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Old 5 Feb 2009
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Motorcycle mechanics course for big trip - how does this look?

Hi everyone,

I'm in the early planning stages of a trip from London to Oz in 2010 and am looking to 'develop' my mechanical skills (and i use that word loosely!!) ahead of time. I have read a thread in this section about how little knowledge people have travelled with but would prefer not to be test sods law like that!

One of the local colleges near me is running a 20 week course that comprises of a weekly 2 hour class, the highlights of which i've put below.
There is an advanced course that can be taken on completion of the practical course.

What does the course cover?
This practical course covers the following topics;
Identifying frame types
Overhauling telescopic front forks
Replacing an inner tube
Overhauling a two-stroke top end
Re-setting cam Timing
Stripping and rebuilding a multiplate clutch
Stripping, reassembling and adjusting a carburettor
Replacing rear brake shoes
Replacing points
Resetting ignition timing.

My question is, do you think this would provide me with sufficient know how or not. Or does anyone have a third idea/option?

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Old 5 Feb 2009
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Watt? No electrics?

You'll be well advised to learn about electrical gremlins. Get a cheap, sorry, old bike and learn as you go. Linzi.
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Old 5 Feb 2009
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You know what they say alittle knowledge can be a dangers thing, but I would say if it makes you feel more confident in your approch to the bike and the trip then go for it.

If you only come away from the course knowing and understanding how to remove the wheel and change a tire or reseal a front fork then I would say it had been woth doing it.

Whats the cost of the course and which collage isit being run at ?.
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Old 5 Feb 2009
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Go for it - the biggest thing that these course do is give you confidence to give it a go and take it apart - which frankly is half the battle.

I did the course at Merton Collage in South London and can't recommend it enough - whilst it was very 'basic' it assumed no prior knowledge and by the end of the course I was easily able to service my bike - and even attempt larger tasks like valve clearances.

If you're not too far from Merton I really would give them a call


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Old 5 Feb 2009
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Bobduro - I've wanted to do a course like this for a while. Let us know what college runs it.

I'll also look into the Merton course mattcbf600 mentioned.

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Old 5 Feb 2009
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I think it's great. Hopefully they've updated the cirriculum a bit .... as things like points and setting ignition timing haven't been around in decades.

I would try to find a course that covers basic routine maintenance on more modern bikes.

Batteries and basic electrical diagnostics should be there as
well as valve adjustment procedures.

As you prep your bike for travel my guess is you'll learn quite a bit about
your own bike.

Buy a VOM (Volt-Ohm meter) and some good basic tools and start building your travel tool kit early. Use it at home so you know it works on the road.

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Old 6 Feb 2009
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Mechanics Course

Thanks Guys,

Funnily enough this course is the one at Merton College. Their course started in January but with the snow (all 6 inches of it!) they've postponed one the classes so have offered me to start the course late and get an appropriate discount off the original course price of approx £400.

One of the attractions of it for me is that with one 2 hour class per week it's managelable alongside work. A friend is doing a full (NVQ) course at Lambeth College but thats a full academic year and 2 hour classes each week, and whilst as a qualified mechanic at the end he'll be able to do anything, i think it's maybe too much of a commitment (for both time & money).

I am alarmed at the lack of any electrical classes but given that Matt & Moolydog seem to have done the very course and speaks so highly of it and, of course, as some have said given the fact that it might give me more confidence i think i'll give it a go. I'll let you know how helpful it is....
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Old 6 Feb 2009
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Do it

Hey guys,

I'm doing the Merton College course at the moment - its very good, very hands on and stuff that you could do with knowing, and Greg and Ern are two top blokes. They know their stuff, but also know the shortcuts, tips and handy little tricks that will keep you going. It's not cheap - but it is well worth it. Do it - you won't regret it.


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Old 8 Feb 2009
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Hopefully I'll see you there then Belle!
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Old 9 Feb 2009
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I did the introduction course that you mentioned (back in 2006) at merton college . And then the Advanced course, the following year. It covered a bit electrics but not much.

