The idiot behind the wheel…

Sometimes in life, we work hard, execute well, and reap the rewards that come from this level of planning and execution. And then, there’s these other times where we get the job done, but our execution and planning fall short of excellence. When that happens; When we don’t execute well, its only a matter of time until the pain of mediocrity begins to rain down on us.

This post, is the story of one of those times where I wish I was just a little bit smarter, or my luck was just a little bit better.

In case you’re wondering, I am the idiot of which I speak.

This story begins back in November when I tackled a couple days of the Mid-Atlantic Back-Country Discovery Route. I had a minor mishap (you might describe it as a crash) and I broke the clutch lever. Always wanting to improve the bike, instead of buying the OEM clutch lever, I purchased a set of state-of-the-art levers for the bike. The Clutch lever was especially difficult to get installed because I received the wrong parts from PUIG, but also because PUIG suggests that their clutch lever is not compatible with my bike. After a few discussions with the product engineering team at PUIG, we agreed that the lever would indeed fit my bike, as long as I would accept one minor concession. I accepted this minor compromise, and we were off to the races.

I installed the lever, which happens to also have a small set-screw, that is used to adjust the “bite point” of the clutch. I didn’t adjust it correctly, but figured that I’d take the bike for a test ride, and adjust the clutch after I returned home from the 3 mile journey to the gas station (a test ride).

Unfortunately, because the clutch was not fully engaging with the engine, the clutch was allowed to slip a little bit. Oh, when I say a little bit, what I really mean is that it slipped enough so that by the time I got back to my neighborhood, the clutch had all but destroyed itself, and the bike would no longer move in a forward direction, under engine power.

How does a clutch work?

It’s a humbling experience

Arriving at the complex, the bike would not proceed forward, even on level ground. And so, I had to rely on my buddy Ralph to help me push the bike about .4 miles, uphill, until I could jump on, and ride the final downhill into my driveway.

When the BMW dealer (BMW Motorcycles of Charlotte) opened their doors on Tuesday morning, I made the call. I asked for an extraction! (please, come and get my bike, I think I’ve done something horribly wrong.) 2 days later, they arrived to pick up the bike, and off it went to the workshop to be evaluated.

Good News and Bad News

It turns out the the battery was unable to hold a charge, and needed to be replaced, but more importantly, the shop agreed that the clutch needed to be adjusted. After a bit of “adjusting”, I got the call. Michael, the Service Department Manager said “Well Cliff, the good news is that we’ve got the clutch adjusted and the bike seems to ride just fine. But, the bad news is that since you’re about to take a long trip, through remote parts of the world, we ‘kinda’ recommend that we replace the clutch anyway. As hard as this was going to be to accept, I deferred to their advice, and let them do their work, and replace the clutch.

Long story short, the clutch got replaced, they gave me a fair price, and the bike is once again, running like the rugged beast that it is.

How long should a clutch last anyway?

If you run over a nail, causing one of your times to go flat, you ask yourself, how many more miles did the tire have before it would have worn out naturally. If the tire was near it’s end of life, then you accept the flat tire as a minor inconvenience, and you buy a new set of tires.

And so, in this case, since I now had a brand new clutch in the bike, and because I wanted to feel like I had not just done something really stupid, I asked the question; How long is a clutch supposed to last on a BMW GS Adventure. I’m not sure if the service guys knew the answer I wanted to hear, or whether what the told me is true, and I don’t care. But, as it turns out, the say that on a GSA, it is sometimes the case that a clutch will but out at as little as 10K miles, or they might last as many as 30K or more miles. I was told that “It depends on the type of riding, and the rider”.

So, it seems like I would have had to replace the clutch anyway. In addition, it certainly creates a sense of well-being to know that I’ve got a brand new clutch, which should eliminate one more thing that might go wrong on the trip.

Summary

So, I’m the idiot that caused the problem, but all things being equal, it’s a great feeling to know that I’ve taken one more step in prepping the bike for the World Tour.

Thanks to the gang at BMW Motorcycles of Charlotte for their help, and emotional support

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and is planning a trip through Russia and China. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

  1. Hi Cliff – how about evaluating the just replaced clutch disc to approximate how long it might have lasted? Thereby offering some illumination as to how long a clutch on your bike might last.

    1. Hi Larry, I have to admit that you’ve got a really good idea. The problem is that it’s been a week since the repair, and since I did not ask for the clutch a week ago, I’m sure it’s been discarded by now.

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