Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Three Things Not to Take Chances On

OK, pardon my grammar – the three big things on which you cannot take chances...I have come to believe there are three things in life that aren't worth taking chances on: a doctor, a hairdresser and a motorcycle mechanic.

Sure, when you're new in town you have to shop around a little, but seriously, these are three essentials that you must find quickly – and once you've found them, never let them go!

I'm still searching on the doctor front. I found a good GP several years ago, but you have to make an appointment with him about a week before you know you're going to be sick. I was inherited by my current “close to work” GP when her predecessor moved interstate, and I don't care how close this one is to work, I'm not going back to her – talk about hopeless! Then of course, there's a GP I would trust with my life – but he's a bike friend, and there are some things you simply cannot ask of someone you go on rides with or have coffee with.... There are Some Conversations you Should Never Have:

“So, great ride last weekend, hey? Um.... I have this boil on my arse/haemorrhoid/nasty rash...”


“You know, I think I'm due for a pap smear. So, you doing the Snowy Ride this year?”

And then there's the hairdresser thing. When I lived in Sydney I moved to a different area and had to start the awful shopping-around-for-a-hairdresser process. One bloke I went to was so determined to “bring out my feminine side” that he cut, bouffed and blow-dried my short hair well beyond reason, and I left the salon looking like I had a goldfish bowl on my head. I headed straight for the ladies' loos and stuck my head in the basin before I could drum up the courage to be seen in public.

If my current barber (it took me so long to find him!) ever tries to leave Canberra there will be Big Trouble!

More important than all these things, though, especially if you're a motorcyclist (and one who doesn't know a lot about the workings of a motorcycle) – is a good mechanic.

I do a lot of miles, and I do a lot of them on my own and a long way from home. I need to be able to trust my bike. I need to know it's been well looked after and in the best possible condition to do what I will ask of it. As I am mechanically inept, I would never trust myself to work on my own bike. One of these days I will do a proper “basic bike maintenance” course, but until then...

I hit the jackpot with my mechanic. When I got my first bike I asked around the Canberra bike community, and I kept hearing the name “Bruce.” I heard a couple of other names as well, but they were on the other side of town, so I thought I would give this Bruce a go. I'm so glad I did.

That was three and a half years ago. Three bikes ago. About 100,000kms ago. That's about 8 minor services and 8 major services ago. That's maybe 2 chains and sets of sprockets, a couple of sets of brake pads, and 10 rear and 6 or 7 front tyres ago.

I can't calculate the amount of good advice and important knowledge I've picked up by hanging around at Bruce's, talking bikes. Sure, they pick on me and put my helmet up high when I leave it there – and I've copped my fair share of good-natured ribbing whenever I've needed some minor repairs after a stupid low speed drop... My favourite was after a drop on wet grass at Wandiligong, in Victoria. I hunted around on the grass for the small triangular piece of fairing that had broken off, and handed this precious little jigsaw puzzle piece to Bruce on my return.

“Yep,” he said laconically, “no worries. I'm used to gluing this bike together now.”

When I drove a car I always thought of a mechanic as a technician, but I've come to think of Bruce as a friend. I phoned him from a public phone booth hundreds of kilometres away to ask for his advice once when the bike seemed to be running rough. When I see something called “Bruce” on my trips I take photos of it for Bruce to stick up in the workshop. Whenever I call by on the way home from work to have some minor tweakage done, or to ask for bike advice, Bruce will always have a chat and offer lollies, or biscuits that his mum or his daughter have baked.

Tonight I got a phone call from Bruce. He'd heard I'd had a bit of a setback with the healing of my stupid broken foot, and he rang to see how I was. See – that's priceless!

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