The Day my Chain Turned into a Chainsaw
As I fishtailed down the shoulder of the road I considered what it would be like to land in the ditch. Luckily I didn’t have to find out, but one thing was for certain, my engine was no longer working.
We had a slow start in the morning. City of Rocks State Park is beautiful. We played on the rocks and ate our now typical instant oatmeal breakfast.
We were aiming for Carlsbad Caverns National Park and were going to stop in Las Cruces on the way. We got ourselves on the road, ready for a long ride. We only made it about an hour down the road, about 10 miles before Las Cruces.
I was cruising down the road, when suddenly my bike lost power, very similar to how it had just after we got back on the pavement after El Oso Road. Except this time, power didn’t return to my bike. It was as though the throttle no longer worked at all. I slowed down, and moved to the shoulder of the road, where I started fishtailing wildly. I’m still not sure exactly why, although it was quite a lot more oily looking than the road was so that was probably a factor.
I managed to stop the bike, and called to Phil on the intercom to get him to turn around and come back. My bike had stalled, and was turning over, but not starting.
Well our previous bike troubles have taught me that it’s got to be one of three things, air, spark or fuel, and so we set about figuring out which it was.
I had already changed the air filter, so we pulled the tank off to check for spark, using a spare spark plug the way we learnt when my bike was playing up in Alaska. Result: no spark. Another electrical problem. At least this time the problem was not intermittent, and because of Phil’s previous issues we have a spare of almost every part of the electrical system with us.
We started by checking the spark cable and making sure all the connections were plugged in securely. (I checked the diode pack a couple of times, just to be sure.) Everything seemed to be plugged in, so Phil got out the multimeter. It wasn’t long before he found the connection to the exciter coil was producing a reading that seemed wrong. He had pulled his tank off as well so we could compare results between the two bikes, and my “zero” reading was definitely not the same as his, which was to spec.
Guess which one part we don’t have a spare of? The exciter coil.
We started following the wiring down to the engine, and soon Phil had found the problem.
That red wire is the power wire. It is completely severed. As I looked at it in bemusement, wondering how it could have been destroyed like that, I caught sight of the cause:
The back side of the master link of my chain had snapped, and was caught in such a way that it turned my chain into a chain saw, ripping through the metal around my front sprocket, and the wiring harness that is located just there as well.
Finding the problem is the most difficult part, and once we knew what was wrong we just needed to fix it. We soldered the wire back together with the mini butane blowtorch I bought in Canadian Tire back before the trip started. It runs on a lighter. Brilliant.
Once the wire was fused back together, my bike started again! Woo hoo! Of course there was another thing to fix before I could go anywhere. We had to replace the chain with one that wouldn’t rip the wiring harness to shreds.
Luckily Phil had a spare chain, unfortunately it only had a rivet type master link, rather than one with a clip like I had on it originally. Phil’s MacGyver’ing skills were put to the test as he used a combination of channel locks, bolts, washers, and a hatchet and screwdriver to get the chain together and rivet it enough to hold it together for the next 10 miles.
Four hot, roadside hours later, we were on the road again.
We pulled into a Harley Davidson dealer as soon as we go to Las Cruces, looking for a tool to properly rivet the chain. Unfortunately Harleys all run on belts now, instead of chains, and so they did not have a tool to help us. They were really great people in there though, and they called around to find someone who had the right tool. It turned out to be Grog, from Grog’s Custom Cycles. When we got to the shop a guy called Brian and his able assistant got right to work and had the chain firmly riveted in a matter of minutes. He also cut our other spare chain to size for us, and then refused to take any payment, other than one of our soon to be world famous stickers.
The entire staff of Grog’s shop gathered to wave us off as we left their parking lot. What an amazing bunch of guys.
Needless to say, we didn’t make it to Carlsbad that evening. It got dark while we were going through Lincoln National Forest, and the best place we could find to stop in the twilight was beside a derelict building just off the road.
It turned out to be a fairly loud campsite, with lots of traffic on the highway a few meters away, and the sound of a babbling creek on the other side of our tent.
It was a cold night, and we were up early and didn’t hang around too long in the morning. Phil did disappear off for a sponge bath in the creek, which I thought was a bit crazy given the temperature.
We got on the road and stopped for breakfast in a small town called Mayhill at the Mayhill cafe. We were treated to our first internet connection for days, and delicious blueberry pancakes.
After catching up on email and letting our parents know we were still alive, we headed off to see the caves and the bats.