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Harley Davidson university - Rookie road
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Harley Davidson university - Rookie road

Over the course of a day, we get our hands dirty and learn to service a Harley-Davidson Street Rod, all by ourselves

Manaal Mahatme

Harley Davidson university - Rookie road

I have always been a motorcycle nerd, but oddly enough, have never spent time working on a motorcycle. So, when Harley-Davidson offered me the opportunity to do just that, I just couldn’t say no. Soon enough, me and the other students landed in Delhi and were on our way to learn how to service a Harley. The day started off with Pankaj Paul and Vijay Thomas (bonafide experts at what they do) giving us a brief introduction on how Harley-Davidson trains its technicians. There are over 50 online courses available on their portal, which the technicians are required to complete. But with just one day in hand, we were not going to go through all of them. Instead, we were going to go through the rather interesting ones. We’d be servicing the popular X Revolution V-Twin powered bikes – the Street 750 and the Street Rod 750.

We were split into teams of four and now the plan for the day unfolded. After going through the 30-minute course, a quick quiz would follow. And then we were to get to the first “practical session” of the day at the HD university, unboxing a motorcycle and doing the PDI to get it ready for the customer. The grand finale involved servicing an X Revolution powered motorcycle. And to make things interesting, our ‘professor’ would be rating the teams based on the quiz, PDI and servicing.

The course began and within the next 30 minutes we were theoretical experts in servicing the Harleys, knowing which screw could unmount what. From obvious tasks like changing oil and cleaning/switching the air filter, to complicated tasks like adjusting the valve lashes, we learned everything. Throughout the course, Pankaj Paul cleared our doubts.

With the course done, the test of our memory and wit was about to begin. The negative marking and the “fastest finger first” format ensured the ‘students’ were careful and quick to respond. The four teams gave their best and soon the quiz concluded with a team (not mine) winning. Now it was time to refuel ourselves before the practical session.

After a quick breakfast, we headed to the workshop, our arena for the day. The workshop had four motorcycles – three Street 750s and one Street Rod 750 on the service bays and two boxes. In the first practical session, our task was to unbox the bike, do the pre-delivery inspection and prep it for delivery. For these tasks, two teams were clubbed.

With eight people working on the bike, hilarity ensured. The task started off with unboxing the bikes and in a ceremonial way, each one of the team members fashionably pulled out one screw at a time. With the box off the bike, we unstrapped the bikes and now began the real task. All eight students flocked to the bike to look for damage. With a long checklist to tick off, the 45-minute task had us plug the battery and fuse after looking for damages and finally prep the bike for the customer.

Prepping the bike for the customer included adjusting the suspension, handlebars and mirrors as per the customers’ requirement. The final task was adjusting the headlamp as per the new setup before cleaning up the bike and handing it over to the customer.

After the PDI, we were back at the workshop for the grand finale – the servicing. My team got the Street Rod 750, the only one in the lot. These bikes had over 24,000km on the Odo. The 24,000km service had more than 25 checks for us to perform. Our team of four noobs then set out to service the bike within 90 minutes. We split the jobs amongst us. While two worked on the engine, other two took care of the brakes and tyres, and checking the fuses and battery voltage.

Within the next 15 minutes, the oil was drained and the air filter was off the bike. The callipers by then were being inspected for wear. While the Street 750s had a single disc, our Street Rod had dual discs. So after a quick checkup of the pads on both the discs, we plonked the calipers back on.

With the new engine oil and the radiator shroud back on, the bike was lowered so we could work on other things. With a tool that monitored moisture content, we checked whether the brake fluid needed replacement. Ours did, so we began bleeding the brake line and replacing it with new DOT4 brake fluid. While the brake line was bled, we lubed and tightened the clutch cable. Simultaneously, the tyre wear, tyre pressure, lubing up of the pegs and levers along with other minor checkups were done.

We were almost through the service. The only bit remaining was adjusting the belt slack, which most of us had never done. Pankaj told us how to go about it, and a few tries later, we successfully completed servicing a Harley-Davidson Street Rod.

Though it was a day event, the folks at Harley-Davidson utilised it in the best way possible. With hands-on experience and a certificate to boot, I learnt how servicing is more than a mere oil change.