Thinking back now, it’s pretty fitting that the first stories I ever wrote for the motorcycle industry were about women. My first piece of motorcycle journalism was a story on professional dirt track phenom Shayna Texter (published by Woman Rider before I ever dreamed I’d be part of this), and my second – which was the first story I wrote for Thunder Press magazine – was about one of my heroes, Michelle Disalvo.
I’m still convinced that this lady wrencher can fix anything, especially after I saw her help rebuild a crashed bike trackside just in time to make the American Flat Track Main event. And lately, as I’ve moved forward on my own riding and wrenching adventures (full disclosure, I’m a total bike-wrenching amateur here), she’s been on my mind a lot.
“It was my 9th birthday when I got my first bike,” Michelle told me over a year ago for my Thunder Press story. “It was a Suzuki TM125 in a Champion frame and, looking back, it was a little big for a 9-year-old. But I didn’t care. I rode that thing every day, and it broke about every three days. My dad told me that if I wanted to ride, I had to work on it, too. So from then on I fixed my own bikes.”
That’s resonated a lot in my head and made me determined to learn everything I can about working on my own bikes. I grew up around mechanics; my Dad could fix anything. He worked on cars all the time, and he’d buy cars knowing they were old beaters and fix them up. As far back as I can remember I’ve been handing him tools, asking questions and learning how engines work. He and I have done a total engine swap (on my very first car), taken apart the entire front end of a Ford Taurus, and more. Mechanical stuff comes pretty easy for me, so I have no fear of jumping in and figuring things out on a bike. If I don’t know how to do something, I can learn.
My dirt bike has given me the opportunity to do some learning lately. After 10 days of rain here in Florida, I went to go riding, kicked the lever…and the thing wouldn’t stay on. I kicked so many times my right knee is still angry, and every time it turned over and ran for a few seconds, a touch of the throttle made it stall.
Now, getting time on my dirt bike is my stress reliever, sorta like some people take their stress out on a punching bag or by running. Jumping on the dirt bike in the evening before sunset is my way of leaving the stress behind for a short bit and clearing my head. So when it decided to be cantankerous, I was left with dirt bike blues. If you’ve ever owned a dirt bike, chanced are you’ve been there, too. Ugh!
My first thought was a carburetor problem, but I haven’t done much motorcycle work so I started chatting with the people in my life who know more than I do. Talked with the guys I work with and, of course, took my questions to Michelle. Her best guess was a clogged pilot jet, so I figured I’d be stuck taking the carburetor apart for a cleaning.
My dad – who I never knew rode dirt bikes as a kid until I bought a dirt bike – said he’d come over and maybe help sort things out. Really, I think he just wanted an excuse to come ride it. He came armed with Mechanic in a Bottle and a truck full of tools. We put the stuff in the fuel tank and finally were able to push-start it down a hill to get it going. Once it worked itself through the system, it knocked out whatever clog was there and we were back in business. We adjusted the idle up a bit, which made it easier to keep running, and then took turns riding it, both of us with big grins on our faces. (I think Dad is gonna need his own dirt bike!)
Bang! Dirt bike blues gone, at least for now. Next up, an oil change, and yes, I’m going to do it myself. More satisfaction there.
In the coming months we’re going to start adding helpful tutorials, how-to videos, and even product reviews that’ll be useful if you like to work on your bike or you want to learn. Stay tuned!
For me, working on the bike is part of the whole experience. I love getting my hands dirty, being out there with the bike, and even the smells of gasoline and grease that linger when I’m done. It takes me back to being a little girl working in the garage with my dad, and that’s pretty special.