The art of motorcycle maintenance

I was thirsty in the morning, so I reached for the nearest clear liquid in a glass and downed it. Gin. Oops. Normally I love a glass of gin. But before you’re fully awake? Not advisable.

It’s deep snow up here now. Robin and I got up early to skid through the drifts to his garage. Brian’s bike is an insurance write off because of the hours it’ll take to fix and the cost of labour in London. The Suzuki bike is much the same – more than the value of the bike in labour to repair it, which is why the Estonians brought them up in a van yesterday. Labour is only expensive if someone else does it. Robin knows what he’s doing and I have hands.

Robin can’t teach motorbike riding in the snow. It’s against the terms of his insurance, plus it’s just too dangerous. But he can teach motorcycle maintenance by example. So I was the nurse to his bike surgeon for the day. We stripped Brian’s Bennelli Tornado. We attached new lever guards and replaced the clutch. We took off the exhaust and drained the oil. We changed the battery. We took the carbon fiber farings off and removed the airbox to change the spark plugs. We put new mirrors on. Robin’s brother is sorting out the paintwork. That’s his speciality. We will be back in tomorrow, very possibly all day. It’s freezing in the garage though. I’m writing this in a hot bath, trying to get back to a reasonable temperature. But I understand why Robert Pirsig sold so many copies of his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” It’s a lovely contemplative way to spend a day. Loving care of many precise tiny details. Punching holes in cardboard diagrams for screws. Careful methodical dismantling and labeling, deep cleaning, thoughtful and thorough reconstruction. Making a broken thing new again. Mostly I was calm and happy, although Bennelli could have come up with a less obstructive way of securing the airbox. It’s like they want to force people to pay for an official Bennelli mechanic or something. But it was a good way to spend a day, and at the end of it we had made a noticeable change for the better.

Working on something unfamiliar in the cold after a glass of gin I really felt the fact that it’s fucking hard to get a proper cup of coffee up here. Robin said “Oh we’ve got coffee,” before showing me to a can of superbranded Nescafe freeze-dried hell. I almost cried. Today in the lunch break we drove through the snow to Middleton and waited for 20 full minutes playing drafts before someone brought a flat white to the table. It made me appreciate the absurd speed in which coffee addicted London can get served their crack. Coffee up here requires work, tone and travel. But I’m glad I got it before the withdrawal headache kicked in. A brew doesn’t quite do.


The other option is to give up coffee, of course. It’s a financial drain, and a dependence on a poison that gives you a terrible headache if you go cold turkey. But we all need to have vices. Or I certainly do…