Pre-Ride MeetingAnyone who has been on a ride of this magnitude realizes that if you don't have some sort of a game plan, it's tough to attain your final goal. In order to make sure we were all on the same page, we had a meeting of the ride's participants four days prior to the ride. The meeting dealt with all the particulars of the ride. Since we were riding with a large group (nine), it was imperative that we were all knew what the game plan was ahead of time. We discussed all the aspects of the ride, down to even the smallest detail. While we had already chosen a route to follow, we went over each stop and the mileage in between. To save time at our stops, we discussed how we would pull into a gas station and grab as many different pumps as we could. That way we would each have our own receipts in order to document our ride as the IBA requires.
One important item that needed discussion was what to do in case someone broke down. This would be a case of the needs of the group outweighing the needs of the individual. We all agreed that we would pair up and keep an eye on each other, and in the event that someone had a mechanical problem, we would pull over with them try to fix the problem if we could. If we couldn't, we would make sure they were safe and had a tow truck on its way, and we would then be off to catch the rest of the group. In addition, we made sure we all had a good selection of tools scattered all around the bikes, as well as a couple of handfuls of assorted hardware, electrical connectors, wire ties, fuses, flat-fix, compressed-air cartridges, and the like.
While we were at it, we brought up the National Weather Service website and checked the extended forecast for the route. While the prognosticators called for mostly clear skies, we needed to be prepared for mountain thunder showers, which can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. Since our route brought us from the ocean over the mountains, across the sizzling desert, and back up to some higher elevations, then more deserts, we needed to have appropriate gear and be prepared for a wide temperature range.
Maintenance EssentialsWhen it comes to motorcycles, it's easy to become complacent in regard to scheduled maintenance as well as daily and weekly safety checks. As important as these items are for everyday riding, they are even more important when it comes to long-distance endurance riding. These items (as well as all of the scheduled service items) are a must when deciding to hit the road and pile up some serious miles:* Change the engine oil and filter.* Inspect and adjust the primary chain and replace the primary fluid.* Drain and refill the transmission with a high-quality gear oil.* Adjust the rear belt or chain. Lube chain if applicable, and carry a can of lube with you.* Carefully check your tires for wear, damage, or defects and replace them if there is any doubt as to their condition. Maintain the proper air pressure for the load you are carrying.* Repack non-sealed wheel bearings if applicable* Inspect the front and rear suspension for leaks and replace fork oil to the proper level based on scheduled maintenance intervals.* Make sure all your lighting is operating properly. Check the running lights, turn signals, brake light, and headlight for proper operation.
When Things Go WrongI was loaded for bear. Tools to fix tools, tire plugs, an air compressor...hell, I thought I was packed for just about anything. I even had four 1-quart fuel cells with extra gas.
Since we were going to be traveling mostly uphill between Needles and Kingman, we decided a quick splash of gas in Kingman would do the trick. Little did I know that I would never get to see Kingman. About 22 miles out of Needles, the bike felt mushy. I thought I had blown an air line for the rear suspension. One of the guys pulled up alongside and told me that my tire was real low. I slowed down a bit, and the bike got really squirrelly. What a ride! This was when I realized that my tire was flat, not the suspension. I was on the shoulder in the middle of the desert and only 4.5 hours and 285 miles into the ride-great.
A bunch of the guys pulled over. After several failed attempts at plugging the tire and getting it to hold air, we rode back along the shoulder to the last on-ramp we passed. As I attempted to fill the tire from the station's compressor, the air was coming out as fast as I was putting it in. The tire was trashed-no fixing it.
I called AAA, and the rest of the guys took off. The tow truck arrived after about an hour, and we went in search of a motorcycle shop. The next few hours I spent with Clay Fitzgerald, owner of Twisted Metal in Havasu City, AZ. Clay didn't have an 18-inch tire for my Heritage but burned up the phone lines trying to find one anywhere within a 35-mile radius. No luck.
At this point, my last option was to rent a truck and drive home. Off to the rental yard. Ever try to rent a U-Haul with no reservation? That's a story for another day. Even though I had lots of tools, extra gas, and a good assortment of spare parts with me, all I really needed was my cell phone. I'm glad I had reception, my credit card, and tie-downs. Kind of strange sometimes how things work out not always the way you plan. -Fred