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How do you learn your way around a bike?

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I'm 16 and have to learn and do everything by trial and error, is there a tip for me to not do anything too catastrophic and really F*** something up?

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I am currently going to classes similiar to mmi at a technical college with a teacher who knows his way in and out of every bike there is. First thing he says anytime you ask him a question about working on something is "What did the service manual say?"

So my tip is to get you a service manual and when you work on your bike read the appropriate section atleast twice then you can start referring back to the manual as you go.

And you also may want to read your service and owners manual through front to back atleast once. You can learn a lot about your bike and keep you from some embarrassing failures.

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Thats some pretty darn good advice... My old man (miss him greatly) was a diesel mechanic and he used to reply first by asking "what's the book say?"

Service manuals are pricey and usually not included in a used sale (unless you buy one of mine), but they really are an invaluable resource and cannot be out-done as far as bike knowledge.

Beyond that, he taught me that skill with tools and fasteners is your best friend, disagreeing with most folks with: it is far more difficult to disassemble then to reassemble. You will learn this most importantly. Take great care when disassembling, the reassembly is easy if the proper precautions are taken during the former.

For you, proper learning will come with experience, the more you prepare for that experience, the cheaper that it will be for you.

Thanks dad.

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if you cant afford to buy a manual download one and print it out, just keep riding your bike eventually it will need rebuilding...follow the manual and get some one experienced to help you out, you will learn heaps from even just going round to a mates place who is rebuilding a bike so that is another way to get heaps of knowledge...

and read through the TT's how to forum lots of good stuff there :smirk:

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When I was 10, my dad got me an XR75, a shop manual and a set of tools. 38 years later, I still buy a shop manual every time I buy a new bike.

Same here. Age 12, KE100, Manual, Tools. Did take some shop classes in High School.

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Randomly take parts off and randomly put it back together. If something blew apart when running I knew I screwed up somewhere. That's how I learned..

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Indeed get the Service Manual for your bike. It will have lots of specific info for your model and step by step procedures for various maintenance tasks. What it won’t teach you is the theory of how a bike works and how to use your tools properly. So if something should happen to go wrong when following those service manual step by step instructions you’ll be lost. Knowing what you are actually doing, i.e. the theory will make finding a solution a lot easier.

If you’re relying on a friend or relative to learn the theory and how to use tools, unless the person is a mechanic, you will never know if their advice is sound. Don’t discount their info just because they’re not a mechanic. You may learn lots from their experience. But you need professional advice. If taking classes isn’t on, there are books that are just what you need. Haynes has a whole motorcycle Techbook series. I highly recommend the Motorcycle Basics Techbook and the Motorcycle Workshop Practice Techbook. Check out http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/175-4944743-7460231?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Haynes+Motorcycle+techbook.

I have no connection to Haynes. I have used these books and they have helped tons, for every motorcycle I’ve owned.

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Randomly take parts off and randomly put it back together. If something blew apart when running I knew I screwed up somewhere. That's how I learned..

I have been doing that but sometimes I do get really lost or i come across a problem that is beyond me. thanks for the service manual advice i will look into it.

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I gotta go with them on the manuals, they can be a life saver. First bike I ever rebuilt I followed the manual right to the letter, assembly lube, torquing things, etc, LOL! But it fired right up and ran great. I think the manuals are great for the RIGHT way to do things. I also think you will learn some tricks along the way by doing it. The amount of $ to be saved by doing your own labor where possible is worth a few learning bumps. Obviously any work requiring machining or even if you need a press now and again, are better off just takin the parts in due to the price of a press or the skills needed to do SOME machine work.

I may try to ask if you can hang out while they do these things tho, if they can do it on the spot that is. If they are cool they may let ya, at which time you can learn a lil somethin seein how they do it. Make sure its a reputable place tho, lol...no point in learnin the absolute wrong ways.

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I definitely agree with all of these guys on the service manual thing but on top of all of that what is it like at your place. Do you have a dad that you get to hang out with in the garage / shop and work on other types of things? Any kind of mentor? No matter what the case I believe every boy and girl should get their selves in wood shop, auto shop and metal shop. Anything you can do besides just book learning and PC skills will take you far in life. Make sure you get those hands on classes as you are going to be able to use those skills the rest of your life and they will help you with trouble shooting or thinking through various other problems you come across.

My boys practically live in the shop with me but they still take shop classes at school and get the chance to learn from someone else and gain new skills with their hands.

Always remember, it does not have a brain and cannot out think you! You have the ability to research anything and find the answer you need. Be persistent and you will overcome.

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Another vote for the service manual. Mine cost me $75 but it will pay for itself quickly. Labor is not cheap.

Yeah, if you think about it. That's about 1 hr of labor so the manual will pay for itself very quickly. The internet is great and all but its nice to have a book to refer to without having to do an internet search, or printing out oodles of paper, or dragging a laptop out to the garage. Like the others said if you have a shop class your able to take I'd take it. It's helpful no matter what you do in life. I taught myself a lot of stuff but my dad also showed me some basic stuff. He showed me these things because I would hover and follow him whenever he would work on something around the house, whether it be a carpentry project or working on a car. My brother never did this and has no mechanical skills what so ever, I'll never forget when my dad was walking him through the first oil change of his car and my dad asked him where the air filter went. He pointed to the battery. Once you start working on things you will only learn and eventually become more comfortable with it. So my recommendation is getting a manual of some sort and get started. I started with bikes about the same age as you. In a matter of months I had a 100$ old non running bike running great and looking great learned so much over that time. Here's a pic of it shortly before I parted with it. I wish i had a before pic it was rough looking.

