In the course of moving The Kneeslider into new surroundings, I had to pack up the entire research library and then unpack it, box by box, carefully examining the contents of each and putting things where I’ll have at least some chance of finding what I need, when I recall that one bit of info I know exists, buried somewhere deep in the pages of an old magazine or manual. It’s obvious, it’s a process with no chance of being completed for some time. What’s fascinating is how much you discover during the relocation, something I’ll be sharing with all of you as time permits. You can probably imagine how easy it is to get sidetracked looking at these new discoveries, things not floating around the Internet anywhere, but right there in front of me as fresh as the day they were written.
Much of this old material shows how far we’ve come, the kinds of maintenance expected of owners of old motorcycles, or any other antique vehicle, is so far beyond the now common “fill it with gas and forget it” routine, most of today’s riders and drivers would be completely lost. Now it’s possible for everyone to ride with hardly a thought of the vehicle itself and, though many might disagree, I think we’ve lost something in the process.
Ease of maintenance and longer maintenance intervals, had a lot to do with motorcycles like the Honda CB750 pushing the old British and American bikes to the side as they took over the market. Who would ever want to spend time cleaning and adjusting instead of just riding? Well, there’s a point where maintenance can be overwhelming, but the now normal lack of almost any need to touch anything produces riders dependent on the appliance motorcycle to get them anywhere. It changes what it means to be a motorcycle owner, opening the experience to everyone, reducing the exclusivity, it’s no longer special.
Learning all about the mechanical needs of your new ride meant you respected it and took care of it, it wasn’t a throwaway. If you put it to hard use, you had to clean, repair and adjust things so you could use it again. If you had to fix it, you might be less apt to blow it up, abuse it or crash it.
There are probably more riders who prefer the current state of affairs because riding is what they’re after, not working with their hands, and in that case, I guess we’ve progressed, but the attitude of treating your motorcycle like a throwaway appliance is common to so many other things now, it seems all pervasive. Why take care of anything? Just toss it, get another, but sooner or later, you lose all of the skills, the self reliance, the feeling of satisfaction of doing the work and knowing you can. I think you also lose a lot more than the ability to maintain your bike, I think it changes the way you look at everything. You lose self confidence and the pride that comes from a job well done and those are things lots of folks might want to feel again or more often. Isn’t it funny how something as mundane as motorcycle maintenance can affect us in so many ways?