Motorcycles aren’t cars. By design, every component on a bike must be lighter, faster, smaller. That means they break or wear out more often, or in more interesting ways, or both.

I’m currently experiencing a problem with one of my own motorcycles that was caused by the last person to have the valve cover off – the dealer tech who performed some recall work. And there’s the rub. 

When I rolled my ‘13 Super Tenere out of the garage a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t want to start or run. So I tore into it, thinking I had a spark or coil problem. I did: the #1 and #2 coils and sparkplugs were luxuriating in a deep, relaxing motor oil bath due to a misaligned valve cover gasket.

The New Rider Problem

Pandemic times have seen motorcycle ownership increase significantly. Many of these new riders have experience with cars, but not with motorcycles. They soon learn that while modern cars don’t need a whole lot of maintenance, modern motorcycles are much, much needier. Too often, they find that out the hard way.

If I had a penny for every time I heard a new rider complain that their tires “only” lasted eight thousand miles, or that their battery is dead after the bike was parked for two months? I’d have a few extra bucks, at least.

The Motorcycle Parts Problem

Pandemic times have stuffed up global supply chains. Parts availability can be a problem. Replacement tires, currently, are a pain point. Even before those supply chain problems, though, motorcycle parts have been more expensive than their corresponding car parts. They’re smaller, lighter, designed to tighter tolerances, and have significantly less economy of scale.

The Lack Of Good Techs Problem

Have you looked at what a motorcycle tech makes, lately? Could you live on that hourly rate? Those of us who wrench on our own bikes have definitely entertained the thought of opening our own shop when we see the rates on the wall of our local cycle repair shop. I am here to tell you: it rarely works out, especially in the parts of the country that experience winter. The old joke goes: how do you make a small fortune in motorcycle repair? Start with a large fortune.

Oh look, my USB Borescope shows the valve cover gasket totally out of place.

Back to that disassembled Yamaha in my garage: am I going back to the dealer to complain? No, it’s too late for that. It would be my word against the tech. I have replacement parts on order and will sneak the valve cover off when the new gasket, coils, and plugs arrive, and I will clean everything up and fix the problem myself.

But where would something like this leave the lowly new rider, who just started their two-wheel journey and suddenly finds themselves in need of a repair that’s not just out of their scope, but also not even their fault?

Too often, especially if the independent shop or dealer can’t or won’t back up their own work, it leaves that rider with a broken bike and no options. Then the bike gets parked, maybe for years, and the rider falls right out of the sport.

Motorcycling is expensive. Motorcycle repair doesn’t pay well. I wish I had a good answer. Keep sharing your knowledge and experience, Inmates; we need all the help we can get.

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