Back to Back Issues Page
Motorcycle riding and the kindness of strangers
October 28, 2013

Great info for great riding

Motorcycle Riding and the Kindness of Strangers

Motorcycle riders -- especially those of us who tour and travel -- soon learn that “stuff” happens on the road. Most often, dealing with unforeseen circumstances boils down to making a few key decisions and doing the best we can with the resources at hand.

And sometimes we must depend upon the kindness of strangers -- for better or worse…or someplace in between.

I learned this the first time some years ago when I was crossing Canada.

What happened to the oil?

I was in Brandon, Manitoba, nearly 1,500 miles from home and three days into a major journey. While gassing up, I checked the engine oil on my 650 cc Triumph.

To my gut wrenching amazement, the oil tank was nearly empty and the remaining oil was smoking hot.

Within a few more miles, the engine would have overheated and seized.

The engine was consuming oil like crazy. But how?

I couldn't see any leaks. There were no clouds of smoke billowing from the exhaust to indicate the engine was burning oil.

If I were to continue, I’d have to replenish the oil constantly. And the problem could get much worse. I needed a savvy motorcycle mechanic to set things straight.

Brandon’s motorcycle guru lends a hand…

The guys at the gas station suggested I take my bike to Brandon’s motorcycle guru, a fellow named Lawrence Byrd. Immediately I headed to his motorcycle shop -- a small, one-man operation with a clean and orderly work area.

Lawrence Byrd listened patiently as I told my story. He inspected the engine, kick-started it to life and worked the twist-grip to rev it up and down.

He then asked me to bring the bike inside for a closer look. He thought worn or ill fitting piston rings were the problem. It could also be an oil pump problem. He decided to check the pump first to rule out major surgery.

He removed and dismantled the pump, replaced and reseated a few parts, then put everything back together. He suggested that I leave my gear in his shop and take the bike for a 50-75-mile ride.

When I returned, we checked the oil level and saw immediately that the pump repairs hadn’t cured the problem. The oil level had dropped a startling amount during my short ride.

Let the guys in Saskatoon check it out…

Lawrence Byrd encouraged me to continue my cross-country trip. He suggested I alter my route and head northwest to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where one of the largest Triumph motorcycle dealerships in Canada could check out my bike.

If it needed major repairs, he figured a shop that size would do the work and get me back on the road in short order.

I reached dealership in Saskatoon the next morning as the mechanics were rolling out customers’ bikes to make room in the service area. It was a big place where each of the eight or more mechanics worked in his own well-tooled, lift-equipped stall.

The interrogation...

I found the owner and explained my problem. He asked many insightful questions…

• How much oil was the bike using?

•What kind of oil?

• Was the bike billowing smoke from the exhaust?

• Had I done any major engine work on it lately?

• How did I break in the newly repaired engine?

• How many miles were on the bike since the repairs?

• Was the engine consuming oil before this trip?

As I responded to each question, the guy punctuated each answer with an enthusiastic, “How innnnteresting.” I began to feel more like his biology experiment than his customer.

He ultimately surmised that worn piston rings were causing the oil consumption problem. I offered to dismantle the engine myself and put it back together to save a mechanic’s time with the piston ring installation process.

This is a solution?

He then said, “We would like to help, umm, tourists, but we don’t. We’re too busy. I suggest that you continue adding oil to the engine. Using 90-weight should reduce the problem.”

It was obvious he didn't want any part of me or my motorcycle. He wanted me out of his establishment. Pronto.

And this was his big solution to the bike’s oil consumption problem? Switch to 90-weight oil -- the automotive equivalent of taking Keopectate. How low-tech can you get?

So what did I do?

I bought 14 quarts of 90-weight oil -- as much as I could pack onto my overloaded motorcycle. I also drained my oil tank and refilled it with this molasses-like muck.

I left Saskatoon and headed west across Saskatchewan. After traveling about 250 miles, I pulled into a rest stop, parked the bike, unscrewed the oil filler cap and looked inside. The oil level was still the same as when I'd filled the tank.

The tar-like oil had solved the problem.

How innnteresting.

Epilogue: When I was returning home many weeks and thousands of miles later, I stopped in Brandon to let Lawrence Byrd know how things had worked out. We both had a good laugh.

He gave me one last quart of 90-weight oil to get me back home to New Jersey.

Soon after I'd returned, I overhauled the engine and replaced the visually obvious warn rings. The repairs enabled me to switch back to using 20-40-weight oil.

The bike ran great for many more years and miles.

* * *

Cool Product…Dynaplug Tubeless Tire Repair Tools

The entire line of Dynaplug tire repair tools give you a quick and reliable solution to plugging punctures in your motorcycle's tubeless tires.

They're compact, easy to use and work great in emergencies. And what flat tire isn't an emergency?

They're all made in the USA.

Click here to learn more…

Blatant self promotion...Books by Brian Salisbury

Please join me on my trips to popular destinations and rides down roads less traveled...

I recently launched a three-book series containing motorcycle travel and adventure stories and observations drawn from my jaunts throughout the United States and Canada.

Click here for a complete description of these books along with the road tales they contain...

Or click on any of the following book covers to go directly to them at Amazon…

For more information…

For a wealth of information to help you…

• Ride more safely and comfortably…

• Select gear that best suits you, your motorcycle and riding style…

• Get the most enjoyment every time you ride…

Or if you'd like a free subscription to Savvy Motorcyclist E-zine…

Visit my website at...

Copyright 2013 and Ever After

Back to Back Issues Page