And by “adventure” I mean “a disaster that happened to someone else”
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning, more or less:
The very day before this saga begins, S# had acquired his very own new-to-him BMW R1200GS. S# being S#, he was super-eager to take his new toy out on a Real Ride. Meanwhile, Josh (nickname pending), being a year into his life as a motorcycle rider, needed to do a more serious rode. Something beyond the one-hour loops that he has been doing for practice. So on Saturday afternoon I met Josh for lunch and then helped him wake up his bike from Winter storage.
While packing up his gear, he started his Moto Guzzi to make sure that the battery and fuel were fresh, and because the day was still chilly he left it running to warm up. After a minute or so of running, the bike suddenly started emitting a screech. It was troubling enough to cause him to shut it down immediately. We poked at the bike, and then used the Software Engineer’s troubleshooting technique: Restart it and see if it happens again :-).
It did not recur. To me, it sounded like a sticky clutch plate (hey, I ride Ducatis… I’m used to that kind of sound). After letting the bike run for a few minutes it was decided that the noise was not anything to worry about and we rode off for the 40 mile trip to my house with no further incidents.
This may have been a mistake.
Later that evening I hosted a pre-ride bonfire in my back yard. Attendees included myself, Josh, S# (he lives a mile away from me), and Special Guest Maggot Thynk3r. Thynk3r had rode out to Sussex County to retrieve his riding pants from George, after last weekend’s BMW GS maintenance festival, and he was not going to pass up on an evening of bike talk, fire, and whiskey. In a shocking display of maturity, we mostly retired before midnight and without having set ourselves up for a group hangover the next morning, which is good because…
Sunday morning: Today, We Ride! (apologies to TC)
If you are too lazy to read, you can watch S#’s video synopsis of the day’s ride here:
Josh, S# and I started on time (sHoCkeR!), with bikes packed and running before 8 AM. Then we spent 30 minutes doing the “sena dance” trying to get our 3 bluetooth helmet intercoms to pair with each other. S# actually had the Sena user manuals up on his phone and we followed the instructions to the letter. Eventually all the helmets were able to talk to each other, but what made that happen is a mystery to us. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the written instructions; in the end it devolved into mashing buttons on the intercoms until we could all hear each other. Given that we have (I think) 5 engineering degrees between us, I have no idea how normal humans can get these intercoms to work. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The Sena UI is awful!
We were not on the road more than 15 minutes before we experienced our first Biker Miracle of the day. Just after merging onto Route 80, S# said over the intercom: “Looks like another motorcycle rider has joined up with us.” (once you get them working, motorcycle helmet intercoms are the coolest riding accessory you can have if you do group rides!). I checked my mirror… That BMW GS behind us with the giant silverback gorilla perched on top looked familiar… It looked like… Thynk3r? It WAS Thynk3r! He had gone home the night before rather than staying at my house, and we had made no coordinated effort to meet on the road. He was just going to meet us at the same spot we planned to meet Konrad Urban. So joining up on the road was a pleasant surprise.
Meeting up at The Chatterbox, April 22 2018
…and we rode on to the SSMMP (Standard Sunday Motorcycle Meeting Point): The Chatterbox on Route 15. As most North Jersey bike & car enthusiasts know, we won’t have long to enjoy the venerable Chatterbox. It is being demolished later this year to make way for a Cumberland Farms or WaWa or something. Shame. Though on the bright side, we can still meet at the WaWa and at least they will be OPEN on Sunday mornings and serving coffee.
Again we did the Sena dance, trying to get the intercoms to connect up all five riders: S#, Josh, Thynk3r, Konrad Urban, and myself. I have never been able to get more than 4 helmets connected at once, but in the second Biker Miracle of the day, by randomly pushing buttons and re-pairing we were able to get everyone talking together. It helped the Konrad has had more large-group Sena experience and knew the trick that half of the riders would go on one bluetooth channel and the other half would go on a second channel.
Stoked for Stokes
Today’s ride captain was Konrad Urban, because he knows Sussex County NJ, a.k.a. “Little Kentucky.” His route took us cross country via back roads and into Stokes State Forest, a place the maggots visit often enough. Ride pace was set a little slower than usual to accommodate Josh as a new rider, but not so slow as to detract from the gorgeous scenery and perfect weather.
In Stokes we followed the one-way goat path that is the only road in the park, winding between campsites and over hill and dale. Because S# had never been there before we made a stop on Sunrise Mountain to enjoy the view and snap some pictures:
SCIENCE does his Captain Morgan impression at Sunrise Mountain, Stokes State Forest NJ
Left to right: Konrad, Josh, SCIENCE, Thynk3r, and S# on top of Sunrise Mountian
S# ignoring the beauty of nature in favor of his cell phone
After Sunrise Mountain we continued on to High Point park. Just as we hit the main road there was a minor mishap, with Josh dropping his bike at a standstill due to short legs and a crowned road surface. No harm, no foul… at least I think not…
Josh fell here
High Points of the Trip
Since it is before Memorial Day, they were not charging the usual park entry fee. So we made a stop at High Point State Park. Again, the pictures speak for themselves:
Group shot at High Point
The Obelisk at High Point NJ: Why don’t we build monuments like this to nothing in particular nowadays?
