Of all my (many) character flaws, the one I’m most proud of is a mild strain of MacGyverism. I like to fix stuff, and I like to do it in novel ways. Most of the time, this trait just bangs around inside my head, taking up space that could be better used to remember Haydn symphonies or some of my several hundred online passwords.
But every so often, my inner Angus does some good in the real world.
Recently, my wife and I were out riding and decided to stop in at a marvelous Italian coffee place called Vitaly, located in a group of stores called The Camp. As we rolled into the parking lot, Martha noticed a young lady on a new Honda CBR500R who seemed a bit perplexed. We found a parking spot not far from her, waving on our way in, but I was really surprised to see her push the CBR in our direction.
“Are you having problems?” Martha offered.
“Yes, I left my key on and now my battery’s dead,” said the woman, introducing herself as Ramona.
“No problem,” Martha boasted. “MacGyver’s right here.”
Uh-oh. No pressure.
It took only a couple of attempts bump-starting the CBR to realize that she had, in fact, run the battery so far down that the instruments wouldn’t light and, more critically, the fuel pump wouldn’t run. I was aboard my long-term Honda NC700X, and its “frunk” is usually full of tools. But I’d lent it out recently, so the hold had only my basic tool kit. (Still, far and away more comprehensive than what Honda gives you.) Normally, I carry a set of Yuasa jumper cables, but not this time.
I was thinking a moment or two about how to get juice from the NC’s good battery to the CBR’s dead battery when it occurred to me that I did have a small air pump already wired with an SAE connector on one end. And, thankfully, I had left the mating SAE plug in place on the NC even after stripping the heated-gear sockets off the bike at the start of summer. All my bikes—privately owned and “borrowed” long-termers—have these Battery Tender pigtails attached. Call me crazy. Or anal retentive. (I’ll answer to both.)
Back to Ramona’s problem. The wire on the pump was too small to effect a true jump start, and I was pretty sure the fuse on the NC’s side of the circuit would flinch as well. (Yes, I did have spare fuses, but a jump takes way more than 15 amps.) I figured that hooking the two batteries together would be the same as a trickle charge for the little CBR. The catch was to connect the two in such a way that I could easily disconnect from the CBR without undoing the battery terminals—and stalling the engine. A solution? Strip the connecting wire a bit long, screw it down tightly under the terminals, and then just yank the wire free after the bike started.
With patience, we might get enough juice in the small Honda’s battery to make a bump-start possible.
So, Martha chatted up Ramona, asked her how long she’d been riding, what got her started, what her favorite thing about riding was—all the usual chick-to-chick patter. (Sadly, nothing about shoes, though Martha did gently chide Ramona for her lack of protective clothing, even on such a hot day.) All the while I checked e-mail and waited for the CBR to suckle from the NC mothership.
Fifteen minutes later, the CBR showed weak signs of life, so I unhooked the wire at the SAE end and set off down the parking lot. No sense dismantling the whole rig until I knew we had success in hand.
On the second attempt, the CBR fired up.
Ramona looked hugely relieved.
I rode it back to her and said, “Don’t stall it.” She promised that she wouldn’t as I yanked the wires from the CBR’s battery and buttoned up the seats.
After we said our goodbyes, Martha turned to me and said, “I’ll buy the coffee, MacGyver.”
Postscript: After returning home, I realized I could do this better, and quickly fashioned a lightweight extension cord for my battery-charger pigtail with a set of miniature alligator clips on the other end. Next time, Ramona, I’ll really be ready.