A blank sheet of paper. One of the most scary things on earth as far as I’m concerned. I need a plan
For the past few years I’ve been trying to organise various different things and I’ve accumulated a few like minded individuals who are getting ever more desperate to leave some rubber on a far flung road under a massive sky with the sun shining and all of life’s everyday worries locked up, put in a box, and left at home. It’s now got the ‘who cares’ stage. Just go.
Normally I would plan out the days, book the majority of the hotels in advance, have a return date before I left but this time I’m not. We choose 7 weeks. I made a very loose plan, booked the first few hotels and some ferries then we would freestyle and use up as much of the time as we could whist stretching the ties to home as far as possible. Time to go.. but before we do ..
I’ve done a fair few of these trips and so you think preparing for one would just be a case of going through some checklist and packing stuff that I have used before.. like a well oiled machine. All calm and collected. Just sitting with a smug feeling that I’m ready. In reality it’s more like a ham fisted chimp on speed getting ever more desperate, chasing mistakes and fuckups of my own doing, not sleeping, and running out time before I have to put the key in and just leave.
A couple of weeks before we’re due to leave I feel a real shitstorm approaching. I’ve had this feeling before. It usually starts with something small like me dropping and breaking something, or twatting myself on a doorway, or slipping on a stair, and it gradually works its way up from there. I know its coming.. but if I can get it out the way then the trip should be the calm after the storm.. maybe
It starts about 2 weeks before we’re due to go. I go to take the seat off, turn the key, and the key snaps. Great.. I’ll have to do something about that, but first I’ll go and get the tyres fitted. Taking off the wheels is a brain out operation. Step 1, 2, 3, all done loads of times without thinking. So the back wheel is off. I’ve loosened the front nut and suddenly I hear a terrible cry from my old dog in the house, a really awful scream, just like a human. Go inside to find the dog looking dead with his head hanging over the top stair, lying in a puddle of his own piss, completely unresponsive. So I hold his head and talk to him for a while, stroke him, and very slowly the light seems to come back into his eyes. After 10 minutes he tries to stand but just falls over. I put him somewhere comfortable, go back to the bike and knock out the front spindle, without jacking up the bike. The front drops down and the spindle jams at an angle. I jack the bike up, knock the spindle out, get the tyres fitted. I’m fitting the front and sliding in the spindle, or trying to. It doesn’t fit any more. WTF? The wide part wont go through the fork clamp, like the hole is suddenly too small. So I give it a good solid twatting in the best tradition of chimp mechanics, and I flair the end. Brilliant.. so I’ll be needing a new spindle then. When the mist clears and my mechanical brain takes over from the monkey’s, then I work out what has happened. The right fork clamp has got slightly twisted when all the weight of the bike came down on the spindle and twisted it within the clamp. So I beat the buggered spindle into the clamp then push it in the opposite direction to bring the clamp back round to be true and parallel again.. approximately.. I’m sure there is a reasonable tolerance built into Ktms.. I mean they’re always ready to race right? Only 10000 miles to go .. that will be fine .. plan B is a fork on EBay but there are only a few days to go so ..
I go to fit the back wheel.. I’m doing up the nut I can feel movement somewhere in the swing arm .. just a little bit .. of course I can .. the bottom bearing has gone on the shock .. of course it has..
At this point I should probably stop. I know I’m in a shitstorm. I know everything I touch will turn to poo. I just shouldn’t touch anything .. So I order the spindle and the bearing. 5 working days.. umm.. they just say that. They will be here tomorrow no problem.
A couple of days later I decide to change the clutch .. I’ve never done wet bike clutch before.. how hard can that be? It’s like a dare.. 10 minute job max. I’ve got the new plates, I’ll just skim read the manual and I’ll have it done in time for tea and cakes.
Take the cover off, take the pressure plate off, take the plates out, put the new plates in, put the pressure plate in and do up the bolts. Something doesn’t feel right.. but the shitstorm devil on my shoulder tells me ‘just one more turn will do it’.. and then there is a strange noise, like standing on a nut. A cracking sound. ‘Thats fine’ shouts the devil, just put the cover on and we can go pull some wheelies. Only the cover wont fit. The devil just starts laughing and jumping and dancing and I just think .. ‘bollocks.. beam me up Scotty’.
I take it apart again and yep.. the pressure plate has fractured because it wasn’t fitted properly when I did the bolts up. Fuckydoodle wanky piss tarts. Still, I’m sure all KTM dealers have these in stock. I’m sure you’re all laughing like the devil and my mechanical ineptitude. Please, go ahead, enjoy.. My fuckwittery is almost unrivalled sometimes..
