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« on: September 04, 2011, 05:31:10 PM »

As some of you know, I decided to enroll in the Motorcycle Service Tech program at Washtenaw Community College. It's weird - I work all day teaching classes at Albion and then ride quickly to class to listen to someone else do the teaching at night.

I'll use this thread to keep folks updated occasionally on my progress. From time-to-time there might be opportunities for you to give me some practice, so I'll keep this in Region-4 for that reason.

Week 1: Good so far. Instructors REALLY know their stuff (and they can teach as well). The lead instructor for my first course ran many service departments, including some of the most productive in the country. You can see why - the guy is amazingly well-organized and he knows bikes and people.

Things I'm looking forward to.....

The shop is amazing. They have the best equipment available - tons of lifts, new paint booths, welding equipment, and a massive machine shop than can do pretty much anything you want to an engine. The coolest setup is the dyno room. It has a massive separate room for air treatment (which costs many times what the dyno did) so the wind blows 25 mph through the dyno room during testing - removing the need to alter the exhaust flow on bikes by putting venting on the pipes; you can alter room pressure to simulate altitude changes, various temperature changes, etc.).

From the sounds of it, my first class is basic maintenance stuff and learning how a shop works. Other classes cover everything from electrical work to custom fabrication (no OCC stuff here - these guys make their own frames, lace their own wheels, etc.) They also seem to like building bikes that go very, very fast (there are turbos and nitrous kits lying around everywhere).

The program walks the line between Harleys and metric bikes. We will work on both.
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2011, 06:05:14 PM »

 :popcorn:   Thumbsup
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2011, 07:09:36 PM »

yeah that program does just about everything. I know some people that have done the custom car program, but also know the "dean" (or whatever you call it) of that program just let us know when you get free dyno time :P
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2011, 07:27:32 PM »

 :popcorn:
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2011, 08:47:28 PM »

Ugh! I would love to have the time to run the course with you....

Damn job gets in the way of all of my fun.
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2011, 09:07:00 PM »

Oh man that sounds awesome.  I so wish I had the time/money to enroll in something like that - even if I wasn't going to use the knowledge for a job or career.

You lucky bastage...   Bigok
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2011, 11:35:34 PM »

Update....

Week 2: This week we spent some time loading and unloading bikes onto lifts and using various types of jacks. The rest of my time was taken up reviewing pretty much every type of tool you can imagine (and taking a test on it), IDing and measuring all sorts of US and metric fasteners, and covering a lot of material on thread repair and bolt/screw extraction (we'll be practicing this next week along with starting to tear down a bike I think).
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2011, 07:53:56 AM »

Week 3:

This week we spent a lot of time in the shop. A lot of that time was spent drilling/tapping threads and extracting broken bolts. I now know I want a vertical milling machine when I win the lottery (although a regular drill press works well enough). While I've done some of this stuff before, I learned a lot of little things that make a big difference. I think it's safe to say I'll be much less likely to break off an EZ-out the next time I try to drill-out the screws on the cases of a 1960s Honda.  Bigsmile

We also worked a lot with high-precision measuring devices this week (some that measure down to one ten-thousandth of an inch). We learned how to measure cylinders properly so we can eventually re-bore them (although we don't do any boring until a later course). Apparently I will spend much of next week taking measurements from more than 20 motors/carbs/rotors etc. etc. for practice. We have another test next week as well. After that we're tearing down bikes and looking at suspension systems.
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2011, 08:09:50 AM »

FUN!  OMGOMGOMG
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2011, 09:22:14 AM »

what a great thing to do -- life-long learning ROCKS!
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« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2011, 08:51:19 AM »

Week 4: We spent the week taking a test and doing a lot more precision measuring. I measured something like 25 cylinders (6 locations in each using various bore gauges+micrometer setups, which takes a lot more time than you'd think). Then I did the same number of pistons (much easier). I think my eyes are crossed permanently.

I scored 100% on the second test (just gotta throw that in there  Rolleyes). It was a little surprised because it was very technical and had a few "trick" questions on it that I was unsure about. In general, I'm a good test-taker though. Being good on paper has worked well for me as an academic, but I doubt it means as much in the shop (or the so-called "real world" I've been hiding from for 20 years!)

Next week we start discussing engine design. There is a bike/car show on Sunday, October 2nd as well. I signed up to volunteer for the show, although I have no idea what I'll actually be doing. I think they're planning a dyno shootout as part of it. That would be fun.
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2011, 08:49:56 PM »

more details about the show?!
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« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2011, 10:28:23 PM »

Brochure:
https://store.wccnet.edu/carsoncampus/images/template11/carsbikesoncampus_11_web.pdf

Registration forms for competitors:
https://store.wccnet.edu/carsoncampus/

Sounds like it runs from 11-3. I signed up to volunteer from 8-1, but I might hang around for the whole thing if I can get the time free.
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2011, 10:40:58 PM »

Good week. I got lots more practice measuring cylinders  Crazy I discovered after measuring about 20 of them that my micrometer was bent. Dial gauge was fine, so all my measurements were off by exactly the same amount. Lovely. Good thing none of them were being re-bored!

