Bad habits catch up with me


My beautiful Maggie. How could I neglect her?

With two bikes, I don’t feel the urgency to fix a minor problem on one of them that I would if I only had one. If a bike need repairs, I’ll just ride the other one for awhile until I get around to fixing the problem.
My Magna is leaking at the exhaust ports on the heads. There are crush washers between the exhaust port on the head and pipe that will have to be replaced. This is not a major operation, requiring only four new crush washers, an 8 mm socket and a little time.
Of course the “might-as-well” factor comes into play here. I’ll probably have to remove the gas tank and radiator to get to the front pipes, sooooo, while I’ve got it that far apart, I might as well replace the air filter and front two spark plugs. And while I’m replacing the front plugs, I might as well get the back ones too. It’s about time for an oil change, so might as well do that too. Now this has gone from a $12 operation to a $100-plus operation and will take a little more time.
I won’t do it after work because I have other chores to put off then. So that means a weekend. But man, the weather has been nice the last few weekends, and I do have a rideable bike sitting right there next to Maggie.
As I rolled the Valkyrie into the carport last weekend, it occurred to me that poor little Maggie has been sitting there for almost three weeks without being fired up. Sitting there with gas in the tank and that has no Sta-Bil or Sea Foam in it. Sitting there with carbs that are probably gumming up. OK, leaking exhaust port or not, it’s time for a quick ride.
I pull the cover off of her and am surprised to see that she still has a fine coat of green pollen. I blow it off then jump in the saddle. Checking the odometer, I see 64 miles on the trip gauge. I can usually hit 110 to 120 before going to reserve, so I should be OK for a quick run out to the loop.
She runs rough as I fire her up, hitting on only two cylinders for a while. As she warms up, she backfires a few times before settling down and running on all four. I back her out to the road and am appalled at how sluggish she is off the line. She also starts missing on at least one cylinder as I open the throttle. She spits and jumps for awhile, but I can hear her popping as she blows soot out the pipes. She’s cleaning herself out and running better by the second. Eventually she settles down and starts to show me what I’ve been missing. I’m surprised at the way she throws me back in the seat as I roll on the throttle.
But the exhilaration lasts for less than a mile. I’m climbing up a bridge as she starts to miss badly. I turn her around and head back for the house as she seriously threatens to die on me. I barely get turned around before she does die and we coast back down the bridge. Coming to a stop, I close the choke and try to start her up again. She hits and starts running rough, but threatens to die every time I open the throttle. I can’t get enough RPMs to start her rolling. I badly slip the clutch hoping to get rolling. Every foot I can coax her is a foot I won’t have to push her. But I don’t get far until she dies and refuses to hit again.
I sit there trying to imagine what happened to bring her down after it looked so promising. Probably some gelatinous glob of varnish coming off a fuel line into the carbs blocking a jet. But it seems like at least one carb would feed a cylinder well enough to hit every now and again. It’s like none of the cylinders is getting gas. Then it hits me. I reach down and turn the fuel valve to reserve. She turns over a couple of times, the fires right up.
I’d been pouring gas into her from a can, not filling the tank and resetting the trip odometer as I should have. I’d run out of gas.
She almost throws me off the back as I release the clutch. I can feel her attitude.
“You don’t deserve this,” she tells me as she shows me what she’s capable of. I’m ashamed of myself as she reminds me what an exciting lady she is. I’ve ignored her and taken her for granted.
I’ve ordered the crush washers, plugs and air filter. I’ll get the oil later.

- Guy Wheatley

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