A Proper Bodger

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

-Red Green

There are a number of British English words which definitely need to become part of the American English lexicon. Foremost, for me at least, is the word “bodger.” I first heard this word while watching the TV show Junkyard Wars on TLC (they actually had some sciencey stuff back in the day). This was a British show, called Scrapheap Challenge across the pond.

Teams of 4 would get a challenge to build something ridiculous (like a hovercraft, trebuchet or steam powered car) merely from things found in a junkyard. The teams were eclectic mixes of engineers, welders and scavengers. It was always entertaining. One of the best compliments the announcers could give a competitor was to refer to them as “a proper bodger.”

The verb “bodge” originally referred to a woodworking skill. In modern, colloquial British English it generally means to fix something in a way that is not necessarily traditional or elegant, but is nevertheless effective and resourceful. My time in Vancover was full of bodging. Hopefully some of it was proper.

Some of my bodges are temporary fixes, just intended to last until a real replacement can be found. The handlebar mount for my action cam was one of the first things to fail on my trip. (during my snow flurry day) It was bodged with some baling wire, a stray bolt (I brought some random ones) and the pinky finger of a nitrile mechanic glove:

My phone mount fell victim to the bumpy ascent up to the Salmon Glacier. I also fixed it with some baling wire as well as some electrical tape.

My trunk sign wasn’t so much a bodge job as it was a re-engineering. I originally intended to get the paper laminated but that would have cost $12. I “laminated” it myself with some packing tape. Whereas the original design featured a single seal, this version has three separate seal points which should make it water proof-ish.

The biggest bodge of all was my wheel bearing project. As much as I loathe doing so, I was prepared to pay a professional to do the job. (This is kind of a big deal for me. In the last 10 years I can only think of 3 times I’ve enlisted a mechanic’s services for one of my motorcycles. For Annie, one tire change is the only instance I can think of.) After a few estimates in the $200 range, I decided that I would first try bodging.

Removal of the bearings is the toughest task. They must be pounded from the inside out and there is only a sliver of the inner ring of the bearing which is reachable. I watched some youtube videos, thought about it for a couple of days and then went and wondered the aisles of my favorite store, Canadian Tire. I came home with a long flathead screwdriver and a blow torch, about a $20 investment all told.

The plan was to heat the rim to cause a few microns of expansion, then flip the tire over and try to get the screwdriver in contact with the inner rim bearing. My hammer was the back side of my hatchet.

Some of the residents of my sister’s building acted like it was strange to see a guy with a headlamp, hatchet and blowtorch in their parking garage. Can’t imagine why.

I went really slow, always ensuring that I had firm contact before striking. Miraculously, it worked. Once one bearing is out, the removal of the other is a much simpler task.

A shop in town made it sound like they had the bearings in stock. When I got there they said I would need to come back the next day to get them. No biggie. They gave me a new clip for my master link which was really nice of them. I also got to see one of Annie’s sisters for the first time on the trip:

Don’t worry, I told Annie she was hideous.

I let the bearings hang out in the freezer for a few hours to hopefully make the process easier. Thankfully they did not end up in one of my sister’s creative smoothies.

I went really slowly, tapping around the outer ring in a star pattern to keep it straight.

It was slow going, but the bearing finally seated. I had done the hard one first, so just the other, shallower side remained. I still don’t know what happened, but I had a momentary slip with my screwdriver and dinged the plastic covering with the bearing. This renders it unusable.

The next day I located another bearing, this time at a NAPA shop. My mistake only cost me $27 CAD. I will surely have more costly flubs on the trip. The installation of this bearing went much smoother since I had an old bearing to hammer in the new one.

The page I used for the guide of the installation was written in French, so I translated it with Google. After installation, the guide instructed me to “fill his throat with fat.” Hopefully that means something like this.

Totaling everything up, this whole project cost me about $110 USD. It could have been a lot worse. I learned a number of lessons, which I guess has some value. I’ll be a lot more gentle with the tightening of my rear axle bolt henceforth.

These are surely not the last bodges of the trip. As much as I would love to have to mechanical issues, I know that they will happen. The silver lining is that it allows me to use this word “bodge” again and again. My hope is that you will start using it too.

Bodge on!


Author: BA


13 thoughts on “A Proper Bodger”

  1. You inspire me to “bodge” more my friend. As always your tenacity and drive to discover solutions on your own without help drives me to be more self dependent. Thanks for the inspiration bud.


    1. May I recommend picking up some baling wire at the hardware store? Duct tape gets all of the love, but real bodgers know what wire is capable of.


  2. Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati. Believe it or not I am an actual card carrying member of Possum Lodge.


    1. I am not even going to try to act surprised. 🙂 What an honor it is to have one of the best bodgers that I have ever met leave a comment on this post. You, my friend, are an inspiration!


  3. I couldn’t help but think about the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. After reading your blog, I think you have a good start on a sequal: “Jesus, Zebra Cakes, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”


    1. Ah, yes. He lures you in with motorcycles and before you know it you are in philosophy class. 🙂 I liked the book though.

      Good title. I better go reserve that URL now.


  4. Mom can nag you about taking good care of yourself and not eating so many Zebra Cakes. My nagging role is different. Keep checking that rear bearing. I hope it failed due to an overtightened axle nut, but I’m worried about the load on the rear axle. I don’t think Honda planned on that much rear luggage.

    You’ve got about 0.75 metric Goldwings on poor dear Annie. That is a completely real unit of measurement.


    1. Ha! Yeah that’s a good thought. I think in general bearings are designed to withstand tons of downward force. It is the sideways force that they are week to. I will keep checking it though.

      Though I do have a lot of weight, I would assume it is still below .75 metric girlfriends, which the frame should be designed to handle. 🙂


  5. English here. Bodge doesn’t exactly mean “to fix something in a way that is not necessarily traditional or elegant” It simply means you messed something up. The thing you messed up may be servicable, or may not. The term has a wide variety of uses also, for example missing a goal in football is an example of bodging it. You can generally bodge anything you are trying to do.


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