Thursday, 30 August 2018

Is that a new rattle I hear?

I never would have made it through medical school. I would have been the guy in class who contacted every disease studied. (I did feel flushed yesterday. And that headache is back, worse than ever. My vision seems a bit blurry this morning. Is that a rash? OHMIGOD I’ve got this too! I’M DYING!) If the stress didn’t kill me it would have sent me packing to some safer pursuit, like accounting. (Thankfully that didn’t happen.)

So, how do I know this? Well, for example, a while back I read an article about replacing worn-out cam chain tensioners on high-mileage Harleys. At 38,000 kilometers my bike is not high mileage but now I imagine increased noise coming from the primary. While I try to convince myself that the tensioner is NOT worn out and I don’t have to replace it over the winter, the thought nags: But what if it is? Then there’s general engine noise. Is it louder than usual? Valve clatter? Or is an automatic pushrod adjuster not working? And it goes on…

What topped it all of was yesterday, when riding, I heard a new noise, a rattle, coming from the front end somewhere. Scary stuff. What if it’s the brakes about to seize? Or a wheel bearing about to disintegrate? It took about 5 kilometers of worry and a total (mental) teardown and rebuild of the front end before I realized the noise I was hearing was coming from a banged-up trailer just ahead of me. Whew!

Oddly enough I never consider any of this in a car or truck. Get in. Turn the key. No idiot lights? Good to go. Perhaps the difference is the driver’s isolation from the heart of the beast. Instead of it pulsing six inches under your butt and other high-value bits it’s somewhat remote, a few feet up front, and well insulated. And unless the engine completely fails or the exhaust system falls off I’m unlikely to pay the slightest bit of attention to any part of the power train. Not necessarily a good situation, but there it is.

Maybe it’s a heightened sense of vulnerability on a motorcycle, or a perceived lack of reliability compared to modern automobiles, or perhaps it’s just me. But it’s also why my motorcycles are over-maintained compared to their 4-wheeled brethren. And that’s just fine by me. (Note to self: Take a good look at the front end, just in case.)


  1. Hahahaha - most enjoyable post! It mirrors my mental processes too. I have a half-baked theory why this might be. For those of us "of a certain age" who started motorcycling in our youth, the threat of breakdowns and being stranded was very real with the sort of bikes we rode. Listening out for problems became part of our DNA :-)

    1. Goeff: You might be right. I recall (not too fondly) a number of times having to call around for someone with a truck or trailer to come and rescue me and whatever old Norton/Kawasaki/Honda I was riding at the time.


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