001.jpg

It was nice learning how to work on a simple old 2-stroke, lots of cheap parts and easy to work on compared to some of the new bikes. If your persistent and willing anything is possible.

Edited by 79yamdt

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Trial and error over the years. Now that youtube has 'how to' vids I will watch those to help me along when I am unsure.

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I definitely agree with all of these guys on the service manual thing but on top of all of that what is it like at your place. Do you have a dad that you get to hang out with in the garage / shop and work on other types of things? Any kind of mentor? No matter what the case I believe every boy and girl should get their selves in wood shop, auto shop and metal shop. Anything you can do besides just book learning and PC skills will take you far in life. Make sure you get those hands on classes as you are going to be able to use those skills the rest of your life and they will help you with trouble shooting or thinking through various other problems you come across.

My boys practically live in the shop with me but they still take shop classes at school and get the chance to learn from someone else and gain new skills with their hands.

Always remember, it does not have a brain and cannot out think you! You have the ability to research anything and find the answer you need. Be persistent and you will overcome.

I don't live with my dad hes 6 hrs away... and my school does offer a thing called wemoco which is a place you go to learn things like this but i am intrested in engineering and dont have time for that.

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I don't live with my dad hes 6 hrs away... and my school does offer a thing called wemoco which is a place you go to learn things like this but i am intrested in engineering and dont have time for that.

My kids too are interested in engineering and take classes towards that but every semester they make sure to get in 1 class that is going to be hands on. Heck how are you going to engineer anything if you don't know how to work on it. I am a maintenance mechanic for a paper mill and we have some engineers that are awesome (they are mechanically inclined) and then some that only learned in a class room. These guys always get it wrong because they do not know or see how to really do something. I am telling you if you don't get your hands dirty you will regret it later.

That is a bummer about your dad being 6 hours away but it is great that you are going for it any ways. Get dirty, don't be intimidated, read your manual, watch YouTube and go for it.

I used to tell my kids it won't get fixed by its self so get off your ars and get after it. Now they pretty much tell me after work to get off of my ars and getter done. Damn kids.

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the biggest piece of advice i can give is take thing slow, double check EVERYTHING, never force anything, if it doesnt want to move, gently tap and wriggle and if it still doesn start looking for why it's not moving, have the torque specs on hand for the critical bolts, after a while you learn roughly how much torque your applying without a torque wrench, and if your not sure about something ask somone for help.

when i was 15 i started woorking on my own bikes, my old man gave me his tool's, his 08 KTM450 EXC that needed a new set of ring's and went inside to have a beer, said to come and ask if i have any questions.

some fairly basic tips are, never overtighten anything, i always use blue loctite on just about everything so it holds but can still be easily undone, always make sure your work area is CLEAN, make sure the bike is clean, make sure your tool's are organised, and have a few containers ready to put your nuyts and bolts and other bits in, it makes life so much easier (although i raerly follow this rule myself) and have the right tool's for the job, some basics make life so much easier, i personally have never used a shop manual, that torque figures for everything have been in the owners manual of all the bikes i've owned.

the tool's i suggest are as follow'sbthe essentials i will put in bold, others are things to add to the collection when you can.

-1/4 and 3/8 drive socket set from 6mm-22 AT LEAST, get one that go's bigger if you can afford it, with extra extntion bar's and a breaker bar

-a set of open end/ring combo spanners from 8-19mm at least

-a good quality 3/8 drive torque wrench which go's down to 10nm, if your budget doesnt stretch far enough to get a wrench with a good range, go for a 1/4 inch drive instead that does, it will be more usefull and get a bigger one latter

-a set of internal and external circlip pliar's

-long nose pliar's

-good qaulity allen key set

-a soft faced hammer, i have both a nylon and a copper hammer, normal hammers are to hard and will damage fragile parts

-a 4lb club hammer

-feeler gauges going down to 1thousands of an inch (.02mm)

-tube of grease

-WD-40

-screwdriver set, both flat blade and and philips in various sizes

these tool's will very quickly pay for themself, and are a very worthwhile investment, wont take long and you'll be able to take you bike from this

kxrebuild.jpg

to this

kxenginerebuild5.jpg

and back to this

kx2.jpg

good luck

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You learn your way around a bike by actually working on it. As everyone else said, get a good manual. Beyond that here are some tips.

Use good tools. They will keep you from doing more damage to the bike.

Have a clean, organized work area so you can lay the parts out in the order you took them off.

Put small parts in ziplock bags and label them.

Count the turns on adjustable parts (cables, levers, carb screws, etc:) so you can put them back on and be close to where they were.

Make notes and take digital photos so you know where cabes and wires are run.

Use a torque wrench. When you are learning you don't need the aggrivation of broken bolts or stripped threads.

Clean your bike before you start working on it.

Good luck and have fun.

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