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A New Outlook on Life: Harley Motorcycle Technician Blake Keeffe

"I was paying to go there out of my own pocket, so I tried to really take advantage."

 

Blake Keeffe sports an impressive beard and two full tattoo sleeves. You might keep your distance if you walked by him on the street, but he smiles like a kid when he talks about motorcycles. The intimidating exterior fades and he’s downright giddy once you get him going.

Just like the best roads for Harley riding, Blake’s life has been perilous and windy. He was 18, unhappy and working in an auto shop when he started riding motorcycles. That’s when he began dreaming of riding in the Himalayas. Then his life turned into a nightmare. “I was killed in a motorcycle wreck,” he says. Blake was in an accident, had to be resuscitated and spent a month in the traumatic brain injury unit. It was three months before he was strong enough to go home. 

The accident delayed everything, it put Blake’s life on hold. He was already 27 by the time he went to school. At this point though — after his accident — he had a little more perspective about his life, certainly more perspective than the pre-accident 18-year-old. He hated working on cars but was a good mechanic. He loved motorcycles. It just made sense to combine the two. 

On a whim, Blake called Motorcycle Mechanics Institute—just to ask questions and explore the options. Then he promptly sold all his stuff, moved and started classes three weeks later. 

He enrolled in the core program along with the Harley-specific program, and attended both while also working 40 to 50 hours a week. “I was paying to go there out of my own pocket,” he says, “so I tried to really take advantage. I went to class early. I stayed late. Every break I was bugging the instructors trying to get as much information as I could.” 

After two years of going to school while working full time, Blake felt a little disenchanted. It was emotionally and physically draining, he admits. William Conner, an MMI professor, was the one who reminded him why he was doing all this. “This is what you love to do,” he told Blake. Whenever he’d lose his way, other professors corrected Blake’s course. Remember your passion, they reminded him. Make the most of this experience, they encouraged. Blake graduated in 2012 from MMI’s Arizona campus and immediately landed a job in San Diego. Three years later they returned to Phoenix so his wife could go back to school. Since then, Blake has worked at a variety of shops—some good, others, not so much. The one he’s at now — Desert Wind Harley Davidson in Mesa, Arizona — is the best one yet. “They care about their people,” Blake says. 

Blake likes diagnostics and problems solving. He likes figuring out what’s wrong with a bike and addressing owners’ concerns. To stay efficient, he sticks around his bay and deals with a dispatcher who brings him bikes and parts. “This one has a runnability concern,” he points to a bike, then to another one. “That one is damaged. That guy wrecked his bike.” 

In the next year or two, Blake will begin working toward becoming a master tech, but he has no intention of slowing down. Harley bikes change every year and he wants to keep current. And he still daydreams about his future ride through the Himalayas—the same one he’s daydreamed about for 15 years. The only thing that’s changed is the bike he sees himself riding: a 2018 Harley Road Glide. Even when things are going well, you have to remember why you’re doing it.

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