinier and more reliable for commuting at the time. The friend who purchased it had big plans to customize and restore it, but only got as far as the dismantling phase.

Over the years I’d run into him and ask how it was going but the answer was always the same. Finally, after years of pestering, I convinced him to sell it back to me. When it had last left my driveway, it did so under its own power. When it returned however, it was just a pile of parts in a trailer. Some of which were bent, broken or corroded, while others were missing entirely.

Rather than craft something custom and unrecognizable, I’ve opted to merely restore it to the way it was when I owned it. It’s taken a few years of searching salvage yards and scouring bike shops, but I’ve finally got all the parts. I just had to assemble them into something resembling a motorcycle. Hopefully one that runs.

The bike has been sitting at Moto Revere, a do-it-yourself motorcycle shop near me, for far too long awaiting attention. I finally dedicated some time to get it finished. In order to accommodate social distancing guidelines, I had the shop to myself. Working with my hands away from the negativity and drama of the daily news cycle and social media, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the process.

It also won’t be news to anyone who has done their own wrenching how frustrating it can be. Particularly on a 36-year-old motorcycle. Metal parts have corroded or seized, while rubber seals and plastic pieces have dried out and hardened. A few scratched knuckles and choice expletives later, the bike appeared to be assembled. A new battery hooked up and the freshly painted tank put in place, it seemed like we were ready for the maiden voyage. And that’s when things went all CMG on me. Adjusting the choke and thumbing the starter button, there was spark and there was ignition, but also a lot of fuel spewing out freely onto the ground.

Once the tank had completely drained its contents onto the road, we were able to identify the culprit. Evidently, I hadn’t noticed a screw was missing from the newly rebuilt carburetor before filling up the tank and trying to get the engine turned over. Some additional troubleshooting will be required.

In the meantime, I feel like I learned a few valuable lessons. In our modern world of instant gratification, we expect everything to magically happen immediately at the tap of a smartphone screen. Doing something in haste and frustration can often mean having to do it again later to fix what was broken or overlooked the first time. So, take a deep breath and enjoy the process. Perseverance will pay off.

While the term makes me shudder in disgust, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Rusty bolts or stubborn corroded bits aren’t always easy to work with so things likely aren’t going to go smoothly. Occasionally a little ingenuity is needed to think outside the box and fix a problem. Sometimes a delicate touch is required. And sometimes a well-placed hammer is the best tool for the job.

Even if it’s not concours show quality perfection, there’s satisfaction in building or repairing something rather than farming it out. The tangible result of your efforts can be seen and enjoyed. Doing it yourself also allows you to understand your machine better. This bonding experience will serve you well to help identify and fix issues down the road. Just make sure everything is tightened properly first.

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