My first motorcycle puncture

I pulled off the road into a picnic site. It was a beautiful spot. Right on the lakeside, drenched in glorious sunshine.

Picnic site outside Kenora

I was feeling pretty sweet. I ate an apple, used the bathroom, basked in the warmth of the sun for a bit. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I set off. I blasted out of the car park, maybe a little too quickly.

I hit the highway and opened her up. I hit 100km/h in no time. As soon as I got up to speed, I felt the back end go squishy. It was gently mushy at first. I rolled off the throttle and the bike slowed down. Then it got really wobbly, the back end felt like it was swinging 6 inches to either side. I looked at the ground and felt sure I was going down. I remembered the advice from my training, brake on the good wheel. I slowed below 30km/h, then slow enough to get my feet near the ground. Finally the bike came to a rest and I was still upright, phew.

I felt relief to be rubber side down. The last few seconds were particularly hairy as the bike seemed to be completely out of control. I didn’t understand what was going on, I just knew something was very wrong. I felt pretty intense fear. Thankfully, it all ended peacefully. It was a puncture in the rear wheel.

With the back tyre completely flat, the bike was sitting much lower to the ground than usual. The side stand was too high to work. I tried to get the bike onto the centre stand, but it was too low and too heavy. While holding the bike upright, I unclipped my bag and dropped it off the bike. It was still too low and too heavy, I tried as hard as I could to get it up on the centre stand, but I couldn’t.

Now I’m standing by the side of the road, holding the bike with one hand, trying to flag down some help with the other. I’m thinking, my choices are either stand here until I get help or drop the bike. If nobody stops, I’ll have to drop the bike eventually. After a few minutes a couple of motorbikes come by and stop. They give me a hand and we get the bike on the stand. Thank you guys.

Ok, now the bike is upright, but I’ve got a nail in my tyre and no tools. It’s Sunday and a holiday weekend. It’ll be Tuesday before bike shops are open. I decide to hitch a ride into Kenora, about 40km back west, and try to buy tools. I have a spare inner tube with me, but no tools. I lock up the bike, grab some gear, and cross the road to hitch. Very quickly a couple of guys pick me up and drop me right at Canadian Tire in Kenora. Big thanks.

Here’s a picture of Bessy as I leave her road side to hitch back into Kenora.

Bessy left roadside

I spent a good hour in Canadian Tire. I went over and over the repair in my head. I made a list of everything I’d need. I double and triple checked the list. I wanted the repair to work first time. Getting back and forth to the bike wasn’t going to be easy.

I bought a beautiful $100 Leatherman multi-tool. It’s a really nice piece of kit. I got an adjustable spanner, an inner tube patch kit, and a bicycle pump. Canadian Tire don’t stock motorcycle tyre levers, so I bought a pry bar instead. It’s somewhat similar, but with sharp edges that threatened to trap the tube if I wasn’t careful. Ideally you want 3 levers, but I figured I could make do with one pry bar and the Leatherman.

In the height of the midday sunshine I walked to the outskirts of town to hitch back to the bike. I was wearing all my bike gear and sweating profusely. I watched dozens of cars go by without stopping. After a while I gave up on that spot and walked back to the gas station. Then I spotted the Greyhound bus station across the road. I went over and asked the driver if I could catch the bus to my bike. He said sure, no problem, he’d give me a ride. Score. Big thanks Jerry and Greyhound.

The puncture was around 10:30am. It’s now 2:30pm as I get back to the bike with the tools. No sooner have I gotten myself setup to start than two bikers pull over. A couple of minutes later, another 4 bikes pull over. Before long there’s a group of people all working on changing the tyre. I really would have struggled on my own, so huge thanks to all the guys who stopped.

The $20 pump fell apart. First the pressure gauge didn’t work at all. Then the handle came completely out of the body. It looked like the glue had melted. The tyre was only partially inflated at this point. Nobody else was carrying a pump. The tyre looked firm enough to ride slowly. After we got the wheel back on, most of the guys got back on the road. The first two to stop, Bill and Gerry, were heading to Thunder Bay. I had in mind to hit Thunder Bay myself. They said they’d ride with me and make sure I got there ok.

We took it really easy to the first gas station with an air hose. I inflated the tyre to the regular pressure, and the bike was good to go. The three of us set off for Thunder Bay in convoy. I’ll talk more about riding with Bill and Gerry in the next post. Right now, two days later, I’m about to leave Thunder Bay heading for Toronto. I expect to arrive in Toronto by Sunday, potentially sooner.

A big thank you to all the people who helped me. I was slow getting tools because I figured any type of break down would make the trip more colourful and introduce me to people. It really did. I’m now glad I have the tools, but I’m also glad I didn’t have them for this break down. The puncture was really a blessing that introduced me to a lot of wonderful people and reminded me of the motorcycling spirit.

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