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Spare Parts: Starting over again

By Ernie Copper

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According to various sources and my own life experience, about two thirds of you made a New Year’s Resolution that had something to do with improving your fitness level and about three quarters of those who made those kinds of resolutions have given up on them by now. It seems no matter how encouraging Marie Osmond, Dan Marino or Shaun T are, we just can’t sustain the change in lifestyle.

If you were wise in how you spent your fitness dollars, you invested in your own exercise equipment instead of joining a gym. Someone once reflected on broken resolutions with the keen observation that you can’t hang your coat on a gym membership, but you can hang it on your own exercise equipment.

What do all of these broken fitness dreams have to do with motorcycles? Simple. It recently occurred to me somewhere between running on the treadmill and trying to start a bike with a cruddy carb, that if you spend your fitness dollars wisely, it can also be useful in your motorcycling life when spring comes. Through the practice of repurposing, your electric treadmill can become the answer to your hard-starting or improperly-stored stable of motorcycles when the sun starts to shine!

Who isn’t tired of kicking old bikes till you’re literally blue in the face? As we age, even bump starting becomes more difficult. I’m lucky enough to have a gradual grade at the end of my driveway and lots of times it’s perfect for bump starting a bike back to life. But sometimes the grade it isn’t enough. For those times, it’s nice to have a fit young energetic youth around, of which I had two. I say had because they have grown up and moved on with their own lives. I still have a dog who has the will, but not the ability to push my bikes and a wife whose goodwill I used up years ago when I talked her into towing my non-running bike behind our pickup truck to start it. That episode ended with the bike eventually starting, followed immediately by a spectacular get-off and a photobomb of the neighbors who were trying to take wedding or prom pictures.

All of this is in the past now that I have recognized my $40 used treadmill has more use as kinetic energy for starting my bike than it has as potential energy for keeping me fit. Treadmills are awesome for this and I don’t know why I’d never thought of the idea before. They run on simple 110-volt household current and can be found at nearly every neighborhood garage sale this time of year—when fitness is but a fading dream.

It’s still going to take a little help from a friend to pull off starting your bike with a treadmill but their involvement will be much more passive. Put your bike’s rear wheel onto the front end of the treadmill. You may need a small ramp to do this. My treadmill has about a 9” difference in height from the floor. I then sit on the bike, with its front wheel on the ground, and have my assistant plug in the treadmill and increase the speed until the wheel starts to roll. Then, just as you would if you were pushing it down the street, let the clutch out and let it turn over until it starts! Genius. Don’t sue me if you try this and something goes wrong. Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous activity likely made more so by trying to start a bike with a treadmill intended for an entirely different purpose! In other words, you’re on your own, kid.

Admittedly, this solution is most useful for smaller-displacement bikes with no electric starters or for bikes that are having some problems that require a trial-and-error system to get them started, like bikes that have been sitting a while (years) or have recently been rebuilt.

Depending on your garage hygiene, using the treadmill to occasionally start a bike does not exclude using it for its intended purpose of being a treadmill. I recommend a dedicated garage treadmill because the starting of an ignorant motorcycle often requires the use of persuasive petroleum products, which tend to be slopped around during the heat of the moment. Most treadmills fold up to some degree for easy storage so you can just roll them into the corner of the garage until you need them again. Who are we kidding here? If you’re using a treadmill to start bikes, there’s already something else lurking in the corner of your garage!

If this sounds like a plan to you, pick up a local penny-saver paper or jump on your Internet sales sites and start looking for treadmills. Mine is equipped with an iPod interface, speakers, adjustable grade and speed and folds up when not in use. I paid $40 for it. With spring in the air and yard sale season here, it is a buyer’s market.

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