The old Bultaco trials bike will not run, purpose built elegant machine so beautiful in its spare form, capable of magic in others hands and sometimes amusement in my own, so efficient in action, now a silent lump as useless as a styrofoam sledgehammer. I follow the well remembered motions to remove the Amal from its perch, marveling again at the difficulty an engineer has left for me in a task so frequently required. Soon in my hand, like so many times before, and the bits are quickly dissected, lying on the blue paper towel spread out before the supervising cat on the cluttered workbench.
Small pieces, brass and gray metal, each the product of an engineer’s skill evolved with long trial and error, following basic principles of physics, turned to the task of locomotion.
How many times I’ve done this, handling these tiny offspring of the marriage of draftsman’s lines and machinist’s skill, cleaning, polishing that which will not be seen again except by me, trying to spot anything that explains the silence. Almost always, the result is the same : the minuscule idle jet, with its barely there orifice, is entirely occluded by congealed residue of what these days passes for gasoline. It takes only a short time of inactivity for this energetic liquid to morph into solid in this tiny window refusing to allow the flow, the whisper of fuel mist that is important all out of proportion to its size in the choreography of fuel/air/spark that makes this metal sculpture mobile.
The remedy is simple mindless labor, spinning a thin stiff wire until finally it emerges triumphantly on the other side, then back and forth to clear the Lilliputian tunnel of its plaque without making appreciably larger its bore.
Without really thinking, no more than one analyzes the process of tying shoes or brushing teeth, the Amal is reconstituted and again assumes its place in the frame, completing the artwork that Sr. Bulto perfected nearly four decades before. Forefinger presses the flared metal button until liquid squirts from the side, telling the finger’s owner that the requisite flooding of the jets has been accomplished and the left-sided kickstart can be plunged confidently down through its stroke, the drill sergeant that forces the reluctant members of its team into coordinated action, rousing them from indolence to work. It starts.