Friday, July 11, 2014

Rider #3 Ride Report

Submitted by John Coons:

My rally got off to a great start.  Cloudy so the sun wasn't bothering me, enough rain so it was cool riding.  I headed for Dennis' house in Iowa, planning to hit Souix City and then get to Niobrara before the 1430 window closed.  John Frick and I spent most of the day riding in close proximity to each other, and it was good to be riding with a friend.  I was on target to make Niobrara so I decided I had time to jump off the freeway and get the points for Sgt. Floyd's grave at Sioux City, IA.  John was behind me and followed me off the exit.  I often take routes that are not suggested by my GPS, so was cutting through a residential neighborhood with John in tow.  I slowed to make a right hand turn, put the bike into first (25mph speed limit in the neighborhood) and when I let the clutch out there was horrible clanking noises and the bike decelerated along with the noise.  I came to a stop and John pulled up and asked if I was okay.  I knew whatever that noise was couldn't be solved by another rally rider and I told him I was fine, go ahead.  I see later that he made Niobrara in time, good for him!

I nursed the bike up to a shady spot and began to take stock in my situation.  No leaking from the final drive.  Clutch seems to work.  In all the gears it still made the horrible noise coming from either the swing arm housing or the transmission, couldn't tell which.  

I called up my Dad, Charlie Coons, who has been the miracle worker who keeps my 94 R1100RSL going down the road.  It's got 180k on it now, which is far less than John Frick's 250k, but with my lack of funds and rallying coming behind other family priorities for money this is the bike I stick with.  Besides, I really do like riding it.  

Dad listens to my description and thinks it's probably the driveshaft.  He gets out the BMW Anonymous Book and calls someone listed from Sioux City.  Jim Johnson says he will go get a friend and be right over.   I call Jack Backer and ask who he knows in Sioux City who could help me.  Jack has been home sicker than a dog for a while, and had finally passed a kidney stone the night before.  He sounded like hell on the phone, like someone had beat him up.  He said Frump lives in Sioux City.  I know Brian Hase "Frump" from rallying,  both LD and BMW, and gave him a call.  He called me back shortly and said he would be right over.  As fate would have it he and Jim own a trailer together.  They both arrived and we loaded up my bike in the trailer and took me over to Chuck Swenson's house.  Chuck has a lift and all the tools needed, specialty ones too, for removing the rear swing arm.  Thing is, Chuck wasn't home.  He was traveling in MN somewhere, but happily agreed to let me use his shop.  Frump had the code, and soon enough the bike was on the lift being disassembled.  You can see pictures Frump took of the process here:

I was told later that night that Sunday was one of the hottest, most humid days they have had there this summer.  The shop didn't have air conditioning, but it had a fan, and the breeze was fantastic.  Chuck has a million dollar view west over Sioux City from his shop and house.  Truly a wonderful spot.  But we sweated our asses off in there.  Frump kept apologizing for not helping more, but there was only really room for one guy down next to the bike.  He was great moral support, ran for tools, parts, and water, and I couldn't have done it without him.

I had Dad on the phone for instructions and we would call him when the previous directions ran out.  You can see the phone balanced on my foot peg in one of the photos.  So I get the rear wheel off, and pull out the bolts that hold the final drive in place and put that aside.  The driveshaft is in three pieces when it is supposed to be in two.  Lots and lots of metal parts and metal powder in the swing arm housing.  So now I need a driveshaft.

Frump says, "I know a guy that has his RT apart and I think he has a spare driveshaft."  Soon he has Stan Stille on the phone.  Stan is in the process of moving to Omaha and everything he owns is packed into boxes.  He doesn't know where the shaft is, but he'll look.  A couple of minutes later he calls back "I've got it, come and get it".  

While Frump runs for the shaft, I am struggling with getting the remaining chunk of driveshaft off of the spindle from the transmission.  It is held on by a captive snap ring and I am having trouble levering it off because I haven't yet removed the swing arm housing.  I find several different prying tools by digging through Chuck's tools and bins.  That alone had me feeling very guilty, but very, very grateful.  None of them are working.  Dad suggest some sort of chain I can wrap around the u joint and then hit the chain to pull it loose.  I can't find anything that looks right, but then I locate a cable that was for tying up Chuck's dog.  I manage to wrap the cable two times around the u joint, and stand way across the shop with the cable stretched out and hooked to itself.  Then I slip something through the cable and start jerking on it with Fump holding the bike so it doesn't move too much.  After a few tries it pops out!

