RENOWNED author Henry David Thoreau spent three months building a tiny 10x15-feet shed in the northern shore of Walden Pond so that he could reflect upon life and find its true meaning.
If he had owned an old motorcycle, and a few tools, he could achieve the selfsame goals with more dramatic flair.
He might have never written a best-selling book, or become a well-known philosopher, but he might have been happier.
Every man should rebuild his own motorcycle in his lifetime. His adventure should start at the local weekend autosale, or perhaps mudah.my. He should find the most abysmal wreck that he can find, preferably with a seized engine, rotting tank and bent rims, or some combination of the three.
He should borrow his friend’s truck to drag the derelict relic home. He will have an argument with his woman. But this is necessary.
He should then find a manual for the said wretched wreck on eBay, then attempt to decipher the complex text of its machinations. While winding down after a hard day at work, he should peer at the motorcycle parked to his woman’s dismay under their porch and build a mental picture of how it will be when it is completed.
In the process, he will learn many secrets of the ingenuity of his forefathers. Something that we take for granted, such as a common motorcycle, holds within it many secrets of man’s never-ending quest to solve the complex problems in his world.
I remember the first time I held a constant mesh gearbox in my hand, my mind trying to deconstruct how the complex entanglement of gears worked. My hand clicked the pins and knuckles, figuring out how the different diameter gears engaged and disengaged with each other to give a different final ratio. And, when the mystery of its machinations were revealed to me, I was astounded.
And, on yet another day, my mechanic held a simple trochoidal pump up to me. The pump, which moves oil around the engine, was simply a work of genius, the child of some nameless engineer’s mind. And what a mind it was, to have thought up such a clever device.
The four lobes positioned on a rotor turn eccentrically in a chamber the shape of a star. As it turns, the spaces between the rotors expand and contract and pumps oil just like how a human heart works to pump blood.
It was so simple, but the same ingenuity could be traced all the way to the time of Archimedes, when the Greek polymath invented a screw pump to pump water in 3BC. Their principals are different, but the problem that they solve are similar.
Disassembling a motorcycle is like peering into history. From how metal was forged by the ancients, to the wonders of the silicone age and electronics. Many of these discoveries are embodied in the common motorcycle.
Working in it is like enrolling in a university in your backyard.
One after another, discoveries will bloom like flowers in a vast field of knowledge, the breadth of which spans centuries of collective engineering know-how.
There are thousands of unloved motorcycles waiting to be rebuilt. The field is ripe for the picking. You don’t need a fancy English or Italian classic. Even an old Honda C70 would do. Or maybe you could work on a more modern Modenas Kriss, or Jaguh, if your taste are more local.
There is another reason that you should work on a motorcycle, and it has more to do with your heart than your mind. Years ago, when men were created, they were free beings. They ran in open fields and rode on horses with the wind blowing in their hair.
In every man’s heart, there is a yearning to relive that freedom. But we spend our days in a cubicle, chained to a desk. The best years of our lives are wasted on deadlines and routines.
These are all things which grind away at our soul.
Working on a motorcycle can nourish it. James Lendall Basford once said: “Honest labour dispels melancholy.” And this is true with the labour put into machines, as well as fields.
The sheer act of working with your hands, grinding, knocking metal and rebuilding the motorcycle, is a balm for the soul.
Every day spent on the machine is a promise that one day you can wheel the masterpiece out on a glorious morning, kick it to life, and disappear with a thunderous roar and cloud of dust, in search of a great big adventure.