I’m pretty sure everyone who’s reading this has had their own episodes of brain freeze—and I don’t mean what happens when you eat ice cream too fast. What I’m talking about is those stupid human tricks performed in your own garage, hopefully with no witnesses to tell and retell the story of the ridiculous thing you just did.
There are a few that stand out in my mind, such as the incident that occurred 10 years ago when I moved into the house where I still live. Although it has many features that, as a motorcyclist, I found quite attractive, the attached garage is meant for only one car. At the time I had two bikes and an SUV, so I thought my Sportster might like to live in the basement, thereby giving everybody a lot more room.
The basement is at ground level, so I figured I’d just roll the Sportster inside. There’s a stone wall outside the door and I had to angle the bike to get it in. Well, the entryway was narrower that I’d thought, and those Dyna Wide Glide handlebars got wedged in between the door jambs. I couldn’t move it backwards or forwards. It was jammed in tight. But no way was I gonna call for help. I’d never hear the end of it. I figured if I got it in there, I should’ve been able to get it out. It took about 20 minutes, but I finally got it back outside by angling, pulling and pushing repeatedly, in small increments. Another bad idea dressed up like a good idea, and one I never tried again.
Some years ago, I wanted to take the Sportster for a ride, but the gas had been sitting in the tank through at least two winters without fuel stabilizer. Riding it to the gas station to top it off with new gas wouldn’t work because the tank was already full. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to get the fuel out so I used a turkey baster to remove it, squirting it into a gas container as I went along. That Sportster has a 3.3-gallon tank so it took me quite a while to get it down to half full. No matter how careful I tried to be, it was a messy job and even after scrubbing the floor, the garage smelled like gasoline for about a month.
I related the story to one of my friends who owns a bike shop, and his immediate response was to laugh and blurt out, “Don’t tell anybody you did that!” He was actually embarrassed for me. He told me that all I had to do was pull the fuel hose out of the bottom of the tank. Well, when I got home I searched for that hose and the only one there was for overflow and pulling it off would have done… nothing. The petcock is vacuum operated. I searched tech forums on the Internet and the suggestions included removing the tank, siphoning the gas out, loosening the petcock fitting to the tank or using a Mityvac. I stand by my simple, although slow and messy, method because none of the others seem any better. If you know an easy way to drain the tank of a 2000 XLH, please enlighten me!
The Sportster isn’t the only one of my bikes to suffer such indignities. One time I rolled the FXD outside for a photo shoot, and I couldn’t get the choke cable out, so it wouldn’t start when I wanted to get the bike back inside. There’s a slight upward slope and then a raised “lip” where the garage meets the pavement. Call me inseam-challenged, but I just couldn’t get enough leverage while straddled on the seat to roll it past those seemingly small obstacles. I thought I might have better luck getting off the bike and walking it in, so I dismounted and boom! Both the bike and I went down. I had neglected to deploy the kickstand. I had to call for help. Even if I’d gotten the bike upright, I still couldn’t have gotten it inside.
Recently, a similar thing happened with my FLD. It was outside the garage and I couldn’t get it started. This time, I remembered to put the kickstand down before I dismounted. I stood to the left of the bike, put both hands on the bars, flipped the kickstand up and tried to walk it forward. I hesitated, lost my footing and down we both went. Even if I picked it up, I couldn’t leave it outside because I was about to leave on a road trip. I made a panic call to Black Hills Custom Parts (again), and Ken came over to help me. I watched him roll the bike in, noticing how much muscle he put into it. He later told me, “Once you start pushing the bike, you have to be committed.” Oh, I’m committed, alright. Committed to firing up the bike inside the garage so I don’t have to worry about getting it back in if it won’t start.
Now what? I needed a bike! My FXD was in the shop, and my Sportster was the only one left. It hadn’t been ridden in several years, and I wondered aloud if it would make the 350-mile round trip. It was suggested to me that if the carb works, it’d probably be alright, so I turned the run switch to “On,” pulled out the choke, gave the throttle a few twists, thumbed the starter button and… nothing. Dead as a doornail.
On the way to my destination (in my SUV… grrr) I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what could be wrong. It had been on a Battery Tender all that time, but maybe the battery was bad anyway. Corroded battery terminals? Some other electrical problem? About two hours down the road, I realized what the problem was. I’d never turned the ignition key on. After spending most of the past two years riding the FLD, I’d forgotten the Sportster even needed a key.
I sure had a lot of fun telling that story the next time I was at the bike shop. I suffered quite a bit of verbal abuse, albeit good-natured. Don’t think I can get away with this stuff just because I’m a chick. Dumb is dumb.
Hey, if I can’t laugh at myself, then I have no right to laugh at you when you do stuff that’s just as stupid.