Proud as punch, I took off on my new motorbike. This was my very first ride on it. It did not occur to me until after the purchase that I had never actually looked at the bike or checked it out for any mechanical failures or problems that it may have. I had bought this bike on complete faith. Faith in the man who was selling it to me, and faith in God, that the picture and things that I saw about this bike were from Him so therefore this was the bike to buy.
My new proud possession, complete with red helmet.
My purchase was also somewhat blind because finding a bike like this for sale was extremely rare and I really wanted one, so I figured that if there were problems then I would fix them up. Little did I know what was about to happen to me only moments away.
With the paperwork signed and sealed, a watertight agreement had been made. I had purchased the bike as it stood, with all of its faults and benefits. It was time to find out what they were. Twisting the left grip I engaged first gear, let out the clutch… and was on my way.
My First Ride
The first part of the journey took a little getting used to this new style of bike. Having riden many dirt bikes before, and a few road bikes, riding a scooter like this was different yet again. That, and the couple of years of not driving made my first few turns a little less than comfortable, but it did not take too long before I was back into the swing of things and starting to enjoy my new ride.
As our journey continued, Sergio started to stretch out ahead of me on the road, having seen how well the bike was going, and it was going pretty good too. With four gears, I was able to go more than fast enough to keep up with all of the traffic. The small wheels noticed the bumps and lumps in the road, and I quickly discovered that there was no more damping in the shock absorbers neither front nor back.
The steering head was twisted off center which caused me to worry that the chassis of the bike was twisted or damaged, but then I realised it was the same as a bicycle and I would be able to fix it later. My brakes were less than impressive, and at one set of traffic lights I almost passed through to the other side before stopping. Once I knew about them it was easy to allow more stopping distance in the future.
The key did not stay in the hole and fell down at my feet, making me glad that I was riding a scooter with a floor to catch it. It stayed on the floor where it fell, rattling around but not going anywhere. The whole bike rattled a fair bit actually, with some unusual vibrations coming from the front wheel. But then, with the front tire completely bald, it did not cause me any wonder that it may be doing that. New tires were high on my to-do list now that I had the bike.
Looking over the bald front tire and dented fender.
As I cruised along with the traffic, admiring all that the bike was and how wonderful it was to cruise along on a motorbike, free once again to venture and roam, the unthinkable happened. Suddenly the engine spluttered and coughed and after a short and feeble attempt to keep running under increasingly miserable conditions, it died.
The bike and I cruised to a stop along the side of the road. Sergio had disappeared around the corner and was nowhere to be seen. The way the engine stopped, I knew that there was no chance of kick starting it where I was. Something had to be changed or fixed first. I was stranded.
The Bike That Bit
On the off chance that Sergio noticed that I was not behind him and stopped, I started to push my bike along next to the edge of the footpath. On one of the first push-offs with my foot, as I pushed backwards hard, a searing pain coursed through the heel of my foot. In looking down I saw a deep gouge out of the side of my heel.
The culprit was the kickstand that protrudes out the side. After years of kicking it until it hits the ground, the forward edge had been sharpened into a nasty weapon. This weapon bit several other chunks out of my leg until I finally learned how to stay well clear of it.
The damage done by the kick starter (next to my leg).
With blood oozing out of my heel, I managed to catch up with Sergio. He is just as surprised as I am, but when I tell him that the fuel appears really low, he guides me to a nearby service station where I fill up with 2-stroke fuel. I kick the bike over many times but get no signs of life. What I do get however, is lots of attention.
Pushing Me Around
The service attendant that serves the fuel suggested to me that the bike was flooded and offered to push me around the station if I put it into second gear and jumped on. It seemed a great idea to me, and we raced out and about the station until he tired. The motorbike showed no signs of life. He left to attend another customer, and I started kicking the bike over again.
Before I could kick it over too many times, another guy came up and started offering suggestions. He told me some other positions to put the gears, throttle, and my head and then proceeded to push me around the station again. He had a lot more energy than the first guy, but even after several rounds of the station, the bike was not showing signs of life. It seemed very dead indeed.
We had not a single tool between us, so Sergio suggested that we take the bike back home and work on it there. I was trying to work out how we could do something like that when he told me. It was simple. Simply move the motorbike over to the passenger side door, reach in and grab a hold of the car, and don’t let go. So I did it.
Getting A Tow
As the car took off, I had to use my handhold and the strength of my arm to force my bike to accelerate with it. At the same time I also needed to ensure that my bike stayed well away from and never touched the edge of Sergio’s car. There was also watching out for potholes and obstacles on the road, riding with one hand and trying to brake at the same speed as the car.
This sort of thing was something that I had seen a fair bit of here in Argentina, and always caused me a little bit of incredulity and amazement that somebody would do something so dangerous and, I presumed, illegal. Now here I was doing the very same thing, except I was a foreigner that was doing it. I think I am adapting well to this culture now.
