The 2010 Ducks Along the Blue Ridge rally had some of the best weather that Vicki and I can remember from any of the rallies that we have attended in the last five years. We were thankful for the weather because we had dragged along a non-Ducati owning friend of ours, Marty, in hopes to give him the final boost he needs to purchase a Ducati of his own. Unfortunately, the rally was plagued with horizontal motorcycles and other bad luck to offset the good weather that we had. Our little party of three did not have any motorcycles in their natural resting position, but we had some other bad luck.
While on the ride to Mt Airy from Elizabethton, TN where we had called it a day on Thursday, we chose to have some fun on the local roads; none of which Marty had ever experienced previously. We spent some time around the Shady Valley area on Friday morning then took Hwy 58 from Damascus toward Galax. I was leading, Marty was next, and Vicki was last. When I tend to go too slow for Vicki, she likes to slow down to allow more space between her and the person in front of her so she can "play" by catching up. She had done this a few times, but then I did not see her headlights anymore (no, not THOSE headlights! - get your minds out of the gutter). Marty and I turned around and saw her at the entrance to the Grayson Highlands State Park. At first I thought that she was just stretching her bad leg (see the Winter 2009 issue of the Desmo Leanings to learn about her leg), but as I got closer, it became obvious that her rear tire was almost flat. The small hole was found to be almost in the middle of the tread. ""Voila'!"' I exclaimed. I had a plug kit and a mini air compressor in my ST2's pannier. Less than 10 minutes later, she was back up and running. Bad Luck #1 was overcome by preparation!
On Saturday, the three of us were the last ones to leave the hotel for the planned route. We made it to Galax, VA where Marty's bike was coughing, choking, and trying to die on him when we pulled up to the stop sign. He had fuel pouring out of the intake, turned off the bike, closed the petcock, and rolled the bike across the street to an auto repair shop. Vicki and I dug through our tools and found everything he needed except for a 3/4" combination wrench. Figures his Buell would need SAE tools, which I had not packed! Marty was able to borrow a wrench from the repair shop, pulled his carburetor off the bike, discovered his float was sticking, and repaired it with Vicki's' assistance. While they were working on his bike, I ran a mile down the road to buy a 3/4" wrench from a local NAPA dealer just in case it was needed later. We were back on the road in about 30 minutes. Bad Luck #2 was overcome with the good luck of being in front of an auto repair shop!
Despite the two episodes of bad luck, the three of us had a terrific time at the rally, and Marty was given the opportunity to see many different Ducati motorcycles, talk to their owners, get advice, and this information is helping him determine what Ducati he would like to purchase in the near future. Even with the great time we were having, I was still leery of our fortunes. That old saying, Bad Luck Comes in Threes, was constantly going through my mind. I did not want to jinx the rest of the weekend, so I kept these thoughts to myself.
Sunday morning, a route was agreed on that would be a little more casual, but still interesting and enjoyable for the 300+ miles we needed to cover. The route would take us on back roads toward Boone, and then down to Linville. We made it to Linville and decided to ride a few miles over to Newland for lunch. As we rode the few miles, I noticed my bike was backfiring and stumbling in more areas than the 3800 rpm that 1998 ST2 models are known. We came to a stoplight with my bike not wanting to idle. I was afraid that bad luck had found us, again. We got to the restaurant across the street and it died. I hit the starter button to see if it would restart, only to have it click, barely turn over, and all the dash displays flicker. I grabbed the multi-meter and checked the battery's voltage. We decided to eat before doing anything else with the bike.
The first wave of attack on the bike was to use the battery tender alligator-clip attachment to connect the battery from Vicki's bike to the ST2 in an effort to jump-start it as I've done with the Paso 750 and a spare battery at the house; and yes, I keep a battery tender in my pannier. I had left the alligator-clip attachment at home, but one of three dual-sport motorcyclists at the restaurant let us borrow the one he had with him. This attempt at jump-starting failed miserably, and I would later discover that the pigtail on the ST2 has a puny 3-amp fuse that had blown. The next plan of attack was to swap the battery with the one in Vicki's bike as both bikes use the same size battery.
