Posts Tagged ‘motorcycle repair’

I’m writing to you from lovely Columbus, Ohio. I’m here on business and it’s pouring down rain. I mean the kind of rain that makes you look for a guy building a huge boat. I’m waiting for the Statue of Liberty to go floating by. That’s how much rain there is. When the plain landed, we came in over a small lake…that wasn’t here back in November when I flew in. That’s how much rain there is. I’m actually glad to be in a cage instead of on a bike. THAT’S how much rain there is.

It’s been raining in Dallas, too, and I endured plenty of wet stuff earlier in the week before I left town. I also endured a pretty serious breakdown on Coco Wednesday night. Here’s how it happened. I had my son, Noah, on the back of the bike as we rode from my office in Addison to downtown Dallas for a Mavs game. We’ve had season tickets for years (since he was and ten or so and now he’s 20) and Wednesday night was a game night. It was cold but the rain had finally stopped – just a few sprinkles. Did I mention the part about it being cold? OK. Just want to be sure the scene is properly set. 

We took the tollway there because it was fast. By the way, Noah is a terrific passenger on a bike. He’s not a big kid and he rides beautifully. Never jerks or anticipates and most importantly, he rides like he trusts me completely – which is what you really want in a passenger. But I digress. Back to complaining!

So we’ve gotten to our primary parking spot, about a quarter mile from the arena, under the bridge. We like it because it’s a quick exit when the games are over and we don’t mind the quarter-mile walk to and from the arena. Just as I turned into the lot, Coco started making a horrible grinding sound, like the kickstand was dragging. But, of course, it wasn’t. I turned it off immediately and we both got off to see if anything was dragging. Because I’m always paranoid about the oil level, I immediately checked that but it was fine. So I decided to try starting it up again and I had, hands-down the strangest bike experience ever. 

Coco has an electric ignition and to turn her on, you must (1) turn on the power switch on the tank, (2) press the “run” switch that primes the engine, then (3) press the “start” ignition button. If the bike is in neutral, as it usually is, you don’t need to depress the clutch. Well, I knew it wasn’t in neutral so I did steps 1 and 2, then pressed the clutch in anticipation of hitting the “start” button. As soon as I pressed the clutch, the bike tried to start itself. It popped like a dead battery, and ground some more. After that, nothing. That’s something seriously wrong. And scary, too, like a gremlin is in the bike.

There was something else seriously wrong. We were at a game, pretty late on a rainy cold night, in downtown Dallas, about 25 miles from our nearest friend with a trailer – and considerably further from most of our other friends with trailers. Oh, and the Mavs were getting their NBA Championship rings in just a few short minutes. There just wasn’t time for this crap!

So here’s how it went down: Tim started calling friends looking for someone who could come down to pick me up. I called Harley-Davidson Member Support (the national guys) but their offices had closed and they wanted me to leave a message. I took Noah to watch the Mavs get their rings, then I called my insurance company, Geico (I absolutely LOVE these guys now) figuring they would at least have the names of some towing services I could call. Turns out it was much better than that; I actually having towing insurance on my motorcycle policy (PLEASE don’t tell any of my friends who have towed me for free before I found out about this wondrous thing). They arranged a truck to arrive after the game was over (the game totally sucked, by the way, much like the rest of the night) and Coco was transported to North Texas Harley Davidson, our guys.

Just to make it a tad more frustrating, when the driver asked what was wrong, I told him what had happened. Then to prove it, I tried to start the bike…which started beautifully, like the day I bought her. It’s almost like she’s not my friend anymore. Fortunately (I suppose) when I depressed the clutch, it began making the grinding sound again and at least I didn’t look like an idiot. And at least I was able to drive her up onto the bed of the truck, which was very helpful. Even with the grinding noise, the clutch still worked so I figured there was something else going on. I was right, darn it. 

So I dropped it at the dealership and Tim met us up there to drive us home. Next day, I had to catch a 6:00 am flight to Columbus (I mentioned the rain, right?) and I don’t get back until late Friday night. And I have to be at work at 6:30 Saturday morning so my bike HAD to be and back home where she belongs by the end of the day Friday. I called my wonderful friends at the dealership during my layover and Daniel promised he’d take care of her. By the time I’d finished my first day of business in Columbus and called the shop to check on her, she was almost done – lots of problems, though: clutch plate, starter and one other thing I didn’t hear because I interrupted him to be sure it was all covered by warranty. It was. Whew.

I had them slip a new set of rear brakes on since mine were so bad I could barely hold her on the truck bed when is was angled down to get me on. Still need a new front tire but I’ll probably wait until that just gives out on its own…I mean now that I know I have towing insurance and all.

This whole thing has not left me a very happy Lady Biker, as you can probably imagine. Sure, it could be worse, but it could also be better. But my bad attitude is a post for another day. Why get all your ranting and complaining done in one sitting when you can have the satisfaction of spreading it out over many days?

