About Me

I'm Joseph Savant, photographer and moto adventurer. 

I just completed an amazing motorcycle journey to the tip of South America from Alaska, exploring and photographing all the way. I hope you enjoy the blog!

 

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© 2017 by Joseph Savant

It's Adventure, Right?

December 16, 2017

The bike had left a good size puddle the first night, but afterwards didn't leak another drop. Miracles happen, but I ain't dumb enough to think my seal was healed. The search for a solution began.

 

Michnus told me Kevin Chow, a friend and fellow adventurer on a BMW similar to mine, had had a seal failure in Quito. A local shop there, MotoHell, had done a great job working with him on replacing it. Michele, the partner in the shop, had located a seal for him in Colombia and he had to wait about a week and half, mainly due to a shipper strike in Colombia, but was repaired and on the road in a couple of weeks.

 

Michnus connected us up and she began looking for parts while I looked at the dealer repair route. The problem lay in the fact that Quito was at least a 9 hour ride north and I had no idea if it was a main or counterbalance shaft seal and knew it wouldn't make it. I had no desire to go back to Quito if at all possible. It being a weekend, I sent an email to a BMW dealer in Guayaquil though there would be no response for a couple of days anyway. MotoHell had also recommended Morejon Motos in Cuenca, which was the shop Michnus & Elsebie were going to for chains and sprockets.

 

Monday would hopefully bring some solution when Morejon opened and possibly the BMW dealer would answer.

 

In the meantime I swallowed down the bitter pill of what lay ahead - finding a mechanic, total disassembly of the bike, waiting for parts from somewhere, the loss of a month and the resulting financial hit from hotels and repairs, not to mention my schedule for hitting Ushuaia at prime good weather season. I was glad as heck I hadn't blown a couple grand visiting the Galapagos, as much as I wish I had been able to see it. An internal oil seal leak on any bike is an issue, however on a BMW it is much more serious. Due to their traditional engine design, the engine has to be split, entailing massive dismemberment of most of the motorcycle and is far more complex than some other motorcycle designs. Outside the US and Europe, parts and dealers are limited comparatively. 

 

The other options continually rolling through my head were even if the repairs were done, there could be lingering issues after - bad electrical connections, miniscule vacuum leaks, lack of Loctite and poorly torqued bolts and a thousand other things. If the bike couldn't be set right, it would have to be shipped home, ending the trip, or shipped to a dealer in another country for rebuilding. Thoughts were going crazy and never left my head.

 

I'm also glad Michnus and Elsebie were there and hanging with them was a lot of fun. We wandered and shot photos, ate good and not-so-good food, but had some fun over the weekend walking the streets, exploring and shooting photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Michnus and Elsebie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday rolled around and we made Morejon Motos on our bikes, pulling in and assessing the place. The shop was busy with a few KTM's in for repair as well as a couple of BMW's parked around. There was also a good selection of tires and moto gear in the shop.

 

In the repair area, I saw a familiar R1150GS in pieces and carrying some serious damage. Shortly after, Griffin rode in on his DR650, followed by Carson on foot. The R1150GS belonged to Carson. Griffin and Carson were two riders who'd been in Cartagena the day we'd arrived on the Stahlratte. They'd taken a different sailboat but had found insurance and gotten on the road quickly. In Medellin, at the BMW shop, I'd seen Carson again, looking for some parts for the 1150. So it was a surprise to see them again.

 

 

Carson told the crash story. He'd missed a curve on the way in to Cuenca, flipping the bike and knocking himself cold. He came within a quarter inch of losing his eye from a helmet chin guard failing and piercing his face. At any rate, he was having Cristobal help him with repairs, having trashed his engine guards, breaking the valve cover into pieces and shearing the cover bolts, breaking the hole castings in the process. The bike was in bad shape but even in such condition he was told it could be sold for $2000 and when repaired, $10,000 locally. The idea intrigued him and he laughingly said he might sell the bike and buy a Royal Enfield Himalaya and pocket the rest.

 

When Cristobal had time to look at my bike, he said he could do it but would take a couple of days if I could start finding the seals. Question was, which seal? The entire bike had to be split and disassembled to find out. In the meantime the BMW dealer in Guayaquil had responded and said to send all my paperwork for the bike and they would decide if they could do it. Guaya was 4 hours away, so that seemed feasible, however he also said there was a BMW dealer in Cuenca, which showed up nowhere in Google searches. I found it from the name he'd sent and after talking with Cristobal, we three took a taxi to the Cuenca dealer to get a feel for the shop. As it turns out, they only sold the bikes and had no service or shop, instead telling me that a couple of local shops could do it. No thanks.

