Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
Don'As the semester winds down, my eye is placed keenly towards this summer's work. There are many interesting endeavours this summer, but I am going to highlight the second moped, my first motorcycle, and my internship at Skidmark Garage in downtown Cleveland.
Moped #2: a 1980 blue Motobecane, deluxe edition. One year younger than my first, 1981 Motobecane. This one is a group project, me and my friend Matt Dierker are stripping everything down to the frame, cleaning everything, and thinking about some mild performance mods with the engine. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's fantastic that I know a lot about these bikes now, having spent countless hours on my first. Everything seems to be going more efficiently, and with a greater degree of confidence. Don't worry, we will start to mess up at some point.
Bridgestone Motorcycle: a 1971 200cc Bridgestone motorcycle. Somewhat rare. Dierker found this one on Facebook Marketplace, the seller wanted $100. As the price indicates, this bike needs an extensive amount of work. I don't even know where to begin. But that's why we're doing this project at Skidmark garage.
Skidmark garage is a community motorcycle garage in an old Cleveland warehouse, supposedly one out of forty such garages in the world. The concept is simple, members pay a monthly or yearly fee in exchange for access to tools, welders, metal benders, and most importantly, community. Skidmark is a gathering place for people with varying degrees of experience to gather, work on projects, and get their hands dirty.
Skidmark is a gruff, no B.S. work environment. The floors are greasy, and the occasional patches of sawdust indicate past oil / gas spills. It's well lit but dark in the corners. And the smells of degreaser, exhaust, and 20th century warehouse perfuse the air. I couldn't think of a better place to spend the summer. In exchange for about sixteen hours a month or more, I am benefitting from a free membership.
The people are interesting too, and that is the biggest reason to be at the garage. Being in a sea of knowledge instead of dithering about by yourself is really fantastic. Of course there is still room to mess up and fix stuff on your own, but it's really fantastic to know that the safety net exists. Last night my friend Matt and I were tearing down the moped. An older gentleman wearing a scraggly beard, camouflage MAGA hat, and the odor of cigarettes came over to compliment us on the project. He said that his cousin used to race 50cc mopeds in Europe - crazy stuff. It was a great interaction and I am excited to have many more of them!
I've been fortunate enough to have a four day weekend to commemorate the end of the semester and prepare for my intensive (journalism). After an absolute rollercoaster of events the last few weeks, I was looking forward to slowing down, enjoying coffee instead of just drinking it, and spending some quality time in the garage.
Yesterday was my day. Waking up fairly, early, I completed just enough of my homework to smother some of the guilt before I went outside. Today's task was rewiring the moped. Admittedly, I'm not great with electric so I watched a YouTube video to brush up. The journey started with the cliché run to the parts store, AutoZone. Except in this case it wasn't just AutoZone. It was two AutoZone's and a Home Depot stop later that I finally got to work, and the rhythym set in. I wanted to replace every single 40 year old wire. I worked systematically, starting with the ignition wiring and moving onto lights. The system is actually quite simple, just like everything else on that bike - easy to learn on. Every single connection went through a process. Strip the wire, flux, crimp, solder, dielectric grease, and heat shrink tubing. I enjoyed the process, the fine dielectric anti-corrosion and waterproofing electric grease permeating my hands, creating a fine film that I just could not wipe off on my jeans. I maintain that things are going well if your hands are dirty.
I stopped for lunch, driving a few minutes to our favorite neighborhood hamburger bar, Stevenson's. I hadn't been there for a while, and it was abolsutely fantastic. I replaced the dielectric grease on my hands with other grease, and all was well with the world - and yes, I sat at the bar.
With an end in sight, I carried on with the wiring. "I'm stopping at 4:00" I told myself. 4 came around, and I decided to wire the rear light too, reasoning that I should just get it all done. 9:00 rolled around, as it always does, and the bike was done. I wheeled it outside, and the new ignition cables worked quite well. The bike was quite literally - brilliant. Eagerly, I dashed back into the garage and grabbed a helmet, ready to feel the cool night air on my sweaty face. just for a quick spin around the block. I had the throttle pegged, the bike emitting its patent weedwhacker noise. The lights got really bright, then - pop, pop, pop, pop. All 4 bulbs blew. The engine still ran. One more thing to replace.
In bed, I smiled. Success always comes with failure, and now I have something to do this weekend.