Ride, Wrench, Repeat

Ride, Wrench, Repeat

"If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito." - Anita Roddick

This quote is perfect for a two reasons.

First, as an entrepreneur I grapple with simultaneous feelings of “I’m so overwhelmed doing it all!” and “F*CK! I’m not doing anything productive!”  Classic snake eating it’s own tail situation.

Second, small parts are essential to motorbikes. This principal is consistently reiterated. When I did a valve cam adjustment, I learned how vital each decimal of a millimeter can be!


The truth is, all work is valid. Still, being on the computer, meetings, and design work are very different than getting your hands dirty. That’s one reason why I do my own draping, pattern making, stitching and dye-work. Yup, all that tie-dye on the website is me. It is pure joy to work with my hands!

So, naturally I love working on my bike!

We thought the aforementioned valve cam adjustment would be a fantastic “Garage Date.” No make up, just a big smile.


Of course, I waited until it was inevitable. It was so bad, my bike would struggle to start like chain smoker trying to run a marathon! I thought I was going to need to leave her locked up in downtown Oakland one night. AH!!! So, I stopped procrastinating and began the project that weekend. We were prepared; shim set, new gasket, tools...coffee, snacks, patience. 

If you have done a cam valve adjustment, you know how one tiny piece, the shim, is so important.  Can you see where I’m going with this theme ? Small actions, minuscule pieces add up for great impact.

So, after a healthy dose of caffeine we sauntered into the garage. First step was to strip the plastics, seat, and a few...erm lots of...other parts to get to the motor.  Pro Tip: take lots of photos and notes. For real, my friend who co-owns a shop dropped by. 

Then we removed the engine head cover! I got really giddy at this point. It was the first time I worked inside this motorcycle engine. Kawasaki dual overhead cam, single cylinder, air cooled. Simple and reliable. The relatively simple engine is one of the many reasons I love this bike.

Holding the cam shaft. 

We really loved our swivel head ratchets for getting into the nooks and crannies! Both of us were creaming ourselves analyzing the diagrams in the factory service manual. Yes, we are that geeky over here. Oh, and zip ties are always rad. Especially when securing your engine’s primary drive chain.

So, our patient was opened up. The target was to measure the valve cams and determine which was out of spec. The service manual provides the specs, in case you’re wondering. I love this stuff.  Precise, strategic, meditative. 

I learned that only one cam was out of alignment, on the Exhaust valve side. It was only out of spec by about .01 MM! The trick was aligning the cams at the correct rotational point, then inserting the new shim. A final measurement check. Then, we had fun putting her back together. Legos anyone ?  Of course, the moment of truth is firing her up!

Seriously, the bike went from asthma attack to pranayama with one adjustment.

It wasn’t all smooth. Towards the end of the first sesh, I was cranking the engine manually. Rather than consult the manual, I simply asked my partner in crime about the rotation direction. And then cranked the engine the wrong way, it felt weird, my intuition screamed "stop!" So, I stopped and consulted the manual.  Shit! I realized what happened and was super mad at myself for listening to someone else instead of my own instinct and the manual. Still, I kept my cool, didn’t smash any tools on the floor. Logically it was OK. The motion was smooth, I didn’t force anything to move, and there were no terrible grinding noises. Then we had a calm, rational conversation. Most importantly, the bike was fine! Mistakes are learning opportunities in action. 

This was a super fun project. My curiosity was satiated. My confidence in my bike restored! All because of a micro adjustment. 

So, design-wise I am focusing on the moto gear tech designs.

I want them to be perfect before I share them with you, and get your vote on what to produce!

I’m also heavy in thought because our Plan A funding has been delayed. I need a Plan B.

What’s a girl to do ? Keep working. Meditate. Exercise. Ride. Above all, breathe!

If all you see is a massive mountain, it feels impossible to climb. If you visualize and take each step, one at a time before you know it that mountain is climbed. One small action, one step at a time. 

I am deeply inspired, not just because of the gear improvements we need. Women who ride are courageous. We are still just 1 in 10. I’ve dealt with harassment and discrimination in the workplace most of my career. Riding has helped me heal from that shit. My mission is to empower women. When I see another lady rider, my heart skips a beat. I want to wrap her up in gorgeous, high tech gear!  

So, let’s do this. One breath at a time.


Title Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

Post photos by Karleen Eberle 

1 comment

  • Rose Johnston

    Loved your story! You said it all so eloquently.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published