This month we will look at breakdowns on the road. One of the fears that many people have about motorcycle travel, is breakdowns. That concern is not unwarranted though, because motorcycles are high maintenance vehicles, and sooner or later they may give you problems. Breakdowns can be a high stress situation, so one of the most important things you can do is try and keep a clear head. This can be difficult if you are in traffic, or you have a group of people who want to give you advice.
Step one is to get yourself and your passenger to a safe spot, because the most important thing is your safety. Even if it risks damaging the motorcycle to do it, or bending a few laws and ordinances to get out of harm’s way. Most cops understand extreme situations, and even if they don’t, a $150 ticket is better than being hit by a car. Most people are understanding if you pull into their driveway or onto their sidewalk for an emergency. If you are with a group, and there is not a lot of room, just have one person stay with you and ask everyone else to go down the road to a safe location to pull off. A crowd of people on the side of the highway just puts people’s safety at risk, and often it’s just frustrating having a group of people waiting for you to figure out a problem.
The next thing is to assess the problem: Run through all of your basic things first because frequently the problem is something simple.
Handlebar switch? Key on? Kickstand switch (metric bikes)? Does it have gas? Is the gas on? Is the choke still on (it should not be)? Next check and see if something vibrated loose, or did that EBay part you recently installed fail? Maybe something you recently had apart wasn’t put back together tightly.
Once you check all the basics, the troubleshooting begins. Now don’t just guess, as to the problem, you will want to use deductive reasoning to sort the problem out.
Deductive reasoning: This is the process of determining a conclusion by process reasoning and elimination. You know the bike needs spark, compression, fuel and air to run. Example: If the bike cranks over when you hit the starter, you know the battery is good because it takes a lot of electrical energy to turn the engine over. If the bike was just running, and died, but the engine cranks over with no unfamiliar noises, there is a good possibility that there are not any failures of major internal engine parts. Nothing is obviously clogging the intake, so it’s probably getting air. So one can conclude that the problem is likely fuel or spark. Proceed from there.
One of the important things your can do to help prevent roadside breakdowns is to know and listen to your bike when it runs normally. Try to be in tune with it and anticipate it’s actions. The little stutters or stumbles that are not normal, are often precursors of a failure that is about to happen.
So now you have tried everything, including swearing at it, and nothing seems to help. You are now faced with the dilemma of getting your bike home. AAA or a towing service is always good to have, even though it does cost a little extra to have it cover motorcycles. Even if you have to pay for your tow, or you are out of range of your standard roadside assistance; you can always request to be towed to the nearest U-Haul, or Penske truck rental (those are at most Home Depots). From there you can rent a truck, put your bike in the back of it and drive the truck home. This option is notably cheaper than having to pay to have your bike towed 500 miles or more.
Knoble Moto is a partner of Skidmark Garage. We teach classes for the DIY crowd, on all aspects of motorcycle repair. Entry level maintenance, valve adjustments, carburetor cleaning and tuning, drive line service, suspensions, and even engine work. Our class subjects are updated regularly, so check back often. If there is a subject you do not see covered, shoot me an email at email@example.com Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/knoblemoto, Instagram Knoble_Moto and www.KnobleMoto.com