old motorbike repair man
motorbike repairs

The Motorcycle Whisperer

He picks up what looks to me a cylindrical piece of metal junk from the workbench, the strip lights on the ceiling catch the shiny metal surface with a glint of reflected light. I have no idea what the object is but, by the way he handles it with his work-worn hands, it is clear that he does.

Jefferson’s attention shifts and he strides over grease-smeared concrete floors, passing piles of scrap metal and old motorbike parts to his wall of tools. An old faded sign slung on the brick wall above reads ‘Jefferson Morgan Motorbike Repairs’. He selects a well-worn screwdriver with a bright red handle and pokes it around in the end of the cylinder, perhaps bending metal back into shape, perhaps clearing out dirt and grit. He pushes his wild mop of grey hair back from his eyes so he can keep focus. He is intent on his task

I look forward to Sundays. The mechanics shop is usually bustling with Jefferson’s staff and customers, but on Sundays there is silence, all but the distant buzzing of traffic and the bird song outside.  Jefferson too is a different man. His usual daily autopilot mode shifted into manual and he is alive and energised.

old motorbike repair man

The large wooden double-front doors are swung open today and sun is streaming in, illuminating corners and recesses of the workshop that are usually dark or lit only by fluorescent light. A warm breeze swirls through the warehouse catching a torn cardboard pack he eagerly ripped open earlier like a child at Christmas to reveal his latest purchase: the next piece in his motorbike reassembly puzzle.

His eyes shift to the motorbike frame propped up on its stand in the middle of the workshop. His latest project. The bike has been disassembled and the removed components lay around on the floor with pliers and screwdrivers and whatnot. ‘That’s the problem with this day and age. Everything is so disposable. How could someone send such a beauty like this to the trash-pile. It’s a collector’s item. Someone obviously found it in a shed and just cleared it out. No thought to pass it onto someone who may find its value. I rescued it from the tip. Needs a bit of a clean up but a little bit of elbow grease, some spare parts and some vision this little gem will be back on the road in no time.’

Some people paint, some people dance, some people write. But for Jefferson his creative craft is motorbike repairs. He had been tinkering since he was a young boy, helping his father repair farm equipment and beat up cars that his older brother, and eventually he, would paddock bash around the property. Now some fifty years on and he was still tinkering – and Sundays were always his. I loved watching him work but most of all I loved his stories – detailed, deep, thoughtful, considered, and at times trailing off as he loses himself into the task at hand, often, it seemed, for a moment completely forgetting I was there.

This time he trails off mid story while working the cylinder into place. His kind face changing through determination, frustration to finally pleased satisfaction. ‘Done’. It’s still a work in progress but he picks up a rag from the workshop floor and polishes the shine back into the bike’s onyx-black and chrome.

~ Elisa McTaggart