We also got into engine design this week. I spent a lot of time looking at various setups and learning about which engine mods work and which ones don't (and how to figure out what works best). Very cool stuff.

I worked the annual bike show/dyno shootout all day today. Since I'm only an intro student I was mostly helping to clean/prep the shop and direct traffic. At one point one of my former students (from where I teach) showed up with her boyfriend. It took her a few minutes to recognize me in my "Washtenaw student" t-shirt. I guess my double life as a mechanic trainee has been exposed.  Lol

I'll post up a couple of pics of the show tomorrow. It was a blast. I continue to be impressed by the quality of this program. Apparently we're nearing the point of this course where the rest of the semester will be spent in the shop.
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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2011, 06:09:46 PM »

How cool! Thumbsup
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« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2011, 11:26:47 PM »

Still gotta post those pics.

Another week down. Tuesday was (I think) the last of a series of classroom lectures/labs. We spent the time covering a lot of info on 2-strokes.

Today we took apart single-cylinder engines and put them back together. Fun stuff. I had a few tense moments trying to remove a flywheel, but it worked out ok. We practiced on old engines first, which was a good thing because several students made substantial mistakes (e.g., mistaking the inch-pound torque wrench for one that reads foot-pounds! Crazy)

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« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2011, 12:36:35 AM »

which was a good thing because several students made substantial mistakes (e.g., mistaking the inch-pound torque wrench for one that reads foot-pounds! Crazy)
i just use an impact on EVERYTHING! all bolts all the time!  Lol
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« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2011, 11:11:12 PM »

Another week down.

We spent both classes this week (7 hours) in the shop tearing down the top ends on several different engines. So far I've done a Honda 300ex, an HD Twin Cam, and a Yamaha 2-stroke. The Honda was the toughest, but easily the most fun. I've always wanted to know how to set the timing on a bike, and it was actually very easy, although there are lots of "tricks" that help prevent you from screwing something up. We had to take various measurements on each bike (piston diameter, piston-cylinder clearance, bore at various points, stroke, displacement, etc.) and compare our specs to stock specs. Some of the engines were modded and some weren't - one goal was for us to figure out what work had been done on each one. We got lots of practice torquing down dozens of fasteners! The instructors don't miss anything, and they often lie in wait to answer questions they know we'll have (e.g., what do we do if we don't have the "special part" that the manufacturer keeps referring to.....how to I compress the rings again? etc.) They also have to sign off on various procedures that we're doing. As always, we use time cards to keep track of our efficiency versus "book time" to complete each task. I beat the book time on the Harley and Yamaha, but not the Honda.

We had a small test on Tuesday. My 100% average is still intact  Bigsmile Our midterm is next Tuesday, and that will be tougher. After that it's back to the lab to tear down a Suzuki 2-stroke and a Kawasaki V-twin. Once that's done I think we're starting in on wheels/tires. I hope so because I've got 16,000+ miles on my tires and I want to change/balance them!
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« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2011, 11:03:15 PM »

On Tuesday this week we had our midterm. It was easier than expected (everyone else found that true as well). Afterwards, I had just enough time to tear down the top end of a Suzuki two-stroke twin and most of a Kawasaki V-twin.

I got the midterm back tonight. 102% (managed to get the "bonus question" right as well.  Smile ) We then reviewed the use of the tire changer and dynamic balancer (waaaaay too much information - this is gonna take me a while). We then learned how to replace wheel bearings (several types) and measure wheel run-out. Lots of "special factory tools" make things much easier here!

Next week we'll actually get to use the tire changer and practice wheel bearing replacement ourselves. We'll be spending nearly every class in the shop from here on out.

I got the Winter class schedule the other day. It looks like I'll be able to "sneak" out of work enough to take the next Motorcycle Service course starting in January. I'm going to try and fit in the required welding class too (or the required machine shop course if the welding class fills up before I can register for it). I had hoped to get the machining AND welding classes done so I could cram in the remainder of the motorcycle courses next summer, but it doesn't look like that will work out. I'll probably end up taking the machine shop and third motorcycle classes in the summer, and the final motorcycle class next fall. After that there are "advanced" courses in fabrication and dyno operations too.
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« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2011, 11:21:45 PM »

Interesting stuff - keep the reports coming.
 Thumbsup
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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2011, 09:37:19 AM »


Interesting stuff - keep the reports coming.
 Thumbsup


True.
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« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2011, 05:14:10 AM »

Which campus are you on?  My work schedule would easily allow me to do this too.  I'd love to learn some more stuff and formalize what I do know.

Ann Arbor, eh?  First class is offered on Friday evening and Saturday morning for winter term.  Hmm, time to run this up the flagpole and see if the wife wouldn't mind me back in school again.  I could crash on my son's couch Friday evening after class and save two hours of driving home and back.  See what you started?   Lol

Just applied for admission.   Bigsmile
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« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2011, 10:58:13 AM »


Which campus are you on?  My work schedule would easily allow me to do this too.  I'd love to learn some more stuff and formalize what I do know.

