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Common Tread

Podcast: Which is better, DIY or mechanic?

Feb 17, 2021

When your motorcycle needs work, where do you turn?

Basic tasks, like inflating the tires, charging the battery, and lubricating the chain (if equipped) are pretty easy. Your motorcycle’s manual should include the instructions for several basic tasks that almost any owner can tackle. What about bigger jobs? When does the DIY mechanic put down the wrenches and turn to the pros?

That’s the topic of the latest episode of Highside/Lowside, in which Spurgeon, Zack, and Ari discuss the realities of doing your own work.

For some riders, DIY repairs are part of the fun of motorcycling. They enjoy fixing a bike and learning along the way. Cost is probably a more common reason for the DIY approach, because a shop’s per-hour rates can stack up quickly. Billing yourself at an ultra-competitive $0/hour is a lot easier on the wallet.

Not every rider has the funds, space, time, or tools to be their own mechanic. (There’s also some mechanical confidence involved. I know some riders who refuse to work on their brakes, for example.) There’s nothing wrong with dropping your motorcycle off at the local shop for a service or repair, especially if your newer motorcycle is still under warranty.

Spurgeon with VFR800
Spurg loved riding his VFR. Spurg did not love removing and reinstalling the fairings every time it needed service. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Even advanced home mechanics will run into problems that require a shop’s help eventually. Most of us don’t have equipment for chrome plating, cylinder boring, crank balancing, high-quality paint, head decking, or dyno tuning, to name a few specialty jobs. Or, for a more common example, I ponied up to have a local shop mount a set of tires for me on some delicate old cast wheels. Usually, I DIY my own tire changes with basic hand tools in the garage, but I knew that one slip of the lever would instantly gouge the lovely alloy. To make matters worse, the wheels still wore their original tires from 40 years ago, which were practically ebonite by the time they fell under my ownership. The shop’s fancy tire change machine saved my wheels and knuckles in the end. Probably saved my wallet, too, since decent replacement wheels were triple the price of a tire install. Of course, YMMV.

Listen to Highside / Lowside

As usual, the podcast version of Spurgeon, Zack, and Ari’s discussion is available for your listening pleasure. Highside / Lowside is available via Spotify, Apple iTunes, Stitcher, and LibSyn for those with accounts.