After we had enough perfect sky at High Point, we planned to head off to Greenwood Lake and the Emerald Point restaurant – a major biker hang out on days like today. But when I turned the key on my Buell, the guages did their normal dance for a fraction of a second, then went dead. The expected sound of the fuel pump pressurizing did not happen. Ruh-roh, Shaggy! I tried again… completely dead. I tried again… Bingo! fuel pump on and starter motor engages. But I have a bad feeling about this.
Within a quarter mile going down the road from the Obelisk, my guages and engine go dead again. I coast to the bottom and let the other riders know there was trouble. Luckily there was a parking lot that I could just glide into. Although I had a faint concern that this might be something serious, I was pretty sure it was a loose battery terminal. Luckily, riding with all these BMWs guaranteed that toolkits would abound. Right? RIGHT? Turns out S#’s bike was not delivered with the toolkit, Konrad was on a KTM Duke (toolkit? HAH!). Thynk3r to the rescue! He had his BMW toolkit, but suggested I use my teeth so he wouldn’t have to dig for it.
Two terrific twists of a philips head (plus a suggestion by S# to re-orient the battery cable) and the Buell is reliably juiced up. At least until the next time it shakes the battery connection loose. During my mini-repair, Josh indicated that he was starving and would not make it 90 minutes ride to the Emerald Point and so could we please find something closer. He’s been on a paleo diet and thus was short on fuel reserves, unlike your faithful narrator who (like the arctic walrus) carries enough spare fuel and insulation to last TWO winters. So we consult local wisdom (Konrad) and re-vector off to the Elias Cole diner. “This is a TRUE greasy spoon” says Konrad.
The Elias Cole is only about 15 minutes away, but Josh is clearly fading. He is complaining about having trouble making gear shifts, and we fall behind the group even on this short stint.
On arrival we note that we are not the only biker group. This is to be expected on a beautiful Sunday, and we get to sit next to the other riders, whereupon S# becomes Mr. Gregarious and quizzes the other riders on all of their personal details.
Obligatory pre-prandial group selfie
Food is typical NJ diner. But their cinnamon buns and corned beef has were particularly good!
After fat, sugar, and caffeine it is time to split up. Josh and I decide that discretion is the better part of valor and we will take Route 23 home. Konrad, S#, and Thynk3r will ride more back roads. And so the fellowship is broken. I guess that makes Josh and I Frodo and Samwise, with the other guys being Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. I leave it to them to decide who is who.
And now the adventure REALLY begins
Things did not go well for Josh after lunch. Even on a full stomach, he was lagging. Over the intercom there was much grunting and cursing about gear shifts. This was not the case before. I was beginning to think that maybe it was not just a fatigued n00B rider. Somewhere South of Hamburg he started falling way behind, and I started looking for a place to pull over and check his bike out. By the time a safe spot was found, it was David Cronenburg time:
I see yer problem right there
Yes, that is Josh’s alternator cover MELTING OFF. Mr. Obvious says “I think there was a short in there.” We both have a strong suspicion that the noise the bike made on Saturday afternoon was whatever broke off in the alternator housing that eventually shorted it out.Say what you will about BMW Adventure bikes and their reliability… This Moto Guzzi was giving us a REAL adventure, just like Ewan!
This bike was not going anywhere further under it’s own power. Time to call Rider Insurance and draw on their free roadside assistance. It turns out Josh’s policy includes towing! Yay! There is some confusion in explaining to Rider where exactly we are (“Route 23 just North of Stockholm… Stockholm… STOCKHOLM. Not Sweden, New Jersey!”). Eventually Josh made it clear and we settled down to wait for the flatbed. Rider gave us a 45 minute ETA.
And it got to us in 30. Nice! The driver Dorrell (spelling? rhymes with squirrel) knew his bikes. He recognized a Guzzi V7 straightaway, and did a good job of strapping it down for the short journey to Wayne.
Did I say short journey? If you are going to break down riding a Moto Guzzi in NJ, this was not a bad place to do it. We were about 15-20 miles North of one of the only Moto Guzzi dealers in the region. They are actually on Route 23!
And so I followed Josh and Dorrell (and his unnamed extremely large… girlfriend?) down to the Indian/Moto Guzzi/Zero/Motus dealer. Of course they were closed, but I live close enough that I would be able to bring the keys to them on Monday morning.
From Wayne I put Josh on the pillion and headed home to my house. I added preload to the rear suspension to handle the weight of two grown men, but even after losing 40 pounds Josh was still a much bigger passenger than I was used to. I normally ride with my daughter as passenger, and she is just a little wisp of a thing. With Josh on board the Ulysses wallowed like a pig. At one point on Route 80, in the Route 287 access spur it started to porpoise, and I had to hunt for a speed where the road undulations did not excite a resonant frequency in the suspension., No big deal really, and we got home safely. Text messages indicated that the other riders did as well,
The rest of the saga will have to wait until Josh gets an estimate from the Guzzi mechanic. Hopefully this is just an alternator swap with minimal labor. It will probably take some time as the factory workers in Mandello del Lario are scheduled to have a May Day holiday, and they are just coming off of their late Winter scheduled work stoppage. I will make an addendum to this ride report once the damage is known.