Learning to Listen…

My Harley  Davidson (2000 FLHRC) came with an electronic fuel injection system, that has always caused me problems.  At least annually, the fuel injectors have gotten out-a-whack (that’s a technical term), requiring weeks in the repair shop.  Every time, the mechanics have explained that there were problems with the EFI used on the 2000 FLHRCs, and that the best they could do was tweak (another technical term) the fuel injectors, until they got back out-a-whack again the following year.

Well, that has been a constant source of frustration and irritation, and loss of motorcycling enjoyment.  Finally, after a frustrating few months of not riding, I found a local mechanic who told me that the problem wasn’t fixable.  Instead, I would need to have the electronic fuel injection system removed, and replaced with a traditional, old-fashioned, carburetor and air filter (I got the big sweet-looking Stage 2 Arlen Ness “Big Sucker” air filter!).  That sounds simple enough, right?  Wrong.  It only required a dozen or more new parts, trashing a pile of old ones, and an expert mechanic who knew what he was doing.

I have to admit, the bike runs great now.

So, if you aren’t mechanical, or a bike rider, and I haven’t lost you yet, the nice thing about electronic fuel injectors is that the bike starts right up when it’s cold and as the bike warms up the fuel injectors automatically reduce your idle speed (the number of rotations your motor makes per minute) to just high enough so that your bike doesn’t stall/quit while it idles at a traffic light (like a car).  But, with a traditional carburetor, you control the amount of gas needed to start the engine and keep it going.  There’s a risk of giving the bike too much gas, and flooding the engine (I did this about a million times when I was first learning to ride a motorcycle).  And, as the bike warms up, you have to know how to reduce your idle speed, using a twisty-doohickey (yes, another technical term) on the right side of the motor.  Once the bike is hot, the idle speed should be around 1000 rpms (revolutions per minute).

Have I lost you yet?  There really is a point to this…

The only way you can know that your bike is idling at 1000 rpms is if you have a tachometer, which my bike does not have.  You typically don’t need one.  So, the only way to adjust your idle speed, without a tachometer, is to listen.  Yes, listen.  You have to know your bike well enough to be able to hear what speed sounds right for your bike.  For a Harley, it should sound like someone  is slowly saying potatoe-potatoe-potatoe-potatoe-potatoe. You’ll hear it the next time you are idling next to a Harley in traffic.

The point – if I haven’t lost you – is listening.  You have to pay attention.  You have to be sensitive to the nuances.  You have to know what you are listening for.

With my old electronic fuel injectors, when they functioned, I could just start the bike and go.  Now, riding requires something more from me.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

I think life is like that.  It’s easy to coast through life on auto-pilot, only half-paying attention, mostly oblivious to what’s really going on.  But, maybe that makes us lazy.  Maybe it is good to have to pay attention to the details.  Maybe it is good to be more tuned it.  Maybe it is good to be more engaged.

I wonder how often we do that with relationship and conversations.  I wonder.

So, bye-bye electronic fuel injectors; hello to more engaged riding and listening.

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