Last weekend I took an 800 mile ride with camping. The trip was from Atlanta up to the Kentucky Guzzi Owners rally in Frankfort KY, and to drop in on my folks who live very close by as it was my dad’s birthday. Leaving Friday afternoon, my destination for the night was Thunder Rock Campground in Tennessee, by the Ocoee Olympic Whitewater site. My GPS royally screwed me over, trying to get from Athens GA to the southeast corner of Tennessee. It kept trying to route me through north Atlanta rush-hour traffic to get to the west side of the metro area, rather than heading north, then west across the mountains. Mired in traffic around Mall of Georgia, I finally wised up and routed myself through Cleveland, Blairsville, and on to Thunder Rock. I arrived just before sunset.
Early Saturday morning just after dawn I went down (…crashed. Fell off.) on Highway 64 in a light rain. This section is very curvy, following the river, and happens to have brand new black asphalt. Not a good combination with the rain. It had been raining most of the night so I figured it was well washed, but still I was taking it easy. It was a low side slide, lost the front end in a decreasing radius turn. I barely felt it, physically, but it was pretty surreal. What I was wearing seemed to work (but then the ground was hardly abrasive – part of the problem). The first guy that stopped was a local resident, carrying dirtbikes in his truck – he was very helpful and seemed more giddy than I was, having watched me go down. Amazingly not much damage to the bike. The crash guard did its job, took most of the damage. Right foot peg is bent, and the brake pedal is slightly bent up but still functional. Some rash on the luggage and muffler. No signs that any part of the front wheel, forks, handlebars even touched down.
Leaving athens after the rain, the GPS redeemed itself completely. Highway 68 all the way to Crossville is like riding through a picture postcard flipbook.
The next epic section was – Jamestown TN to Jamestown KY. Up to the TN state line it was tightly rolling curves through pictureasque farms. The area on either side of Wolf Creek Dam (Lake Cumberland) was near perfect and pristine.
After the town of Liberty, Hwy 127 settles in to a wide, divided highway all the way to Frankfort. It was around Danville that I realized I would not make it to the rally, so I reset for Eminence and a nice family visit.
The “up” ride was impressive enough that I decided to take the same way back, rather than explore and experiment with routes on the way back. Also, I was cramming the full 400 miles into one day, and needed to make time. Traffic was heavier on Sunday – most of the “fun” sections were spent behind cars, but after Saturday’s mishap I was in no mood to explore the edge of the envelope. Once I crossed in to GA at Copper Hill/ McCaysville, I checked the weather and realized there is no way I would avoid rain before getting home. Sure enough, around Jasper – about 90 muntes from home – the rain hit. About 30 minutes from home, it got dark as well.
Note to self: NEVER do that again. While riding in the rain alone, or in the dark alone, may seem a fraction less safe (maybe even a large fraction), Dark and rain together are easily ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less safe. For one, visibility is near zero, due to oncoming headlights diffracting in the rain drops on the screen. Sky and ground are the same color. Road stripes are invisible, and everything is shiny and reflecting lights to add to the confusion. One almost has to simply follow the taillights of the car in front, and hope he doesn’t drive off a cliff.
Mechanical side note: Sometime on Saturday I started noticing a wobble when decelerating down through 35-30 mph. The next day on the return trip it was becoming more pronounced, and the speed at which it started kept creeping higher. Now it starts wobbling around 50, and is most pronounced around 35. This was now affecting the full range of speeds used in mountain carving, where stability is paramount.
I’m no mechanic but:
My first thought/hope was that the wheel balancing weight got knocked off. But it (or one) is still on there
The next thought was that maybe the fork oil seal had ruptured and I was getting uneven rebound damping. But both forks were dry behind the fork boots.
So then I was thinking that somehow the hub bearing god mashed or racked or dented, perhaps from a sideways blow to the front wheel in the crash. No metal showed any signs of scraping, but the edge of the tire has some scrapes.
Update: It was tire pressure. The crash had me predisposed to think it must have something to do with that, so I never thought to look at the basic road-trip maintenance basics. Occam’s Razor.