My bike has a slipper clutch and I’d never understood how these worked until i sat in my pool of tears and looked in detail at the pressure plate. The plate engages via 3 sloped keys with the drive so that if the wheel is turning faster than the engine then the key’s forward rotation slightly disengages the clutch plates.
All very clever, but when you fit it you need to twist it and fully engage it with the drive before doing the nuts up. I’ll know when I fit the new plate tomorrow. Back the KTM dealer. No spindle in sight. I order the pressure plate and dampers, and a really expensive metal seal that I know I wont use but I’m hoping will count towards the shitstorm expense column and get this devil to find a new shoulder to play on ASAP.
1 day, then 2 days, then 3 days and still nothing arrives. There is a 2 day bank holiday coming up and if it doesn’t come before then, I’ll be putting everything back together on the train to France ..
4 days, spindle arrives but no clutch. 5 days. It’s the day before the 2 day bank holiday and I get a voicemail. ‘pressure plate is here’. The pressure lifts like a fat wrestler climbing off my back. Then I get another voicemail about an hour later. ‘But they’ve not sent all the other items you ordered’, Back climbs the wrestler, after having spent all afternoon at an all you can eat buffet.
Just as I’m about to go and buy another 1190 and swap number plates I get another call. The dealer has managed to locate some replacement parts at Fowlers in Bristol and is having them couriered up today.. and just before closing time I’m very happily handing over bags of cash for a very small bag of KTM swag and rushing home to bring the bike back to life.
I’m up early, I’m keen, I’m excited. I lock the chimp mechanic in his cage, take my time, read the manual, and slide everything back into place. Rotating the pressure plate backwards, feeling the keys engage and the whole thing slide into place is a delicious experience. Its so good I took it out and did it again. Bolted everything up, no cracking sounds, everything fits. Fit the new spindle. Not perfect but a road text will tell me if thats ok. Start the engine, get on, ride, smile, relax .. happy days ..
I dropped the broken key off at an engineering firm just round corner and they said to come back Monday. They apparently have a magician welder tar can weld the wings back on flies, so he should be able to tack my key back together no problem. So I go round Monday, and the magic welder has disappeared in a puff of smoke.. and so they decided to get another 2 of their engineers, Mr Heath and Mr Robertson to fix the bits together using an alternative method..
Yep .. thats exactly what I expected given the shitstorm I’m in at the moment. I do have a spare key but I also have a perverse desire to use this key.. this is my favourite key .. my good karma key .. so that’s that decided.
So now I’m ready.. everything is sorted.. there is a day to go. I can pack the bike in pease safely knowing its all ok. Load the panniers, I’ll just go for a quick ride to Maccas for coffee to see how it feels.
Well .. it would feel a lot better if the front tyre wasn’t flat.. There really are moments sometimes when you just feel like giving up. When you just want to lie on the ground and let the shitstorm drown you. Open wide and let it fill your lungs .. It looks like the f’kin stupid tyre sealing band has been nicked or damaged when the tyres where changed. Every time you have an 1190’s tyres changed its like handing your balls to Edward ScissorHands for juggling practice .. there is almost an inevitability of something very delicate getting irreparably damaged .. although the tyre has been up for a while. I dunno .. I have a tube if I need it. Pump it up.. I need coffee now more than ever.
Get a whole 3 miles to Maccas without incident. Maybe the shitstorm is over .. or maybe not… I’m locking the steering and I see the throttle cable hanging at a strange angle from the grip. It looks like the shitstorm devil has been running about and kicked the little plastic tab securing the cable to the grip. Its broken off and the cable is hanging. If I leave it like that it will very likely just fracture and break with the constant movement of the throttle.. I get my coffee and trudge to a seat to sit down. Stare out the window. Try not to think. Try not to mentally jump into that black hole I’m standing on the edge of. Don’t look down .. just don’t. I’m stirring my coffee, and my survival brain is prodding me to look at what I have in my hand. A wooden stirrer.. a thin piece of wood about the same width and thickness as the broken tab.. ummmm. So I grab a few spares, ride home, cut a length of a stirrer and shove it deep inside the grip between the rubber end stop and the throttle grip, then attach the throttle cable to it with a small cable tie.
Shit or bust. Hell or glory. I’m out of options.. It’s time to go.