Withdrawal Symptoms: As I mentioned in the last column, I’ve recently undergone a house move but the move itself is irrelevant to the general gist of this missive. I vented my spleen about the issues of boxing up all the crap that one’s life entails last time, but the aftermath of the relocation has given this pommie another genuine reason for a good old whine.
I can’t get in my bloody garage! Okay, so this doesn’t stop me from riding (one of) my bikes, as the new gaff also has a couple of wooden sheds that are each big enough to squeeze a bike in among the outdoor paraphernalia such as the lawn mower, hedge trimmers, ladders, barbecue.
So with a bit of huffing and puffing, squeezing and shoving, I can just about get a bike out when the weather isn’t looking like it normally does in England in grey and blowy November. Although, by the time I’ve moved all the stuff around so I can wheel a bike into the light, it’s usually turned from bright and cold to dark and raining…
Of course, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, now is the time of year when thoughts are moving to winter projects, and there are alternatives to the multiple layers of waterproof and thermal clothing required for motorcycle use in the dark depths of the British winter.
After all, riding bikes is only one part of the itinerant bike-modifiers raison d’etre. There needs to be the endless advancement – modifying, changing, polishing, painting, altering, replacing, cleaning – of a streetfightered motorcycle.
The never-ending search to make your bike as perfect as it can be for you. For some people that’s encompassed by the simple desire to eke ever-more power out of the same engine, whether it be through major changes such as big bore piston kits, long-throw cranks, or forced induction, or maybe through the continual fettling of carburettors, fuel injection or ignition and cam timing to get that perfect power delivery.
Those who dream of arcing lines through twisting ribbons of tarmac, the continual fettling is of the suspension components – balancing compression and rebound damping with the hunt for the spring weight that allows the sticky rubber to remain in contact with the road surface.
For others, it’s the aesthetics that have to be focused on, and for them it’s the perpetual cycle of removing dirty chain oil, dead bugs and road detritus and yet another bout on the polishing mops.
And there again, there are those folks who rarely get to sling their leg over a bike, for they wish to spend all of their spare time on the creation of their next work of art. Which in itself is something of a bizarre concept, but many of those folk do produce some utterly stunning pieces of machinery, irrespective of the fact that they rarely actually get to ride the finished product.
The flip side of these highly-accomplished engineers capable of making every single bespoke component for their bikes are those who aren’t especially experienced. Yet they still want to be hands-on, so get their buzz from replacing all the standard fittings with stainless steel or titanium alternatives, by fitting off-the-shelf aftermarket components like multi-adjustable rearsets or billet brake and clutch levers, and by keeping everything cleaner than an OCD heart surgeon’s scalpel drawer.
But me? No. I have a very small ‘workshop’ (essentially a brick lean-to on the back of the house) that is only just big enough to fit the bike ramp in, plus a stacked tool chest and a compressor. Nothing else. Well, though there’s no room for anything else, it seems that a lot of other things can be crammed in as they haven’t got a permanent place in the house yet.
Having the vacuum cleaner blocking the doorway is proving to be something of bone in the throat of marital bliss. This means that, while I can open the door to have a look in, and just about see one of my project bikes among the rest of life’s detritus, it’s pretty much impossible to actually step foot through the door and lay my hand on a spanner, let alone actually do work.
The frustration that this brings could, very easily, be offset by going out for a ride. Not necessarily going anywhere in particular, but just out for a play. Maybe on some of my favourite local roads.
Maybe just down the quietest of quiet local lanes to practise my stoppies and feet-up burnouts and donuts – although finances dictate that tyre wear has to be stretched out as long as possible right now, so any smoking is right out. And, like I said, it’s winter…
The time was, when I wanted to get a bike fix but didn’t have the inclination to actually go out for a ride due to inclement weather, or a lack of time, I’d just pop into the shed for a tinker. Even if it was only five minutes looking over my projects, or just putting away tools. It always felt like time well spent.
I might not have actually accomplished anything physical, but a few moments just being alone in the company of my projects helped to create a feeling of well-being. A feeling that, right now, surrounded by half-empty packing cases and cardboard boxes, and unable to get within spanner’s-reach of my projects, I so desperately need.
If you’ve ever read ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert Pursig then you’ll probably know what I’m going on about. If you haven’t, then don’t bother, it’s a nightmare of a book to read, and it’s far easier to just accept that time spent in the shed is good time. If, in fact, you can actually get through the door… Hmm. Maybe it’s time to buy another shed?
I need to take a leaf out of my own book. Build more. Ride more.