|I was so busy the whole day, I didn't take ANY pictures. So, for this post, I've just got this one to share.|
Some women are perfectly comfortable picking up tools and wrenching on their bikes, while some find the idea of checking oil levels intimidating. This range of comfort is not exclusive to women at all, but fewer girls are introduced to tools as children/teens/young women, and that can naturally turn to a discomfort in a woman suddenly faced with a motorcycle that needs regular checking in order to be safe.
I was very lucky growing up to have been raised in a family that drove old VW bugs and late model, oil-sucking Mustangs. My father often had automotive tools in his hand, and was no stranger to carpentry, either. When I got to my first semester in college, my dad insisted I take an automotive class. At the time, I wasn't overly interested, but boy am I thankful now!
Now, let's not go thinking this turned me into a pro. None of that means that I jumped in,all crazy gung-ho, when I was faced with a 1980 Honda CM200Twinstar I had to push the final two blocks to work THE FIRST DAY I RODE IT THAT FAR. There were a lot of small moving parts that looked nothing like the Isuzu pick-up I worked on in that class. However, I watched a lot as Josh worked on that bike, and by the time I had a much more complicated GS, I was not afraid to pick up some tools and go at her. It helped a lot that I had downloaded the service manual for the BMW, and am good at reading and interpreting instructions.
While I've had some good luck and some good help, as I've gotten together with the GS Girls over the last year and a half, I've realized that many haven't. Some people aren't interested in wrenching, and some people are so intimidated, they'd rather throw money at a mechanic to work on a bike. There is NOTHING wrong with either of those things. However, some women want to know more, and there are some very basic things that everyone should know how to do on a bike, that aren't worthy of paying someone else for.
After talking to a few women, I decided I would host a Basic Maintenance class at my house, and called another GS Girl, Kandi Spangler, to see if she wanted to help out. One of our ladies needed to learn how to fix a flat prior to a trip to Moab, so we threw that skill into a class of basic maintenance, and had ourselves a day.
On a drizzly, cloudy, cold Saturday morning, 19 people showed up at my house--15 women and four men attended! We started by discussing tool sets--ways to build them, ways to carry them--then moved to discussing the differences between an owner's manual and a service or repair manual. One of our long-time GS Girls, Robin, brought a hard copy of a service manual with the pages separated into plastic sleeves--perfect for greasy finger garage days--and I showed all of my service manuals downloaded to the iPad--perfect for taking the manual along on long trips.
We then moved to the bikes, where we went over very basic maintenance which should be performed before and/or after a ride. This was the heart of the class. We discussed checking oil and tire pressures, checking and properly adjusting chain slack, checking the air filter and coolant levels, lubing a chain, and keeping forks clean. I had all three of my bikes out, and demonstrated different things on each. I pointed out how each of the bikes was different, but required the same checks with slightly differing techniques.
We then moved on to fixing flats. As I need a new rear tire on Camille anyway, I put a nail in her. Then, it went something like this.
L: Oh no, Kandi!
K: What's wrong, Louise?
L: I have a nail in my tire!
K: Oh no! how did that happen?
L: I don't know. Could you help me fix it?
(I know the script sounds boring, but it was an Oscar worthy performance, I guarantee!)
So, with me reading instructions out loud, Kandi demonstrated plugging a tubeless tire. We moved on from there to fixing a tubed tire. For this demonstration, I had planned to use the front tire on Thumper. We did end up doing that, but it took FOREVER to get that damn axle out. It was, sadly, the perfect example of one of the first things I told the group that day--always expect a project to take three times as long as you think it will. Later in the day, Josh reminded me that axle is directly across from the clothes dryer exhaust, so it typically sits there getting dried out and rusting.
It made me feel better recalling my struggles with it--and having to ask for help--once he mentioned that.
By the time we were done, it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon. Slowly through the day, people had to leave to get to other commitments and their families. Seven or eight of us were ready to head inside, chow down on some more food, and just chat. Another friend who had been riding all day, made it to the house in time for food, and playing with the kitty.
It had been a terrifically fun day, and I got good feedback from people about what they each got out of it. There were a lot of great questions asked during the course of the day. And, as people asked them, I realized not only how much I had learned in a relatively short period of time on a motorcycle, but how glad I was I could share this knowledge with our amazing group.
I posted a couple of pictures on Instagram and Facebook, and got great responses from across the country. Mostly, they were responses such as, "I wish I lived closer so I could have gone" or "I wish someone out here would do something like that."
My response to all of them was that it had been a blast, and why not make it happen where you live? It wasn't too hard to organize--thank you Facebook--and it didn't take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. We shared what we knew, had a chance to catch up, and even got to meet a couple of people who were brand new to the group.
I sat down at the end of the day, and realized I had not done so since 7:30 that morning. But, rather than just being exhausted, I was exhausted AND felt great. And I'll tell you, we were having so much fun, one of my neighbor's came over to see what the fun was she was missing out on! I highly encourage people who have the skills--or maybe just a good space and a friend with the skills--to host a day like this--you'll be glad you did.