Not a Triumphant Ride

in 2018 Articles

I hadn't been able to get out with my pals for a ride for quite a while, so when the opportunity arose to go out this last Saturday of July I was stoked.  I prepared my 2010 Triumph Tiger 1050 the night before the ride and all was good.   

I was up and ready to go right on time to meet my pals up at Apex Cycles in Ellijay.  I started the Tiger and got my gear on. I rode up the driveway and to my horror the front brake lever pulled straight back to the handlebars with no resistance.  A gentle application of back brake brought me to a stop.  I found myself, in disbelief, repeatedly pulling on the brake lever in the faint hope that my first finding was wrong. It was not. 

I inspected the bike, but there was no sign of a hydraulic leak and the reservoir was full.  There was just no brake pressure on the lever.  I inspected the garage where the bike rests between rides.  No sign of a problem there at all, not even a drop of oil on the floor of the Tiger's bed.  It was no good, this bike was going nowhere today. 

Disappointed about not being able to ride my Tiger I considered my options and decided to ride my 1970 TR25W Triumph.  Usually my older bikes are finicky about starting, but first kick this baby started up!  Excellent, I was off meet the lads.  I decided to forego any saddle backs and wet weather gear; I would just rough it if I get caught in rain.

Little Red, yeah I named the 1970, was running like a champ.  I'd forgotten what a joy this little bike was to ride.  I filled up with non-ethanol gas at the QT on Hwy 92 and set off to meet my palls in Ellijay.  The bike was running well, purring along at 50 it being low geared as a dual purpose bike.  The weather was fine and life was good.

North of Canton I noticed a bit of oil on the left side. It was nothing major, these old British bikes all leak a bit.  A while further on, up towards Ballground, I realized Little Red was being a pain in the butt.  So what's yet another pain in the butt,  but that's another story.  This particular pain in the butt, however, was due to how uncomfortable that old 1970 saddle design is after even a short distance. Being of hardy stock, LOL, I pressed on with Little Red.

Coming off the end of i575 I noticed more oil on the right side. It was actually quite a bit more oil and my boot was glistening in the sunlight. With hindsight I should have pulled off there and inspected it more closely. Instead I told myself that a little oil goes a long way and carried on.

On the up slope of Hwy 515 past Sackett's and approaching Liberty Lane, Jasper Little Red had a distinct lack of power. At the exit lane for Liberty Lane Little Red quit completely.  Fortunately I was right at the exit lane, so was able to get to a very safe place off Hwy 515.  I have to say that it's not until you are standing at the side of a highway that you realize just how busy it is.  

I checked the bike over I found that both valve rocker cover caps were missing. Ah, that would be where such a volume of oil left the engine and adorned my boots then!  Then I noticed that the air filter had come off the carburetor and was laying on the crank case.  Poor little guy must have a weight complex and was looking to shed a few ounces.


I need to mention at this point that these old British bikes in particular have a bit of a vibration problem.  Actually it can be quite a bad vibration problem, so bad that your hands can go numb if you don't vary the pace and revs for a long distance. It is not the first time that parts have fallen off a bike while I was riding it either.  I lost a gearbox casing bolt out of a Velocette once and a kick starter off a Royal Enfield, but I had not had an engine upon up while I was riding before, so this was a first.  

As I stood beside Hwy 515 and tried to get AAA to understand what I was telling them I gained a whole new appreciation for just how busy and how noisy that road is.  After a very long and tiresome conversation with AAA they had logged a call for me and told me that the recovery truck would take an hour and a half to get to me. Oh well, I guess this a new exercise in patience! 

So there I sat at the side of a forlorn Little Red, who had puked his black guts on the black top and was showing off a remarkably gleaming and glossy looking back tire.  At the sight of that back tire I realized just how lucky I was that he had quit when he did.  If I had ridden into a curve with any moisture on the surface I would have for sure become a new roadside feature, strewn across some guy's field, or worse.

So there I was figuring out ways to kill an hour and a half.  I counted red cars, white cars, pickup trucks, wheels on tractor trailers and eventually decided to sit and write this article.  

A lot of bikes went by and all looked, some waved and one stopped.  A very neat looking Harley pulled up, simplistic clean lines, not the usual shroud of bodywork, so you could see the engineering in all it's glory. The rider was a sturdy looking fellow and all concerns of how this was going to go evaporated as he held out his hand in biker brotherhood.  His name was Billy and he'd stopped to make sure I was OK and if he could be of any assistance.  

I explained what had happened, showed him the definitively dead state of the engine and thanked him for stopping, but I had AAA on the way and there was really nothing else that could be done.  And then Billy surprised me again.  I fully expected that once he knew the situation and that I was covered for towing he would be on his way with a "cheerio matey", or whatever all y'all say down here in the South.  To my surprise Billy told me he would wait with me for the tow truck, foregoing an hour of his ride.  What a great guy. 

We chatted all things motorcycles and I learned that his Harley was called a Nightster.  This was a bike that had help bring Harley back from the edge.  I could certainly see the appeal.  I also learned that Billy had served with the Army National Guard and defended our country out in the sand box.  This obviously got him a hearty thank you from me for his service.   

The time passed relatively quickly with company and in short order the tow truck arrived to rescue Little Red.  Billy saw the bike was onto the tow truck bed and strapped down then continued on his way. 

Little Red is now in the shop awaiting diagnosis and of course replacement of the parts that are littering some undisclosed spot on either i575 or Hwy 515, but such are the joys and pitfalls of antique motorcycle ownership.

So the moral of the story is, with a motorcycle, and an antique motorcycle in particular, pay attention to every little thing. If in doubt, check it out! 

Gee whizz, what a way to spend a Saturday!