So this is my second full day in Lima. I am in a bit of a limbo at present. I found a bike store on Wednesday. The main objectives were to deal with my leaking for seal, change my front tire and clean up my rear brakes as the pads got worn out too quickly which is indicative of sticky brakes.
It turns out that the front pads were sticking too so they were to be cleaned as well. It has been a somewhat precarious operation through and through. I found the shop on an internet forum. They are relatively well stocked and are a Honda dealer. But this means little Honda bikes — rarely about 250cc.
Interpretation happens via someone who works there (Roberto). I am not sure exactly what Roberto’s position is (I believe that he is one of the bosses) but he is only available some of the time. While often he has been quite good at dealing with the situation, sometimes he is not around or hard to get a hold of — and seemingly exactly when needed.
The fork seal installation seemed to be going smoothly enough. Then the whacking started. The mechanic Jose spent a great deal of time trying to get the fork seal in place. It seems like it took an awful lot of effort to get the seal into place but it was eventual done. But the methods threw me a little.
During this period I noticed that my steering bearings seemed a little pitted. I had spare bearings. After some time I convinced Jose that the “pitted” feeling was not a cable getting in the way but apparently a ding somewhere in the bearing race and I requested that we fix it. It seemed to be going smoothly until it was time to take out one of the bearings. He went at it with a screwdriver and hammer and in the end chewed up a dust seal. The kit does not come with dust seals and I was attempting to explain this but he would not have it. He was attempting to use one of the seals from the fork seal kit (which wasn’t used). This notion surely died when I produced a second seal intended for the second fork. He ended up molding it back into shape (somewhat) with pliers and a vice. Since the metal ring was broken, there is no way that it could be perfectly mended but good enough would have to do.
I explained this boo boo to Roberto and he sort of passed it off in a “good thing it wasn’t an oil seal” and only a dust seal. Dude — your city is situated in the midst of a rather dry dusty desert if you hadn’t noticed. Dust seals have a purpose. It isn’t critical like an oil seal, but it is something that I am now going to have to replace again when I arrive home.
I then notice that Jose had started on the rear brakes. There are two pins that hold the brake pads in place and are critical for proper operation within the caliber. I noticed through the corner of my eye that Jose is using a regular allen key to try to under the pins. I thought to myself “good luck with that — that hand is going to hurt”. I then notice that he is trying to get a better grip at the allen key with another tool. The next thing I know, is that I see him fiddling with the caliper off of the bike. He had stripped, not one, but both of the allen heads on the pins. I was immediately pissed. Why stop at one and not just ruin them both?!?! These are brakes. They get hot and grimy. I had reported to Roberto that there ws abnormal wear on one of the pads and that they really need to be cleaned as they are sticking. Sticking = heat.
Admittedly I have stripped a brake pin in the past. And went through all sorts of effort to get it removed with a screw extractor. So I know what he was dealing with. That said, I am not professional mechanic and learn as I go. A pro should know that brute strength is not necessarily the answer and that options like impact (to break the seizure), penetration oil and heat can be applied to help with the issue.
He was attempting all sorts of things. It was nearing closing a 7PM so we called it a night. At 10AM we reconvened. I tried to insist that we speak with Roberto before further work was performed. The best option at this point was trying to obtain a screw extraction kit, and perhaps a good dose of heat. Note, however, that once the pins are removed with the extraction kit, I would likely have real issues re-using them. They heads were still hex shaped but enlarged. There was an attempt to use a larger, non-metric, hex key, including cutting it into a straight rod so that it could be hammered in. This could possibly work, but I had thought not. My suggestions, however that penetration oil be applied to both ends of the pin, and heat, was largely ignored.
At this point I had spoken to Roberto on the phone briefly but he was not back at the shop even an hour later than stated. After lunch, I returned and Jose nipped off on a motorcycle to a “special” shop. He came back some time later with one of the pins removed. They were using impact and heat. The threads of the pin were ever so slightly cracked but it may be possible to use this pin again — say once, and then the next time and extractor kit would have to be used. The other pin, however, was fully seized. And on closer inspection, it sure looked to me like both ends of the pin were at play with the seizure, not just the threaded end, but I guess this is speculation on my part.
So we were stuck with a messed pin, and stuck pin, a couple days of brake pads left and a language barrier. I could feel tensions starting to rise. At this point Jose and I were not talking. OK. I’m kidding as we can barely communication due to the language barrier so aren’t talking anyways. Rita, who is the technical boss, seemed to be trying to smooth things out. That said, I wasn’t impressed with the suggestion of “finding another shop”. Let’s just say, at least before one the the pins was remove, I was worse off than if none of the work on the brake had been performed. Let’s just say that suggesting to the customer that you can’t help further after actually causing part of the problem is not the right answer.
Really, Jose should have stopped, and explained that there was an issue. Or that he wasn’t sure. Or required clarification before further proceeding due to risks. Its not like they carry these pins. It is uncertain whether are available in Lima at all.
A short digression: One thing I will note is that people have commented that they think I am carrying a lot of stuff. Admittedly, I have not used my camping gear recently, and have not had to use my first aid kit or survival kit (luckily, but I have had to use the large majority of all the general things I have brought. In terms of spare parts, I have not had to use wheel bearings — glad I have ’em. But I have had to dig into a good chunk of my spares. I am currently debating about putting on the new chain and front sprocket. Heh — so no — apparently I have what I need and the big boo is that I actually had freaking considered bringing spare brake pins, and I *actually had* three different sized screw extractors out on the floor during packing and decided against bringing them as I felt I was being obsessive and over packing. Funny enough, the one thing that I have not used a lot of, which was suggest to me that I would use plenty of, is spare bolts — for things like the engine. I really haven’t lost much of anything except for a nut from my exhaust (and the bolt was found sitting on the exhaust).
