When I was little, my dad rode a 1970 Yamaha 250cc, until he wiped out pretty hard at a highway on-ramp while riding home from a bar.
The bike sat in our shed for years. Once in a while he’d trailer it out to my uncle’s “farm” (an old house on a big piece of land) and ride it around on the trails in the woods. My earliest memory of the bike was riding on the back when he dumped it in a big mud puddle - street tires aren’t best suited for off-roading.
When I was 15 or 16, the bike had been sitting for a couple years, so my brother Eric (then 14 or 15) decided to get it running. The battery was shot and mice had nested in it, chewing through some wires. Despite the kick start, it wouldn’t start without the battery, because the light needs to be on when you’re riding. Eric managed to fix it up enough, and my dad borrowed this remote car jumper thing from work to jump start it. Dad would hook it up, kick the bike over, and my brother and I would try to ride around the back yard. I stalled it a half dozen times until I learned to give it enough gas, and then I did a burnout and half a donut, ripping up 10 or 15 feet of grass in the process.
Eventually, Eric and I learned how to get it going, and Dad returned the jump pack. Every few days, we’d take the bike out and jump start it from the car, then ride up and down the street. At the time I thought it was great, because most kids don’t live on a dead-end street with forgiving, retired neighbors that didn’t mind if two kids tear around on a loud old bike a couple times a week. I didn’t realize the significance of it at the time, but learning to ride the bike helped a lot in future driving endeavors.
To begin with, only one of the two cylinders was firing for a long time. We didn’t realize this for a while, but once we did, it became a lot easier to start from a standstill. I had learned to work the clutch and gas in unison to make the thing go, and couldn’t believe how easy it was when half the engine wasn’t running the other half. The first time I drove stick, I just had to get the hang of shifting into the right place, and I had no problem starting or shifting gears.
Later on, Dad taught us how to bump-start it so we wouldn’t have to jump it from the car. We would run alongside the bike, then hop on and kick it into second long enough to roll the engine a couple times before pulling in the clutch and giving it time to warm up. On more than one occasion, I had to do a few laps up and down our street to get the cold engine running.
Tonight, I was in my car waiting for Fotios while Taber, Heewa, and BP hung around outside. Heewa asked if I could bump start, and offered to push me. BP didn’t believe I really did it, so I did it again and explained the process. They insisted on doing it again when I left to take Fotios home. I had never done it in a car, but knew exactly what to do and just kind of figured it was common knowledge.
Tooling up and down the street on that old bike, I never really thought the experience would come in handy. My brother and I both drive stick, and pretty well. We both still ride, and either of us can start his bike on the first try when his starter isn’t working and we need to bump it. I know I can get my car going if the battery goes dead. Until I realized that these weren’t things everyone could do, I never fully appreciated the fact that Dad trusted us enough to play around with that old bike.