Here are a few ramblings from my Travels With Guido column in
Australian Motorcycle News.
Shedlock - the trauma of cleaning out the shed
Pleasuring - extreme riding with Mick
Faith - your bike can always out-ride you
Tools - definitions for the home mechanic, from the
Killer roads - meet Clyde from the enforcement
division of The Lemmings
What got me up on my soapbox this week was a pathetic attempt to clean
out and organise my shed. By shed-culture standards it's not all that big,
but it does take the Kingswood, the outfit, a few solos plus a motley collection
of benches, shelves, bicycles, mowers, camping gear...you get the picture.
When we first clapped eyes on the place. Ms M and I made a beeline
for the shed, comprehensively discussed its future, and only bothered with
a cursory inspection of the house before buying it.
Every couple of years I start going crazy because it becomes impossible
to navigate your way from one end to the other without delicately picking
a path through the junk. A path which looks very much like something left
by a drunk rat on an obstacle course. I call it shedlock ? as in gridlock.
What gets me is that I don 't remember buying most of the crap. Whatever
possessed me to buy not one but two bottles of weed killer? I don't like
my garden enough to waste important riding time by killing something in
it. If there's a plant tough enough to survive in that environment of complete
disinterest, good luck to it.
The day the latest clean-out started was 34 degrees and humid. Just
the sort of weather you want for mucking around in an exposed and dusty
tin shed. So a couple of hours later I emerged looking like a boiled lobster,
having removed maybe a car boot-worth of crap. Only another 50 or 60 to
A big mistake was starting with the motorcycle magazines. Despite numerous
attacks over the years, the collection has grown again to the point where
it's overflowing a set of shelves big enough to live in, and they're gradually
making their way, like some paper-based lava flow, towards the front gate
"Why keep all this twaddle?" is the first response as you start to hook
into the nearest lump of rubble. Some of them haven't been opened in ten
years. Then, just out of curiosity, you open one...and start reading. That's
the beginning of the end. An hour later, not a single mag has been tossed,
but you're now a world authority on the development of the 1985 GFN750
Okay, time to get merciless. I'll avoid reducing dedicated mag collectors
to tears by revealing what I did toss. It seems a shame, but there's only
so much you can keep - out go the really useless ones, leaving enough to
start a respectable-sized library.
Of course my old mate Trevor Thomas would disagree. One of the country's
leading classic motorcycle authorities, he's in a much worse situation.
Not only is his shed stacked to the rafters with mags, but so is his house.
Manoeuvring from the bedroom to the kitchen of his joint without having
a paper mountain collapse on you is a major test of agility.
Figuring the mags are going to take too long to sort, I then move on
to what used to be the workbench. Whether it's still actually there is
up for debate, as all the eye can spot is a bizarre pile of old helmets,
jackets, ice-cream buckets filled with bolts and a tangle of wiring.
It's a mystery that anything in the garage still runs when you go through
the zillion spares littering the joint. For example where the hell did
all those bolts come from? A conservative estimate puts them at a good
1500 or so. Almost enough to build a complete machine.
So you start to sort through them. Hmmm, that looks like a useful size,
maybe should keep those -- never know when you need a left-threaded thermungrommet
to suit a 1978 VN450 Duhonzi. Yeah, right.
Then I thought of Alf up at the Tintaldra pub. He too has a weird collection
of junk in his shed, most of it for classic cars. Sure enough a punter
dropped in, urgently requiring a distributor arm to replace the one that
had just cracked up on his '27 Alvis. Just the sort of thing that a year's
searching through all the enthusiast channels might turn up, if you're
lucky. And Alf in Tintaldra just happened to have one that went straight
Now here's a good one: a spin-on oil filter for a 1987 GSX-R1100, in
perfect nick. Great. Just a shame that I've never owned a GSX-R. If memory
serves, I got it by mistake when ordering the same part for another bike,
and never got around to taking it back. Perhaps it'll fit Bronson the Blackbird
- so it stays.
This is hopeless. Hours into the exercise and the joint looks no different
to the way it did when I started. It's never going to work.
I reckon the only way to get a shed cleaned out is to call someone who
actively dislikes you to come in and toss the lot. How much would you really
miss, after all?
