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  #1  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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How much do you really need to know

Time is ticking down to departure date and while I will, for some part, travel with a genuis of all things bike, I will also be travelling on my own for a large part. RTW is planned, but for now lets just consider the Americas - the first stop - top to bottom.

I can be a hands on girl when I want to be (wahey), but bike maintenance/mechanics/repair etc etc etc, is something that really does not pickle my onion. I get absolutely no satisfaction from sprockets and spanners (although I am pretty amazed by the Motion Pro Tool).

Dont get me wrong, I do know about bikes, or at least I know how they work and if you pointed to something I could name it, and I have changed tyres removed a carb, changed cables, etc etc but always helping someone. And I just dont absorb what I need to. I am however incredibly resourceful and imaginitive!

I'll be riding a XR650L.

I would love to hear from people who have done or are planning big trips and dont really know how to fix a bike.

Char
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  #2  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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Sounds like you'll do OK to me, how much more do you think you will need to do on the road ? A crank regrind may be a problem without a grinder ( which weighs about 2 ton ) or lapping in a new exhuast valve may be some what problematic in a wet ditch at midnight.
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  #3  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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Hey if you can recognise the parts ,you are ahead of the game ,compared to some.
Take along a workshop manual ,in a thumbdrive [if that's the right word ].Then you can read the relevant pages without having to carry a heavy book .
On the Honda ,make sure you check for wear on the gearbox counter shaft , my buddy had the sprocket completely wear out the splines on the shaft within 11,000 km .
Bad design or incorrectly heat treated shaft - who knows?
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  #4  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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I carry tools and have a reasonable knowledge of bikes but whenever I've broken down I needed parts or a vice or a big hammer all of which I didn't have. However, it seems I carry with me good Karma. Someone will turn up, usually a biker or the father, mother, brother or mate of a biker and give you more help than you could expect, for free! They'll know someone with a van to get you to a mechanic or let you camp on their front lawn. Even today there is human kindness everywhere, have faith.
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  #5  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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I have never done a big trip, but am setting off on one tomorrow, and I can 100% ensure you that you know more than me. My dad told me yesterday that the clutch has a cable, and that was a surprise for me.

Andy (Joe C90) kindly offered to show me the difference between a sprocket and a shmurzle, but I couldn't take him up on it because of family/work committments, so I am going with zero knowledge. I don't know my arse from my cam rod, so will be relying other people in the world not being quite as useless as me.

You can always learn as you go. No better way to learn how to do than by doing.

Hope my shitness makes you feel more confident.

Hakunah Matata, an sha Allah, que serah serah.

Birdy.
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  #6  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Birdy View Post
I have never done a big trip, but am setting off on one tomorrow, and I can 100% ensure you that you know more than me. My dad told me yesterday that the clutch has a cable, and that was a surprise for me.

Andy (Joe C90) kindly offered to show me the difference between a sprocket and a shmurzle, but I couldn't take him up on it because of family/work committments, so I am going with zero knowledge. I don't know my arse from my cam rod, so will be relying other people in the world not being quite as useless as me.

You can always learn as you go. No better way to learn how to do than by doing.

Hope my shitness makes you feel more confident.

Hakunah Matata, an sha Allah, que serah serah.

Birdy.
Yes, Hakunah Matata...

I don't know that much either, but have a full set of tools and 2 manuals with me (in a 4x4)...
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  #7  
Old 8 Jan 2009
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Nuffink

Top to bottom of Africa, 12 months, 15,000 miles and apart from mending punctures, I didn't touch a thing. Went on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle.

I thought that if I tried to change the oil, then I would probably knacker the thread on the drain plug so I just didn't touch a thing, absolutely zilch

Bike is sat in my garage now, and it works just fine (10 years and 30,000 miles later) It did need a bit of love when it got home

Just hop on the bike and ride it (slowly !)
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  #8  
Old 9 Jan 2009
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hey, being a woman, you'll probably get help, even when you don't want it.
A woman with a technical problem calls on all male instincts to blow himself up and show all the feathers

That said, a minimum knowledge is practical, so you can check if the guy knows what he is doing to your bike.

And riding a XR, nothing should go wrong, as long as you change the oil and check the chain and sprockets
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  #9  
Old 9 Jan 2009
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umm Dodger.....you know I said I could name parts if you pointed to them, I am not sure my knowledge extends to the gearbox counter shaft, but I think I know what you're talking about.


Thanks guys, for the boost of confidence and the little tips. I was kinda banking on help from people as and when I need it, so I shall keep my faith in human kindness. I was also thinking that this would indirectly create more opportunities to meet people and communities.

Birdy and Dick, what great stories! Birdy, all the best for your trip, and let me know how it goes learning bike mechanics on the hoof.

I have a XR650L manual in the post to me. I wonder how much of a bible it will become......
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  #10  
Old 11 Jan 2009
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if you can reckonise things & have a slight clue what they do then you can work it out as you go along.
knowing the carb mixings fuel & air for the bike to run is enough to have a clue where to look when it wont run but you've got a spark for example.

im reasonably ok with taking bikes apart, but as someone said up there ^^ you wont have the tools/space/workbench/etc to do it on the side of the road anyway.

have fun on your trip.
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  #11  
Old 12 Jan 2009
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parts. Mail order Honda parts are cheapest. Most dealers will always have to order any part you need outside of an oil filter or air filter. These days, they stock almost nothing.

