The zen of motorcycle maintenance… at gas stations?


Driving down a twisty dirt road at night; the trees pass by in the darkness and tower overhead. Suddenly every biker’s worst nightmare, the lights switch off. “AHH”, I yell. Imagining the road ahead, I was on a relatively straight section. I hit the brakes hard and coasted to a stop. Hmm OK?…. No regular head light….. No high beams….. But blinkers work…. Break light works…. it’s… just a fuse?

On a KLR650 the electrical system runs on two major circuits,  the headlight is on a 10 amp long glass-breaker. It’s funny because although I ride A LOT, I’m not that good at working on bikes.  If you ask me to do a valve clearance check or get into the “guts”, frankly that’s is why I have a job. So I can pay someone else to do that! I wish I could did know how, but there is a point where I really feel like I could just make a problem worse. BUT a fuse. A fuse NO PROBLEM!  I switch the bike off. And prepare for a quick 20 minute fix.

For a several thousand mile trip, I always bring a few spare fuses. Though my bike is a from 2007, a KLR is pretty much unchanged from 1987. It uses big old glass fuses that can be hard to find in a pinch. The fuse is under the seat and I have all the tools. Its just a matter of taking a bunch of stuff off the bike and popping a new on in. Bags off. Rear bash guards off. Side panel off. Seat…seat…..shit!

I beat the trees are laughing when they see me wearing a headlamp on dark road, in the woods, and looking desperately through my meager tools, the dirt around the bike and kicking through the weeds to find a 7mm allen wrench, socket or even a god-damn pliers that will work. So close, literally inches away from the fuse box. Only 2 bolts in the way! “Ahhh how could this be happening!”, I yell into the woods. I imagine the trees did smile, as they think of their friends and relatives cut down for my dust road.

Now 30 minutes into my quick repair, I decide there is no way to fix it here apart from breaking my seat in half. I’m a poor grad student so a tow truck is not really an option way out here. Thus, two options remain.

1. Set up the tent, wait till morning then drive somewhere when it’s light out to fix it.

2. Tape a laughably small flashlight (it sorta works to read in my tent) to the front of my bike and fit head-lamp around my helmet. Then drive slow as hell to the nearest road with people for help.

Obviously I take the ridiculous option #2. Now 20 minutes later with all the panels, guards, and bags back on, I’m cruising eight miles at about 15 mph trying to get out of Apalachicola National Forest. I finally hit a small 2 lane paved road according to my GPS a gas station is just a few miles away. Let me take this moment to point out that it is illegal to operate a motorcycle during the day with out a headlight. At night, that is definitely ticket worthy. Thankfully, only 2 cars passed me, while I ‘m slowly jogging on the shoulder looking like a mad-man trying to be run-over. Finally, I pulled into the little gas station.

And all over again, bags off. Rear bash guards off. Side panel off. Seat…..shit. The gas station attendant has no tools nor do they sell any. A 7mm bolt. Just two of them. So the waiting game begins. Someone must come for gas in the middle of nowhere, at night, with a 7mm socket right? I remember smiling and thinking, “I guess this is the Zen of motorcycle maintenance”. Forty minutes later, a huge muddy truck complete with hunting  dogs howling in the back pulls in. Two camouflaged portly guys still wearing their blaze orange hunting vests climb out. I jog over and ask, “hey do you guys have any tools?”

In one of the thickest southern accents I have ever heard, the driver responds “What the fuck kinda man you think I am son?! Oh coarse I gots tools in muh fuckin truck! Why you even ask?!!”

Homeward bound.



  1. Good post! I was in Arizona and my field truck had a flat and little did I know, my jack didn’t work to lift up my truck. Luckily a couple guys pulled up with odds and ends in their trucks and helped me out. Otherwise I would have been SOL.

  2. LOL. Angels in the rough!

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