Ann Arbor, eh?  First class is offered on Friday evening and Saturday morning for winter term.  Hmm, time to run this up the flagpole and see if the wife wouldn't mind me back in school again.  I could crash on my son's couch Friday evening after class and save two hours of driving home and back.  See what you started?   Lol

Just applied for admission.   Bigsmile


Very nice.  Learnin is better when it's fun.
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« Reply #23 on: October 23, 2011, 05:14:17 PM »

It figures. I was about to set off on a beautiful ride this morning (likely the warmest day we'll have until next March) and I discovered a flat tire on my bike. 11lbs of air isn't quite gonna cut it.... Sad

Still, I got 16,000+ miles out of this set of Pilot Road 3s so I can't complain (last set went 12K before I got a flat and I replaced both).

I pulled the wheels off, which is super easy on the RT with the "special aftermarket tool" for the front axle and ordered another set of PR3s. We're covering tire changing in class on Tuesday, but the new tires won't arrive until at least Wednesday. With the rest of the work week being crappy, it'll probably be a couple of weeks before I get around to changing them. I still gotta find a good way to balance the rear (BMW rear wheels are very strange and need a special adapter for balancing).
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« Reply #24 on: October 23, 2011, 05:16:34 PM »


Which campus are you on?  My work schedule would easily allow me to do this too.  I'd love to learn some more stuff and formalize what I do know.

Ann Arbor, eh?  First class is offered on Friday evening and Saturday morning for winter term.  Hmm, time to run this up the flagpole and see if the wife wouldn't mind me back in school again.  I could crash on my son's couch Friday evening after class and save two hours of driving home and back.  See what you started?   Lol

Just applied for admission.   Bigsmile


Tom,

Very cool! I think you'd enjoy the class. You cover a lot of basic background stuff for the first 5-6 weeks, but it's still good stuff to know. What I like about the class is that the instructors really know what goes into making a bike run well (and what makes one go fast). The other students in the class are great too - all ages and backgrounds but with a common obsession about bikes. You also get killer discounts on tools.  Thumbsup
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« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2011, 06:18:41 PM »

Killer discounts on tools.   Lol  You should see my garage now.  Two rollaways of various and assorted shiny things.  A bit of background - 4 years as auto mech in the 70s, 21 years aircraft mech ('77-'98), do all my own home repairs for the past 29 years and  do my own maintenance on all the bikes I've owned.

I should know something about admission on Monday.  If it's anything like OCC, I'll just be rubber stamped and contribute tuition fees when I register for the first class.  
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« Reply #26 on: October 23, 2011, 06:33:25 PM »

I still gotta find a good way to balance the rear (BMW rear wheels are very strange and need a special adapter for balancing).

Airsoft pellets or Ride Rite.
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« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2011, 07:41:45 PM »


Killer discounts on tools.   Lol  You should see my garage now.  Two rollaways of various and assorted shiny things.  A bit of background - 4 years as auto mech in the 70s, 21 years aircraft mech ('77-'98), do all my own home repairs for the past 29 years and  do my own maintenance on all the bikes I've owned.

I should know something about admission on Monday.  If it's anything like OCC, I'll just be rubber stamped and contribute tuition fees when I register for the first class.  


It's pretty basic. I had to do the online orientation (takes about 10 minutes), but they waived the the in-person orientation session for me since I'd already had about 20 years of college-level experience.  Lol They will likely do it for you too (anyone with a course beyond high school can likely have it waived). You will still have to go to campus once to get your ID card and do a couple of other things. I had the extra complication of not being a US citizen, so I had to show them my Green Card as well.

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« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2011, 07:43:16 PM »

This looks very cool.  As a teacher I need to take continuing Ed as well.  I'm wondering if I can take them outside my major study area...
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« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2011, 07:49:29 PM »

FYI, Dean, I have the BMW adapter that fits my static balancer if you need one.   Wink  Harbor Freight had a screaming deal on the whole kit a while back.
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« Reply #30 on: October 23, 2011, 09:02:47 PM »

I just ordered an adapter that I *THINK* will work (at least for a static balancer). If not, I'll let you know.
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« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2011, 10:43:20 PM »

I got to use the tire machine tonight! Very cool. I still need lots of practice, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be (although that puppy is plenty dangerous if you get your hands in the wrong places). Crazy

My new tires are supposed to arrive tomorrow, so I'm hoping to install them during my class on Thursday (hopefully my balancer adapter will show up by then as well or I'll have to wait until next week to do it).

Edit: Almost forgot. If anyone out there owns a Harley, I now know how to change your wheel bearings (either the sealed ones on the 2000 and newer bikes or the old tapered ones that require much hammering, shimming, and dial gauge to achieve the 0.004-0.008 "free play" required). Special tools are needed for the newer ones and metric bikes (the dealer cost on the Harley tool is $350), but they make a very tough job very, very simple.

