Try, Try, Try again, TAT fail

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Bbenson, Feb 23, 2020.

  1. Bbenson

    Bbenson Adventurer

    Nov 22, 2013

    My profession in life is a welder for the film industry, and I get the same question over and over again, how do you know how to do this or that. My answer is always because I already fucked it up once before., unfortunately, the best school in life is failure. It can be expensive, painful, or even life-changing, but it seems all the reading and studying does not replace good old failing. To learn what not to do is just as important as what to do. The crappy part about the school of hard knocks is it takes time and with that times comes to experience, but it can feel like a waste of time no matter what you learn. You have to pick yourself up and knock the dirt off and try again. There many sayings like ”failure only happen when you give up,” or ”try, try, again,” or my personal favourite from cheesy posters plastered in elementary schools ”winners never quit and quitters never win." Choose the mantra you like they all say the same thing. Failure is going to happen, how you deal with it is up to you. I am not a life coach or even close to having an answer to how to deal with failure, but what I can say is my determination is the only real attribute or flaw that keeps me going forward.

    I have spent several years preparing for this trip, and many life situations have kept from leaving at the right date or with the proper health. August 2019, I finally thought was going to be the year I was going to ride the Trans America Trail. And my wheels did roll out of Queens NY to ride across America. Finally, on the road after years of prep and thousands of dollars of investment, it was happening.

    It was also the beginning of my hard-knock education which had only four days of class. Day one; early to rise early to turn back.

    Lesson one started at an ungodly hour in the morning trying to get the bike packed and out on the road before the heat of the day. Living in NYC, my bikes live in tents outside so I can not leave all my gear on the bike and roll out in the morning. I must load everything the morning of going. It is way to much to lug everything down two flights of stairs load the bike up, check everything, and then push her out to the street. This all starts at 330 in the morning. So by the time I started, I was already exhausted and dripping in sweat. This is way too much to start a trip that is already stressful. So next time the bike is going to be packed checked and ready to go and pull out to start the ride.

    Lesson two, Lighten up and simplify. I was overloaded and over planned. Although I was very concerned about cutting the weight down, I need to do more. The bike was too heavy and too many bags. Which ultimately ended my Trans America attempt in NJ when my top roll bag slipped in front of my exhaust and set my drone, lap, top and tent poles on fire. Which sent me back home to reattempt two days later, which did not even make it of my block when my clutch failed and was slipping, then the battery died. Dripping with sweat and exhausted, the TAT would have to wait.

    So after years of planning the trip had eluded me again. I stepped away from the project, defeated and depressed. I put the bike away and left my dreams of the TAT to another year. But I have recently started to rethink how to solve the problems I had encountered.

    First was a thorough inspection of the bike. So after checking the clutch plates which looked fine all I can conclude is that the blocked exhaust cooked the oil. After a full oil change, the oil pressure gauge was reading the proper pressure and no slippage. But there was a lurch in 1st and 2nd with throttle application. I felt like it was running lean at the first quater of throttle. But after further inspection, I found what looked like sand in the throttle body. Concerned that there was a leak in the air box I pulled out the throttle body and found sand-like substance caked in the manifold. Now the saying " things happen for a reason" rang true because this could have stranded me in the middle of America.

    What is one to do but head to the internet and learn how to build a pressure down gauge and do a pressure down test to see if the lurch was from a leaky valve or piston. But all tested fine, and I was stumped.
    One thing about this whole dream of mine, not only did I have to learn to ride, but I also had to learn how to be a motorcycle mechanic. What does it mean to run lean, what are the symptoms, how to check that? But I guess that is part of the journey.

    Stumped I decided to try new fuel, when I tipped my gas tank to empty the gas, I heard rattling in the tank. I shook it until a clumped crystal fell out, it looked like rock candy. So I pulled the fuel pump assembly out and the pump was caked with sugar and jamming the pump. My best guess is the ethanol in standard 93 had crystalised into corn sug ar when the bike was sitting after a long period after an accident at work. Even with stabiliser, corn syrup in fuel is not suitable for motorcycles. This was not good and was looking like an expensive repair since KTM only sells the full assembly for 400 dollars. Back to the internet and I found an aftermarket company that sells the pump alone for 70 dollars.

    Funny I have been attempting this trip for five years and have come a long way not only in my riding but my mechanic skills. Because a trip like this will have failures, but I guess there is more than the terrain to challenge you on big trips.

    So after all this education what did I learn. First, the bike needed an indoor space not only to work on but to be able to have the motorcycle prepped tested, packed, and ready to go. Packing the bike for 2 hours before you leave is too much stress and work before setting off on a massive adventure 1st day.

