by Sev Pearman
I started riding when motorcycles had no bodywork and I had no dough. Necessity forced me to service my tired bikes myself. The only thing dicier than the build quality of the cycles was the quality of service literature. You were limited to the owner’s manual and shop manuals written in a combination of engineer-speak and (for all but H-D) an indecipherable “blend” of English and the language of the country of origin. Aftermarket manuals like Haynes and Clymer were better, but still expected you to speak both mechanical and electrical engineering.
Today, motorcycles are more reliable and there are decent books like The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance. The colossal buying power of RUBs has created markets for motorcycle tour groups, hotels and excellent moto-literature. Let as all thank our fringe-wearing brethren.
Author Mark Zimmerman dedicates each chapter to a different motorcycle system including Engine Cooling & Lubrication; Wheels & Tires; Clutch and Brakes. Each chapter is further broken down into basic theory, different styles and forms of the subject (spoked wheels, magnesium wheels, cast wheels, bolt ups (Comstar!) etc) pros and cons of each, current practice and repair technique. All topics are thoroughly explained in the author’s humorous voice that delicately balances the needs of a newbie with the expectations of the crusty old wrench.
Throughout the text, the author has simple and concise “do-it-yourself” sidebars that break down simple maintenance chores into simple steps. These are well illustrated with both photos and graphic images. Those of you who have struggled in a dim garage trying to decipher a grainy out-of-focus black + white image in a Clymer manual will appreciate the step-by-step illustrations.
All brands and types of bikes are represented in the photos. This keeps Motorcycle Maintenance universal. The author makes liberal use of color graphics and icons to anchor specific points in the text. Additionally, he uses actual manufacturer fiche diagrams. This is a great tool to educate the budding mechanic in the arcane ways of the Service Writer. I also liked the detailed troubleshooting guide in Chapter 15.
Mr. Zimmerman writes in a balanced manner that reflects his more than twenty years experience working on motorcycles. He states that premium tool brands like Snap-On are better balanced, weighted and finished than anything else, but that for most jobs most of the time, a decent set of Craftsman/Husky/SK hand tools is more than adequate. This is straight-no-BS advice, Junior. I am nit picking here but would have preferred all the informative D.I.Y sections were grouped together, rather than interspersed throughout the text. Another request would be for a spiral-bound edition that lays flat on the workbench. I hate propping open a manual with two tools.
Bottom line? After 20-plus years of riding and doing much of my own service, I learned a few tricks. I’m coughing up my own money for a copy of The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance. Highly recommended with 3 1/2 out of four cylinders.
“Where does the octane go?”–Practical info that neither insults your intelligence nor causes your eyes to glaze over
Tool Whore–Keep it handy. Perfect addition to your shop.
McGyver–Present copies to those who pester you for wisdom.