White Russian, Shaken, not Stirred!

On the southern road close to the Turkish border from Batumi to Akhaltsikhe we bumped into another biker from Russia and had a quick chat, sharing travel tales.

The next day we reached the long stretch of unpaved gravel road with ravines, potholes, round boulders and crossing streams. In other words challenging and tons of fun to ride on the bike. Though your teeth and most of the bolts on the bike get shaken loose.

We were happily bouncing along when my bike suddenly died, then sprang to life again mid-ride, the tacho needle sticking around 7000 rpm, even though the engine was running normally. We’d en this before. If the cable connections to the battery rattle lose and the bike loses electricity for a split second, this is exactly what happens.

No problem, I’ll just ride up this steep hill and then I’ll fasten the screws. Two seconds later, the bike did it again, and this time she wouldn’t restart! I just managed to steer her to a flatter bit, where I could park up without her slipping back down the hill. Aidan had spotted me by now and turned around. We unloaded Seven to open the seat, unscrew the panels and get to the battery. But the cables were attached tight! A quick check-over didn’t reveal any other loose cable or fuse. Hm…..

Ok, nothing to it but to put it all back together and ride on, till it happens again, hoping that time round the problem will repeat itself. All the unpacking and repacking is always a huge mission and we’d had quite a long break by now. I hit the starter button and Seven sprang to life. So we rode up the hill, me ahead this time, so Aidan could see if there was any problems and wouldn’t race ahead.

We got quite far before the bike cut out again, but she just started up. I rode super slow, tying to avoid any bumps. We were convinced there must be a loose main cable. Maybe the Earth connection, causing the entire circuit to interrupt when the bike gets bounced around.

The next time the bike cut out, I text Dave Wilkins for advice, but got no reply. The poor guy is probably fed up with me constantly calling him with Seven’s problems when he has better things to do and paying customers’ bikes to fix. Fair enough!

I pushed the button again, and after struggling hard, Seven started. She went fine through the village on the mountain plateau. But then she died and I couldn’t bring her to life again. I was miserable. This bike was supposed to give me fun and freedom instead she breaks down on every journey we make. Mainly to stop me from just tossing her over the edge and down the mountainside, Aidan sat me down and made us some sandwiches.

I’d just decided to pick myself up and get on with the laborious task of checking every cable and circuit for a short, when a group of Russian bikers came the other way. They were from the Tracer Motorcycle Club with all different bikes. There was a BMW F800 GS, a V-Strom, a Harley…Some with girlfriends on the back. All pulled over to help. My luggage came flying off and soon I had three or four of the guys tugging cables, checking connectors, testing the ignition and discussing the symptoms in Russian.

They all agreed it couldn’t be the battery as it looked ok, so it must be the bumpy road causing problems with a loose connection or a damaged cable shorting. So we won’t find the problem with the bike standing still. By now Seven magically started again so they left her running, picked her up and shook her about like madmen. Me and the bikers girlfriends giggled at the sight of it. The guys exhausted themselves, but now Seven refused to cut out.


Nothing to it but to put all back together and ride on, see how far I’d get next time. The smooth tarmac was only supposed to be 10km away, so maybe I’d make it. The Russians said their good byes, made sure Seven would start again, and rode off.

We too left, now in search for a camping spot. It was getting dark, so we’d just deal with the problem tomorrow. Aidan found an ok place soon, but as my bike was actually running right now, I suggested we ride on a bit.

Of course Seven died as soon as we’d set off again and wouldn’t start. And Aidan had whizzed off. Oh well, it was downhill now, so I’d just coast and see how far I get. It was difficult round the super bumpy corners. But it was quite fun too and I went as fast as she would roll. I didn’t actually give a shit if the bike fell over and got damaged. She was broken anyways and I’d had enough of her. And if I used the brakes too much, she wouldn’t coast far.

Eventually I rolled to a stop as the road evened out next to a river. When Aidan came back for me, he said he’d reached the tarmac road. So close, and yet so far! But by now I’d started suspecting that the problem had something to do with the bike getting hot, not the bumpy road. (Why else did she always start again after cooling down on a long break, when she’d refused to so much as turn over the starter motor immediately after the cut-outs?) So the smooth tarmac wouldn’t help.

I parked up where I was and Aidan rode off to explore the grass path we’d just passed. It led to a pretty little spot on the other side of the river and we decided to pitch the tent there. Later, after she’d had a chance to cool down, I went back to fetch Seven. She started just fine of course and I rode her down to the tent. That night I got the Haynes Manual out for some bedtime stories from the trouble shooting section.

One response to “White Russian, Shaken, not Stirred!

  1. Pingback: Frantic Trip Prep | followingtarmac·

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