Going to school with Knoble Moto

When I was a college and graduate student, I prided myself on always making it to class on time. So it was a little odd for me when I showed up five minutes late for my first course with Knoble Moto – a Cleveland-based program founded by Steve Knoble that helps riders learn how to work on their motorcycles. 

I wasn’t sure how much I’d learn from the Sept. 22 class, as the evening’s course was titled, “Intro to Motorcycle Electricity,” and I’ve done my own electrical repairs and upgrades on my motorcycles for more than a decade. In the end, I found the class to be both fun and informative – and learned more than I thought I would.

I speed-walked from my car to the back door at Cleveland’s Skidmark Garage – which is home to Knoble Moto’s classroom space. Steve Knoble welcomed me as I quickly sat down at a wood-and-green-tile dining room table next to my two classmates for the evening – Jason from Cleveland Heights and Brandon from Cleveland. 

From the start, the course was very casual in nature. Though Knoble had prepared a binder of course materials, he refocused the discussion and instruction based on the students’ questions and comments. 

After I took my seat, Knoble continued a review of electricity basics – how electricity flows from the positive to the negative ends of a circuit; what resistance and wire gauge are; and troubleshooting basics.

The hands-on materials used for the Sept. 22 Knoble Moto “Intro to Motorcycle Electricity” course.

Next was some hands-on instruction on using a multimeter. I probably have a drawer half-full of them from when Harbor Freight Tools used to have freebie coupons for basic multimeters – but I’ve only used the 20V setting. Knoble showed us how you can use one of the other connections for a multimeter’s electrodes to send a current through a circuit to test a fuse. I’d been in the class for about 15 minutes and had already learned something new and valuable.

Jason had brought his own multimeter to the class to learn how to use it and seemed to find that part of the class enlightening.

“That’s why it hasn’t worked for me,” Jason said when Knoble went over where to plug in the multimeter’s electrodes. “I always used the wrong one!”

The next topic was a more detailed review of electrical troubleshooting methodology. Knoble demonstrated to the students how valuable having a wiring diagram for your motorcycle can be, but also stressed that all is not lost without out. If you don’t have an electrical roadmap for your bike, your next-best approach is simple deductive reasoning. Knoble also went over a few electrical differences between Harley-Davidsons and most other brands.

“I have a Harley, but I like to make fun of it,” Knoble joked during the discussion.

The next topic was the different types and qualities of wire-cutting tools, including a couple I was not familiar with. The middle-tier model he demonstrated looked much simpler to use than what I’d been using in my home garage for years – so much so that I bought a pair a few days later.

After going over how turn signal relays work on many vintage motorcycles, the discussion turned to applying what Knoble had gone over to students’ own motorcycles and experiences – including Jason bringing in an ignition switch that’d been malfunctioning on his vintage Suzuki. 

I also learned how valuable wire nuts can be when chasing electrical gremlins. Most everyone has seen the usually orange wire nuts that get used in home writing. As Knoble correctly points out, wire nuts aren’t a permanent fix for a motorcycle electrical problem – as they offer no protection from the elements. But, they are great for diagnostic purposes in a garage setting. There’s no need to twist or solder wires together when just testing a circuit when you can quickly connect and disconnect them with wire nuts.

I also learned that sandpaper is an ideal material for removing old solder or other dirt and debris from soldering iron tips and that you can solder wires together by holding them side-by-side without twisting them together before soldering. 

Course instructor Steve Knoble (right) and student Brandon work together on a soldering exercise.

The latter part of the class featured soldering practice, a more in-depth discussion on relays and a hands-on exercise where students built a circuit using spare wire and parts on the table. The class wrapped up with students asking their last round of questions about the course’s materials – as well as more discussion and stories about our experiences with motorcycles and electricity. 

There’s more I could expound upon from the class, but I don’t want to take away too much from future students’ experience taking the class.

Though I was attending the class for journalism purposes, I was happy to walk away having learned a few things that I can apply while working on my bikes this winter. For those who don’t have years of experience with motorcycle electrical systems, the class would be an even greater value. I appreciated how simple yet applicable Knoble kept the discussion on a relatively complex topic.

If the Knoble Moto’s Intro to Motorcycle Electricity class sounds like something you’d like to take, Knoble has another one scheduled for Dec. 5.

For more information about Knoble Moto – including a full list of its upcoming courses – visit http://knoblemoto.com.

Header photo caption: Knoble Moto instructor Steve Knoble (right) leads a hands-on circuit-building exercise with students Jason (left) and Brandon.


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