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20 Weeks In: What We've Learned So Far

Today marks our 20th straight week with riding together as one of our top priorities. It's been no easy task but we're proud to say that we've stuck with it. So far the payoff has been tremendous and reaching this tiny milestone has given us more motivation than ever to keep pushing forward. Even with our blog in it's infancy (although I guess technically we're only halfway through the second trimester), we've already learned a ton. In celebration of this self-proclaimed milestone, we wanted to share some of what we've learned so far. Not only have these few simple ideas made finding time to ride together easier, but they've made blogging about it easier too. So without further ado, here are the top five things that make life in the Swords house a little easier...  

5. Keep the Camera Charged. Always.

This first tip is a little more related to blogging but we've said since day one that our blog is a tool to get us to ride more. And so far, that's working. How We Ride More I know of lots of blogs that don't include photos, but that's just not our style. We feel like the photos help to convey our meaning and keep us from reading like a technical manual. Not to mention, since Scott and I share the responsibility of writing for our blog, the photos allow us to go back and see what we actually did and in what order. Otherwise every post I wrote would inevitably have at least one mention of "the little round thingy" or "that tool with the threads at the end."  So for us, keeping our camera charged helps us to get more work done, which equates to more ride time.  

4.  Think Outside of the Box (or Garage)

The most awesome purchase we've made this summer wasn't for riding or for our blog. It was a canopy that we purchased for an upcoming camping trip. In the middle of August, when our garage was an oven and working outside felt even hotter, our canopy was a lifesaver. When we replaced the timing chain in our Grizzly, we set the canopy up in our driveway so we could work in the shade but still feel the breeze. You can read more about that here. If you're a suburban mechanic like us, we HIGHLY recommend you pick on of these guys up. Made in the Shade  

3. Don't Be Afraid of a Little DIY

This is definitely a motto I think should apply to all ATV enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong, we are all about doing things safely and doing them correctly the first time. But when it comes to maintenance and repairs there are a lot of people out there who assume that everything needs to go to a dealership or that there is only one way of doing something. While we're not above admitting when something is over our head, if we went to a dealership for all of our repairs, we probably wouldn't be able to afford to ride. We try to do as much maintenance as we can on our own. What's that? You want to know our proudest DIY moments? Well that's a toss up. While working on an ATV for a friend, we had to order a custom thread repair kit. When it came in wrong and we didn't have time to order a new kit, we were forced to improvise. (Read more about that here.) After that first experience welding aluminum, we were anxious to try it again. It wasn't long before Scott had a project for us -- he ripped off my worn out skid plate and whipped me up another. Though we had some trouble working with the aluminum the second time, we're still just as excited about all the other possibilities this new skill gives us. You can read more about my new skid plate here. Skid Plate Before and After  

2. Keep a Clean Work Area (and House!)

It feels weird saying this (maybe because we're in our late twenties and just seemed to have figured it out) but keeping a clean house and clean work area make a huge difference when it comes to both working and playing. For one, being vigilant about cleaning up after each project makes it easier for us to find the tools we need and allows us to set up for the next project more quickly. In addition, keeping up with household chores makes us feel like we have more free time to work on maintaining our toys. And anyways, after a long muddy day, who really wants to come home to laundry on the floor and a sink full of dishes? Not us. And because I know at least one guy out there is gonna go all, "Why would I WANT to do dishes" on me.... Clean Up!

(Confused by the reference above? Clear things up here.)

  And the number one thing we've learned so far...

1. Don't Start Working at 5 and Expect the Sun to Stay up for You

I have so many examples for this one, I don't know where to start. In fact, I think 80% of our projects get started later than we want and a good 95% take more work than we expect. But I feel it wouldn't be right if I didn't provide you with some specific examples. For the sake of word count, I'll limit it to three:
  • That time we thought we needed to adjust the valves in the Grizzly but really needed a new timing chain
  • Speaking of the Grizzly, pulling the valve cover off took so long, that we ended up writing a whole post about stuck bolts
  • And we always think we can do an oil change after work but almost always end up finishing in the dark
The moral of this story is that most of the time, our projects take about twice the amount of the time we think that they should. To help us keep our projects confined to a more realistic timeline in the future, we sat down and came up with pie chart to see where all of our time was going. But it's August and no one wants pie so we changed it to a donut chart. Time SuckI always tend to blame the little things when it's hot outside ("If I wasn't taking photos this would go faster"), but the most of the time it's that we ran into something we weren't expecting. We rounded off a bolt or the tool we have is the wrong size. That kind of thing usually leads into needing to run to the parts store. Since we're out of the city limits, the trip alone is a good 20 minutes. Inevitably, one of us (ok, this is always me) gets distracted and shopping takes longer than it should. Usually since we're out already, we'll stop for lunch. It's easy to see how the day gets away from us but the important thing is that we are aware of how it happens. This is something we're still struggling with, but we do try to come up with ways to get these kind of time sucks under control. For instance, we kind of live by the idea that if we haven't gotten anything done by two o'clock (bear in mind, we do most of our work on the weekends), we probably aren't going to get anything done that day. So when two o'clock rolls around and all we've done is go to brunch, we usually just call it a day. If we're really ambitious, we may plan to go to dinner with the family that night. It sounds counterproductive, but taking these days off goes along way toward refreshing ourselves. We also find that if we allow ourself to have one day to do nothing, we're more likely to get up the next day and hit the ground running. Avoiding down time with an ATV is a challenge. Have you found any way around it? When you're doing a repair, what do you think is your biggest time suck? Anyone ever knock the recycling when you're trying to work in a cramped garage? We'd love to hear some of your stories and any tips. Let us know in the comments below or email us here.
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