Oil and Me

One of the aspects about motorcycle ownership that one must know a bit about is bike maintenance.

For my Xtrail, I followed the maintenance schedule when it was new and now that it’s no longer covered by warranty, I get oil changes reasonably close to the recommended odometer reading.  That’s about it.  Oh, I did notice that my right front tire was getting soft sometimes so about once a month I’d fill it with air.  When the right rear caliper went last week and I lost my rear brakes – which, by the way, is not usual or to be expected in a 2005 vehicle – the shop noticed my soft right front tire and fixed it for me.  So I’m feeling like the Xtrail is in reasonably good shape, if about 2,000 clicks overdue for that oil change.  Hey, I’m not perfect!

Bernice, my 650 Suzuki, recently clicked past her first 1,000 kms and the book says that means she needs her first oil change.  It would be entirely ridiculous and a waste of money to take her to a bike shop for a switch of 2 litres of oil. So one does it oneself.

I did it.  I had some coaching from the resident gearhead and a step-by-step guide in the  manual to make sure I did it right.   She now has fresh oil and a brand new filter and I swear she sounds better!  I do like the fact that the next time I do it, it will take me half as long and I enjoy getting to know my bike better.  But what a nasty job for a girl who doesn’t like camping or getting covered in something she can’t immediately wash off!

For starters, reading the oil indicator window is a two-person job if I’m the main go-to person.  I can’t balance Bernice and squat down far enough to read the window at the same time.  Someone has to hold her while I look at the window or she will tumble onto me.  That’s a drag. 

Second, getting to the plug – which is really just a thick, long screw – to let out the oil, requires actually laying on the ground.  I didn’t prepare the cement well enough for me to stretch out on it and I foolishly looked around at where I was lying and saw about a zillion little red spiders and a few ants skittering around!  I have long hair.  I had exposed arm skin.  I had to choke back thoughts of small creatures invading my person and get on with the job.

If there is a way to open the oil pan and not have the black goopy stuff run all over your hand, I’d like to know it.  Add to that the fact that I dropped the plug in the draining oil and had to fish around for it before it got so buried I wouldn’t be able to find it.  Gravity sends the oil out in a steady stream and it’s filthy stuff.  But there’s no sense in washing your hands until you’re done, because you’re only going to get oily again!

Replacing the filter and pouring in fresh oil are easy.  Suzuki provides you with little diagrams that are not done by the people at Ikea, whose drawings you have to overthink and figure out on your own.  These ones look exactly like the items you see before you! 

I started Bernice up with her new blood flowing inside her and she purred like a kitten.  It probably also doesn’t hurt that the last time I filled her with gas, I gave her the top grade.  Now all I need to do is wipe off a few boot marks from her exhaust pipe and she’ll be as pretty on the outside as she is on the inside.

I will look after her the way I’m supposed to and that will mean more oil changes and whatever else the schedule tells me I need to do.  But I will definitely make the surroundings more girl friendly!  I’ll lay out an old blanket to stretch out on, spiders be damned, and I’ll have handiwipes or baby wipes at the ready so I can de-grease between hand washings. Just because I’m learning to maintain my bike like a boy doesn’t mean I have to give up what it takes to make me a happy girl: spider-free hair and clean hands!