What “Humpty Dumpty” May Have to Do With Your Motorbike

Remember “Humpty Dumpty” – a children’s nursery rhyme – from when you were a kid?

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how it goes:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

I’ve always taken this to mean “some things cannot be fixed,” but there’s probably more than one way to interpret the song or rhyme.

When I worked at a dirt bike shop, we had this kid drop off a 5-6 year old Kawasaki KX450F (hi-zoot motocross racing bike) wanting a quote to repair it. The bike had been sitting outside for some time. The swingarm was seized against the frame. The engine was locked up. The wheels were shot. The chain had more stuck links than free links. Sprocket teeth looking more like fangs than teeth.

The owner of that shop took one look at it, laughed, and told the kid “I might be able to do something with this for $6-7000. Maybe. Could be $10k+ depending!

Kid said “I can buy another one for that!” and the shop owner replied “That’s what I suggest you do“.

In this case, a KX450F sat outside for a long time AFTER getting beaten like a red-headed stepchild and maintained as though it were a hammer.

It had a “great fall” in the process, going from a bike to a collection of seized parts.

And guess what? All of the king’s horses (parts bikes, parts, supplies) and all of the king’s men (his technicians) couldn’t put it back together again for even remotely less than what the bike would be worth in running condition.

Some bikes turn into “Humpty Dumpty bikes” faster or more frequently than others. Here’s a short list and some thoughts on why that happens.

4-Stroke Motocross Bikes

About 20 years ago, Yamaha came out with a “revolutionary” 4-stroke motocross bike that was as fast or faster than the 2-strokes of the era. It was called the YZ400F. The YZ426F followed. And then the YZ450F. Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki followed suit with 4-stroke motocross bikes of their own.

These bikes required A LOT of maintenance to keep running properly. You know how some aircraft require hours of maintenance for every hour they’re in the air? Oh you didn’t know that? Well some of them do. For example, according to someone on Quora, an F35A requires 22 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time. Other fighter jets and helicopters require more than that, on the order of 50+ hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time. Fighter jets and attack helicopters are extremely high performance aircraft, just like motocross bikes are extremely high performance motorcycles.

The difference is it’s easy to finance a new motocross bike without understanding what it costs to actually operate the thing, let alone perform the maintenance it needs to keep it in good running condition. If someone skimps on maintenance or flat out doesn’t do it, fortunately for them motorcycles don’t fall out of the sky and kill their operators like aircraft do when they’re poorly maintained.

When someone fails to keep up on the maintenance on their 4-stroke motocross bike, it will turn into “Humpty Dumpty” and be impossible to fix for a “reasonable” amount of money sooner or later. Even when these bikes are properly maintained, important parts have a service life, and everything will eventually wear out. Parts like engine cases and cylinders become difficult or impossible to source as bikes get older and older.

I’m VERY leery about working on these kinds of bikes. It’s difficult or impossible to do a good job on a bike someone has neglected for years and years because they simply didn’t understand the maintenance involved in operating it. Most of the people who successfully run and race them know how to do their own maintenance and don’t need my help. Also, most of the people riding them in the mountains would be better served by aircooled, lower performance trail bikes than by play-riding on shit-hot motocross bikes.

Chinese Scooters

I’ve already written quite a bit about Chinese scooters, and it’s no big secret that I think they’re total pieces of shit. I’ve seen all manner of crazy stuff “happen” with Chinese scooters and motorbikes, and some of it has been truly mind blowing. Brake lines that catch on sharp parts and leak everywhere. Broken welds on frames. Broken crankshafts. Bikes with 0 miles that just came out of the crate that don’t work properly or are dangerously slow. Massive variation among the same types of bikes. Malformed parts that require me to “engineer” (I am NOT an engineer…) other parts just to make the bikes work halfway decently. “ABS” brakes that are anything but.

There are so many bad things about Chinese scooters that it’s hard to list them all. Quality control is generally poor from the factories that make them. They’re extremely cheap, so people think they’ll be cheap to repair. People also tend to neglect things that they didn’t pay much money for, so there’s that. People often try to attempt their own repairs before they end up calling me, so I have to figure out what the heck they did before I can even start doing my thing to their bikes.

