Gear

The places a Haynes manual can take you

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Zach Bow­man

MY GRAND­FA­THER HAD a mind for ma­chines. He could tease apart the in­ner work­ings of an en­gine, see them all splayed out in his mind long be­fore pulling the first bolt, their chore­og­ra­phy as ob­vi­ous to him as the words on this page. It was a gift grown from a life­time of cu­rios­ity, in­tu­ition, and count­less hours spent pulling bro­ken and bent pieces from oily hol­lows. Of every­thing he gave me, his gait and his grin and his tem­per, a quirk of ge­net­ics meant I missed that in­nate un­der­stand­ing.

In­stead, I’ve re­lied on a li­brary of ser­vice man­u­als to carry me through the projects that have punc­tu­ated my me­chan­i­cal life. Some I’ve bought. Oth­ers have showed up in the boxes of spares that seem to come with ev­ery old bike. All of them—from the pulp-pa­per Haynes to the fac­tory ser­vice man­u­als with their ex­quis­ite ex­ploded di­a­grams and part num­bers—have been a torch in the dark­ness of my ig­no­rance.

They are the pass­ports to the hid­den places in­side ev­ery en­gine. They’ve led the way through dizzy­ing labyrinths of valve trains and trans­mis­sions, giv­ing me the much-needed con­fi­dence to dive in and suss out the ticks and grinds that plague all well-loved ma­chines. Even now, when ev­ery scrap of hu­man knowl­edge is just a key­stroke away, I pre­fer leaf­ing through grease-smudged pages to scrolling down pix­e­lated PDFS, plac­ing my own fin­ger­prints on pa­per that will be around long af­ter I’ve gone on to catch up with my grand­fa­ther.

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