by Denny Schmidt
For Minnesota it was a short winter, but for a middle aged motorcycle addict any winter on this frozen tundra is too long. I try to make the motorcycling season last as long as possible, and I have often been able to ride until Thanksgiving if there isn’t much snow. But then, by Christmas I have reread all my motorcycle magazines…again. By January I have rearranged my motorcycle collector cards and reread all the motorcycle magazine in my friends’ collections…again. By February I am starting to have riding withdrawal big time. Finally, when I can stand it no more I go though my winter therapy.
Out in the garage I turn on my 1500 watt electric heater next to the engine of whatever bike is most likely to start to help thin the oil. Then, after putting the charger on the battery of my frozen steed, I head back to the house and drink coffee. Back out in the garage I place a 55 gallon drum on end in front of my bike, and on top of the drum I place one of those big fans that normally sits in the bedroom window killing mosquitoes and sucking in dust all summer. After starting the bike on the center stand and while its warming up, I gather up all the dead bugs in the bottom of the bug zapper and put them in a shallow pan on top of the drum in front of the fan. Then I turn on the fan, hop on the bike, and let her rip. If you get the bug pan positioned just right, that baby will intermittently blow dead bugs on your face for five or six minutes while you run through the gears. Man, it’s just like being there.
Keeping in line with our thrifty theme, I’d like to talk to all you boys and girls about tires. Or if you’re from the South, “tars.” I was looking at used motorcycles when I was down in Georgia on winter vacation, and I came to the conclusion that everyone who rides motorcycles down there must also be a musician. One dealer I talked to said, “These here bikes all come with two git-tars.”
Yeah, I know. Let’s get back on track here. I know the main reason you folks tune in to this page every month is to get sage advice on how to ride and maintain your bikes on a budget, but sometimes even Mr. Thrifty is guilty of faulty economics.
I don’t buy mail order stuff too often, but during a particularly severe state of financial embarrassment I started thumbing through my “automotive accessories” catalog, which also happens to contain a dozen or so pages of motorcycle goodies. I was in serious need of a new back tire. There on the pages between the leather bikinis for the well-dressed female motorcyclist and the blu-blocker mini windshields, was an assortment of tires for less than half the price of the typical motorcycle store. These tires all looked like they had good tread patterns and were speed rated. How could I go wrong? Two weeks later, and for a mere $49.95 plus $10.00 shipping and handling, my new tire appeared on my doorstep.
I had my tools out before the brown truck hit the top of my driveway. I managed to wrestle the wheel off with only minor injuries, requiring a small box of bandages and a half bottle of peroxide. So far, so good. Time to get the old tire off the rim. I remembered seeing one of those bead-breaker tools in the catalog for 49 bucks. What a waste. A few well placed whacks with a two pound hammer is all I need to break a tire bead. After all, we ain’t talking about a truck tire here.
I carefully laid the wheel down on the garage floor and directed a well aimed blow to the side wall. The result was a trip to the house to wash the blood out of my eyebrow and recover from a sudden dizzy spell. Next time I’ll let the air out first. The second blow put a nice little dimple in the wheel rim, but subsequent and repeated poundings got it to where I could insert a screwdriver inside the tire and effortlessly punch a hole in the inner tube while neatly severing the rim strip.
Back inside the house I rang up my mail order supplier. They sent me out a new tube ($6.60), a new rim strip ($1.99) and a pair of tire spoons on sale for $38.50 plus $12.00 to ship the stuff priority mail. Armed with the new tire tools I managed to get the tire on the rim (with the drive arrow in the correct direction) and the wheel back on the bike. “This is child’s play,” I thought. It was time to head out on the road for a little test drive.
I was busy congratulating myself and snickering through the first two gears when I made a major medical discovery. I could have saved myself the price of a kidney stone operation had I previously been acquainted with the results of a seriously unbalanced tire. At the dealer I got some of those stick-on tire balancing weights ($4.60). I managed to get the whole thing balanced…after about four hours of trial and error. Whew! Time for a serious ride.
A couple of miles later I was finally feeling confident. I had a new tire and clean bandages on my clutch hand. Then it happened. A blue hair pulled out in her shiny, old 1972 Buick looking neither left or right. Oh no. The back tire slid out. No one should be able to sell tires that slide this easily. It reminded me of the time I stepped in the goose poop with my flip-flops.
I had finally had enough. No more no-name brand tires for me. I went back to the dealer, credit card in hand. While I was sipping complementary coffee and looking at new helmets, the pit crew removed my new mail order tire (which represented a total investment of $123.64, including tools, tube, rim strip, weights, and shipping and handling. Bandages not included.). Before I could pour a second cup, they had a name brand sticky tire mounted and balanced for around a hundred bucks.
What a bargain!