Becoming a Motorcycle Repair Technician
Motorcycles have long been an iconic symbol of the American road. In addition, the growing congestion on America’s freeways and the need for ever more fuel-efficient vehicles has resulted in a rising demand for various types of motorcycles. In turn, that has resulted in a growing need for qualified motorcycle mechanics.
Motorcycles in America
The motorcycle was invented in 1867, although it had to wait until the development of the internal combustion engine to become truly practical. In America, it was not until 1898 that the first production motorcycle was available for sale.
However, the true motorcycle boom in America came after the Second World War.
The returning veterans found motorcycles both practical and personally attractive. The rise of motorcycle clubs and their popularizing by a variety of movies and novels helped establish the motorcycle as a central part of the postwar American identity.
Entering the 1960s, traditional American and European motorcycle manufacturers found their dominance challenged by Japanese companies. These companies pioneered entirely different motorcycle styles, including the now common forward leaning seat design that improved the vehicles aerodynamic configuration while also making it easier to control at high speeds. However, traditional motorcycle designs remain popular among many Americans.
Finally, the rising cost of gasoline and congested freeways made motorcycles both convenient and inexpensive to use. This helped continue to drive their popularity and the resultant need for motorcycle mechanics.
With the continuing rise in the use of motorcycles, reverse tricycles and all terrain vehicles (ATVs), the need for qualified motorcycle mechanics is certain to continue to rise.
The Advantages of Motorcycles
Motorcycles have a number of advantages when compared to other vehicles. The most commonly cited advantages include the following:
- Fuel economy.
- Lifestyle benefits.
Motorcycles enjoy excellent mileage, with many models achieving over 70 miles per gallon (MPG). In addition, due to their maneuverability, motorcycles spend far less time in traffic, which further improves their fuel economy. This is especially important due to the continuing rise in gas prices that most parts of America have faced in recent years.
Motorcycles can easily maneuver through heavy traffic. This makes them an excellent choice for urban areas that are prone to traffic congestion. In addition, their small size makes them an excellent choice for regions that have narrow or congested roads. In fact, the growing use of small motorcycles in America is mirroring the long-time European practice of making extensive use of various commuter models.
Many motorcycle enthusiasts select their vehicle due to a desire to enjoy the American motorcycle lifestyle. The wide range of motorcycle types can allow an individual to pick the design that is most suited to his desires.
Many motorcycle owners choose traditional touring motorcycles that are suited to cross country trips. Other individuals prefer high-performance motorcycles that are most suited to urban roads and highways. Finally, off-road enthusiasts have a growing range of ATVs and other sports vehicles to choose from.
New Types of Vehicles for Motorcycle Mechanics
In addition to traditional motorcycle designs, a wide range of motorcycle-like vehicles have become popular in America. Although some of these vehicles have a unique appearance, their drive trains and engines are identical to traditional motorcycles. For this reason, motorcycle repairmen will find themselves working on an increasing number of these new designs in the near future.
Among the newer types of vehicles on the market are reverse trikes (tricycle) designs, where the two wheels are in the front with a single rear wheel driving the vehicle. These vehicles are becoming increasingly popular due to their maneuverability and ease of use. Ranging from small vehicles to nearly car-sized trike models reverse trikes present a growing source of employment for motorcycle technicians.
In addition, all terrain vehicles (ATVs), or quads are extremely popular among many sports enthusiasts. Although not all states allow these vehicles to be licensed for road use, their popularity has continued to grow over recent years.
Because these vehicles are frequently used on rough terrain, motorcycle repairmen must commonly assist with repairing the suspension and drive train. In those states that permit ATVs to be used on the street, motorcycle repairmen will assist the owners in ensuring that they have complied with all the relevant state requirements.
Finally, although the popular image of a modern American motorcycle is of a high-powered racing vehicle a growing number of individuals are using lower powered motorcycles and scooters as a practical vehicle for daily use. These vehicles are becoming especially popular in urban regions where their size and maneuverability are especially useful. In addition, these vehicles tend to be less expensive than most high-performance motorcycles.
Motorcycle Repair Technicians in America
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently estimates that there are over 15,000 motorcycle mechanics working in the United States.
However, this estimate may be low as many individuals with training in the repair and maintenance of small gasoline engines may also work on motorcycles, even if they are not officially listed as a mechanic.
The BLS estimates that there are over 68,000 small engine repair specialists currently employed in the United States.
Currently, the median annual salary for this field is about $35,000. However, there can be a wide variation in individual salary levels, depending on the nature of the individual’s position, his or her experience and the local economy.
In addition, motorcycle repair technicians enjoy salary levels that are competitive with other jobs that have similar training requirements.
Training to Become a Motorcycle Repairman
In most cases, motorcycle repairmen are trained on the job by their employer. However, a growing number of individuals are seeking to complete formal training programs at a community college or vocational school. This formal training is becoming increasingly important as motorcycle and small engine technology becomes more complex and diverse in nature.
Electronic Control Systems
A growing number of motorcycle designs incorporate electronic and computer controlled systems. Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) controllers are used to improve the motorcycle’s fuel economy and responsiveness when driving. Because these systems require an in depth understanding of the underlying electronic principles, many individuals seek out formal training programs in this area.
Preparing to Become a Motorcycle Repairman
Individuals intending to enter a motorcycle repair career should focus on those high school courses that will best assist them in their goal.
These courses usually include the following classes:
- Auto repair and modification classes (auto shop).
- Engine repair classes.
- Automotive technology courses.
Many schools have optional clubs that are focused on the automotive technology. Students who join these clubs may find themselves obtaining extra practical experience that can be useful when seeking a job.
In addition, students can benefit from taking math, science and English courses. These courses, while not directly related to motorcycle repair, can help the student effectively interact with his or her coworkers and the public.
Formal Education Programs
Formal training programs in motorcycle repair are currently offered by a wide variety of groups, including community colleges, vocational training centers and some adult education programs; however, these programs can vary widely.
Some programs are solely focused on motorcycle repair while other programs cover a wider range of repair techniques.
Motorcycle repair training programs can vary greatly in terms of their length. Some programs that are focused on a single subject may only last a few weeks.
On the other hand, programs offered by a community college may last a year or longer and confer and associate’s degree (A.A.) upon the successful graduate. In some cases, already employed motorcycle repair technicians may be sent to a program by their employer in order to further hone their skills.
Currently, many programs offer an online option for those individuals who wish to learn at their own pace. Online programs allow the student to attend classes via the Internet without being forced to physically attend classes.
This can be extremely beneficial for those individuals who are currently working or who have family obligations. In addition, online programs allow the individual to interact with his or her instructors via email, online chat and even observe the class sessions in real time. For this reason, online educational programs are increasingly seen as just as useful as physically attending the class sessions.
Certification as a motorcycle or small engine repair technician is currently available to those individuals who demonstrate a high level of skill in their field. The Equipment and Engine Training Council (EETC) currently offers a number of certification options for interested individuals.
This certification process involves taking and passing an EETC administered examination. Individuals seeking to maintain their EETC certification must retake the examination every three years or provide proof that they have completed a process of continuing education.
Finally, some manufacturers offer specialized certification in the maintenance and repair of equipment that they produce. This certification process varies according to the manufacturer in question. In many cases, employers who specialize in certain types of equipment will prefer to hire certified repair technicians in order to ensure that the customer receives effective assistance.
Ultimately, becoming a motorcycle repair technician can be an excellent choice for an individual who is interested in working with his or her hands. This field is certain to experience continued growth as the American people make use of an ever-growing number of motorcycles and related vehicles.
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