Do you need any mechanical abilities to own a dirt bike? Well, maybe not, maybe so. You can certainly try to depend on "the shop" to do most of your maintenance. Though this can be costly and sometimes you find the guy at the shop doesnt know as much as you do. Not to mention that when youre 150 miles into the Baja peninsula, there arent that many shops around. Do you really want your friends working on your bike? If you ride with guys that are similar to the guys I ride with, that can be a hard question to answer.
Ill start with Brad, better known to many as Pinhead. Recently I was talking to George about some of our past trips. He looked at me strangely and asked, "Why do you guys even ride with this Brad guy?" Well, besides the fact that hes one of my best friends, I really dont know. OK, its really not that bad. I'm just, still, really bitter about our last ride to Rasor Valley. I intend to do a ride report about this trip, but every time I start it turns into a tirade, griping about Brad. Anyway Brad, Im still holding a grudge and will do my best not to thoroughly trash you or make you look too stupid. That said, lets move on. Brad is a really smart guy with above average mechanical skills. However, while he has an excellent grasp of most really complex concepts he just has no grasp of the obvious. By day hes a successful engineer at one of the leading companies in the field vibration damping. By night, aside from being a father, hes a student working on his masters degree. While hell argue this til were all blue in the face, he has no common sense. At least no conventional common sense. If there is any mechanical situation, Brad will begin to pullout manuals, schematics, blue prints, etc. After several hours of analysis, including drawings, hell reach a conclusion and begin to act on it. Basically, if it cant be done "the right way" (his way), hell do his best to see that its not done at all. On a recent trip, while in the middle of the Mojave Desert, he had several problems with his newly installed MSM lighting kit. Since this kit did not come with a schematic, Brad could not even begin to troubleshoot.
This resulted in several hours standing around his stripped bike with a Digital VOM arguing about the design of the XRs electrical system and an hour-long conversation, on my cell phone, with the guys at MSM. Resulting in him disconnecting the kit so he could ride the rest of the weekend. Now, I would think that most people would simply disconnect the kit in the first place and get on with the weekend. Theres much more, but as I said above, Im bitter and wont go into it. In his defense, he finally has the kit working (months later) and only after MSM sent him a new kit.
Bryce on the other hand is also a mechanical engineer, but spent some time working on a prune ranch. He has a lot more practical experience. For those whom dont know it, when working on a prune ranch, one gets practical experience such as building forklifts using an old Chevy truck, some scrap metal, and a refrigerator. Bryce has the most well rounded background and a lot of experience from maintaining is own road racing bikes. However, hes one of the most stubborn and opinionated of the group. If you dont agree with him, hell just blow you off and do it his way anyway. Luckily, I agree with him most of the time.
Paul, the least experienced of us, is a general contractor. We like to joke that he uses the contractor approach to everything, "he can make anything work as long as he has a big enough hammer." I dont think theres a non-rounded bolt head on his bike. While Paul has the most simplistic approach to everything, hes also the most adventurous of all of us. Paul would not hesitate to split his cases on the trail if someone suggested it would be a good idea. Our very first trip with Paul started with him completely disassembling his carburetor on the desert floor and duct taping part if his clutch cable together.
Theres another guy we go riding with on occasion, Scott. Scott, better known as Loopie because he tends to loop-out his openclass YZ in camp, is one of the more imaginative "mechanics" that I know. On one trip he showed up with a pancaked exhaust pipe. He simply cutout the smashed section and replaced it with some flexible aluminum tubing/ducting. You know, that stuff that connects your air cleaner to the valve cover on your old Chevy. This combined with a pair of hose clamps and some chamber seal and he was set. At the end of the day, he put in a fresh piece of tubing and he was ready for the next day. Granted, that big-bore YZ has so much power that he could use a straw for an exhaust pipe and itd still have more power than he would need. The amazing thing is how long his fixes last. Many years ago, he fixed his throttle with a piece cut from a plastic water bottle and some silicon. Its still there and has lasted longer than the original throttle.
Then theres me. I spent most of my youth working in service stations, this was before the job was nothing but sitting in a glass booth. Looking back, some of the "repairs" I made to peoples cars I certainly wouldnt wish upon myself. I also had the usual array of auto shop and metal shop in high school. I also took a couple auto repair pre-certification classes in college "just for the fun of it". I tend to lean towards the "quick and dirty" repairs. Getting back before dark is my main goal. If I need to buy a new motor when I get home so be it. Also, being a computer geek, I tend to solve problems by thinking about how Id write a program to do it.
Anyway, with this group of guys, Im always sure that well all make it back to camp. However, Im not always sure about how long itll take. If there is a failure we usually spend an hour diagnosing it, an hour arguing how to fix it and another hour arguing about how to make the special tool needed to fix it. Most importantly the only thing that we can agree on is that we wont take it to a shop and we dont want/trust anyone else to do it