Stuck by the riverside with a mysterious electrical problem I was on a mission to solve it. The Haynes Manual had made it all sound so logical and solvable. If its not that, test this by doing this and so on. I had a new burst of energy.
So before Aidan had even crawled out of bed, I’d grabbed a coffee and turned the key in the ignition. Seven had had a whole night to cool down, and should be starting ok now. Yeah right! Just the usual buzz from the starter relay, then nothing. Ok then, open her up and check for a dead battery. 9.37V. That’s far to low to start the bike. If I wanted to test any of the other components, I’d have to put Pippa’s battery in.
I took Seven’s battery out and inspected it. There is a slight bulge on the +ive side and a brown discolouration of the cover. It’s a closed ‘maintenance free’ battery, so no chance of it boiling over and I couldn’t look inside. I’m pretty sure there hadn’t been any discolouration when the Russians were there, so it must have happened afterwards on the way to this camping spot. I’d never heard of a bulging battery before and it really didn’t look too bad. But maybe the battery was fucked? It would explain why the symptoms are the some as when it’s temporarily disconnected due to a loose connection.
Since we had no internet here, I’d text my dad last night to Google the symptoms for me. Due to the time difference I only got his reply this morning. It said that a malfunctioning voltage rectifier (VR) could overcharge the battery, causing it to fail. According to Haynes, you test it by running the bike, revving, and measuring the Voltage that arrives at the battery terminals. If it’s between the prescribed 13-15 volts, the VR is working fine.
So we connected Pippa’s battery and a multimeter and started Seven up. As the bike warmed up, the voltage crept up. I knew that VRs let more volts through the hotter they get. But even after running and revving the bike for half an hour, the volts never went above the allowed range. We then tested the same set-up on Pippa for comparison, but all was pretty much the same.
Now what? The VR seems fine, yet the battery seems fucked… We tested another few electrical components, but they all seemed fine. So I sent Aidan off into Akhaltsike to find internet and see if he can find out what the problem could be and to buy supplies. Then we could hole up here for another night and set off the next day to find a solution.
I spent the day doing the laundry in the river, building a fire-place, collecting fire wood and going swimming. When Aidan returned, he confirmed that a bulge and discolouration meant the battery had blown due to overcharging. So the VR after all?!? There was nothing to it. I needed a new battery, so tomorrow we’d tow towards Tbilisi. There are so few bikers in this country, there won’t be a bike parts shop in Akhaltsikhe, but we should surely find one in the capital.
For now there was nothing left to do but make a fire, cook all the yummie food Aidan had brought and tuck into the beers. We were ready to curl up in the tent, just as a thunderstorm blew along the valley and the heavens opened.
The next morning we loaded up the bikes and pushed Seven along the grassy road, over loose stones and up the hill. Man she was heavy! We shoved and heaved, having to stop several times to catch our breath before we finally reached the gravel road, T-shirts soaked through with sweat. From there Aidan jumped on and with a little help to start off, rolled and paddled all the way to the tarmac. He went back to fetch Pippa and we tied them together in the familiar way, towing Seven to Akaltsikhe.
The plan was to stop at the internet cafe to contact a few likely candidates in Tbilisi, that might help us out. But first we stopped at a bar for a well deserved, ice-cold bear to calm the nerves from the dangers of towing such a heavy bike. Somehow today we were full of negativity and the conversation was miserable. I had lost all faith in my bike and we were thinking of options of how to get rid of Seven and buy a different bike.
Two pints later, at the internet cafe, I also confirmed my suspicions that a perfectly normally functioning VR could, on a really hot day and running for hours, overheat so much, it actually overcharges the battery. Turns out many people in hotter countries have come across this problem and have repositioned their VR from behind the bash plate to the side of the engine, where more cooling wind will reach it when driving.
So I needed a new battery and the VR needed to be repositioned. I already felt a lot more positive. If you know what the problem is, you can set about fixing it. Returning to our bikes, we spotted a rarity: Another bike! We decided to have a kebab from the shop next to it and hang around till the bike’s owner returned. He might just know where to get a battery. The kebab shop was out of kebabs, so I just asked him about the bike. A phone call and two minutes later a biker turned up, told Aidan to fetch his helmet and jump on the back of his KTM.
Before I knew it they were gone, soon to return with the news that they’d found a battery that might just fit. The shop was a bit further out-of-town than Aidan had ventured yesterday. So Aidan grabbed Pippa and rode off again. He would see if the battery fits in her. If it did, it would also fit Seven.
Meanwhile more bikers turned up and we all got chatting. Turns out their Motorcycle Club house is literally 50 metres around the corner and we should go there when Aidan is back. So that’s what we did, simply pushing Seven there. We assembled the new ‘maintenance free’ battery and then you just have to wait for an hour for the chemical reaction with the battery acid to charge it up ready for use.
Meanwhile our sticker was added to their board of fame, where other motorcyclists they’d met had added their stickers and we were served coffee and chocolate.
One of the guys has just built a guest house, and it’s almost finished. Would we want to stay there for just 40GEL. It’s just another few metres down the road and so we pushed the bikes there. The bikes were rolled down some stairs into the freshly tiled but unfinished reception area for safe parking and we were shown to a carefully decorated room with a balcony temporarily made of old wooden boards and scaffolding. Perfect!
Later that evening we were summoned to join our host and his family for dinner in their outdoor kitchen. When the women went to bed, one of the bikers came over with some beers and we ate and drank till late into the night. They showed us videos of their and their friends crazy off road adventures with both enduro bikes and 4x4s and at some point the guitar came out. Eventually, when none of us could walk straight anymore, granny had enough of the noise and came out in her night gown to send us all to bed.
The next morning we were all pretty hung over, drinking Borjomi water to try and cure it. (There is a well in Borjomi and the water is said to have healing qualities. Sick people go there and swim in it. Some water is carbonated and bottled and Georgians swear it cures upset tumies and hangovers. I don’t know if it does. To me it just tastes pretty disgusting.)
Upon fitting the battery I noticed the +ive and -ive terminls were on the wrong side and so the cables to connect it wouldn’t reach. No problem. Our host is ever the inventor. Running back and forth between bike and workshop to take measurements, he flattened a pice of copper pipe, drilled holes in the ends, wrapped insulation tape around it and screwed it to the cable and the battery. The perfet cable extension and it worked a treat 🙂
By now loads of the other bikers had turned up and one brought kebabs from the place that’d run out yesterday. Yum! They are the best kebabs in town! We still had to relocate the VR. A metal bracket had to be built to attach it over some cable connectors on the side of the engine. You can buy a BMW one for around $93. (They use them on new F650s.) But our host and his mates built the perfect bracket out of an old scrap pice of Aluminium and using some old bolts he had flying about. He complained it didn’t look pretty, but it works perfectly 🙂
The guys helped Aidan get the bikes up the slippery tile stairs without breaking the glass doors and then we loaded up. Then we said our good byes and were off. HUGE thanks to Riders Dream MCC!!!