These bikes turn into “Humpty Dumpty” after 3-5000 miles on a good day. Some of them before that. When left outside, body work oxidizes, becomes brittle, and breaks. Plastic parts oxidize, turn rock hard, and become extremely difficult to remove without breaking something. All of the steel starts to rust, even in our dry Colorado climate. Electrical connectors that fall apart in my hands, that I have to spend time replacing properly. It gets worse when people cut into their wiring harnesses. It gets worse when the factory wiring develops problems that become difficult, time consuming, and/or impossible to identify. Sometimes people leave the cooling shrouds off of the engine because they can’t figure out how to get them back on, the engine overheats, and cooks itself from the inside out.

At $115/hour, it’s easy to rack up the 5-7 hours necessary to attempt to repair a beat-to-hell Chinese scooter. At that point you can buy a new one, but I don’t recommend that either. An older Japanese scooter is a MUCH BETTER bet 100% of the time. Don’t be afraid of buying a 20-30 year old Japanese scooter that presents well and was stored indoors for most of its life. They often present better than 3-5 year old Chinese scooters, too.

It’s gotten to where I take one look at a Chinese scooter, and if it looks like it’s old and been sitting outside forever, I decline to work on it and move on from there. If I think a Chinese scooter is still within its “useful service life” I’ll go ahead and get it back on the road again but ONLY AFTER I explain the “realities of Chinese scooter ownership” to the unfortunate owner. That conversation ends with “Please sell it ASAP and buy a used Japanese scooter”.

Ancient Bikes

Ancient to me is anything from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s.

Most shops won’t work on bikes past a certain age. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but probably the biggest one is the fact that parts become extremely difficult or even downright impossible to find as certain bikes age.

Tracking down parts for old bikes becomes a hobby in and of itself. You can’t just go to the local motorcycle shop and ask for this kind of stuff. You have to know a guy who knows a guy who’s into those particular bikes. You may have to make parts yourself or find a machine shop willing to work with your “cave drawings”. You may have to get on the phone with some crotchety old guy in New Jersey who would rather be doing anything else but talking on the phone with you about motorcycle parts. When you do find them, these parts are often extremely expensive. This game requires patience, knowledge, fortitude, money, and connections. There’s nothing “fast and easy” about mechanical or cosmetic restorations for many old bikes.

If a bike is popular enough, there may be a “local guru” around who knows everything about them, has a huge stash of parts, and is willing to help you get your bike going. Also if a bike is popular enough, there may be a specialty type business that focuses on them somewhere in the world and has parts available, either NOS (“new old stock”) or new-manufactured aftermarket.

Ender

The “moral of this story” is that some things absolutely cannot be fixed for a reasonable amount of money, or for less than it would cost to replace the machine with a better example. No matter how easy you think it should be, or how cheap, the reality of it is that the machine sitting in front of you may not be worth fixing at all. As always, you’re more than welcome to seek a second opinion, but if I’m not willing to work on something, it’s a pretty good bet that nobody else will be willing to work on it either.

Posted in Motorcycles, Scooters

New Season, New Pricing at MOTO2N – Early Season Update, Apologies

I haven’t raised my rates in 2 and a half years.

I get more calls than I can handle. There’s massive demand for what I do. I’d love to see someone get out there and try to compete with me. Competition improves the breed.

I’ve decided to increase my pricing. Both my shop rate and service call have gone up. All appointments BOOKED before 4/13/21 are subject to the old pricing so no sweat if you’re already on my schedule. Check the pricing page for the new rates. And please read the FAQ before you book.

The Only Game in Town

I’d been hearing rumors that Rolling Wrench stopped doing service work entirely, and their website confirms it. Matt at Rolling Wrench is in the parts game now; no more service work. That leaves me as the only game in town, and there are FAR MORE broken bikes out there than I have time to fix. Hence the price increases.

I used to work for Rolling Wrench, and when I exited RR it wasn’t exactly on the best of terms. That said it’s hard to hold a grudge after so many years, and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without the experiences I had working for Matt at RR. I owe him, at the very least, some kind words. I wish him, his wife, their businesses, their family and friends the best and hope they made it through 2020 without any major losses or heartache. It actually bums me out that I’m no longer competing with him.