 

Cristobal had a good reputation from feedback from others, so I made the decision to let him tackle it rather than face the shipping and travel to Quito, not to mention being stuck there as well for a few weeks. Cuenca was a hell of a lot nicer. My only regret was that MotoHell did a great job on Kevin's bike and were experienced and ready, other than the parts.

 

As we had stood talking to Carson at the shop, a couple rolled in on a huge Kawasaki Vulcan. They were from the Czech Republic and heading for Ushuaia. We all had fun talking about travels our travels and Michnus invited them as well as G & C, to meet us at a Belgian Brewery that evening. We'd planned to meet up that evening with two of their friends who were Overlanding from the US in a Toyota Tacoma as well. As it turns out, Charlie had returned from the Galapagos and was coming into Cuenca that day, where he was meeting up with Derrick, another guy from the Stahlratte, so I told them to come on as well.

 

While the mechanics jumped onto replacing chains and sprockets, Michnus noticed some oil on his rear shock base, pulling it to send back to Quito overnight where it had been rebuilt earlier.
 

 

Michele got back to me that there was no countershaft seal anywhere in S America, one main seal in Lima, and one trans input seal in Colombia. Parts would be 15 days out minimum. As bad luck would have it, the BMW dealers in San Antonio and Dallas were also out of stock, but I ordered from Jessica in Dallas to ship when possible to MotoHank. Hank had jumped on the search and contacted seal houses in Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil. He'd had no luck with any seals but has dealt with so many stranded travelers overseas that he wanted to handle the DHL shipping for me. I really appreciated it, even though it would be a minimum of a week and likely two or more with customs in Ecuador. Hank has busted his butt for so many travelers over the years trying to get parts or tires to them in various countries. Now, I found myself in the same situation I'd overheard so many times in his shop, WhatsApp speakerphone calls from Africa or South America and voices asking for advice and help, followed with hours or days of often unpaid time helping collect parts and deal with shipping.

 

The next day I visited the shop, and Cristobal had disassembled the BMW. Despite having seen other BMW's apart, it was shocking to see the level of disassembly he had done. All BMW's have to be split and it's major surgery to do the clutch or seals, but since he wasn't a BMW mechanic, there was much more taken apart than necessary. I was a bit dumbfounded and nervous that it would ever work again. There is so much interconnectivity of electronics and technology that there would be a thousand places that could cause issues. It's a major job even at a BMW dealership.

 

 

 

 

 Would it ever be the same again???

 

The good or bad news is that it was a leaking main seal, one of three various seals in the engine housing. We measured the clutch plate thickness, since it is better to replace everything possible once inside. Surprisingly, the clutch was still in good condition with over two thirds thickness still left. One of the factors that had to be considered was the importation of parts from the United States into Ecuador. First was the fact that very few parts were available in South America, typically in other countries that would have to be shipped in. One of the biggest delays is when parts come through customs. It's common for them to sit for two, three, or four weeks at times, something I could not afford to do.

 

I had ordered the parts from the United States, which were out of stock but were due in. Adding the $400 clutch plate parts to go with it would certainly cause more difficulties in customs than a small bubblewrap package. I made a hard decision to not replace the clutch which would mean another huge expense in the future. For now, just getting the seal replaced them back on the road was my priority. I've been in Cuenca for two weeks now and had no idea how many more might lay ahead. I wasn't sleeping well.
 

That evening our group collected up in pairs - the Overlander couple whose names I've forgotten, Michnus and Elsebie, meself, Charlie and Derrick, Carson and Griffin and then the Czech couple. The upshot was that Michnus had mentioned how they never met more than a person or so at a time on the trip, and now there were eleven travelers at one table. It was a great evening and nice to forget about the bike for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A day or so later, Suzy and Kelvin, another pair of world travelers from the UK and friends of you-know-who arrived and we spent time together.

 

 

Michnus' shock had come back, a simple o-ring at the adjuster being the issue. Their bikes back together and only a couple of days left on the visa, they all packed for Peru and left the next morning.

 

 

It was great experience being able to hang out together!

 

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