Anyone with an early ST knows that the ideal way to get to the battery is not a simple task. I have become fairly well skilled at removing all the panels on the bike and can have it apart in less than 10 minutes. Vicki pulled the battery from her bike while I was working on mine. Swapping the batteries allowed the ST2 to start and with it running, I discovered that my charging system was not working. The plan now became to try to ride the bike home nearly 200 miles without a charging system. The worse case scenario would be that the bike would be closer to home in case a trailer was needed. With a borrowed extension cord from the restaurant, we had the dead battery on the battery tender while the ST2 was reassembled. Vicki's bike would not start when we decided to leave, but since it has carburetors and is not fuel injected, the bike was easily push started. To get more mileage from the fresh battery, the headlight fuse was pulled and stops where kept to a bare minimum.
The route back was not very exciting while limping the Wounded Duc home. We flew in formation with Marty in the lead and Vicki protecting my backside. This formation of flight protected the Wounded Duc from the wolves of law enforcement as we rode in two states that require motorcycles burn their headlights. Two Sheriff Deputies approached from the opposite direction, but chose to leave us alone. The first battery swap got us 140 miles closer to home before the bike started to stutter, hiccup, and attempt to die and at an intersection. Instead of running the risk of having the bike die without enough juice to even push start Vicki's bike, we swapped the batteries again in the parking lot of a closed store. This time, the necessary tools were easily accessible because they had been placed in the tank bag. Half the fairing bolts were not reinstalled in order to make another swap quicker. The second battery swap was complete in less than 25 minutes. Sixteen miles later we arrived at home. Bad Luck #3 defeated with preparation and a little luck...well, maybe a lot of luck.
Now, I bet you are probably wondering why this is a Tek Talk article. We decided that a technical article is quite handy, but if you are travelling, the articles and information is of no use if you are not prepared. So what does it take to be prepared for a malfunction while traveling? It all depends on what you are willing to do while sitting on the side of the road.
The first step is to being prepared is to determine how big of a job you are willing to tackle. If you have no tolerance for failures and simply do not want to work on a bike on the side of the road, you will need the Bare Minimum Survival Kit (BMSK). This kit can simply be a cell phone, but when traveling great distances from home, a cell phone, Ducati dealer list with phone numbers, and maybe even other motorcycle shop information and motorcycle-friendly towing services can be beneficial. An Internet search along the route you will be taking can be an easy way to find this information. I still have a Ducati dealer booklet that came with my bikes with this information, but you can also find a current list of dealers on the Ducati website at:
Click Ducati USA.
The next level is what I usually tend to pack for overnight trips. This kit would consist of the items in the BMSK and the addition of a flat-head screwdriver, Phillips-head screwdriver, a 3/8" drive ratchet, 4" extension, 10 and 12 mm sockets, metric Allen-wrench or socket kit, combination wrenches in 8 mm and 10 mm sizes, adjustable wrench, groove-joint, slip-joint pliers, needle-nose pliers, electrical tape, duct tape, and cable (zip) ties, a tire plug kit with CO2 cartridges or air compressor, and an accessory plug that connects to the battery tender lead. Due to previous experiences with electrical issues, I also include a small multi-meter. Each bike may require different tools, but look at those tools necessary to remove the fairing from the bike, bleed the clutch and brakes, and other less involved tasks.
The final level is what would be packed for longer trips, such as a cross-country excursion. I include everything in the previous level, but will often add a breaker bar and sockets for both axles, a copy of the bike's wiring schematic and some pages from a repair manual such as a troubleshooting guide, wire, electrical connectors, crimping tool, solder and a soldering iron, chain break and riveting tool, another chain, and anything else that may be useful. If you are riding a BMW, make sure you pack a spare final drive unit (wink). Sometimes you just never know when you may be pulling a fuel pump out of a 748 in the northern Georgia mountains or reinstalling a clutch in a McDonald's parking lot in Erwin, TN.
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