If there's one thing I've learned from this course it's that the right tools make ALL the difference. Working on my bike at home - sitting on the floor and using misc cheap tools has become downright painful.
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« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2011, 11:22:25 PM »

Sounds like an excuse I can use on my wife when I go tool shopping.
Sounds better when it comes from a soon-to-be expert.
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« Reply #33 on: October 26, 2011, 12:48:57 PM »


We had a small test on Tuesday. My 100% average is still intact  Bigsmile Our midterm is next Tuesday, and that will be tougher. After that it's back to the lab to tear down a Suzuki 2-stroke and a Kawasaki V-twin. Once that's done I think we're starting in on wheels/tires. I hope so because I've got 16,000+ miles on my tires and I want to change/balance them!


Hmnn, I would expect nothing less that 100% from a Biology College Professor. You could never show your face on campus and admit you got a 2.0 in a motorcycle mechanics class... All of your students would tease the crap out of you! I can see it now "really professor, you got a 2.0 on a mechanics class, really"? Lmao

On a serois note, I would freaking love to take the class if I had time. Too many bad guys, and not enough free time. Damn it all!
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« Reply #34 on: October 27, 2011, 09:33:42 AM »

I emptied my "motorcycle savings account" and ordered a toolbox this morning from Snap On. I've never owned a toolbox and I'm getting tired to hanging all of my tools on various surfaces in the the garage. With my student discount I was able to get it for about $1100 (instead of $2565). I'll get $100 gift card for more tools as well. I also get the FULL retail value of the box toward any upgrade I buy over the next three years. Hard to beat that I think. Hell, the savings on the toolbox alone has already paid for my first two classes!

http://buy1.snapon.com/catalog/item.asp?P65=&tool=storage&item_ID=78851&group_ID=20546&store=snapon-store&dir=catalog

Then I phoned the rep and ordered a torque wrench (the one that vibrates and beeps when you hit the torque spec - it does angle tracking as well and covers 5-100 ftlbs within 2% accuracy - crazy).

http://www.torqueinlesstime.com/

It's a disease. I see myself replacing some of my Harbor Freight/Craftsman stuff over the next couple of years. I can't wait to have "real" tools in my garage.

UPDATE: Both items are on BACKORDER. Ugh.
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« Reply #35 on: October 27, 2011, 09:42:03 AM »




Hmnn, I would expect nothing less that 100% from a Biology College Professor. You could never show your face on campus and admit you got a 2.0 in a motorcycle mechanics class... All of your students would tease the crap out of you! I can see it now "really professor, you got a 2.0 on a mechanics class, really"? Lmao

On a serois note, I would freaking love to take the class if I had time. Too many bad guys, and not enough free time. Damn it all!


I get teased from my lab instructor about this (he often calls out "PROFESSOR!!" when he wants my attention - he can do it in about 1000 funny voices too). On Tuesday I tried to pass off an incomplete shop report for his signature (sometimes they 'sign off' on training of various things) and he made me re-write it. His excuse? I probably wouldn't have taken it from my students (he was right - I wouldn't  Lol).
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« Reply #36 on: October 27, 2011, 11:51:41 AM »


...My lab instructor ... calls out "PROFESSOR!!" when he wants my attention -


I would be inclined to respond "Yes, Gilligan?" or some other such a response...
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« Reply #37 on: October 29, 2011, 12:40:10 AM »


Good week. I got lots more practice measuring cylinders  Crazy I discovered after measuring about 20 of them that my micrometer was bent. Dial gauge was fine, so all my measurements were off by exactly the same amount. Lovely. Good thing none of them were being re-bored!



Something I was taught years ago and I'm not sure why they didn't mention it. When a mic comes out of the box it's checked with a standard before it's ever used to measure anything.  The last guy may have been the one that used it for a c-clamp.  Wink

Your course so far sounds like a lot of fun!  Thumbsup
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« Reply #38 on: November 07, 2011, 08:12:24 PM »

Didn't post last week, so here's a short update.

Last week we spent a full class discussing repair order procedures.  Crazy Lots of crazy stories from dealer service departments were told. You'll all be pleased that the emphasis was on honesty and communicating effectively with customers (despite what many service departments seem to do in actual practice). We spent hours discussing what makes a tech efficient and proficient, and what makes a service department productive. It was interesting stuff, although I was dying to go back to the shop by the end of it.

On Thursday I pulled the wheels off a 2000 Buell Cyclone M2 and changed the tires (our last tire changing class). I gotta say that I'm getting pretty good at tires, although chance hasn't given me the opportunity to change a tire with tubes yet. I had to do a full inspection of the bike as well, and fill out lots of repair order forms (the bike had all sorts of problems, which I think was part of the exercise). It went quite smoothly, although I didn't beat the book rate. I'm finally getting the belt adjustment procedure on Harleys sorted out, but it's a bit of a pain. It seems like every manufacturer does certain things well, yet does other badly when it comes to making their bikes easy to service. Harleys are generally pretty good, but it's a pain that they mix and match so many US and metric fasteners on them. I'm also getting tired of trying to back Harleys up onto the lift (who designed the steering lock on the older Buells anyway? An RV has a better turning radius!)