Exactly. So until next time, wheels down and head up. And let’s add one more thing – smooth roads and healthy engines. 


So, I told you that at the end of my courthouse ride Saturday July 2nd, I (meaning Honey) discovered I had somehow lost the bearing from Coco’s rear wheel. This, it turns out, is a very bad thing. I have no idea when it came apart. I wish I could say I suddenly realized the bike was riding differently but that never happened. In fact, to be honest, I’m not entirely certain I ever noticed anything at all. I thought my brakes were starting to pull unevenly, but they’re pretty old so I didn’t think much of it. And that may not even have been a symptom.

Regardless of what I did or didn’t notice, losing a bearing is a very serious problem, it turns out. I felt that if I’d ridden possibly hundreds of miles already with it gone, surely I could do another 20 miles to get home. Honey was not so sure so I called Daniel (the Divine Daniel at Harley-Davidson of North Texas – – who actually answered my call after hours on a Saturday of a holiday weekend). He was adamant that I MUST NOT ride an inch. In fact, he said, I shouldn’t even look at it (apparently he thought I was still dumb enough to try it…which I admit I was).

So the “don’t ride” camp won and we had to find a tow. I called someone first, but it was $200 (a little outside the budget, even though Harley will reimburse me for some of the tow cost). Instead, Honey called someone from Panther Creek HOG chapter ( – John Roadblock (now also known as Target). What a great friend! He lives in McKinney and we were broken down in Midlothian. If we’d been in New England, it would have been 2 states away! And did I mention it was a holiday weekend? So he brought a trailer and took the bike home for me.

And thus began an entire weekend without riding. an entire holiday weekend without riding. OK, I got to ride on the back of Honey’s new bike, but riding girlfriend doesn’t even compare with riding your own bike.

Now, just to show how put out I was, I also managed to sprain my ankle really badly Sunday so, even if I’d had the bike, it would have been a big struggle to ride it. I’m still not sure how I’ll work it out when it gets out of the shop tomorrow. I’ll probably just grit my teeth and ride. It’s better than gritting your teeth and walking, which is my other option.

The whole incident really made me think. Remember, this was just a few days after my brand new front tire tube split on me while I was riding on another long trip, after dark. The thing is, it shakes your confidence when you can’t depend on your equipment; but it shook my confidence even more that I didn’t recognize two significant problems while I was riding.

Sure, I could tell the front tire was flat…when I had to turn off the road. Up until then, I just kept telling myself it was grooves in the road pulling me. Now, it was pitch dark and I couldn’t even look at the tire to tell, but there’s a problem when I won’t stop the bike and look at it when things aren’t just right. I’ll put up with a lot while I’m riding and will talk myself into thinking just about anything is OK as long as she’s still moving forward.

With the wheel bearings, the change was much more subtle than the flat front tire, but Honey said he could tell the difference as soon as he got on the bike to move it from the trailer to the garage. Any other guy and I’d say it was posturing, but not Honey. He wouldn’t say he could feel the tire wobbling if he didn’t feel it. I have a confession to make: I still don’t exactly understand what part is exactly missing from my bike. Sure, I looked at the rear wheel and nodded and said “wow, that’s bad” but if I had to point out a picture of a rear wheel bearing, odds are I couldn’t do it (unless all the other pictures were fruit or something).

I mean, I know what a bearing is, but I can’t picture it on my bike. I’ve been looking for diagrams of my bike, but haven’t found it yet. I’ll take a close look when I get it back from the shop, of course, but all I’ll now know is a rear bearing. How many other things about my bike do I not know that could be a problem later?

I have a wonderful guy in my life who also rides a motorcycle and we ride together a lot, but not all the time. I ride to work every day alone and I take trips on my own – to go places when Honey’s busy, to see things he’s not interested in, and just because I can, because I want to. But I want to be safe, too. I’m not saying I’m suddenly afraid of riding alone, but I am worried about how little I actually know about my bike.

So, along with my mission to photograph my bike in front of every courthouse in Texas, I’m also on a quest to learn as much about the mechanics of my bike as I can – not just the motor, but the structure, the frame, everything. I love Coco and I have no plans to ever replace her so everything I learn will be useful forever!

I’ll start with Daniel, my best Harley mechanic. Poor Daniel. All he needs is an enthusiastic chick hanging around the shop with the base mechanical knowledge of about a first grader. School is in session!

Until next time, here’s to keeping the wheels down and my eyes ahead. I feel I’ve been extremely fortunate during a week with a lot of miles in bad weather, with a bad tire (both the old one and the new one that replaced it!), and with parts falling off that are supposed to be more durable than that. Thank you, Lord for letting me continue the journey!