    Second I need to treat packing like I do with my hiking pack. Weigh everything, count ounces, because ounces turn into pounds. Ounce counting also costs cash. But at this point, I am trying to get my gear down to 35 pounds. But when starting with Giant Loop bags that nearly weigh 10 pounds, I am not sure how close I can get to that. But with a different tent and an iPad mini, I have scrubbed 5 pounds. Next is the tool roll, which is weighing in at 4 pounds. Everything has to get adjusted until I can find a decent weight to livability.

    Bike bulid and gear can be found at
    Square1, TrailBreak, snglfin and 3 others like this.
  2. txmxrider

    txmxrider Been here awhile

    Oct 3, 2009
    Wandering in the mountains somewhere
    You doing this trip solo? It helps to go with another rider so you can split up some of the load. Also maybe try packing as if you were doing the TAT but first do a few weekend trips with that load and see how it goes. That'll give you an opportunity to get your gear and packing method sorted out in advance and verify that the bike is up to the task. Keep experimenting with it until you're *really* satisfied with it. From what I've observed most people pack way too much stuff and people who ride bigger bikes tend to pack even more. You're not traversing the Darien Gap. There's Walmart and Ace Hardware and Home Depot and discount sporting goods stores from coast to coast so you can always pick up something along the way if necessary so only take what you absolutely cannot live without and leave the rest at home. To leave the trappings of our everyday lives behind us, if even for a few days or weeks, is a big part of the satisfaction we get from riding.

    Best of luck to you!
    kojack06 and snglfin like this.
  3. Bbenson

    Bbenson Adventurer

    Nov 22, 2013
  4. phreakingeek

    phreakingeek Big Ear Inc - Virginia Provider Super Supporter

    Sep 17, 2010
    While I was fortunate that my ride got started and going without any major issues...I did have some last minute wrenching going on that stressed me out.

    Glad to hear that even with the issues you are pushing to get the trip back on track. Hopefully you can spend a few weekends out on the bike doing some camping so you will be able to fine tune your packing and get onto the TAT ride ready to roll.
    snglfin likes this.
  5. Bbenson

    Bbenson Adventurer

    Nov 22, 2013
  6. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

    Mar 7, 2007
    It seems to me this is not the trip for you at the moment. After several more modest trips you will get your gear and tools down to under 35 lbs total. At that time you are ready.
  7. cfr

    cfr Adventurer

    Aug 1, 2016
    Longmont, CO
    I've read a lot of stories about a dry run weekend camp trip a few weeks in advance to sort things out. This seems to especially help with over packing.

    Hang in there and keep trying!
  8. VStromNC

    VStromNC DNS/DNF

    Jul 12, 2007
    Charlotte, N.C.

    I feel for you as I've gone through some of your pitfalls. FWIW, here's few suggestions based on my experience of doing partial TAT in 2017 and 2018 and planning this time to complete to Port Orford.

    1. Equip your bike with side racks. Without side racks, your saddlebags will shift, move around and always something for you to keep your eye on to adjust, shift, etc. I know that countless of others have done trips without side racks using Giant Loop or similar. When I did TAT in 2017, I had my bike equipped with heat shield, multiple straps and other methods and never worked. Toward the end of my 2017 TAT, I ended up using sticks to hold my saddlebags off of my pipe but that turned out to a major PIA or attention getter the entire trip.

    2. If you are primitive camping, no issues but if staying at a hotel, look for an older hotel like Super 8 or Motel 6 in which you can park your bike just outside the door allowing you to keep your pack and eye on the bike other than just what you need for the night. The higher end hotels often have centralized corridor that have you parking your bike far from your room. Next morning, throw your overnight bag on the bike and you are ready to go versus spending an hour or more reinstalling your entire pack.

    3. Do not base your packing on number of days that you will be on the road. I took multiple jackets, riding pants which all add to the bulk of your pack. What I found out as others have said is to pack and then remove at least a third or more. I never used extra jackets, riding pants and other gear that I brought along as we were able to do laundry periodically when we decided to motel. Tools, I can't comment on yet as I took way too many tools and spares.

  9. wbbnm

    wbbnm Long timer

    Dec 18, 2007
    MN and NM
    I agree with the posts above that recommend a few short trips before trying something like the TAT.

    You need to find the stuff that absolutely won't work early on. And you can find them without wasting planning for a month or so away from your normal life.

    There will still be plenty of things that work at first but fail after a few weeks.