The tools? What use are they when you don't have the space, time, talent
or patience to work on the bikes anyway? The spares? Hell, you can always
go out and buy another oil filter for a bike you don't own, if you miss
it that much.
Maybe the best idea is to sell them. I can just see the ad: "For sale:
approx 1500 bolts to fit all bikes, except the one you're working on at
the time. Must go to good home..."
Nup ? there's a better idea. "Wanted: merciless neatness freak, must
have own backhoe..."
Travels has got a little serious over the last couple of issues and
it's high time that we took a collective breather. To that end we bring
you a variation on a gem that was sent some time ago by John Chadwick of
Moto Arena in Queensland. It's been slithering across various net sites
for a while now, the authorship is uncertain, and we've taken the liberty
of modifying it considerably for our purposes.
SUBJECT: Tools for a motorcycle enthusiast.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, and often found alongside
the sickle in the club banners of countries with firm ideas on government,
the hammer is now used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive parts
right beside the object you are trying to hit.
STANLEY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of the cardboard
carton delivered, at great expense, to your workshop; works particularly
well on boxes containing fairing panels and a lone bottle of battery acid.
ELECTRIC DRILL: Normally used for spinning steel pop rivets in their
holes until the Stupidity Police come to take you away; it also works great
for drilling mounting holes in aftermarket huggers and through the new
$300 rear tyre.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads and crush irreplaceable wiring
HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle.
It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the
more you attempt to influence its course the more erratic your destiny.
VICE-GRIPS: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available,
they can also be used to assist in arc-welding your metal watch band to
the rear subframe.
OXY TORCH: Used almost entirely for finding various flammable objects
in your garage. Also handy for firing off the two remaining explosive atoms
left in that holed fuel tank you've been soaking in water for six months.
WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older British motorcycles,
they are now used mainly for impersonating that metric socket you've been
searching for over the last two hours. The socket you actually wanted will
appear the moment you've rounded off the bolt.
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching that
flat metal bar out of the bloody mess that was your hand so that it smacks
you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against
that freshly painted part you were drying.
WIRE BENCH WHEEL: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them through
the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls
and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say,
HYDRAULIC JACK: Used for lowering a motorcycle to the ground after you
have installed your new front disk pads, trapping the jack handle firmly
between the (now) dented alloy rim and the (now) cracked mudguard.
2X4 TIMBER: Used for trying to lever a motorcycle off an hydraulic jack.
TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters.
PHONE: A tool for renewing your ambulance subscription and then calling
your neighbour to see if he has another hydraulic jack.
GASKET SCRAPER: Useful as a breakfast tool for spreading Vegemite on
toast; and for getting dog refuse off your boot. Does not require washing.
BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is
ten times harder than any known drill bit. Always two sizes larger than
the label says.
TIMING LIGHT: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating burred screws
and the futility of ever getting the timing anywhere near factory specs.
Useful for sticking in your mouth late at night and permanently traumatising
any small child that mistakenly wanders into the workshop.
ENGINE HOIST: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength of the battery
straps and oil lines you have forgotten to disconnect.
VERNIER CALIPER: A delicate and expensive levering tool that inexplicably
always perfectly fits the minuscule gap between the engine cases and the
barrels you're trying to remove.
BATTERY ELECTROLYTE TESTER: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid
from a bike battery to the inside of your toolbox, and down the inner thigh
of your new jeans, after determining that your battery is dead ? just as
METAL SNIPS: See hacksaw.
TROUBLE LIGHT: The mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes (and accurately)
called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin",
which is not otherwise found under motorcycles at night. Health benefits
aside, its main purpose is to consume light bulbs at about the same rate
that incendiary bombs might be used during, say, the first few hours of
territorial negotiations in Yugoslavia. Also useful for hooking up your
centrestand directly to the national power grid.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab through the foil seal of
brake fluid containers and splash the contents liberally across your freshly-painted
fuel tank; can also be used, as the name implies, to round off Phillips
AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning
power plant 200km away and transforms it into compressed air that travels
by hose to an impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last tightened 60 years
ago, by an apprentice in Meriden, and rounds them off.
PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the $100 metal surround for that clip
or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 10 cent washer.
HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to cut hoses a centimetre too short.