The Little Motorcycle That Could, And the Mechanic That Couldn’t

With gas prices on the climb, I thought it was time to buy a motorcycle.  I didn’t want any motorcycle, however.  I wanted a project bike; something I could rebuild, revive, and breathe new life into.  After many days of scanning Craigslist, I found what some would call my “garage queen.”   It was a 1985 Yamaha Virago XV700, in non-working order.  We were going to take a journey, together.

I’ve had some experience working on cars in the past, so I had some transferable skills.  Plus, going from working on something that weighs 2,000 pounds down to something that weighed 500 pounds would be easy, right?  After all, a motorcycle is more compact, less complicated than most cars.

I spent the first few weeks diagnosing electrical issues, fixing cut cables and making sure voltagages were correct.  Next was the starter motor, which was so worn that I had to buy a replacement.  There were also the chipped starter gears that also needed new substitutes.  Let’s not forget needing to pull the carburetors to clean out that old gasoline (which is roughly a 6+ hour ordeal for someone new to working on Viragos). 

This was all done just to see if I could start the bike.  I knew that if I could get the motor running, I would be in good shape.  I would still have lots of tuning ahead of me and small details to work out, but as long as the motor worked, I was over the hump.

The ‘Rago was ready to be fired up for the first time in years. With my trusty fire extinguisher by my side, and my wife filming this historical moment, I installed the battery, turned the key, closed my eyes, and pressed the “Start” button. 

“vvvVVVVRRRROOMMMMmmmm!” 

Success!  This road warrior was back from the dead!  I looked over at my wife whose eyes were lit up in surprise.  I started thinking about those finishing details I could start working on and how soon I would be able to take this cruiser on the road.  I could do a custom paint job, add custom exhaust pi…wait…

“…put put put put…”My garage queen sputtered, bogged down, and died.  

After a few days of cleaning the carburetors (again) and trying to diagnose the problem myself, a mechanic friend mentioned that my valve timing might be off.  Sure enough, after removing the valve covers, he was right.  I started the procedure to correct the timing, only to find that the timing marks weren’t matching the valves.  I reached out to mechanic friend again, who said my camshaft timing was off.  I would need to correct the camshaft timing before I could start correcting my valve timing.  Let me add that a bolt on the camshaft timing was stripped out.

“NO!”
I was ready to snap.  I had overcome all the previous issues, just to find more problems waiting for me. 

I had regressed.  I had enough skills to correct both the valve and the camshaft timing, but in the face of these unexpected issues, I started wondering why I bought this motorcycle in the first place.

I use this as an example because we all regress at one time or another, especially when working on something new.   I had my transferable skills from working on cars, but in the face of all the issues I experienced with the motorcycle, I became disillusioned. 

It took a lot of support from those around me, especially my wife, along with a lot of direction from my mechanic friend to bring me back to working on my motorcycle on a consistent basis.  Both the direction and the support were necessary in the face of regression.

My Virago and I are still on the journey, but we will both be ready for summertime riding.

Do you draw any parallels between my story and a story of your own?   How could this relate to workplace challenges?  Leave your comments!

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