Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stuff Happens

For those who have been wondering what happened to me and my posts, it's a short but sad story. The bike let me down...

Having replaced the final drive, and thinking it was ready to go, I noticed fresh oil on the pavement below the final drive a few days later. In investigating the situation, I dropped the final drive and found that the transmission was leaking. While not good, it was not a show-stopper. However, upon closer inspection, I discovered the universal joint had exposed bearings. A very bad thing, particularly just days before the ride was to begin.

Exposed bearings indicate a potential universal joint failure, which, in an extreme situation, could result in the drive shaft breaking loose from the joint and locking the rear wheel so that it could not turn. A very bad thing if riding at 70-80mph! A more likely scenario is that it breaks loose and just tears up parts of the frame of the bike. Very expensive!

And with it just 3 days before the trip, there was no time to get it fixed. The fix would be pretty expensive (~$1,000), and I decided that I did not want to pour another thousand dollars on a 5 year old bike with 83,000 miles on it.

So, I canceled the trip. It was not fair to Gary to mess up his only major road trip of the summer, but I couldn't do anything about it. He was gracious and offered to let me ride one of his bikes, but I declined, afraid that if anything happened to the bike, it could cause a problem with our relationship. And I didn't want to take that chance.

I decided to buy a newer model and sell the old one "as is". So, I placed an ad in one of the forums I use a lot, saying I was looking for a 2008 or newer RT at a good price. Within a couple of days, I had two hits, one in Dallas, and one in Detroit. Weird, but I got only two hits--I would have thought that I'd have a number to contact me, but there were only two.

I contacted each seller to get more information about their bike and prices. Both answered all of my questions and sent lots of pictures. However, there was a $3,750 difference in prices between the two 2009 bikes, both equipped pretty much the same. The higher priced one had only 1,500 miles, and the lower one had 11,300 miles. I decided that the 10,000 miles difference was not worth $3,750.

So, today I made an offer, negotiated just a bit, and we have a deal. I should take possession of the new bike on Tuesday of next week. Then I'll remove some of the things from the old one to use on the new one. After that, I'll put the 05 on the market.

I hate that it turned out this way. I've spent way too much money on the 05 already. And I didn't want to spend even more money on a newer one right now, but as much as I ride, I couldn't see continuing to pour money on a bike with high mileage.

I feel really bad about the impact on Gary, but, again, I don't see how I could do anything different if it happened again. If it had happened even a week earlier, I may have been able to buy a suitable bike and made the ride. But only 3 days before a ride, I could not be rushed to just buy any bike; it's too big an investment.

He and I did go to Indianapolis to see the MotoGP races. I took the Civic, and we had a good time and saw some amazing racing. But we didn't go on the trip we had planned.

So, I'll close this blog with a couple of pics--one from the universal joint, and one of the new bike.

Hopefully next year's ride will work as planned...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trials and Tribulations

Well, this adventure has been an adventure to get started. Bike problems have been plaguing me, making it expensive and troublesome.

It started with the end of the last trip--the one I did up north into Canada. I noticed when I got home that the back wheel was really filthy. Not just the regular dirt and brake dust, but a lot of black specs all over the wheel.

Initially I thought it was maybe tar or something I might have ridden through, but after cleaning it and looking at the swingarm near the final drive, I noticed a lot of oil residue at the bottom of the swingarm. Some seepage is "normal", but this seemed to be quite a bit of oil.

After cleaning it, I did a ride and, when I got home, there was fresh oil on the wheel again. So, I did a test to see if the rear wheel had any loose play from side to side. It did! There should be no play in the wheel.

The newer BMWs, in the big bikes, have a reputation for final drive failures. The final drive is the device that rotates the rear wheel. It is equivalent to the differential on a car. The drives have failed in several different ways, but in every case, it makes the bike potentially unsafe. It could break down in such a way as to allow the wheel to lock up, causing the bike to skid. Not a good thing at all.

So, I contacted my mechanic, talked with him about it, and we made the decision to replace the final drive unit. He found a used one and said he could install it for around $800. So, that's what we did about two weeks before the trip. I just didn't want to take a chance on a breakdown out in the boonies or worse.