I truly do believe that competition improves the breed. I’ve raced races where I was the only person in my class. Or there’s like 2-3 of us. I don’t want a trophy just for being the only guy who showed up that day; that’s absolutely no fun for me. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder and something to prove since I was a little kid. It’s in my blood I guess. I realize plenty of people would love to have a business that doesn’t compete with anyone else, but I’m not one of those people.

That and the demand is staggering. There’s more than enough room for more than one player.

I’d love to see someone else get out there and try to do what I do, give me a run for my money, give me a rabbit to chase, get my adrenaline going. Come on moto nerds, bring it. 

Mea Culpa!

That’s latin for “my bad”. 2020 sucked, but I don’t feel right about blaming the news for everything that went wrong.

I did not cope well.

I lost my mind a few times.

I lost my voice, my drive.

I did a terrible job of taking care of myself, and a handful of my customers had terrible experiences for it.

Feel free to read the Google reviews; the bad ones are accurate. So are the good ones, but that’s not the point. The vast majority of my customers had good experiences, but I’m not OK with how I performed for and how I lost contact with certain customers. If you’re one of those people, you’re on my list of situations I need to make right. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to make things right, but it will start with communication followed by completing what I was supposed to do for you or straight-up refunds or IOUs or something.

If I failed to do right by you, then I owe you, and my intention is to make it right some way, some how. I will be in touch soon enough; better late than never I suppose.

Turning the Page

Allow me to be unequivocal; fuck 2020. 2021 is a new year, and things are starting to feel normal again.

I don’t think things will ever be “normal” again; the United States and the rest of the world have been through a lot and the only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes, and change. Change is constant. I’m human, and so are you; we’re adaptable. I’m adapting. I hope you are too. It took longer than I thought it would for me. It’s a process. It’s ongoing.

I’ve refocused myself on my business and made some serious lifestyle changes in the past 6 months.

I’m stocked up on batteries, spark plugs, fuel line, electrical connectors, and more tools than I can shake a stick at to better serve my customers. I’m brainstorming better ways to keep track of existing customers, coming up with better systems and processes to do what I do best, fixing broken bikes. Fixing bikes is the easy part. It’s all of the organizational and business stuff that I struggle with.

If you have a bike that needs work, please book online or, if for some reason you can’t or won’t book online, try giving me a call or shooting me a text at (720) 634-6935.

 

Posted in Availability, The Passion

WANTED: Mobile Moto/Scoot/ATV Mechanic – SPRING/SUMMER UPDATE

Business as Usual?

If you’ve tried calling me recently, I haven’t returned your call because ONLINE BOOKINGS are keeping me extremely busy.

I will occasionally answer the phone if it happens to be in my periphery when you call (it doesn’t ring); IF and only IF I’m not doing anything else.

If you REALLY want to get me on the phone, the best time to call is between 7:30AM and 9:30AM. Texts are much better. I prefer to schedule calls via text. If you don’t get a response, it’s because I’m not interested in answering your question, fixing your bike, whatever it may be. To be perfectly honest, my return customers keep me pretty busy too. If you’re a return/repeat customer, I’ll do my best to answer your text or call. You might have to bug me a little bit, but I will do my best to respond as soon as possible.

All of that said, this has been the WORST YEAR EVER: deaths from the coronavirus/covid19 pandemic, police killings, protests, event cancellations, masks-in-public, misinformation from the media, mixed signals from our so-called “leaders” in government, no dine-in service at restaurants, no drinking at bars, and social distancing. It hasn’t been “business as usual” for anyone since late March. Everyone’s adjusting to the “new normal,” including me, and it’s taking longer than anyone expected. I tried to write something halfway constructive about what I think about what’s going on, but I’ve deleted all of it within 24 hours because nothing I wrote sounded OK by the morning after having written it. Bah.

I’ll say this: there’s an epidemic of pandemic-related bad faith coming from everywhere at the moment: from all sides and quadrants of the political spectrum, from the media, from business leaders, from community leaders, from celebrities, from the commentariat. It’s complete and utter bullshit in my humble-but-accurate opinion.

