Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen is a specific sect of Buddhism. And the pursuit of Buddhism is enlightenment. There was your very brief lesson in Buddhism.

If you have ever looked for a book on either Buddhism or motorcycle maintenance, you have no doubt come a across a book with the same name as this post. I haven’t quite figured out how they are related… but let me attempt to draw a connection:

Enlightenment is the pursuit of a state that is marked by the absence of desire and suffering. Sounds good. Working on my motorcycle sometimes brings me a sense that I need not desire anything more in life and a sensation of not suffering, but being totally blissed.

Sometimes.

More often, it is a struggle of constant frustration/suffering and intense desire for the stupid thing to be fixed.

So where is the enlightenment? I must be doing it wrong.

I had an experience like this last Thursday. I spent hours on tuning my carbs (I have four of them on the cursed bike I ride!), trying to adjust the idle. I was reseting the air/fuel mixture and adjusting the idle set screw. It took some time, but I was able to get it set to something that was reasonably close to what should be normal idle for the bike.

So I did what any normal person does at this point… I rode the bike. The stupid thing reset its idle to run high again. I don’t understand it. I just ride it. I would rather ride the bike at a high idle than not at all. I rest satisfied that regardless of what is causing the issues with the idle, I have done all I can to remedy it. It may be time to take it to a friend who certainly knows better.

I went out yesterday to ride the bike for a lunch appointment only to find the battery is dead. There could be any number of reasons for this. Even giving myself the credit I deserve, there’s a high degree of possibility it is a result of my shoddy wiring. I’ll jump it today and we will go from there. Who knows, could be a simpler explanation. Or at least a simple one that easy to find and fix.

I thought long and hard several years ago about going to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. That would have altered the course of my life in a bigger way than any other choice I have ever made. Not saying I regret it. But, sometimes I think life would have be simpler if I had done that. Had I not been 1/3 of the way through a MA in Counseling I would have. You know what they say about hindsight thought. Still, tinkering and hacking on my bikes is fun to me. The exhaust is imminently getting hacked up. Now that I am supremely sure it won’t damage the motor.

I like working on vehicles. It’s almost an obsession. When I was younger with less financial responsibilities it was destructive. I had this old Scrambler that I was always working on. I kept thinking, ‘just one more thing and then it will be perfect.’ It never became perfect. So I sold it. I will find photos of it in the attic and post them in a subsequent post to connect the dots for those wondering why I enjoy the suffering that comes from working on vehicles I rely on to get me places I need to be. I am a glutton for punishment. What else can I say?

I hope when you work on you hobby, whatever it may be, that it brings you a zen-like experience of enlightenment, absent of desire and suffering.

Or at least, I hope you don’t cuss like a sailor in front of your kids cuz the stupid thing is broke… again.

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