23 April 2014

Maintenance Woes and Rewards

As far as motorbiking is concerned, anyone who rides knows the rewards of maintenance. A bike that purrs along smoothly, turns without hassle or force, and money-saving gas mileage are a couple reasons to keep on top of it. Sometimes work needing to be done is expensive and sometimes it's time-consuming. Those two things suck, but sometimes it is just worth it for someone like me (less than mechanically inclined...) to try to find someone to whom I can throw money at and have the job well done.

I think someone re-used an old crush washer....

So here is where I get to the heart of this post--the intense frustration of ferreting out a good mechanic, and winding up with garbage work for a large payment. Last summer in San Diego, I knew I needed some work done so I asked around to find out who had a BMW mechanic he liked. I was given the name of someone located out in Santee, and when I looked him up online, it looked like he had loads of experience and customers.

I set up a time to drop the bike off--before his shop opened I got there, left it, and dropped the keys in the mail slot--and waited to get a call telling me what needed to be done beyond what I had asked for, and the estimate. I had asked for several things to be done including changing the front tube in my tire (it was constantly leaking), changing out my headlamp which had just gone out, and an oil change. The truth is that I am capable of doing all those things, but when I live way from home and don't have my full garage, it is much more economical to have someone else do it. At that time, I had also started to have some issues with my acceleration, and I guessed I probably needed my valves adjusted. This was something beyond my capabilities, so I took the bike in.

In the afternoon I got a call from the owner of the shop, and he listed what needed to be done, including all the stuff I asked for and valve adjustments. He also told me there was a leak between my oil and coolant and I had some of each in places it didn't belong. Crap. Ok, that was going to be expensive, but that was not what bothered me about that call. The owner spoke to me in such a condescending manner. I finally said that I was relatively new to motorcycling, and though I didn't know much about maintenance, I was trying to learn as I went. When he got done lecturing me on how long I should go between valve adjustments, he finished by saying, "...and it looks like someone has been riding this in the dirt."

Well, no shit.

This was where I lost my patience and in a very pissy tone of voice, I explained that in the past two and a half years since I had gotten the bike, I (that's right, little ol' me) had put 25,000 miles on it and had ridden to Alaska, finishing out the previous summer by taking the bike off pavement and riding jeep trails--you know, in the dirt-- and finishing out the winter by riding through a couple of snowstorms as well.

His tone of voice changed and he lost some of the condescension with which he had previously been speaking.

I okayed all the work, but that conversation should have made me take my bike back and just go to the dealer.

I got the bike back, and it felt a lot better. I was pretty happy with it, but about a week later, I noticed my front tire was low. I filled it, rode off to work, and forgot about it for about a week...when I discovered it was a little low again. I filled it, feeling frustrated, went to work and forgot about it again. A few days later I left work at lunch on the bike to go pay the mechanic for work I was having done on my truck. My tire felt low again, and when I got to the shop, I bent to look at it and found oil EVERYWHERE.

I called the mechanic and he said DON'T RIDE IT! I loaded it up in my newly repaired truck, and hauled it out to Santee again. When the bike mechanic called, he apologized and said there had been a mis-seated gasket and a loose hose clamp--no charge of course because it was their fault.

I picked the bike up the next day, and left San Diego to return to Denver, bike safely in the bed of the truck.

Since I have returned, I have also replaced my front tube--in my panic about the oil leak I failed to ask them to repair the tire they didn't the first time but charged me for--and changed my oil, finding some troubling things. I had noticed a small leak in the drain plug (did they use a new crush washer or just use the old one...?) and when I attempted to pull the filter cover off, I saw that the screws had been over tightened and one of the screw holes was cracked.

Since I have done the work on my bike, my front tire has stopped leaking, and so has my oil. I suppose these are not big problems, but what has me completely frustrated is wondering, in the wake of all this crappy work--on some remarkable simple and routine things--what the real work on my valves, brakes and oil/coolant situation is like.

I forked over $1100.00 for that work--which I had to pay for in cash because the owner is too cheap to pay credit card fees. Aargh! And I was treated like a stupid little girl!!

On the flip side of this issue stands Peak Performance--the shop in Lakewood next to Let It Ride. I have found them to be reliable, fair, and completely unpretentious. And...I am completely capable of doing some of my own maintenance. The only problem is it takes away from my riding time....

For right now, having changed my oil, front tube, and air filter, my bike is purring like a kitten. Spring has arrived--time to ride!


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