WANTED: Mobile Moto/Scoot/ATV Mechanic

I have no interest in hiring anyone to work for me. However, given the number of calls I get that I simply can’t handle, I reckon there’s room for 3-5 MORE people in the market to do exactly what I do in Denver and the Denver Metro area.

Right now there are 2 options: Aston at MOTO2N (that’s me) OR Mattycakes at Rolling Ratchet err Wrench. RR has significantly limited their operating range. He’s been doing this for so long, he can easily focus on Denver proper and Broomfield/Westminster/Boulder. RR books out weeks in advance. Good luck if you’re in Aurora or Ken Caryl or whatever. I’ll go just about anywhere I think is feasible from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. I also book out weeks in advance. Both of us get more calls/requests than we can handle.

That tells me there’s room for someone else to start doing what we do. I’d be more than happy to book appointments based on my leads for someone I think is qualified to roll out and fix bikes. I’d also be willing to show you how the mobile repair process works and give you some ideas about how to optimize it and ensure your customers have a good experience.

If you do it right, this business is pretty damned lucrative. You could do 4 appointments on Saturday and Sunday and make more than you do at your day job depending on your day job and how the weekend’s jobs break.

If this sounds like I want to set some people up to “compete” with me and RR, I absolutely do. I have some very different, non-traditional ideas about competition in business.

I’d be willing to book your appointments for a fixed-price, and then you roll out and close them in-your-own-name and keep whatever money you manage to make. If you want to talk numbers or business, shoot a text to (720) 634-6935 and let’s schedule a call or meet up.

Recent Dental Work

I’ve had to cancel and reschedule a bunch of appointments on account of feeling completely unwell more-often-than-anyone-would-like recently. If I did that to you, I am so very sorry, but I am but one person trying to run the world’s-smallest-fast-growing-small-business, and it’s rough. All it takes to completely screw everything up with my schedule is for me to get sick or injured.

I’ve never been more sick in my life than during the first half of this year. It was bizarre. I was *this close* to going to a doctor, but without insurance going to a doctor is pretty much out of the question unless I think I’m about to die. Let’s not get me started on our healthcare system. ‘Tis neither the time nor place. A few days ago the right side of my face swelled up like a grapefruit. Turned out to be a seriously abscessed tooth that I thought I’d lost like 5 years ago. Turns out there were roots and tooth fragments stuck inside my gums. They got infected. My face swelled up. I had a GIGANTIC “pimple” looking thing on my gums, an abscess.

I called a dentist. She got me in the same day for an evaluation. She wanted to do a surgical extraction + bone graft same day, but I pleaded for 24 hours to “steel” or brace myself for the experience. Doctors and dentists scare the hell out of me. I would almost rather break a bone than go to the dentist. I made it through the extraction and bone graft just fine. The dentist lady was super competent, very empathetic, and managed to cut the infected bits out of my face without hurting me hardly at all. Lots of pressure and uncomfortable sensations with very little pain. I’d put the “pain” at a 1 or 2 out of 10. I feel so much better even though it’s only been 2 days since the procedure.

I’m pretty sure the infection was making me low-key sick for MONTHS before it finally made my face swell up. I should have had it taken care of years ago, but healthcare and dental care are ridiculously expensive in the United States. I haven’t always had money to spend on “emergencies,” and I’ve learned over the years to live with less and do more with less. I’m very thankful I absorbed the expense of an emergency dental procedure without breaking my piggy bank. This business is the ONLY reason that was possible. For that I have my customers to thank. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TRUSTING ME WITH YOUR BIKES OVER THE YEARS. My life has improved so much since I started focusing on my business instead of other peoples’ businesses.

Bikes?

That’s for another post. I’ve been working on LOTS of interesting bikes lately. My own projects are running behind and always on the back-burner compared to my customers’ bikes.

Best way to get me is to book online. I’m really hoping my recent dental work makes me feel loads better, and I can finally get back to “business as usual”. As always, your patience and understanding is sincerely appreciated.

 

 

 

Posted in Availability

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