Each time we took off, the weight of the bike was so heavy that it felt like my arm elongated momentarily before both bike and car reached the same speed. There were too many stops along the way where I had to hang on hard until we were moving along again, but thankfully Corrientes is very flat and there were no hills to worry about.
At the service station I had put my helmet inside the car, and after all of the pushing and kick starting attempts it never occurred to me to put it back on again when I hung onto the car. So here I was with on hand hanging onto Sergio’s car and no helmet, cruising along some of the main roads of Corrientes and taking up a lot of the road.
Watch Out, Police!
In some parts of the journey the cars were trapped behind us until the road widened sufficiently for them to squeeze past. While concentrating on being towed along I noticed a police car passing us with the rest of the traffic. "Oh no," I thought, "now we are done for!" and wondered what Sergio’s reaction would be.
He simply continued on without blinking. In fact the police did not even look my way. Only a short way ahead the police had to stop at the traffic lights. We drove up next to them and stopped also. Not even a glance was exchanged. I was amazed. Even though I was relieved that we were able to continue without harassment or worse, it also shocked me at how the police turn a blind eye to many things that happen all the time.
The motorbike workshop checking out my sparkplug.
Along the road we found a motorcycle workshop and I pulled the bike into it. They checked the spark plug and told us that there was no spark, so it would take a fair while to fix. We had already made it over half way home, so it seemed easier to take it home and fix it ourselves. So we did.
The further we went, the sorer my arms became, and the more the sun burned my skin. By the time we reached home, I was pretty red, with burning muscles. But we made it. I laughed as I told Sergio when we got closer, "What a way to arrive and present my new motorbike to everyone!"
On arrival I parked the bike and pacified the crowds that poured around me. Um, well, actually on arrival I simply parked the bike and went and did some work. Later on I tried to find out what was wrong with it. Oscar, and Rocky who are also mechanics, helped me in my search.
If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It
A new spark plug, adjust the points, clean the carburetor check the ignition switch. Nothing seemed to work. Then in the middle of all of our playing one of the gearshift cables snapped, so I fixed that up and adjusted the clutch at the same time. A little later on the throttle stopped working, so I pulled the thing apart and found the simply fault and fixed it within a couple of minutes too. But it still wasn’t going.
We had found problems in every area that we looked, but there was still no idea as to why the bike did not run. Finally we checked the fuel tap for the third or fourth time. It worked. We already knew that. But I did something else. I turned it from one stop to the other stop, and it was here that I discovered our dastardly fault.
In turning on the fuel, we had actually turned it back off again. To turn on the fuel, we had to turn the tap to the middle position. The tap was not marked like this, being a remote handle protruding through the cowling of the engine. On knowing this, we turned it to the right angle and suddenly the motor fired into life. It was fixed.
As I thought back over my journey home, I vaguely remember reaching down to turn the fuel tap on a little more. Little did I know that I was actually turning the thing off instead. So when the motor spluttered and coughed and gave its last, it was all because I had simply turned off the fuel.
To find that out took almost half a day of work. But in so doing I have learned a lot more about my new old bike. Even though the bike would have gone with a little knowledge about the fuel tap, we found many other things that were just about to break and managed to fix them before they left me stranded in the street. I was very happy about that.
The True Test
After fixing my bike I now wanted to take it for a decent test run, but it was already night time. Everyone on staff was going out to eat tonight, so it seemed perfect to ride my bike into town to where we were going to eat. A quick check revealed that the lights worked fine, so I was right to go.
Oscar also has a motorbike, so I arranged to travel together with him to the restaurant, just in case something went wrong. Everyone else left in the city bus, and I returned to my house to get ready. We were all meeting at 9pm, and by the time I was out at my bike ready to go, it was already 8.45pm.
We took off, down the sandy dirt roads, choking on the dust of cars and bikes that had gone before us. I could now see one disadvantage to a motorbike. At the highway we rev up the bikes and cruise down to our next turn off at a reasonable 60km/h. My bike handles the speed well, and I cannot even use 4th gear yet because we were going so slow.
Around the corners, through the traffic, over the bumps. All was going well. It was amazing to be autonomous once again after two years of using buses. We zipped and raced and cruised along until finally reaching out destination. It took all of 15 minutes. The bus journey takes at least 40 minutes to arrive at the right bus stop, and then the walk here is another 20 minutes. What an amazing difference.
The rider’s view of my new old motorbike.
The Joy Of It All
I was really excited about having both a bike to ride and my bike working again after it died. There was a real buzz about travelling around on bike. In some ways it seemed just like re-living getting my licence for the very first time, and the first moments of being able to drive alone on the roads.
Liberating. Exhilarating. Exciting. Fun.
On the return home, I took my friend Lehman on the back. Oscar had his wife and two kids on his bike with him. Together we rode side by side where possible, yahooing, yehaawing, and gallivanting as we went. Horns beeping, short spurts of pretend racing (Oscar always won with his new bike), and waving our arms around having a great old time.
And the best part of it all is that my Siambroken is once again a Siambretta!