Mechanical Culture Shock


I have Culture Shock over a motorcycle shock.

Mechanical failure number two. The oil seal on my motorcycles front shock went last week, so I took it to my mechanic. You may have read that story here.  Within fifteen minutes they had the front wheel off and a new oil seal put in place.  The bad news is the repair only lasted about the same length of time.

My very first village trip after the repair did not even see me arrive at my village before the shock was spitting out oil again. Dang!

When i got back into Sikasso, I swung by Abou’s, and he was surprised to see the oil dripping down the front fork. They stripped the front end of the bike down once again, put in yet another new oil seal and rather than using oil, they filled the fork pipe, where the spring is, with grease, but added no oil at all. It’s an “oil” dampened shock, people.

I questioned Abou on it, but he said grease will work fine. My friend E. Coulibaly was also there and he, too, assured me that this will work. How on earth will the seal stay oiled if there isn’t any oil in the OIL shock? The oil is what dampens the bounce as well. They said the grease will work its way down the spring and then up into the seal.

Honestly, I tried so hard not to sink into deep doubt about the future of the entire Malian nation, but here I was with these two people who were both in agreement in stupidity.

With a smile no less, Abou actually told me, ” No more oil will come out now.”

To which I replied, “Why of course, there is no oil in the shock, so how could any oil possibly come out?”

Abou and my friend just both smiled as if to say “What do you know?”

Obviously we had a cultural clash, a total cultural disagreement on the understanding of the meaning of,  “Done Correctly”. There was also a clear disagreement about the meaning of “Problem”.

By correct, I mean it is to be repaired so that the shock operates in the same way it is designed to work.  Abou’s version of correct means, it does the job for now.

Obviously the problem for Abou is not the second leaking oil seal. The problem is that Andy is seeing oil leaking  out of the shock. So the solution is not to get an oil seal in there that actually retains the oil, the solution really is to modify the oil shock with grease, in such a manner that oil no longer is seen by Andy, because that squirting oil obviously bothers him. Wait a minute, isn’t this kind of similar to that  “Out of sight out of mind” reality that disappears from babies after about 10 months of age?

Anyway, I paid Abou his $4 but I was not very happy.

I can understand thickening oil by adding grease. Thickening oil in the shocks is a long time motorcycle enthusiasts’ trick to provide a greater dampening affect. But no oil at all… No.

I do not want to be broken down in the bush somewhere. The more they tamper with my Motorcycle the less secure I feel about the work they do sometimes. I am going for quality of work, not cheap fixes. I think they forget that our cultural approach to mechanics is radically different.

Anyway, I have every intention of verifying what he did. A friend is coming over to take me to his Mechanic, because when he heard about the grease repair, he said,”You have to have oil in an oil shock.”

No kidding! Really? Would never have imagined that!

Even after my twenty years in and around Africa, I think I have Culture Shock over a Motorcycle Shock today.

Update: I went down to start the Bike and in the two weeks I have been here it never once started. I have to use the kick. The New battery I put in will not start the bike. They said I need to do a long drive to charge it. I drove two hours into the bush Saturday. Today the starter is clicking, the battery is still almost dead, and the Horn is not working.  I think the button is broken or clogged up with dust and dirt.  Now what.

Update #2 Sitting at a new a mechanic… hoping he figures the charging problem…. I’m nervous as i watch him strip my bike down. He is redoing my front shock. Should be 1/4 litre of oil in it he said.

Update #3 The regulator that charges the battery was the problem. A new one is on, but the plug end is different so they just cut the wires and taped them back together with the end that works. I hate it when they do that. But the battery is charging up now, and it starts the bike for the first time in two weeks. Third new seal in the front shock and the grease was removed and oil put back in. Hopefully this will last longer.

One Comment Add yours

  1. crystal says:

    Sure hope you get “our” motorcycle fixed.


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