Zen works for motorcycle maintenance


Yesterday was a great day.

Had fun filming an entrepreneur for a Focus on Business show, then dashed over to a major publishing company based near Reading to meet the management - a very encouraging discussion and could be very significant for www.pod3.tv

As the weather was sooooo glorious, and as I knew Dave the senior manager at the aforementioned publishing company wouldn't mind me turning up in leathers, I went on my Honda VFR800. For the uninitiated, this is an 800cc motorbike, about 100hp and in this instance, very yellow.

Wonderful ride over to the Reading area.

Joy of joys, after the meeting, I listened to a voicemail - a technology company wants a series of video podcasts to help communicate with their globally distributed sales force - perfecto! The video podcast plus RSS feed is an ideal way to keep distributed workers informed and up to date on the latest product developments.

Another joyous ride home - in a bit of a rush as I have to meet someone in central Maidenhead before they disappear for a couple of weeks. Park the bike up in the garage, get off, grab the key and walk away- but as I do so my glove-dulled grip on the key relaxes for some reason and as the key comes out of the keyhole, it slips away... and disappears!

I can't see it at all! Where's it gone? 

It's not on the floor.

It's not near the handlebars.

It's not on the fairing,

It's not on the frame, in the forks, or on the disc brakes.

I 'shake' the bike - if such a thing is possible - but nothing rattles.

It's just disappeared.


It can't be, surely? I mean the odds of that happening must be outrageously small... But it's the only thing I can think of...

I dig out the emergency tool kit from under the bike seat, find the appropriate spanner, and resign myself to fiddling around with my nuts. Now that's not normally a problem, but I hate getting oily dirty and I just know this is going to be a pain in the proverbial.

So I hinge the petrol tank cover up and peer into the Matrix-style machinery - all pipes and tunes and aluminium. Wow. Just how bike designers cram so much stuff into such a tiny space is difficult to comprehend. 

I get my trusty torch and illuminate the darkness. There's the key! It's resting on...something - but perilously close to a gap between the petrol tank and - a black abyss.

After inspecting the petrol tank I dismiss the idea of temporarily removing it. So how to reach the key - access is via a thin gap between various bits of bike skeleton. I get a metal retractable ruler and some blu-tack - I manage to get to the key and press - oh bugger - it's been pushed down the gap - it's wedged between the fuel tank and some other engine thing.

Metal coat hanger - rearranged forms a hook. But only pushes the key even further inside my bike's body - good job I'm not a key-hole surgeon! There's a faint "clink" as the key falls down some inner cavern, not even my Maglite searchlight can reveal it now.


Calm. Calm. Calm. Deep breath...... And relax. Robert M Pirsig taught me a lot.

Now the VFR is a great bike - being a "sports tourer" it's faired - the engine is encased in plastic moulding that also protects the rider from the worst of the weather. Which is great - but to access the engine, the fairing has to come off.

To keep the fairing on at 130mph (apparently), about a million allen key bolts are used. Not having the most well equipped workshop, I dig out my bicycle multi-tool, find an allen key that fits and start undoing them. I hate this kind of work - life's too short - I did all this on bicycles as a kid.

Anyway, finally managed to get them all undone, but needless to say it's not as straightforward as that. There are also some plastic poppers helping to keep this lump of plastic attached, for which of course you need the special Honda workshop tool. Bollocks. 

I gently hinge the plastic moulding away from the bike, and once again peer into the dark, labyrinthine interior. Maglight on, searching, probing...and there it is! If I can just - crack! Whooa! I loose balance, land in the dust, on my bum, holding a disconnected bike fairing in my hand - I'd lent just a tad too hard, and the retaining poppers - well they weren't retaining any more.

By now I'm loosing the will to live.

However, I can now reasonably easily retrieve my key, which I do.

And start the tedious process of reassembling my bike. Which is a bit of a faff - trying to align those holes with bolts whist holding the fairing up and an allen key in one hand and the bolt in another...you get the picture.

Finally the fairing's back on, the petrol tank cover re-secured, the key is in my pocket, the seat is re-affixed and tools stowed away and a feeling of a job well done spreads through my body, only slightly spoilt by a nagging feeling that it was all my fault in the first place.

Now, where's my torch?