Both were very good. Shame Howard is gone he was great.

I certainly recommend it.

Electrics can be tricky as I found out during my year in south America. Most of the problems related to my bike were electrics. Learning a bit there could be useful.
Learn what the Voltage regulator does. It is easy to replace. Learn how to do it.
About Batteries, how to replace it, test is, how to jump start from another vehicule.
Pack a voltmeter. Even better, fit a voltmeter so that you can monitor if your battery is charging (and hence if your VR is working).

Just these few bits could save you a lot of trouble on the road...
If you ride an F650 make sure you fit a SEALED battery. The idiotic position of the oil tank next to the battery will cause the battery to dry and in turn can cause many problems...

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Old 10 Feb 2009
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I've got to ask, how mechanically competent are you? If you're reasonably OK with the spanners and capable of a basic service on a car, changing its brakes and suspension components then you'll learn more from buying a knackered old bike and stripping/rebuilding it with the help of a Haynes manual.

Many faults on modern bikes are electrical so this course not covering it is a mistake. Definitely buy a multimeter, learn how to use it properly and don't even think about making do with a test lamp as they can wreck havoc with electronics, particularly fuel injection circuits.
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Old 11 Feb 2009
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Hi Craig,

I can only do the VERY basics. I could change brake pads etc but not much more. Part of the reason for wanting to do this course is learn the shortcuts, tricks and to understand what faults cause what problems etc.

Being able to change,fix or service those parts that tend to wear/fail will just give me an awful lot of confidence, and if nothing else will mean i'm more likely to try and save cash and carry out some servicing myself.

Living in London, the required space for a spare bike to practice on just isn't feasible and i can say with a degree of certainty that my better half would be less than impressed if bits of bike started appearing around the house!....
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Old 13 Feb 2009
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In that case, the course could be just right for you. Bear in mind that there's a huge difference in courses like this aimed at DIY owner/riders/drivers compared to the course your mate is doing which is aimed at the motor trade, even at fast-fit and NVQ entry level. However, being an informed participant in the discussion when you book your bike in at the dealer may ensure that the work you pay for, actually gets done!

I would ask about bringing your own bike into the workshop so you can learn about problems specific to your bike, but don't be surprised if they say no due to H&S and litigation reasons.

Get a copy of your bike's workshop manual and also copy of the Haynes Motorcycle Basics Techbook. Reading the relevant section of the Techbook after each workshop session will help you understand the task which may help with diagnosing problems, even if you then resort to a dealer to fix them.

Good Luck!

Motorcycle Basics Techbook (Haynes Techbooks): Amazon.co.uk: Matthew Coombs, Pete Shoemark: Books

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Old 20 Apr 2009
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I've been looking for something like this as well, if anyone knows of somewhere in the Nottinghamshire area I'd appreciate it - so far I've come up with nothing.
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Old 20 Apr 2009
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"A little knowledge is dangerous"

I think you should do the course but understand the limitations. Don't think you will be able to start pulling your engine apart and rebuilding your calipers because you do a short course. And if you haven't been properly trained and examined to do a job, please get someone who is to check it over.

I trained as a moto mechanic going through all the levels and eventually getting all the way through my IMI registration. It took 4 years of hard work and practical examination.

When I completed my first year, I was full of confidence thought I could rebuild any type of bike with my eyes closed ... Well, surprise surprise.. I COULDN'T, and I made costly and maybe dangerous mistakes on the way to working that out.

Remember that what you learn in these classes will be in a workshop environment. You will have a box full of proper tools, manuals and power equipment. Changing a tyre with a hydraulic machine and an airline is WAY WAY different than fixing a puncture on the side of the road using hand tools..

DEFINITELY do the course & gain knowledge and confidence, but as I say ! Know the limitations for your own safety !

Peace & love !
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2001 NX650 Dominator.

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