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#281Meet George Jetson

Amazing times call for extraordinary people. That would be you. Technology makes us all better, and opens door we never even knew existed.

New technologies have affected many of us—especially those who ride modern motorcycles. Chances are your bike is controlled by a computer. You may follow directions given by a GPS. You call on your cell phone to let a loved one know you’re on your way. You plan to watch something digitally remastered on H-D TV that comes via satellite or cable when you get there. Meet George Jetson. That’s the person staring back at you in the mirror.
You’re riding solo, enjoying that blissful feeling of flying that we all know. And then suddenly, your bike isn’t acting like it should. Pick from a list of scenarios. The engine stops running, or there’s a funny noise that you’ve never heard before. Or perhaps the bike feels a little wobbly. There are so many things that can go wrong with a complex machine. Very likely, you take your bike to a mechanic for regular service, because in today’s specialized society you can’t be a doctor, an arborist and a bike mechanic, can you? You pull over and take a look. You might see something really obvious like a nail stuck in a tire. Though the inconvenience will make you groan, you’re still glad it’s just a slow leak and that you stopped when you first noticed you had a problem, not when the nail made the decision for you. Wobble solved.
And for that, you may be happy you have pliers, plugs and a canister of air to refill your tire. Or maybe you’re like me, and it means pulling the wheel, humping on the tire to break the bead, muscling tire irons that come from the tool kit, removing, then patching the tube—after pulling the nail, of course. And then there’s the hand pump … Or you might use your handy little computer, hunt for a local shop on line, then call them from the road side and have them pick you up. Ta-dah! Once again, hello George J.
Maybe you’re riding with a group of friends who are now gathered around your motorcycle, and everyone’s a backyard mechanic. Okay, so that was 20 years ago—or more. Let’s say three of you still wrench. (Wrench is a verb among mechanics.) You begin to troubleshoot. Too bad you didn’t bring the manual, but no worries. You just whip out your personal computer, iPhone or iPad, and go online.
In the old days, shop manuals would have been printed on paper and covered in greasy paw prints.
That’s no longer the case. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. Today, Clymer manuals are available online—you can access them anywhere there’s WiFi. If you need to, you can order from Clymer on the spot, and then have instant access anywhere in the world.
When I first heard all this, I didn’t believe it. Who would buy an online version of the same manual they have at home? Then I realized, I would. People with iPhones carry them at all times, so they always have their Clymer with them. For someone who can make use of a manual and a handful of tools, that’s a real bonus.
George Jetson, you are indeed one lucky person to be living in these amazing times of evolving hi-tech.
I carried my shop manual around with me for years—it’s seen a few continents. Now I have the updated BMW extravaganza that includes the oh-so-spectacular colour-coded electric wiring diagrams. Only those of us old enough to have struggled to read black and white wiring diagrams with designations like ‘b/y’ or ’br/w’ in tiny print that might or might not appear at the beginning of a wire run can know the magic of a colour wiring diagram. Though the manual for my older BMW is not yet available digitally, I fully expect it will be soon.
James Grooms, editorial director of Clymer Publications, told me Clymer expects to have all its manuals digitally available in the near future—about 100 of Clymer’s 400 motorcycle, ATV and marine manuals are now online.
I still consult my Clymer manual on routine maintenance tasks that are scheduled infrequently enough for me to forget exactly how to do them. (This year, there will be a 25th anniversary party for my 1980s BMW enduro, the bike I call Casper.)
The trouble-shooting section of the book sure comes in handy when the problem isn’t obvious. I read through the list of possible causes and rule most of them out. And when I’m lucky, I see it standing out from the page, er, ah, on the computer screen. (I actually tried an iPhone, and it’s amazing how well it works with the zoom feature.) Knowing what’s wrong is the first step toward repairing the problem.
Once I figure that out, I flip to the appropriate chapter, be it electrical, engines, fuel system, transmission, suspension or brakes. It’s all there. And I’ll let you in on a secret. In the old days, friends showed friends. Clymer is going to show you how, with a series of YouTube tutorials, brought to you by George Jetson.
One of my friends bought a $300 GS-911 diagnostic tool and code reader for fuel-injected BMWs. Now he can reset his bike’s computer after changing the oil, for example. This solves a huge problem for the modern home mechanic, who can do all the work but could not reset the computer. He can now diagnose while in the woods.
I don’t know what the world is coming to. None of us do—except for George Jetson perhaps. New bikes don’t break like the old ones did. Gone are the days when we adjusted valves every thousand miles. Can you imagine? We used to socialize at the side of the road, because bikes broke down that often. Now we gather on Thursday nights at Lakeshore and Leslie, in the Tim Horton’s parking lot. We wander around looking at each other’s bikes and telling tales. Then the phone rings, right there in the middle of the parking lot. Someone answers it. It might even be a friend 20 bikes away saying, come over and see who I found. Meet George Jetson.


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