Every motorcyclist knows that having the proper tools can mean the difference between getting out of a jam quickly and an extreme change of plans. A few years back I learned this lesson the hard way.
This story begins with a simple weekend ride to the annual Irish Festival in Fort Collins, CO. In typical Adventure Hermit fashion, my dad, sister, and I took two days to ride the ninety-minutes from my house to Fort Collins. Our intent was to spend the night at a dude ranch near Red Feather Lakes and explore the many trails in the area before joining the rest of the family at the festival a couple of days later.
Our first stop was at the nostalgic and tasty JB’s Drive-In in Greely, CO where you order your meals by calling the kitchen from a phone at your table. After eating a bit too much, we finally hit the road. We arrived in Red Feather Lakes with plenty of daylight to do a little exploring in the surrounding woods.
Having no deadlines made drifting from trail to trail an enjoyable afternoon. Passing an old mine we stopped as some cattle began to crowd the road around us. I pointed my camera at the fuzziest baby cow as it crossed in front of me before squeezing through the fence and into the woods. Ok, moment of truth, the “baby cow” turned out to be a baby bear. Picture time was over in case momma was around. Time to ride on.
A bit later we passed some indigenous gazelles. These turned out to be antelopes. I could feel that my Dr. Dolittle dream of becoming a zoologist was slipping from my hand one animal at a time.
A moment later I was charging up a hill with my sister on the back. I navigated the ruts and rocks fairly easily until the top. Suddenly, there was a rut just deep enough to catch the back wheel and drop the center of the bike onto a medium sized rock. Nothing spectacular, but it stopped our momentum long enough that I stalled the bike, or so I thought . . .
I need to detour from the story for a moment and get a bit technical. A CAN-Bus (Controller Area Network, and the Bus) is used on many modern motorcycles. It is a combination of hardware and software designed to facilitate communication between the electronics on your motorcycle. It replaces having several individual wires running all across your bike’s frame. Not everyone feels that its “simplicity” and reduction in weight are worth it. I will leave that discussion up to riders far smarter than I to debate. But on this particular weekend I was not a fan. Ok, enough foreshadowing. Now back to the story.
As I pressed the electronic start I was greeted with the sounds of silence. From the bike, not me, I had plenty to say. Including cussing out Paul Simon for writing The Sound of Silence, which was now stuck in my head. As my investigation developed I discovered that the small plastic, and precariously exposed, kickstand sensor was broken into tiny pieces . . . crushed by the rock.
Here’s where the CAN-Bus system enters the story. It allows current to pass through to the starter, but only when the kickstand is up. This is officially described as a safety feature. I call it an impromptu method for creating a 550-pound paperweight in the middle of the woods.
My dad began to remove spare wire from his pocket. We never ask why dad has these things in his pocket, he just does. He attempted to rewire the broken pieces without success.
We were not in a towable location so calling for help was not an option. Though not quite a three-hour tour, this was scheduled to be a causal two-day ride and I was woefully underprepared. I had removed many of my tools and safety gear to support riding two up. After more pacing, singing in my head, and mumbling curses I had an idea. I removed the 54-inch strap from my Lowe Pro camera case. Looping it through the front of my bike and around the back of my dad’s KLR we began the slow ascent out of the woods to pavement.
Other than one unscheduled stop where my bike used me as a crash mat, we were able to traverse the sandy trails without incident. We covered 17 miles in about two hours and arrived on pavement. There we finally had cell service. After explaining some landmarks and road signs to the tow service it was revealed that we were not in Colorado anymore, we had crossed into Wyoming! Our savior, Rick, arrived around 11:30 p.m. to tow the bike back to Colorado. He delivered the bike safely to a local shop in Fort Collins and even helped us find a hotel at 2:00 a.m.
Whenever I pack for a trip now I am always sure to bring my primary tools: a camera strap, extra kickstand sensor, and a good book! You never how long you might be out there! So what about you? What is your craziest MacGyver riding moment?