Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Belly Care for Bikes and Riders Alike.

With free days and the open road beckoning us, we were finally able to get serious about preparing the bikes for South America. Only two minor issues… we needed to move out of our harvest rental mansion (silly owners, they wanted it back for the holidays!). And we had a few jobs on our list for the bikes that we had neither the tools nor 100% of the know-how to do.

One of our colleagues at Flowers was an avid motorcycle rider until a medical condition constricted her to traveling by car only. At heart, she is still a motorcyclist and a member of the motorcycling family. After hearing our list of motorcycle repairs and projects and estimating how long it would take to execute all of these tasks, she took action and swiftly became our Fairy Godmother:

Homemade popovers... nom nom nom!

She made up the guest bedroom in her home, asked us to be her guest for Thanksgiving, taught me several new recipes and baking trick, and she introduced us to friends of hers who happen to be quite the power couple: she is a brilliant chemist and he is a motorcycling mechanical engineer. They have a shop, three times the size of their house, that made even me drool a bit.

Working on the bikes with them was an experience in itself. They’re incredibly intelligent and had several truly ingenious ideas of how to get around issues that became road blocks in the maintenance of the bikes that we planned to do. He actually machined and welded a few custom tools for us and even made me custom risers for my handlebars (letting me have a pass at the lathe a few times, too) so that my ride will be more ergonomically comfortable.

Hand-made handlebar risers

The first job we tackled was trying to address the oil consumption issue of the Transalp.

Naked Transalp

Feeding rope into the engine cylinder so that the pistons don't fall into the cylinder.

If you’re interested in how that job went, I’ve posted a detailed account of it here for other Transalp owners:

We finally got a chance to use the valve clearance adjustment tool that was specially made for us back in Ontario by our friend Chris at Procter Precision

We also changed my steering head bearing, my fork gaiters and my fork oil.

And then we moved on to the Africa Twin. Roel’s clutch has been “acting up” lately, in the form of not going into neutral if the engine is running and pulling forward when the bike is stopped. An examination of the clutch basket showed that the clutch plates had worn ridges into the metal of the basket.

Those ridges in the basket shouldn't be there :(

A new basket is somewhere in the range of 400 Euros (read: we’d have to get it from Europe, anyway, even if it was affordable). So, the next best option was filing down the ridges, which Roel did very gently. The clutch plates all looked fine.

The welded sprocket bit in the middle is the tool that the Engineer built for Roel. Pretty cool! And it worked perfectly!

And so Roel reassembled the clutch three times. Yes. Three times. Something was wrong twice and it took two different motorcycle manuals (a Honda and a Haines) and the three of us to figure out the issue. The Engineer and I were impressed that by the third time, Roel hadn’t begun throwing wrenches.

Thanks to assistance (and patience) of the Chemist and the Engineer, the bikes are now largely ready to cross the border.

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving with these three folks. It was filled with warmth, great stories, laughter, and all of the traditional Thanksgiving favorites. Every dish on the table, down to the jellied cranberry sauce, was made from scratch. It was incredible.

For us, this was another example of how the people we have met during the course of our travels have become family. 

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