With that done, I needed new tires on the bike. The front tire was definitely too worn to make the approximately 8,000 miles for the trip. The rear tire was fairly new, with it having been installed just before the northern trip. It had about 4,500 miles on it.

While I've gotten 12,000 miles on a rear tire, I'm trying a different manufacturer's tires, so I have no history as to how they will last for me. So, I ordered a new rear tire for the trip.

Got the tires installed with no problems (except the pocketbook, which is getting thinner by the day).

The next issue developed a day or so later, when I noticed a spot on the concrete below the bellows on the swingarm. It was definitely oil. Not a good thing, especially after spending good money to replace the final drive just two weeks ago.

So, another call to my mechanic, describing what was going on with the oil resulted in two possibilities. One is the final drive is leaking. The other is the transmission leaking. Neither is good.

After some discussion, I decided that I will drop the final drive and look backwards to the final drive to see if it is wet with oil, or whether the oil is coming from the transmission and running down the drive shaft tunnel and exiting at the bellows. When that is determined, I'll know what to do about it.

If it is the final drive leaking, I don't feel safe about taking off on the trip. The final drive holds only 6 ounces (180 ml) of oil when filled properly. One ml is approximately 20 drops, so the final drive holds around 3,600 drops of oil. I did some checking and it was dropping oil at the rate of several drops per day, sitting still. I don't know how fast it would drip when moving. But I don't believe it would go the 8,000 miles without running out of oil.

If it is the transmission leaking, I feel much better about going on the ride. The transmission holds a quart of oil, over 5 times as much as the final drive. So, there is a lot more oil available in the transmission.

While it is not easy to add oil to the transmission, it can be done by removing both fairings and taking out the plug and adding the oil. Probably 30 minutes of work. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with oil in the final drive. Removing the rear wheel is not hard, but you can't check to see if it has enough oil, and there is no way to know how much oil to add. So, it is just easier to deal with the transmission than the final drive.

My mechanic's advice is to "ride it" and not worry. But I'm a natural worrier, and I don't like the prospect of a breakdown on the road in the middle of nowhere. So, it's hard to listen to his advice.

Tomorrow morning I'll drop the final drive and find out where the oil is coming from. What will it be?...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Introduction to Ride

Well, the next adventure is starting soon. On Thursday, August 26, I'll leave home and ride to Gary's house near Winston Salem and start this ride. This particular ride is similar to our first national ride, but we're going much further west this time.

While we've done almost no "planning", there has been a little general talk about places we want to go and things to do. We'll leave his house on Friday, August 27 and ride northwest to Indianapolis, where we'll see two motorcycle races. There is a mile-long dirt track race on Saturday night (I think it's called the "magic mile", and is a flat-track style race. I've seen the 1/4 mile dirt track races at Daytona, and they're fun to watch. This one should be a blast.

The second race is the Moto GP race at the brickyard. Moto GP is the top road racing type races internationally, so we'll see the fastest bikes and best racers in the world on Sunday afternoon. I look forward to seeing the Brickyard and the race.

Then on Monday, we'll head west towards San Francisco. We've agreed to stay off the Interstates to the extent possible, and to limit our daily travel to 400 miles or so. That type of riding should not leave us exhausted every night. I'm hoping to visit a friend in Denver if possible; otherwise there's no "destination" between Indianapolis and San Francisco.

In San Francisco I want to ride the Golden Gate Bridge and maybe Lombard Street; otherwise, that's it.

Then south to San Diego. I want to see that city; I've heard a lot about it and it sounds beautiful. Might stop at the Buck Knives factory near there since we'll be in the neighborhood.

Then start going east through Nevada, New Mexico, and the hill country in Texas. Several places along the way that I hope to see. Mostly, though, it's the ride and enjoying seeing the scenery.

We haven't decided whether or not we'll camp along the way. Camping saves $, but you've got to pack tent, sleeping pad or mattress, and sleeping bag, etc. We'll decide this weekend.

Total time on the road should be about 3 weeks. I estimate our mileage at around 8,000.

I guess this is enough to start with. I'll do another post later to talk about getting the bike ready for this ride.