We also had one-on-one meetings with the lead instructor on Thursday. I was a bit bummed to learn that his records showed that I had missed two classes, so he had deducted 10 points from my grade. I didn't want to make a big deal over it, but I've never missed a class, and I know I've turned in all my time cards and signed in each week (I'm really picky about this stuff as I require my own students to do it). Anyway, he seemed to accept my excuse. I'll just have to make my sign in more obvious each week.

Most importantly, I booked myself in for extra lab time last week and changed the tires on my RT. I rode to class on Tuesday and Thursday and nothing fell off, so I'm calling it good. My new Snap On toolbox arrived too, so I spent several hours drooling at that.

I also register for spring classes this week.
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« Reply #39 on: November 09, 2011, 04:45:49 PM »

I registered for the Winter semester today!

I'm taking the second Motorcycle Service course next semester along with a welding class.

My only dilemma was between taking the welding class versus a machine shop class. Both are required before I can take the final motorcycle service course next fall (the 4th one), and I'd been told that the machine shop class is tougher to get into, so I figured I'd try for it first. However, when I checked right before my registration time the welding classes actually looked a lot more full. Since I'm more excited about welding and it fit my schedule better, I opted for it over the machine shop one (I also got a section with an instructor that everyone raves about; apparently she's a brilliant welder and has helped train numerous national champions - the welding awards/trophies are everywhere at school). I snagged a spot within seconds of my allotted registration time. Woot! I can't wait! Welding is something I really want to know how to do. It's a basic course, but I'm also planning to take a heli-arc course at some point down the road.

If things go according to plan I'll be able to complete the basic motorcycle program by December 2012 and start the advanced certificate that same semester. I should be able to finish the advanced course work by July 2013. I'm planning to take some fabrication classes beyond the basic requirements of my program so that I (hopefully!) will be able to build some fun bikes at the end of it all.
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« Reply #40 on: November 10, 2011, 11:33:34 PM »

Another week in the books.

We spent a lot of time studying suspension systems this week. Pretty cool stuff. Those of you that ride a cruiser (even one with an aftermarket setup) should be disappointed in what the mfg gives you to work with (I'm not just talking about lack of adjustment, but fundamental design limitations). I know completely understand why higher end products are soooo much better.

After a fork tear-down demo tonight (on a HD fork and then a couple of inverted ones) they split the class in half. Half of the students worked on suspension systems and half got to study transmissions. I ran over to the transmission table and spent nearly two hours studying up. Too cool. Whoever invented this stuff was a genius. It was cool to see directly how various design issues and problems can cause the stuff that annoys us so much (e.g., bikes not going into gear, not being able to find neutral, causes of jumping out of gear, etc.) By the time we were done we could look at a transmission and immediately know how power is transmitted through it, what gear it was in, etc. We talked about various designs and racing mods. We will do more work on/repair them in future courses, but it was really fun to get some insight into how this stuff actually works.
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« Reply #41 on: November 19, 2011, 12:05:36 AM »

Yup. It's time for a weekly update.

Tuesday was a short class. I spent the time tearing apart and rebuilding two sets of forks - one off a Buell, and another off a HD Softail. Wow those Harley forks SUCK, although you need fewer tools to take them apart. The Buell forks are pretty much the same as those on a mid-priced Japanese sportbike (all forks are metric anyway). I also helped out with a Gixxer fork disassembly.

Overall, I have to say that I'm pretty slow when it comes to suspension work, but at least the mystery of how it all works has been solved. I had forgotten a lot from the previous week of lecture and I made sure to take a lots of note on Tuesday to help in the future. It'll be a while before I get really good at this stuff though. I will say that having a fork vise made the work waaaaay easier (Motion Pro makes a great one if anyone is in the market). There are lots of special tools and tricks that can help too - I just hope I can remember this stuff when I need to (e.g., using a vise to compress springs on damping rod setups turns a beast of a job into a joke). The shop manuals often do things in ways that are slow, potentially more dangerous, and downright confusing. Suspension work seems to involve a lot of learning that you only get from experience, so I'm going to try and do more work on this stuff soon (my BMW isn't much help because the suspension isn't exactly standard compared with anything else out there).

On Thursday we had a classroom session on the basics of electricity and wiring. Not much new yet, but I have a lot to learn here. We were given a take-home assignment to do related to batteries and charging systems. I read it over today, and the diagnostic procedures are pretty helpful. We will be doing a shop class on troubleshooting electrical problems in a couple of weeks, but the more advanced stuff (rebuilding wiring harnesses) doesn't happen until the 3rd class in the tech sequence (which is about 95% electrical work I hear).

