My profession in life is a welder for the film industry, and I get the same question over and over again, how do you know how to do this or that. My answer is always because I already fucked it up once before., unfortunately, the best school in life is failure. It can be expensive, painful, or even life-changing, but it seems all the reading and studying does not replace good old failing. To learn what not to do is just as important as what to do. The crappy part about the school of hard knocks is it takes time and with that times comes to experience, but it can feel like a waste of time no matter what you learn. You have to pick yourself up and knock the dirt off and try again. There many sayings like ”failure only happen when you give up,” or ”try, try, again,” or my personal favourite from cheesy posters plastered in elementary schools ”winners never quit and quitters never win.” Choose the mantra you like they all say the same thing. Failure is going to happen, how you deal with it is up to you. I am not a life coach or even close to having an answer to how to deal with failure, but what I can say is my determination is the only real attribute or flaw that keeps me going forward.
I have spent several years preparing for this trip, and many life situations have kept from leaving at the right date or with the proper health. August 2019, I finally thought was going to be the year I was going to ride the Trans America Trail. And my wheels did roll out of Queens NY to ride across America. Finally, on the road after years of prep and thousands of dollars of investment, it was happening.
It was also the beginning of my hard-knock education which had only four days of class. Day one; early to rise early to turn back.
Lesson one started at an ungodly hour in the morning trying to get the bike packed and out on the road before the heat of the day. Living in NYC, my bikes live in tents outside so I can not leave all my gear on the bike and roll out in the morning. I must load everything the morning of going. It is way to much to lug everything down two flights of stairs load the bike up, check everything, and then push her out to the street. This all starts at 330 in the morning. So by the time I started, I was already exhausted and dripping in sweat. This is way too much to start a trip that is already stressful. So next time the bike is going to be packed checked and ready to go and pull out to start the ride.
Lesson two, Lighten up and simplify. I was overloaded and over planned. Although I was very concerned about cutting the weight down, I need to do more. The bike was too heavy and too many bags. Which ultimately ended my Trans America attempt in NJ when my top roll bag slipped in front of my exhaust and set my drone, lap, top and tent poles on fire. Which sent me back home to reattempt two days later, which did not even make it of my block when my clutch failed and was slipping, then the battery died. Dripping with sweat and exhausted, the TAT would have to wait.
So after years of planning the trip had eluded me again. I stepped away from the project, defeated and depressed. I put the bike away and left my dreams of the TAT to another year. But I have recently started to rethink how to solve the problems I had encountered.
First was a thorough inspection of the bike. So after checking the clutch plates which looked fine all I can conclude is that the blocked exhaust cooked the oil. After a full oil change, the oil pressure gauge was reading the proper pressure and no slippage. But there was a lurch in 1st and 2nd with throttle application. I felt like it was running lean at the first quater of throttle. But after further inspection, I found what looked like sand in the throttle body. Concerned that there was a leak in the air box I pulled out the throttle body and found sand-like substance caked in the manifold. Now the saying ” things happen for a reason” rang true because this could have stranded me in the middle of America.
What is one to do but head to the internet and learn how to build a pressure down gauge and do a pressure down test to see if the lurch was from a leaky valve or piston. But all tested fine, and I was stumped.
One thing about this whole dream of mine, not only did I have to learn to ride, but I also had to learn how to be a motorcycle mechanic. What does it mean to run lean, what are the symptoms, how to check that? But I guess that is part of the journey.
Stumped I decided to try new fuel, when I tipped my gas tank to empty the gas, I heard rattling in the tank. I shook it until a clumped crystal fell out, it looked like rock candy. So I pulled the fuel pump assembly out and the pump was caked with sugar and jamming the pump. My best guess is the ethanol in standard 93 had crystalised into corn sugar when the bike was sitting after a long period after an accident at work. Even with stabiliser, corn syrup in fuel is not suitable for motorcycles. This was not good and was looking like an expensive repair since KTM only sells the full assembly for 400 dollars. Back to the internet and I found an aftermarket company that sells the pump alone for 70 dollars.
Funny I have been attempting this trip for five years and have come a long way not only in my riding but my mechanic skills. Because a trip like this will have failures, but I guess there is more than the terrain to challenge you on big trips.
So after all this education what did I learn. First, the bike needed an indoor space not only to work on but to be able to have the motorcycle prepped tested, packed, and ready to go. Packing the bike for 2 hours before you leave is too much stress and work before setting off on a massive adventure 1st day.
Second I need to treat packing like I do with my hiking pack. Weigh everything, count ounces, because ounces turn into pounds. Ounce counting also costs cash. But at this point, I am trying to get my gear down to 35 pounds. But when starting with Giant Loop bags that nearly weigh 10 pounds, I am not sure how close I can get to that. But with a different tent and an iPad mini, I have scrubbed 5 pounds. Next is the tool roll, which is weighing in at 4 pounds. Everything has to get adjusted until I can find a decent weight to livability.