We compare the shafts and they look the same.  All Stan wanted in exchange for the shaft was for Frump to help him move his 60 inch television, which he did while he was picking it up!

So I begin the re-assembly process, and get it all buttoned up.  By 8pm, 8 hours after failure, I had a ride able bike again.  I start planning my new and shortened route to Austin, and something that still looks challenging to me is shaping up.

Dad calls again, and expresses concern about some bearings he fears may have been damaged in the process.  He doesn't feel good about me continuing to ride on it like that.  I almost always defer to his advice when it comes to mechanical things, and I'm sure I didn't take his opinion well.  Frump mentions a test ride to see if it even works, and I think this is good advice.  I take it for a tour of Sioux City's freeway construction and am having trouble navigating the lane changes.  I realized I am very, very tired.  8 hours sweating and stressing in the shop have taken their toll, so I decide no matter what happens I am going to check into an air conditioned motel, get some sleep, then decide what to do.

So I pack up and head to the Super 8, and Frump stops by with a pizza.  He, Chuck, Jim, and Stan are the heroes of the day!

I sleep for awhile and wake up at 6am.  Here is where I made some fatal (to my rally anyway) mistakes.  I can't ignore Dad's concerns, because they are certainly legitimate.  If the bike breaks when I'm farther from home, it will be expensive and time consuming getting it home.  I don't have the financial means to do these rallies anyway, and this is always a big fear.  I don’t' mind taking the chance on unknown risks that the bike will break, but his concern is a known risk and needs to be considered.

What caused his concern was when I told him some of the metal pieces from the driveshaft explosion had gotten into the bearings that attach the final drive to the swing arm housing.  I reported this to him on the phone because in my rudimentary knowledge of bearings I know that foreign objects inside them can cause big problems.  What I DIDN'T realize is what these bearings do.  And what they do is readily apparent by looking at them.  Another signal I was tired and not thinking through to the next logical step in my reasoning.  Had I thought about, or asked, what these particular bearings DO, I wouldn't have been concerned with the tiny amount of metal dust that was inside of them.  I had cleaned them and re-greased them, but it was not a perfect job.  In my head I was thinking of bearings that go round and round at high RPMs, not these that just move back and forth a quarter turn or so.  That was the first mistake.  The second mistake was not realizing I was 280 miles away from Dad's shop.  I could have slept for a few hours, and ridden to Dad's house.  He could have inspected the used shaft and bearings to his satisfaction, and replaced them with the spares he had in his garage if he thought it was necessary, and I could have been on the road again to Austin by Monday afternoon at the latest.  But that didn't occur to me until Tuesday morning.  

Another factor that didn't help was my wife and children were 130 miles away at the family cabin on Lake Shetek.  So going home wasn't something I was thinking about.  If I was going to quit the rally I would head up there and spend time with them.  If they had been at home I would have left for my house on Monday morning and it would have dawned on me on the ride that I could just go to Dad's house and get rallying again.  

So the lesson learned here is don't stop the problem solving process too soon.  Run all the possibilities out to all the conclusions and you might find a better solution.  Remember that you are tired and might be impaired in that reasoning ability.  Remind yourself to step back and look at it big picture.  I failed at this and I intend to not do it again.

Some have said "Well, you won't make top ten anyway".  And that isn't my goal in rallies.  My goal is to do the best I possibly can with the situation I am faced with.  Rallying is rallying to me, and the fun is in the process of getting bonuses and making goals.  Getting wood is just a nice side affect of being lucky sometimes.  

So I went to the cabin and had a very nice day and evening with my family drinking beer and talking to my friends on the phone who were still rallying.  I had a very enjoyable ride home from the cabin and visited some friends on the way.  

I've been talking on the phone to the rest of the DNF crowd.  We have been making sad clown faces together.  I am heading up tonight to be there for the finish and to cheer on my friends who are still riding.  The good news is my bike is fully ready for next summer's Ironbutt once Dad gives those bearings a look-see.

1 comment:

  1. Cool. Good woulda, shoulda, coulda, rally mates, story. Rallying - enjoying the experience whatever it may be.