On a regular basis, I get a similar email drop in my inbox about riders would love to do what I do, riding RTW, but are afraid to because of the ‘fear of breaking down’.
This morning’s email –
I loved reading about your travels and I have only done a little bit but the only thing that scares me is breaking down in the middle of nowhere, I have no mechanical knowledge so how did you deal with this?I have looked into getting classes etc but there isn’t any anymore, love going to new places and enjoying new cultures, etc but this is what holds me back, any advice?
My response –
I used to own three motorcycle shops so for me its really a none issue, but I will try to look at it from an outside perspective
There are basically two kinds of breakdowns or repairs – fixable and catastrophic. The fixable are things like punctures, oil changes, brake pad changes, air filter cleaning, changing bearings, chain and sprocket swaps, doing valves that sort of thing.
If your bike isn’t an electronic nightmare, thinking BMW, Triumph big bikes here, and requires a service technician to reset ECM’s with factory computers then most of it is easy.
YouTube is your friend and just about every minor service is covered for every bike, and your garage at home is the best place to practice.
When watching YouTube videos, look for reputable companies/ people, or one with lots of positive comments, sometimes it best to read the comments first
Consider this, and I say it having owned m/c shops, mechanics are not always the brightest of people, some are absolute geniuses, but some are mediocre at best. If they can do it, why can’t you? Working on a motorcycle is not brain surgery or even come to that, rocket science.
Catastrophic breakdowns/ repairs…these stop everyone in their tracks. A lot of riders will tell you – “this is when the adventure begins!”
Please add great experiences of a breakdown in the comments, I know there are loads of examples
Simply put, in the western world everyone seems too busy to stop and help, but help is just a phone call away and usually readily available, think Europe, North America, Australia.
In the third world, this is where the fear usually is from a rider who isn’t used to traveling internationally.
People are more caring and will stop much more often and help more than you would ever believe, you have to put your trust in humanity, and clear your mind and just enjoy the ride.
Just because a guy is riding a horse doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know a local motorcycle mechanic who has a Helicoil to fix that thread that oil is leaking from!
Even some moral support can help.
When you are in a bigger town or city that’s when you do your regular preventative maintenance just in case you do need help it will be close by.
An excellent way to reduce potential breakdowns is to always leave with new consumables: tires, tubes, brake pads, oil, oil filter, air filter, cables, and brake/ clutch fluid, freshly greased bearings.
Also, clean all electrical connections and use di-electric grease to reduce and possibly eliminate the ingress of moisture.
While you are doing this you can also double-check there aren’t any potential rub spots where wires could get chafed over time. This is especially worth doing if you haven’t owned your bike from new.
If your bike just dies and has no power/ charge, and you think your trip or your life is over, the first things to check…and this may sound funny, but I have seen it more times than I can remember.
This is a quick three-point checklist –
Did you accidentally hit your kill switch?
Are your battery connections tight?
Are you out of gas?
Breaking down is reciprocal; if you aren’t the one broken down, but see another rider who has broken down, even if you think you can’t help due to lack of knowledge, STOP!
You might even be the one to help someone and get them riding again.
You might have tools they don’t, you might have a phone to call for help or let them use it, maybe you have a puncture repair kit, a spare chain link, a bolt, etc.
If you don’t have any beliefs, it won’t be too long until you believe in karma.
If your bike has a very specific tool required for fixing or removing a part make sure you have it with you even though you may not know how to use it, you will certainly find a mechanic somewhere that will…but may not have it in their toolbox.
Remember most of the rest of the world rides motorcycles 250cc or smaller, smaller bikes mean smaller tools.
So get out there, embrace the adventure, and people you might meet by chance because of a breakdown, and when you return home guaranteed it will be some of your most cherished memories.
“Did I ever tell you about that time in the middle of nowhere in a Nicaraguan jungle my bike died on a track that I had seen no people all day? Then a family in a pickup truck appeared, loaded my bike in the back and I stayed with them for a week while they helped me find someone to help and wanted nothing in return, but my friendship…”
Let’s hear those inspiring stories, inmates…