Some mechanics have such an innate ability to work their way around an engine the answer to complex problems simply seems to come to them but most learned their craft and at some point in life were novice wrenches who fumbled and tumbled their way to success.
An oil change? Pretty easy. But if terms like top end, a slipping clutch and float height tend to intimidate you away from buying a dirt bike or to taking the easy but far more expensive way out by sending your ATV to a professional mechanic well join the club. It's a pretty big one yet raises the question of how others figured out the complex machine of the 2-stroke and 4-stroke engine. If you ever thumbed through the owner's manual of your ride you probably felt pretty beleaguered. Small, somewhat vague photos, partial explanations and what feels like countless missing steps towards the end goal.
Indeed the owner's manual tends to operate more as a simple guide or something that serves as a refresher course and favors the rider who already knows their mission. Therefore, you probably have that one friend who you call every weekend for direction or hands-on guidance through a complex maintenance project. Or maybe the first time you opened the crankcase you wondered "How the heck does anyone figure this out?"
Well people do and if you want to join the other elite club of riders/wrenchers then you have several options. No one ever learned how to rebuild an engine overnight. It takes time, patience, problem solving skills and probably a number of tools broken after a flight across the garage to learn the extensive amount of parts and how to fix or replace them. Learning to take care of the maintenance needs on your dirt bike or ATV saves a lot of money and time but for many, once done, proves a great accomplishment that resonates on the track or trails.
So how do you learn the ins and outs of an engine? The following represents how many of #TheGuysThatRide also became #TheGuysThatWrench.
Do It Yourself
The old fashioned way of doing anything for the first time usually comes by way of the old DIY. Troubleshooting and getting into trouble when losing or breaking a much-needed part gets your hands dirty and familiarizes you with components big and small. This often proves most maddening however especially when things don't work out or you just simply can't figure out what to do next. Most riders start small like oil changes, filter replacements and coolant flushing before tackling the bigger projects like upgrading the exhaust or installing a new clutch and when stuck resort to one of the following:
Phone a Friend
I need help! When stuck, people typically reach out to anyone and everyone. Offering a six-pack for a well-trained friend's help usually results in a quick lesson that you will never forget. Now you know how to perform a top-end. When it comes time for a bottom-end you probably will need to invest in another six-pack before calling your friend.
Who likely got you into riding probably helped school you around an engine. How many pro riders do you read about who mention their Dad operated as wrench during their amateur years? A lot. Eventually, Dad probably pulled you aside and started showing you how to get stuff done. If he hasn't yet and you want to learn then follow his lead during the next maintenance day.
You can pretty much find the solution for any problem on the internet. You can read about it or follow along with many videos that show hands-on, step-by-step visual instruction on accomplishing a specific job. Find a good write-up (cough-MotoSportblog-cough) or video for the maintenance service you need done and save it for next time. Eventually this at-home schooling will sink in and complex jobs turn into simple oil changes.
Actual School - MMI
If wrenching is in your blood then hone your craft at school. Yes, classrooms and instructors. MMI or the Motorcycle Mechanic Training Program offers one of the most robust and intensive schools available. It's where many of the pro wrenches studied and if you like grease, grime and fixing engines and other mechanical parts on a dirt bike, ATV or motorcycle than check out MMI or another type of mechanic's school in your area.