The bike handled fine on the road, despite the crooked backbone. You wouldn't even know it was tweaked except for a few factors. With my hands off the bars, it liked to drift a bit. The engine REALLY didn't want to line up with the engine mounts, and apparently when riding behind me, you could see the front wheel offset from the rear pretty obviously. This didn't really slow me down much, as I was still able to drag pegs through corners and maintain high speed travel without too much instability. As the months continued on, however, the stress on the frame was becoming increasingly evident. In Lewiston, Idaho, I noticed that my upper engine mounting plates had broken in two. I remade them with much thicker steel and wedged everything back into alignment. I also noticed a few cracks in the powdercoat where the two rear vertical members hooked up with the tail end of the backbone. Now these were just cracks in the powdercoat, as far as I could tell, but this surely signified some movement in the frame. So I took this chance to go in and add some welds to the frame here and there. I called it good.
I continued on for a few more days, making a run from Lewiston, Idaho to visit my buddy in Vernal, Utah. Slab nearly the entire way, I ended up pushing through on one of the hottest days I've experienced. 860 miles in one day, and I was absolutely fried. As was my rear tire.
As I sat on the curb at a rest area, pondering my predicament, I took the opportunity to drain my airbox hose of the remainder of it's collected blow-by, which had been dripping for several miles now and coated my rear brake disk, essentially disabling my rear brake. It's here that I noticed a few more cracks along the welds just below the footpegs, where several framing members joined together and were reinforced with a crudely stamped gusset. The crack extended along the weld and up around the upper frame member. Well... shit. I pushed on into Vernal and stopped by a local welding shop the next morning for a quick $10 fix.
Several weeks later I would find myself riding the mountain passes of Silverton, Colorado with my good buddy Jettin Jim. The RMAR rally had just packed up and I was left in the far corner of a nearly vacant campground. With the traffic greatly reduced on the high altitude trails, we took this opportunity to thrash. We crossed several passes, sometimes four in one run. I attacked terrain I had never seen before, and chased high mountain sheep through alpine territory. I railed as hard as I dare, and then even harder still. 'If things aren't failing, I can ride harder' is the mentality I seemed to take in.
Back at camp, I borrowed some shop time from the owners of the camp ground to address some electrical issues. That's when I made a discovery.
So I managed to pull Janis apart just enough to get some solid access to the broken member. The subframe came off in one piece, with the exhaust and airbox included. And then I see this...
The owner of the Campground happened to be a retired structural welder, and gave me a lesson on the thought behind how he was going to attack this problem. How he would tack it, then fill, and extend some welds across any existing fractures to keep them from expanding further. Ugly welds, but appearance isn't exactly what I'm going for.... in case you couldn't tell. The more I searched, the more I found cracks in nearly every weld and joint.
Some of these were just cracks in the powdercoat, while others were obviously a separation of the welds. Either way, some preventative measures were needed and so I simply went to town with the welder. Well... I didn't.... the dude did (Jim?)
A day spent in the garage and I was back on the road while the fumes of burnt powdercoat were still dancing in the rafters above. We're good for now, but I'm gonna hafta keep tabs on this. A plan was formulating. A plan of attack. I would just need the right time and the right place.