Next week we don't have class due to Thanksgiving. I'll be working on my assignments and possibly starting to play around in my garage with a new project.....more on that soon. I've been setting my the garage as a motorcycle shop, so I'm anxious to start working on a 'patient.' I'm closing in on a donor bike.
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« Reply #42 on: November 19, 2011, 04:21:44 PM »

Thanks for the update...I'm still reading them, so please keep posting them.
Happy Thanksgiving BTW.
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« Reply #43 on: November 19, 2011, 04:39:36 PM »

:popcorn: Clap Fantastic! I have toyed with a similiar idea for when I retire. Thanks for posting.
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« Reply #44 on: December 02, 2011, 10:19:56 PM »

Bump for update (if I had class this week, you should have - too)

Also - 800th post...
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« Reply #45 on: December 03, 2011, 12:31:47 AM »


Bump for update (if I had class this week, you should have - too)

Also - 800th post...


Congrats on making it to 800! You're right that it's time for an update. Good to know someone is following this thread.  Bigsmile

We didn't have class last week (Thanksgiving week off), but we were "full steam ahead" this week.

On Tuesday we covered more on charging systems. We were required to diagnose and test charging systems on two Harley's (with different stator designs) and a couple of metric bikes. My first bike (A 2011 Gixxer) wouldn't start, so that wasn't much fun. I then tested an '08 ZX-10, an old Sportster, and a heavily modified Fat Boy (makes over 130hp and you need to hit the compression releases to get it to fire up). The instructor also encouraged me to "sabotage" two of the bikes I was working on, so I disconnected the stator on one (easy fix) and removed a ground wire on another. I had some momentary frustration when the voltmeter I was using (a new SnapOn unit) gave me crazy readings out of the box (99 volt battery?!).

My notable mistake this week was accidentally hitting the starter button rather than the kill switch on a running Harley. Crazy I always turn bikes off with the key, but the instructor was watching me and he prefers that we use the kill switch. On this Harley the starter isn't on the bottom, so it was easy for me to hit the wrong button. The bike was also too high on the lift for me to see the switch box clearly (the damn bike shakes so badly that we had to raise it a lot to get the exhaust hoses to stay on the ends of the pipes properly).

On Thursday we discussed carburetors. I've torn a few apart over the years, but this was the most systematic approach to them I'd ever considered. The focus was not only on how carbs work, but how they are designed, and what all this means for tuning bikes. Lots of myths were discussed, and I wrote notes like crazy for my shop manual. A LOT of my "what if" and "why" questions were addressed. Apparently the first dyno class in the advanced program (which I plan to do eventually) focuses on tuning carbureted bikes. They do all sorts of cool stuff like modifying intake length and tuning bikes for specific applications.

Next week we'll be tearing apart carbs. Our exam is late the following week (December 15th). After that I'll be going through serious withdrawl until the next class starts in January. Next semester I'm switching to the Mon/Wed morning motorcycle class (8-11:30am) and I'll be taking the basic welding course on Monday afternoons.
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« Reply #46 on: December 03, 2011, 07:42:07 AM »

Wow, thank your lucky stars such a program exists so close and convienent The Program

I'll search again but I don't believe a program like this is even available in this state.
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« Reply #47 on: December 03, 2011, 08:56:40 AM »


Wow, thank your lucky stars such a program exists so close and convienent The Program

I'll search again but I don't believe a program like this is even available in this state.


Yeah. For once geography has paid off for me. I hear that there are only a handful of community college programs like this in the country. I'm excluding places like MMI/UTI because those are for-profit programs, which are quite different (they have fewer requirements, far fewer hours spent in the shop/class, and cost 5-10x more).

Still, it took me over two hours to make the normal hour-long trip home from class on Tuesday. Worst snow storm I've experienced in years. At one point I was zig-zagging all over the interstate because I couldn't find the edges of the road!
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« Reply #48 on: December 03, 2011, 09:09:47 AM »

I fully understand the weaving part Lol I live in the lee of Lake Ontario
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« Reply #49 on: December 03, 2011, 10:28:23 AM »

Great stuff Dean, I love catching up on these.  Thumbsup
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« Reply #50 on: December 03, 2011, 05:29:05 PM »


I fully understand the weaving part Lol I live in the lee of Lake Ontario


So true. I used to live in Brockville and then Kingston and commute to Ottawa every day. The 401 was a NIGHTMARE in winter.
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« Reply #51 on: December 08, 2011, 10:44:51 PM »

Last full week is done!

On Tuesday we tore apart carbs. flatslide, cv, and pure butterfly types of all makes and sizes. I'm pretty sure I can now look at a carb and tell you more than you'd want to know about it. I knew some of this stuff already, but it was interesting to learn about why various designs work the way they do, and what can/should be modified.

Tonight we did some basic maintenance stuff. I changed the oil and inspected the clutch on a Gixxer, which was a minor disaster. The bike had a low battery, it was leaking oil everywhere before I arrived, and it wouldn't start. Turns out someone in the morning class put a gasket on UPSIDE DOWN and then failed to tighten everything properly. Poor bike. Let's hope that guy isn't working at your local dealership. The shop didn't have another gasket, so that was a short job. Then I did an engine/primary oil change on a Sportster. We also inspected various other Harleys - mostly to do primary chain adjustment procedures.

