By Tim Notier
Marisa and I have had a lovely time traveling through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. In our short time on the road we have experienced near tornado-like conditions, rain and hail while riding down a mountain road that had more wet clay to it than gravel, and fire ants and roly-polies continuously getting into our helmets which meant Marisa freaking out... the stuff adventures are made of.
We worked as a team in all of the above scenarios, except for the roly-polies in Marisa's helmet, that was her battle. But on only the third day did we hit our first “oh-no" moment.
We were in Meade, Kansas on a Sunday afternoon for a lunch stop, and I was doing my standard walk around of the bike to be sure nothing was blatantly wrong. But something was blatantly wrong.
“We have a problem,” I told Marisa. She jumped off the phone and came running over.
I pointed to where the chain had been eating into the rear tire on the bike, leaving long sweeping gouges in the sidewall of the tire. I stared at it for half an hour as different friendly folk would walk up wondering what I was doing. The chain did not align with the guide from the sprocket, and kept wanting to pull right, into the tire.
One of the onlookers (Tracy, I am forever grateful for your assistance) stated he thought the sprocket was installed on the wrong side of the assembly.
That couldn't be it, I thought. It was just installed by a KTM dealership two weeks before. Maybe it was the lack of a spacer, or worn bearings... or the axle wasn't tightened all the way. I wasn't sure.
Luckily, I had downloaded the schematics/repair manual as a PDF on my computer prior to leaving. I looked at the breakdown of the sprocket assembly, and sure enough, the bastards installed it on the wrong side of the hub. A KTM dealer! A place of business that specifies in the functionality and repair of the very bike I own.
I am aware that mistakes happen, humans do stupid things, but the whole experience with this particular dealership was bad from the moment I said hello. They didn't stock anything, so it was a 3 week lead time to get the OEM chain and sprocket assembly. I bought one online instead, and it arrived in 3 days. Finally, the new chain guide, sprocket, and chain were all assembled by the dealership as new, and I rode away excited to be rid of their poor customer service or understanding of what I wished to be done to the bike. And I assumed the services they did provide were performed correctly.
Of course, I was wrong.
It turned out that they stock no goods, and the service was potentially life-threatening.
“Gross negligence, incompetence, and the endangerment of our lives," were the words I so elegantly told the mechanic over the phone. I didn't mean to overreact, but I am not sure what would have happened if the chain ate through the sidewall of the tire while riding 65mph fully loaded, and two up. In fact, I don't want to think about it.
I am currently in an email war with the dealership, pictures have been sent, details of how it was installed vs. how it should have been, a clear and cut case that should have immediately ended in an, “Oh my God, we are so sorry Mr. Notier” is now being stretched out with a lack of any ownership or resolution.
But overall, great trip so far. I am glad that Marisa and I have been able to get ourselves out of some pretty crappy situations. We fixed a broken chair, cleaned and reassembled our stove when it acted funny, and most importantly, had the tools and references to fix a potentially trip-ending mechanical error.
And I give many thanks to the kindness of strangers: Tracy, who let us use his driveway for repairs, in much needed shade, while his wife offered us ice water and good conversation. Tracy got his hands just as greasy and grimy as mine while helping me correct the issue at hand.
It has only been around a week's worth of travel, but it has proved we can pass certain tests, as small as most of them have been, and it proves we will be an unbeatable team when life throws a wrench (or a sprocket) at us.
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