Do-It-Yourself Oil Change–Honda Shadow 600 (VLX 600)


Plenty of riders, myself included, are interested in trying some do-it-yourself mechanical work on their rides. Perhaps it’s part of the larger American cultural trend towards DIY skills; perhaps it’s the lingering influence of Robert Pirsig’s 1974 classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; perhaps it’s due to the fact that motorcycle shops are expensive (shop rates in California tend to be between $80 and $110 per hour), and motorcycles’ frequent maintenance needs make going to the shop for every chain adjustment and oil change a pricey proposition. For me, the image of the self-sufficient lone rider, contentedly working on her bike in the middle of nowhere, was too good to resist; and after a couple of years of riding, I became an apprentice mechanic at a local shop.

So, with the aim of helping riders learn a little basic wrenching on their bikes (and, hopefully, getting the satisfaction that building skill and learning to maintain your bike can bring), I’m starting a series on changing your own oil and filter, geared to the relative beginner. Recycling your filter as well as your oil is a key part of responsible wrenching, too–so I’ll cover that. I’m hoping to include a variety of bikes in future DIY oil change posts, as well, from cruisers to standards to sportbikes to dual-sports and beyond. Thanks, too, go out to Werkstatt Motorcycle repair in San Francisco; owner Jennifer Bromme has generously agreed to let me use her shop for occasional educational purposes.

The first bike in the series is a common metric cruiser, the Honda Shadow VLX 600. Like most streetbikes, it needs an oil and filter change every 3,000 miles.

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On any Sunday — closed for business

I’ve always found it odd that motorcycle shops are closed on Sundays. It’s got to be one of the busiest riding and tinkering days of the week.

Yet almost universally, shops draw the curtains and don’t open them until Tuesday morning.

I can understand closing Monday, but Sunday? It seems crazy, especially in these economic times.

Open when you need it?

“It’s just always been ride or race on Sunday and recover Monday,” said Brian Pecore, owner of The Motorcycle Shop, an independent service and accessories store in Santa Rosa.

True, Sunday is traditionally racing day, but how many shops actually race? And if they do, wouldn’t it make sense to keep the till going and the money flowing in?

It ain’t exactly cheap to go racing.

Desperate for answers and certain I was probably missing some key point, I turned to several other shop owners who informed me that, no, I really wasn’t missing any key point.

Aside from the fact that Saturday is an all-hands-on-deck work day and rest is needed, there’s no explaining the Sunday holiday.

However, you can bet the reluctance to do business is welcome by at least one mega-retailer. Cycle Gear is open seven days a week. The Benicia-based chain with outlets in 26 states opened its 98th store in November.

The 38-year-old company claims on its website that it is the nation’s largest and fastest growing retailer of motorcycle apparel and accessories.

You gotta wonder how much they’re raking in on Sunday.

“Cycle Gear always has, and always will put people first,” CEO Dave Bertram said.

Mayan Riviera: No country for motorcycles

I’ve always associated Mexico with motorcycles. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s because of the handful of times I’ve ridden dirt bikes in Baja. Or maybe it’s because it’s warm there and I’m a fair-weather rider. Or maybe it’s just because both words start with the letter m.

Some dude riding at the playa

I had bikes on my mind when planning a family vacation to the Cancun area in December. I figured I’d rent a dual-sport or even a Harley at one of those over-priced tourist joints. While my wife and daughter lay on the beach at a sunny resort, I’d be off riding in a foreign land, looking for adventure and inexpensive tequila.
I figured wrong.
You see, the part of Mexico bordering the Caribbean Sea is great for relaxing, exploring ruins and watersports. But it’s not the best place to ride, in part because it is so flat. Roads go east and west, north and south, with few curves or hills in between. Endless jungle is all you see. Can you say boring?
Also, like Baja, the roads themselves aren’t all that good. Many are cobbled with, well, cobblestones. And Mexicans seem to have an obsession with speed bumps, which they call “topes.” They appear to crop up on any straight long enough to shift into second gear. I know of at least one economy sized rental car in serious need of an alignment!
I was cured of any Wild Hog aspirations after a quick trip to town in said rental car. Traffic was more dicey than a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. Overladen trucks and dilapidated taxis careened by. Uniformed men carrying submachine guns glared from checkpoints.
Amid the chaos only locals were brave enough to ride motorcycles. They must be really good, I thought. They buzzed around me with great daring, seemingly risking life and limb to get from A to B.
I soon realized they were riding not because it was fun but because it’s a cheap form of transportation.
Maybe that’s the best that can be said of motorcycles anywhere.
Or not.
Nevertheless, I gave up my dream to ride the Mayan Riviera and focused instead on the mango daiquiries.

Happy New year! Now what?

As we ring in the new year, we at Riders Recycle celebrate the first 12 months of our blog, which launched last February. We’re officially a year old next month. What a short, strange trip it’s been!

Happy New Year

Still, we like to think we’ve covered a lot of ground while talking about how to properly dispose of used oil and filters. Topics ran the gamut from Northern California road trips to buying bikes off Craigslist. We also tackled stickier subjects such as whether loud pipes really do save lives and the wisdom of riding two-up on sportbikes.
We’re looking forward to an even more thought-provoking 2013. Hopefully we’ve saved enough brain cells from all the celebrating, gorging and channel-surfing to think up something good.
Just kidding. We’ve got some great stuff in the works. We know you’re going to like it. So stay tuned!