Last week, I broke down on my motorcycle, which is not surprising considering I ride a souped-up and sometimes temperamental bobber. What was surprising was that for the first time I was able to handle the problem by myself and get my bike running and return safely home. Now in this instance my air cleaner was shooting out flames – which was a pretty sever situation to be in, while on the side of a highway with no cell phone, but it is the perfect instance to remind us all, especially the female solo riders that the most important thing to do is to NOT PANIC. I didn’t, and I got the fire out, diagnosed the immediate problem, and was able to Band-Aid it, so I could get home safely.
All of us who ride a motorcycle at one time or another will break down, and usually at the most inconvenient time. It is not a matter of if it will happen, but a matter of when it will happen. So this month I thought I’d share with you a few tips for those of us finding ourselves stuck on the side of the road…
If your bike “dies” while you are riding – 1st and foremost – GET OFF OF THE ROAD! Seriously, get as far from the road as you can safely get as to not get hit by a car! This happens a lot more than you think it does. Once you are safe, go over this quick checklist:
1) It happens to the best of us, and if you say it never has – you are probably lying ;0) Check the petcock for your fuel. Different bikes have different settings for ON/OFF/RESERVE. Make sure you are not out of gas. It may be that you have simply run out of fuel.
2) Check your battery connections. For this reason, it is good to have a 10 mm wrench in your riding tool kit. If you don’t have one you should.
3) Check for a broken wire, usually at the coil. For those who are not familiar with exactly where the coil is, it is easy – just follow your spark plug wire wherever it goes, and it will end at your coil.
If none of these quick steps helps you get going again, then you may have to relent and give a call for help.
Prior to leaving on a long trip, you should always check the following for problems: Tires, Lights, Brake Pads & Cable Lubrication. Also, it is a good idea when traveling great distances, to bring a spare head and tail light with you just in case.
The 3 tools you should never leave on a trip without (at least in my opinion) are: An Adjustable Wrench, A Flat Head/Phillips Head Interchangeable Screwdriver, and Electrical Tape. You would be surprised how many things those 3 items can fix when in a jam!
Lastly, in the unfortunate event that you drop your bike (which I am embarrassed to admit has happened to me more than once), getting your bike upright again may seem like a daunting task. Especially if you take into consideration that a lot of gals, like me are around 5’3” tall and an average Harley Davidson weighs between 480 to 560 pounds, depending on year and model. Many times we do more damage to the bike trying to pick it up, then we did when we dropped it in the first place.
Here are the 10 steps for anyone (man or woman) to get your motorcycle up safely, without causing harm to yourself or to your bike. (The following steps are for a bike that has fallen on its left side). I was lucky enough to get a lesson from the famous Genevieve Schmitt, who taught me this method, and if you are at an event when she does this demo- definitely Check It Out!!
1. Hit the kill switch. Make sure the motor is off.
2. Turn the gas off using the petcock on a carbureted bike if fuel is leaking.
3. Make sure the bike is in gear if you can get to it. If it is not in gear and you can’t access the shifter to put it in gear, the technique becomes more difficult because the bike could roll, but it can still be done.
4. Standing with your butt toward the seat, stoop down, and with your right hand grab the left grip.
5. When you grab the grip, pull it until it is as close to the tank as possible. With your left hand find something sturdy to grab hold of under the seat. Don’t grab the seat. It’s too flimsy to support the weight of your lift. Grabbing the bike by the frame is the best bet.
6. Place your butt midway on the edge of the seat. This is crucial. The placement of your butt too high or too low on the seat will not give you the leverage angle. You are pushing the bike with your butt and upper legs.
7. You must have good traction under your feet or they will slip. If there is gravel under your feet, sweep it away with your boots. The same goes for grass. (I made this mistake myself and went down again and believe me it sucked!)
8. Start pushing your butt against the seat using baby steps to force it upright. The hardest part will be starting off. Once the bike starts to lift off the ground, you’ll gain momentum to help you execute the rest of the lift.
9. Once you have the bike up, carefully put the kickstand down and lower the bike to it. If you can’t get the kickstand with the heel of your boot, turn your body carefully toward the front of the bike and grab both grips, then put the bike on the kickstand.
10. The process is the same if the bike is on its right side. Your hands are reversed, and it is easier to get it into gear. *Remember to put the kickstand out first so you don’t go over the other way!
I truly hope none of you readers ever need to use any of these tips, but take it from me; they are good to know before hand – trial and error really sucks when you are forced to try them on your own precious machine!
And remember…it never hurts to have a BAM card on you. BAM is Free Emergency Roadside And Legal Assistance for Motorcyclists. It is a volunteer network of Bikers Helping Bikers®. Use it in addition to AAA or whatever paid roadside assistance you have. Call AAA or whomever and get them in motion – which as you know can be a while. Then call BAM 1-800-4-BIKERS. BAM may be able to get someone to you quicker and FREE. But if BAM has no luck finding a volunteer in your area – no problem – you have AAA on the way. BAM is an excellent spare tool to keep in your toolbox and its sponsored by Russ Brown Motorcycle Lawyers.
Till next month-
Thanks Krit Campbell for a great article!
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