Bent, Buckled, Bashed, Bruised and Bemused…!!
Which pretty much sums up how both the Big Fella and I currently feel after our epic journey…
I spent the day after getting the Big Fella from the airport, carefully unpacking my panniers and other kit which I had carried around the world. I took my time doing so, as each item I handled brought back memories and a faraway look in my eye, that had my sister concerned for my mental well-being…
I had carefully counted the cable ties that held various part of the bike together, 18 in all, and mouthed my thanks to the inventor of this simple but highly effective method of holding stuff together !
Ten of the largest cable ties I could find, held my two side panniers to the their frames; four smaller ones held my hand guards to the handlebars; two held the left hand cylinder- head guard, to the side crash bar; another two held my spotlight cables to the underside of my front crash-bars; and another held the broken off oil pipe leading to my back shock absorber…
Both of the Ohlins shock absorbers were shot… The back one for probably the fifth or sixth time, and the front one finally gave up the ghost after my accident in Oklahoma. Oil from the busted seal had leaked and congealed on the front cover of the engine.
My crash bars were scratched, dented and in many places rusted. Stones thrown up over the last 205 000 km, had chipped the paint off them and allowed the insidious cancer of rust to take its hold. My headlight globe hung at an angle, as the spring which holds it in position, had broken when I last made an attempt to change the globe. I had been riding using my high beam only, for the past two months.
My seat had a tear in it that had come from one of the five accidents we had participated in during my journey. The windscreen was scratched and faded in places, but looked a lot better than the first one had, before it had been shattered by a 120 km/h contact with a crow, when we crossed the Nullabor Desert in Australia.
My right hand spot light lens was broken, and held together by clear sticky tape. The number plate was cracked, and had Doug not drilled a few holds and bolted it to its holder, I would probably have lost it long ago !!
The handlebars are a little skew, courtesy of the unexpected meeting with a wall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and later, a storm-water drain on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia.
The accident in Oklahoma had also bent the main frame of the bike, although not enough to be too concerned about. It had also put a number of dents in the exhaust from the impact of this accident which had squashed the pannier frame against the chrome housing of the exhaust.
All in all, it looked as though the Big Fella had been to the ends of the world and back…which he has, I have to keep reminding myself !!
On the long ride down to the coast to visit my parents, I resolved to give my trusty companion a thorough going over to make him look a little more respectable and a little less travel weary…
My father’s cousin, Ronald Borrageiro, has a panel-beating business in Uvongo, and was more than willing to help me repair some of the damages. It took the better part of two days to complete the hammering, bending, cutting and welding, to improve the look of my panniers, and get the frames that hold them to the bike, to resembles something close to when they were first fitted in 2010 !
While Ron and my father busied themselves with the panel-beating, I sanded all the rusted bits on my crash bars, in preparation for their re-spray. The parts of the bike we did not want sprayed were covered in a blanket of old newspapers and then the crash bars were sprayed on the bike. I did not want to remove them from the bike for fear that they would never be able to be put back !!
Ron was all for removing them and doing a “proper job”, which included sand-blasting etc… I explained that I actually wanted the crash bars to have the deep scratches and dents that a normal coat of paint could not hide, as I believed that it gave the Big Fella a bit of character… Made him look a bit “rough and ready”, like a patched up prize fighter !!
After the pannier frames had been sprayed to match the colour of the crash bars and bike frame, we bolted them back onto the bike and attached the panniers to them. While they did not quite sit perfectly in their former position, I was more than satisfied with the result of our efforts. I don’t think any amount of un-buckling would ever get them to sit perfectly square again.
Then we set about repairing the cylinder head cover, which required two pieces of metal to be cut, drilled and bolted back onto the places on the engine where the brackets are attached.
Then we fiddled about with the headlight fitting and got that repaired. I had earlier rewired the spot lights and got both of them working again.
The Big Fella was a little bemused by all the fuss, and wondered what had got into me !!
“You realize that at some point in time you are probably going to drop me again, and undo all this good work, don’t you ??” he asked with what looked like a grin…
“Yeah…” I replied, “I probably will, but I’ll try and keep you looking this good for as long as I can !!”, which seemed to satisfy his concern.
The sun had set and a bright full moon was rising as I left Ron’s workshop and rode through the darkness, back to my parents house. In the bright lights of the garage which I rode into, the Big Fella looked almost as good as he had when I left this same garage in March 2010, heading for the southernmost tip of Africa to make the first “Big Tick” on what was then a rather extensive bucket list of goal I wanted to achieve and places I wanted to visit over the next three years…
My gratitude and appreciation to Ronald Borrageiro, who gave up his valuable time to help me get the Big Fella back to a semblance of his former glory !!
He’s almost back to his former self and raring to seek out new adventures…