I arrived at the shop early today to disassemble a fork from my "project" bike. It's soooo much easier when you have a fork vice and various "special" tools for the job. It was still a beast since the fork hadn't been opened in about 30 years, and it was unlike anything I've worked on (the top cap doesn't screw on, but instead must be forced down in order to remove a snap ring that holds on the cap - definitely a two-person job). Once open it is pretty much like a Harley fork (basic damping rod setup). I will clean it up as much as possible and then change the seal and dust boot. Then I'll disassemble the other one and do the same thing. Fun.
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« Reply #52 on: December 08, 2011, 10:57:45 PM »

So, I know you are doing this for giggles - but are most of the other folks in your class hoping to land jobs in dealerships or other shops?
I was always curious what kind of life awaited a motorcycle mechanic.  I thought maybe your instructor had addressed that in class.
What does the rest of your class think about your rat bike?
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« Reply #53 on: December 09, 2011, 12:26:59 AM »


So, I know you are doing this for giggles - but are most of the other folks in your class hoping to land jobs in dealerships or other shops?
I was always curious what kind of life awaited a motorcycle mechanic.  I thought maybe your instructor had addressed that in class.
What does the rest of your class think about your rat bike?


Good questions. Most of the students are planning to become service techs or do some work on their own. The instructors make it clear from Day 1 that there are ways to be quite successful (and they REALLY emphasize time management skills), but you'll never get rich doing this for a living. It's a LOT less viable than working on cars. We're told that you can make decent money as a flat-rate tech if you're willing to work tons of hours and if you can build up a good reputation.

In my class (evening class) many of the students already hold jobs in dealerships as parts guys, porters, or they have connections with a shop. Harley Davidson has their own internal training program, so those guys will have to do that as well before they can wrench on HDs in a dealership.  There are a few guys older than me who are getting out of various other jobs and are looking to do something new. The fact that working on motorcycles doesn't require you to work over your head (like on a car that's on a lift) has been mentioned as a reason why a couple of them decided on bikes. I hear the most of the students in the other section of my course aren't as well connected (many of them have also never picked up a wrench I'm told - I'll find out what they know since I'm switching to the morning section next semester!)

If I could build up my skills to the point where I could do fabrication work, I'd seriously consider quitting my day job and try to do this for a living. It's really that much more fun and rewarding, and my wife earns enough that we could probably get by without most of my income (in general, money is much less important to me than when I was in my 20s). There is a real difference between being a good wrench and being a builder though, and I'm not sure I'll get beyond the "wrench" aspect of it. I'll keep plugging away and see where it goes, and I've made it clear to my instructors that I haven't taken any options off the table.  I can honestly say that I MUCH prefer hanging around with "motorcycle people" than the stuffy academic types I deal with in my "real job." Maybe it's because motorcycle owners have much more interesting lives, or it might be because you can look at a bike when a job is done and see the results of your work. If I was interested in Harleys I could probably do much better on the market, and anyone wanting to become a tech would likely do well to think about going in that direction. Besides dominating the market, Harley owners seem to be willing to spend a lot more on their bikes, and they tend to have them serviced at dealers.

Like me, many of the other students in my class are working on "project bikes." Two own old Harleys that need a lot of work, another is building a metric drag bike, and another is planning to start a metric bobber project. Others own a collection of older bikes that they try and keep running. All of them are supportive and we talk about our bikes (past, present, and future) all the time. Probably half of the class is as obsessed as I am and we're always scheming about swap meets, ebay deals, tool deals, and talking about how to modify/repair various things. The network of "friends of friends" is also pretty good to tap into. The Harley guys are great to have around when we're doing that stuff in the shop (my shop partner and I are pretty clueless about them), and we return the favor when we're working on metric bikes.
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« Reply #54 on: December 09, 2011, 08:08:10 AM »


I was always curious what kind of life awaited a motorcycle mechanic.  


Ahh, the life of a bike mechanic...  My buddy is a BMW tech and also has his own shop (dyno room, etc) where he spends his nights.  From what I've seen you're always busy and it's all about "building relationships" to keep up clientele.  A few years ago when he was doing his own thing he was probably working 9am-1am, 6 to 7 days a week (probably doing the same now).  Weekends were the best time to hang out as the sportbike crowd shows up between 10pm and 2am for dyno runs  Bigsmile    You also need to set up custom work and rebuilds for the winter as it's rather slow.

I think it's better to have a friend who's a bike mechanic than be one yourself   Lol
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« Reply #55 on: December 09, 2011, 10:08:39 AM »




Ahh, the life of a bike mechanic...  My buddy is a BMW tech and also has his own shop (dyno room, etc) where he spends his nights.  From what I've seen you're always busy and it's all about "building relationships" to keep up clientele.  A few years ago when he was doing his own thing he was probably working 9am-1am, 6 to 7 days a week (probably doing the same now).  Weekends were the best time to hang out as the sportbike crowd shows up between 10pm and 2am for dyno runs  Bigsmile    You also need to set up custom work and rebuilds for the winter as it's rather slow.

I think it's better to have a friend who's a bike mechanic than be one yourself   Lol


Most accurate description I've seen yet.

