>The weather had gotten toasty. Rivers of salt water flowed down etched crevasses in my face and carried the burning liquid straight into my eyes. I
wasn’t at the gym, nor in the hills riding, nor doing anything
remotely fun. My hands were riddled with tiny cuts. I was
suffering from skin splits on my fingertips, no doubt caused
by chemicals and twisting small parts. My laugh meter
was pointing at North Korea. With my little JBL speaker
Bluetoothed to my phone and Pandora spewing out songs
from my Eagles station, I started reflecting on my day.
I had three dirt bikes that needed attention: two of them
targeted for stories in this very issue. Via a group e-mail,
I enlisted the help of Bum, Mental and Johnny L—all of
them longtime Conga Line members and friends whom I
have spent nearly 30 years riding with. I’d get Bum to work
on the YZ250X, Mental to help me with my 500EXC mods
and hopefully Johnny L to come off the bench and make
sure that everything was snugged just right, since he is a
mechanic in real life.
Mental burned the first check, showing up early at my
house. Thankfully, I’d gotten up early and headed to the
garage to get it organized for the massive disturbance it
was about to endure. He started barking orders immediately and went to work on the YZ250X. I informed him that
I needed his help with the EXC, as we had a new fuel rail
to install on the throttle body.
“Too late, partner. I’m on this scoot. I’m moving it
outside; you have less light in your garage than at the
Carlsbad Caverns. I’m taking that gnarly lift stand too;
I refuse to bend while I’m working. I’m using your tool
cart. Where’s the impact gun? Where are your T-handles?
Nine minutes later…
“Done! I swapped the pipe and put on those MSR foot-
pegs. When’s lunch?”
“Uh, Mental, you see that large desk-sized box that’s sit-
ting right next to the X? It’s full of parts that have to go on
The dialogue went dramatically downhill, because nestled
inside were a new chain, sprockets, chainguides and chain
slappers, air filters, bars, grips, handguards, new levers, disc
guards, radiator guards and tires.
Just as Mental was flipping packaged goods like
Frisbees around my driveway, Bum sauntered in.
“I guess you have that rogue troll working on the
Yamaha?” he said pointing at Mental.
Mental was pulling parts out of shrink-wrapped plastic
cards and throwing the directions
straight at my dogs. Parts, nuts,
bolts, mounts and various brackets bounced off the driveway like
shells following a barrage from a
“Some folks have an alarm clock
and get where they’re supposed
to be on time. Now, hand me that
wrench; I have an agenda!”
Bum and I shrugged, went into the garage, and started
monkeying on my EXC. It was painful. The pain didn’t
come from working with Bum, nor from the tedious neces-
sity of staying focused as we bolted up the fuel rail after
nearly dismantling an entire machine that is encumbered
with a glug of wiring, nor from the gradual elevation of my
500EXC, thanks to wicked suspension from Kreft, new
power parts, and handling aides.
The pain was caused by the constant barking, complaining and cursing at all of the idiots on the planet who don’t
know how to make something properly so that it fits and
has some reason for being—other than to make my big
friend go ballistic.
I knew it was time…for lunch. I took the boys to get
Mexican food. Johnny L appeared, and we listened to
Mental gradually drop down the Richter scale as he consumed chips halved with big glasses of iced tea and tacos
that would eventually raise his blood pressure but effectively drop his blood sugar level.
Mental did finish his project…once Johnny L calmly
helped out. (Although, when Johnny mentioned that reading the instructions is usually a good place to start, Mental
nearly blew his spark plug right out of the head.)
After working on my EXC for two full days, I had fitted
on new suspension, a bib-moussed rear Golden Tyre, new
bars and a new quiet exhaust. I had installed the new fuel
rail into the injector system and fit on TM Designworks
guides, a chain and sprockets. Feeling it fire up with one
stab at the starter button, I had to go ride it the next day.
After five miles of brutally steep rock and eroded road, I
got to our staging area where the rides always start—the
cross. I love this spot. My
bike was a dream, and I
knew life was good.
Then the front tire went
flat. While it had taken me 13
minutes to get there, I didn’t
make it home for almost an
hour and 15 minutes, but
that’s a story within itself. ❏
By Tom Webb
With a little help from my friends
“Mental was pulling parts out of shrink-
wrapped plastic cards and
throwing the directions
straight at my dogs.”