I’ve been riding for the better part of 30 years and wrenching my own machines for most of those. I’ve always felt that it’s really important to wrench on your own machines for the simple fact that you get a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the motorcycle itself and motorcycling in general. I have complete confidence in what I do, not necessarily so for what other people do. I take my time and do it correctly by the book, not all people (even mechanics) follow that very basic premise of motorcycle maintenance. Since, literally, your life depends on the safe operation of your motorcycle you need to ensure that it’s running at its peak every time you’re riding it. Essentially you have two choices; do it yourself or find a shop that you really, really trust to do it for you. My choice…do it yourself, take your time, and do it correctly. When I was younger, I didn’t have much alternative due to simple economic concerns but that belief in taking care of my own machine and my habit of wrenching for myself has stuck with me through the years. There’s simply no substitute for the factory service manual for your motorcycle. However, this DVD is an exceptional companion piece to that factory manual. Short of having one of your best buds that happens to own a bike shop and has lots of spare time on his hands, this is the next best thing.
The host for the demonstrations on Fix My Hog DVD is an average-Joe type of guy named Bob. Bob definitely isn’t a Hollywood actor type but comes across pretty well all things considered. He looks and speaks like an average guy, maybe like your neighbor or even your current mechanic. What he lacks in some areas he makes up for in his demonstrated knowledge time and time again. Hey, ya really can’t knock a guy for keeping it real. He runs you through the entire series of basic maintenance requirements in a very clear and in a well thought out manner. Topics covered include the battery check, all fluid replacements, rear suspension check and adjustment, primary chain adjustment, clutch adjustment, steering head bearing check and adjustment, changing brake pads, wheel removal, air cleaner check and replacement, spark plug replacement, all cable check and adjustments, fork removal and fluid replacement, and a variety of other subjects in the bonus material…even bug removal. I just checked my factory service manual again, the DVD pretty much sums up the entire “Scheduled Maintenance Procedures” section plus a bunch of “good to do” stuff. Imagine having a mechanic run through each thing you need to do and stand by to demonstrate the step over and over as many times as you want. It’s all there for you at the touch of a button or two on your remote. The time line is essentially linear but stops at the end of each segment before broaching the next subject. The DVD format makes it easy to navigate to specific demonstrations by using the menu at that beginning. One demonstration pretty much leads into the next. Each demonstration has certain maintenance points that can be carried over to later lessons of related maintenance. I would recommend watching the entire DVD then use the menu to access specific demonstrations as needed.
The video quality and production is exceptional. Even the Stevie Ray Vaughn styled music is cool. However, keep the television remote handy because the music volume in between demonstrations is much louder that the voice audio portion during the lesson. Clear shots of exactly what’s happening abound throughout the production. Obvious attention was played by the producers to ensure each step of the demonstration was fully and clearly displayed to the viewer. Bob’s commentary along with the video, keep it simple and straight forward in each segment.
The few criticisms I have of the Fix My Hog DVD are pretty limited. Bob is a little hokey but in doing so, he really seems genuine. The one significant error I noticed in the narration concerned the required amount of transmission fluid but there’s a very clear sticker pasted on the inside left cover explaining the error and the correct amount of transmission fluid required for a fluid change. In the beginning of the DVD Bob shows and describes a fairly daunting list or “required” tools and materials. If you’ve got a Harley and intend to do any of your own maintenance then you really need to have a few semi-special tools. HD uses a lot of allen wrench and TORX (or star) fasteners. They also use a few fasteners that use 12 point sockets as opposed to the more normal and secure six point sockets. There’s an odd mixture of both SAE and metric sized nuts and bolts on each bike. Realistically, besides the normal weekend mechanic types of tools you should have a full set of TORX, allen, and both SAE and metric sockets. The DVD advises the use of a specific tool for removing the oil filter and states that the HD tool isn’t so hot due to potential damage to the crank position sensor. Good point not to damage the sensor, but I got my filter wrench from HD and it works fine every time. Bob also liberally uses chemical parts cleaners throughout the DVD, which is good to do and effective. He’s really good about reminding people to wear eye protection on anything that’s spring loaded like the clutch flex plate and fork springs. But, with all these aerosol chemicals flying around I’d make sure you leave the safety glasses on for any maintenance you do and ensure there’s adequate ventilation whenever handling chemicals. Take it from a guy that sprayed carburetor cleaner in his eye…twice. Believe me, once was enough. Beside those items I’d agree with just about all of the methods and procedures throughout the DVD. I’ve never been the guy to believe that I know everything, not by any stretch of the imagination. Even though I’ve been doing motorcycle and automotive maintenance for years and years, I even learned and a few things that he does better than I’ve learned in the past.
Also be realistic in what tools you’ll really use or do in your garage. In most cases and however easy it is, the average guy or gal isn’t going to change their clutch plates or buy a spring compression tool for cartridge type forks. Besides, those things are only required on a very, very seldom basis for the average rider’s bike. A $2000 pneumatic bike lift would certainly be a nice addition to your garage but they’re far too big to be usable by the average rider. I wish I had one but my garage isn’t big enough for one of those, a car, and usable workspace. The bike lifts available at Sears or Schuck’s work just fine, stash away easily, and cost considerably less then the lift used in the DVD. Lots of “nice to have” tools and equipment are available from a very wide source of vendors. However, with just a moderately equipped toolbox the average guy or gal can easily accomplish just about anything that needs to be done on the bike for cumulative thousands of dollars less than the dealership will charge over the life of the bike.
All in all, the Fix My Hog DVD set is a “need to have item” for anyone that wants to learn about their bike, turn their own wrenches, and save some serious cash in the process. Make sure to buy the edition applicable to your bike or bikes. So far there’s an edition for Softails and Touring models and one for Sportsters is just around the corner, scheduled for a November 2005 release. Again, the DVD makes a perfect companion to the factory service manual. With these two items and the right tools, you really can do it.
Joshua J. Dugan/Summer 05