(Crystal A. Proxmire, 12/04/2011)
Winter is coming, we think, and that means preparing yourself and your bicycle for the harsh season. A new class being offered at Paper Street can teach you the basics, not only of winterization, but also “routine motorcycle maintenance that you can do yourself, the crucial pre-flight inspection you should perform before every ride and – of course – a heap of tips and tricks in keeping your bike running smooth that only a master motorcycle mechanic could know.”
The class is part of community education being organized at the creative collective space on Ferndale’s southeast side. Located at 1511 Jarvis, Paper Street holds offices, industrial shop areas, cubicles and community areas for meetings and shared resources like office supplies and free ice cream.
The classes are a new way for the creative experts who use Paper Street to share knowledge about whatever they do that is useful. On Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 it will be Todd Ethridge teaching “Intro to Motorcycle Maintenance, Care & Winterizing Your Bike.” Ethridge is the owner of McBee’s Motorcycles, located in Paper Street. The class runs from 6:30pm-8:30pm and costs $30. The class is appropriate for beginners and even though with years of experience can benefit from a refresher and tips from a pro. More information and tickets at http://welovepaperstreet.com/#classes
Ethridge has been riding and caring for his bikes for 29 years. He worked seven for a northern Michigan motorcycle dealership that sold Harley, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda. “For 12 years I worked with troubled teens, but budget cuts and other issues put that to rest, so at age 48 with two kids and an underwater mortgage I rolled the dice and started over.” He started McBee’s in 2010, specializing in bikes that are over ten years old, mainly because the dealerships won’t touch them.
Winterizing and maintenance are crucial to keeping a motorcycle running long term. “People generally retire from riding in the Winter for the obvious reasons, but storing bikes over a long winter or even years as children, jobs. military service, or other needs push riding aside, can do real harm to a motorcycle and begin what I call the death spiral.
‘The death spiral works this way- after storage the bike just doesn’t run as well as it did. Riding is more of chore so you do less of it, the bike sits more and runs even worse, you ride it even less.
‘Pretty soon it won’t run at all and several hundred dollars are required to put it right. Some people trade up to new bikes and repeat the spiral. Others quit riding all together. Either way badly stored bikes are torture to ride, and this is why Craig’s List is filled with low mileage, poorly running bikes for very little money.
‘The number one problem with storing a bike is the fuel system. Fuel tanks rust from the inside and gasoline breaks down into a gummy substance clogging carburetors. ‘Sometimes the bike will run but only with the choke “on.” This is a classic symptom of fuel trouble. The bike is harder to start which takes a toll on the battery.
‘Bike batteries are undersized for their job and usually fail in three to four years. Bike batteries also cost more than car batteries adding insult to injury. Bikes in this condition are often found in garages buried under piles of debris or even left outside to die.
‘Brakes will eventually seize up from moisture causing expensive damage. The bike becomes impossible to even roll across the garage. At this point many owners give up and sell the bike or leave it outside and “out the way.” It’s a terrible loss in my opinion as motorcycles should last much longer than cars. Many 30 or 40 year old bikes are giving excellent daily service for their owners. The difference is routine maintenance and regular use. In my class I will explain how almost anyone can maintain a bike well enough to keep it running sweetly for decades.”
Ethridge has always been a grownup on the bike. “I started riding in 1982 just out of high school,” he said. “I am not from a motorcycling family and adulthood had to come before I was ‘allowed’ to have a motorcycle. My parents were horrified at first, but two things helped them over the shock. One, the bike came home in boxes, there was a good chance it would never run. Two, as they saw my commitment to this project they couldn’t help but become supportive.
‘This first bike, a 500cc Triumph has given me a lifelong love of British motorcycles. That first bike also opened a door into a world I barely knew existed and completely changed my life. Two years were needed to make the bike complete and safe for the road. In the mean time, I read every book and magazine about motorcycling available, including Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I still visit this book once a year.
‘I had visions of riding out to Montana just like the characters in the book. That trip remains unfulfilled, but one day… I learned to ride by borrowing my friend Pat’s Honda 350. Pat had a steady girlfriend and they preferred to use my car. So on friday nights they would have a date and I would set off alone on Pat’s bike. I don’t think he realized how inexperienced I was.
‘Later I took an MSF( Motorcycle Safety Foundation) class and learned how to ride the right way. Since then I have dabbled in racing, but I’m not very good at it and found real joy in traveling across the country on two wheels.”
Since opening in 2010, Ethridge has seen a variety of bikes, and gained new customers in the Ferndale community. “At McBee’s I treat every bike as if it were my own, and, I am taking that dream trip across the continent. How would I want to the bike run? How reliable must it be far from home? How comfortable is the bike to ride for 6 or 7 hours on end? And what is the BEST way to repair a damaged bike? I am happy to work on almost any motorcycle regardless of age or make,” he said.
To benefit further from this motor cycle master’s work, check out his class at Paper Street Dec. 8, 2011. For more information go to http://welovepaperstreet.com/#classes.