Have a great trip!

Patrick

Last edited by mollydog; 26 Mar 2009 at 21:24.
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  #12  
Old 13 Jan 2009
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I know it's easy for me to say from behind my computer, but don't worry about it,just do as much preventitive maintainance as you can.If (when) something fails just take it as part of the trip.I'd be very surprised if you can do a big trip without something going wrong somewhere,you've just got to try and minimise the potential for failure..
In 1990 I did a "Eurotour" 2 up on a well used and abused Kawasaki Z650.The bike had been great in England but all sorts of stuff went wrong once it got over the channel,amongst other things the fuel tap failed and started pissing out fuel in the middle of Barcelona,I was worried about it going up in flames.We ended up in a bike shop for a couple of hours adapting a fuel tap from a Yamaha twin,(they never imported Z650's to Spain),the list of mechanicals culminated in a valve stem oil seal failing in southern France,the bike cost more in oil than petrol to get home but it still managed to get back to Lancashire (covered in oil).
The reason I'm mentioning this, is that we could'nt have predicted the two specific failures,and we did'nt have the facilities to strip the motor down to do the valve stem oil seal but we still completed the journey.
Enjoy the trip!
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  #13  
Old 13 Jan 2009
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I sometimes think it would be nice to travel in blissful ignorance of all things mechanical but there's no going back now because I've spent too many hours /days in the past rebuilding some wreck in the middle of nowhere and as a result of that I've learnt to recognise when some bit is on the way out.

My wife, on the other hand, has a proper job and is able to afford a better class of transport so she doesn't need to know how to fix it. When we travel as a family she is happy as long as the engine starts and the wheels go round whereas I hear a minute squeak and I'm thinking " the overhead underhanger sounds knackered, I must fix that when we get back". Which of us is having the easier time?

The ability to diagnose and (hopefully) fix whatever goes wrong on a trip is a skill that many posters seem to be in awe of - particularly when they're part of a back from the jaws of death trip report. You may have read here the report of a KTM rider (sorry, no link - search function seems to on the blink) who fixed his engine sprocket with a bottle top and I came across a couple of guys in Mauri who relined their clutch with material chiseled from their brake pads. I'm sure that a lot of more recent converts to overlanding think that this sort of ability is necessary to undertake a long trip and worry that if they don't have it's all going to end in disaster.

The reality (or my version of it anyway) is that all you're gaining is a bit of time / convenience (and maybe saving some money). Unless you're on some remote piste in the Sahara where a breakdown equals a long lingering death (which begs the question what are you doing there unsupported anyway) the difference between fixing it yourself at the side of the road and getting towed / trucked to a garage is the time it takes to sort it out and however much it costs. There is a hassle factor though with having to depend on someone else to sort out a problem and if you add in a bit of "what am I doing here" culture shock / travel exhaustion (not talked about enough on the HUBB IMHO) the ability to fix it yourself might seem like a desirable option as it keeps you away from the locals. I would suggest it might be better to recognise and deal with the exhaustion though.

A degree in vehicular bush engineering may tell you you're being conned when the mechanic says your crankshaft needs reboring and you've actually only run out of petrol but a second opinion is probably a more easily acquired option. If the time element is important to you then mechanical knowledge may save you some of it (or none if you have reliable vehicle). If you're not in a hurry, don't worry, be happy and turn up the ipod. Enough small easily fixed with common sense things will happen on a trip to ensure that when you come back you'll be the font of knowledge that the rest of us come to.
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  #14  
Old 13 Jan 2009
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I think you will be fine as you are, CG...

I have had a quick wizz through some of the posts and one aspect I agree with is that being able to diagnose is a really useful skill. Taking stuff apart, and reassembling is easy, if done carefully. Its knowing what to take apart that is the tough thing.

Unfortunately, all that comes with time and, although I know a lot more than I once did, I still feel like I know nothing, when I read some of the posts on here.

My gut feeling is if you know enough to keep your bike in good running order, ie basic maintenance and checks, you will go a long way to avoiding problems on the road and you should be fine.
Fluid levels and fluid changes, filter changes, valve clearance check if they are esy to get to (although even this is not essential) etc and of course checking your chain, tyres and brakes. If you just keep an eye on your bike, stuff is less likely to fall apart unexpectedly...

The other aspect would be basic repairs. This is where diagnosis comes in and you can never know too much, and yet even the most seasoned field mechanic may one day feel they don't know enough... Just hit the road and IF you have any problems, you will be surprised how solutions just seem to present themselves, when you least expect it!!

If it is any help/peace of mind, you could buy a book like this: http://www.haynes.co.uk/Press/Haynes...RGBhr_4071.jpg (easy to follow, basic explanation of motorcycle systems with nice tips on what to do inc troubleshooting), or visit this site for more detailed pointers:
Motorcycle Repair Course, which has been quite handy for me since buying a Ural...(the spark plug image page is really useful if ever you have running problems!)
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  #15  
Old 14 Jan 2009
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if you want to know about riding a trip and knowing next to nothing about bike maintenance, read
'these are the days that must happen to you' by dan walsh

solves every mishap with a tyre kick and a bent marlboro light
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