Having a friend who's a mechanic is almost as useful as having a friend with a truck.  Bigsmile
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« Reply #56 on: December 09, 2011, 10:14:03 AM »

Great stuff!!  a note on volt meters (multi meters): if you start gettting strange readings change the battery, seems many units give false reading when the battery gets week?
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« Reply #57 on: December 10, 2011, 06:08:49 PM »


Having a friend who's a mechanic is almost as useful as having a friend with a truck.  Bigsmile
don't forget the friend with the SMOKING HOT sister, those friends are pretty useful too! Lol
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« Reply #58 on: December 11, 2011, 11:47:05 AM »




My buddy is a BMW tech and also has his own shop (dyno room, etc) where he spends his nights.  A few years ago when he was doing his own thing he was probably working 9am-1am, 6 to 7 days a week (probably doing the same now).  Weekends were the best time to hang out as the sportbike crowd shows up between 10pm and 2am for dyno runs

I think it's better to have a friend who's a bike mechanic than be one yourself   Lol


this guy in Grand Rapid's MI?
I could use a guy that can do some work on my ZX14 then run it on the Dyno to tweek it.
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« Reply #59 on: December 11, 2011, 03:46:04 PM »


this guy in Grand Rapid's MI?
I could use a guy that can do some work on my ZX14 then run it on the Dyno to tweek it.


Unfortunately he's located just outside of Hamilton, Ontario.  I believe he's looking for winter projects though   Wink

Come spring I'll head out there with my Tenere to get it dyno'd (currently contemplating a full exhaust, PCV and autotune).

To keep on topic - when will you be adding a dyno to your garage Dean??  Bigsmile
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D-Mac
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Years Supported: '11
Motorcycles: '10 BMW R1200RT
GPS: Mid-Michigan
Miles Typed: 1128

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« Reply #60 on: December 15, 2011, 10:59:23 PM »

First semester is done!

On Tuesday I reviewed a little for the final exam. I then took apart the other fork from my project bike.

The final was tonight. It was in two parts. The first was a written exam. The second was a practical component. I won't go into too much detail since at least one of you is planning to take the course.  Bigsmile

I hung around afterwards and spent some time in the shop. I had hoped to rebuild my forks, but the seals weren't in yet so I helped a little with other projects. The shop is closed until the New Year, but I'll probably be back in shortly afterwards.

The instructor graded the exams as they came in, so I was still around when he came down to the shop with them. I got 100% on the written exam, and 98% on the practical part (the only two points I lost all semester were on the last question of the last part of the exam - I was off in my measurement of a cylinder by SIX TEN-THOUSANDTHS of an inch. Oops. Since I did the extra credit assignment last week my final grade for the course ended up at 102%. Rolleyes

***For those of you planning to attend the International Motorcycle Show in Novi, I'll be working the WCC table on Sunday morning, January 8th, from 9-noonish (I might also be at the vintage Japanese booth as well). There will be a WCC booth at the show all three days, so come on by and see what the program is about! We're planning to have several student-built bikes on display along with some engine cut-aways to look at.***

Next semester includes topics such as: frame geometry/design, rear suspensions, steering head bearings/adjustment, brakes, lacing wheels, vehicle alignment, clutches, drivelines, and more on transmissions. I'm also taking the required welding course. Stay tuned.

I'll end this thread for now with a pic of my shop partner from this past semester. This photo was taken just after he realized that he'd forgotten to replace the oil drain plug before dumping in a fresh quart.  Lol He was pretty amazing in the shop and knows a LOT about bikes. We won't be in the same class next semester and he's planning to go full-time, so he'll be ahead of me by summer.

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh178/D-Mac2008/57c69990.jpg
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IBA#443 ('11 IBR finisher)
Cheddarhead
Today, we wonder of yesterday...and worry about tomorrow...
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Years Contributed: '09, '10
Years Supported: '11
Motorcycles: '68 CL 350, '81 CB 750 Custom, '03 ST1300, '03 BMW F650 GS
Miles Typed: 3100

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« Reply #61 on: December 16, 2011, 12:26:03 PM »

Thanks for taking us along for the ride...I've enjoyed following your progression.

I intend to look into whether my local CC offers a similar evening program...I'd like to have the mechanical confidence to peel back the covers on my 'cycle.

Cheddar
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Meemuh
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Years Contributed: '10
Years Supported: '11
Motorcycles: 1981 XS650, 2000 Concours
GPS: Holland, MI
Miles Typed: 1271

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« Reply #62 on: January 04, 2012, 07:26:32 PM »

Dean,
Are you going to resurrect this thread with the new semester?
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D-Mac
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Years Supported: '11
Motorcycles: '10 BMW R1200RT
GPS: Mid-Michigan
Miles Typed: 1128

My Photo Gallery





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« Reply #63 on: January 04, 2012, 08:28:48 PM »


Dean,
Are you going to resurrect this thread with the new semester?


Yup. My classes start next Monday.
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IBA#443 ('11 IBR finisher)
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