When Roberto finally showed up in person we discussed in detail what needed to be done. Basically, *if* I can’t get my brakes fixed at all in Lima (even with the help of another shop) then Lima would have to be the end point of the trip. I should also note that my clutch is starting to slip at high RPMs so I am wearing about its remaining life. Clutch disks are not to be had at this shop, and apparently they called around. This doesn’t spur confidence either.
I explained to Roberto my previous usage of screw extractors and he communicate this notion to his staff of two. In the end we agree to go back to this machine shop and see if they had an extraction kit. If not, they would carefully drill out the old pin, and machine a new one in a lathe. It seems entirely feasible to basically take the appropriate sized bolt to match the thread part of the pin and to machine the pin from the bolt. Well this is apparently what is going to be done. Roberto explained to me that it was only recently that Peru had access to much of what is available in the modern world had has, for its history, had to manufacture parts for many things. This smacks of a scene from the famous Mondo Enduro round the world video were the guys had replacement rear sprockets machined out of billet in a Siberian mining camp. All I can say is that this is going to get interesting.
There wasn’t much else that could be done today. And frankly, until it can be demonstrated that I again have functional rear brakes, I am not going to put the money into new tires. The available tires are not something that I am going to use at home. *If* Lima is that last stop and my bike has to go on a plane here, any other work can wait until home.
I can tell that Jose is becoming pissed off. I think his toes feel stepped on in that I am spending so much time in his shop. That said, it was explained to me by the boss that, while not customary, I am welcome to work on my bike it as I am an “special” international guest traveler. And guess who knows this bike best? I feel that Jose is being a bit proud and kind of a bull in a China shop. I can be that way too. And I can be that way since it is my bike and I know that there are an abundance of parts to be had in the region (when in Canada). Jose should have slowed down and asked for more direction. Why assume that I had spare seals for the steering mechanism? Ascertain what is available and then do the work. I was certainly keen to show what spares were available and to collaborate.
When it was getting time to leave for the day, I inquired whether they wanted my bike off of the lift. The answer was yes. Jose was working on other stuff. I started to put the front wheel on. Jose, or so it seemed, got a bit testy about me doing it. He started into it and then was then struggling a little with the front wheel. I reached down to physically help guide the axle from the other side and he, or so it seemed, snapped at me. I basically had to ignore the fact that he was scuffing the forks with the connector for the speedometer cable by assembling it before putting the wheel on.
Speaking of which, the “cable” (it rotates) for the speedometer was sitting on the dusty lift. I attempted to clean it and had put it on the workbench. In it went without further cleaning and without new grease. Grrrr. I, at this point, am only lingering to help lift the bike off of the center stand. The bike is on the lift and requires some muscle to lift it. And as the grand finale, me being opposite of the side the side stand is on, the bike is lifted off of the center stand, the side standing having been put down first. I had specifically put the side stand out because it has to be out when the center stand goes down — its just the design. OK. Not obvious — but I made a vocal “uh oh” and gestured about the side stand and that it had to be out. There was an attempt to force it. I said “no” and gesture that the bike has to be lifted first. More forcing. Eventually a concession was made, the bike was lifted and the side stand was pulled out.
Its been a loonnnggg couple of days…
Perhaps this blog posting has been hard to read. Perhaps anxiety provoking. In that case, it is probably reflective of my last couple of days. I don’t want to be mean to this mechanic. There is a language barrier at play, and no doubt I am “this foreigner” on his turf. But I find that he is being too proud and rushing. I had thought we began on a good footing. I had indicated to him that, while he is changing the fork seal, that I am “his student”. He seemed to not mind.
I am not sure whether or not it is my personality — attention to certain details and so forth — but I haven’t had great success with *any* of the mechanical type people I have been dealing with during this trip — except maybe the guys in Mexico who helped me tighten my engine head. I typically like to do my own oil changes. They are really easy. That said, in Mexico a day outside of Acapulco which I think I wrote about — the two hands at a “motorcycle store” spilled oil all over the ground and then added too much oil to my engine and had to take some out. At the Kawasaki dealership in Bogota — besides charging an arm and a leg for labour involved in a oil change — I basically had to *implore* that the mechanic lightly soak my air filter in oil before installation. He was going to put it in dry and was insistent about it. Surely, in the altitudes of Bogoto, additional airflow is useful, but you still need a little oil on these sponge air filters. It is how they catch dust. I don’t like that I have to argue to get things done the way I like it. It is my bike. And you sell and service this model of bike. And the factory shop manual specifically says to oil the filter. I swapped out the air filter today for the oiled spare I keep. It was absolutely filthy. What would have happen to my carburetor or engine had I simply let him out a dry filter in? Even the guy who did my oil change the other day. I told him two litres, no more. Then look at the (oil) window. And add only a very little. Dollup. Slight over fill. Not enough to hurt things, I don’t think — but, here we have it again — not listening.
I hate to generalize so I’ll be careful here. I have heard from friends and other blogs that the mechanics in Central and South America have been very good. They have made some magic happen, and done extra clean up, and other good things and this has generally been very affordable (too us — due to exchange rates, and our buying power). I don’t doubt these accounts. I also don’t doubt that magic can happen. Wheel bearings showing up in remote towns. Fixing things without the appropriate availability of parts. My opinion at this point differs in that, mostly, I seem to be dealing with “mavericks”.
That’s all for now. Here sit. Tomorrow will be the day when I find out the condition of my rear caliper and make some further decisions.