Two Girls & Unplanned DIY Motorcycle Repair on the side of the road just off the Million Dollar Highway ~ 2021
Stiffy, Tami, and I rode the Million Dollar Highway (CO 550) this summer, from south to north. Which, if you've never been, south to north is definitely the way to go as views get progressively more amazing with every turn. And there are a LOT of tight turns with steep drops offs and minimal space to pull over if something goes awry.
So, after riding the entire Million Dollar Highway, we stopped in Montrose CO to grab lunch and part ways with Tami, who had to return home a few days before we did. We left the parking lot of where we all had lunch, I was leading the crew to the turnoff point where Tami would go one way, and we would head the other. I looked back and noticed Stiffy's bike BILLOWING smoke. While trying to pay attention to the road ahead and I was also looking in my mirrors to figure out WHY she would be doing a burnout in the middle of the main drag through town. I moved into a turn lane and waited for her and Tami to catch up, and as they did, all I could smell was burnt rubber. Then I noticed Stiffy's headlight was physically tilted up towards space, as was the angle of her bike. She said, "Something is wrong with my tire!." My first thought, "Why would you do a burnout HERE? And why did you burnout so long you blew a tire?" We got pulled over on a side street, just 10 yards from the main drag through town near a stoplight intersection. Stiffy pulled up and could not back her bike up, which now looked like she had lowered the rear end to the point she was physically sitting on the tire of the bike, with no space between the metal part of her frame and the tire. I hopped off my bike and tried to help her push it backwards. There was a zero percent chance that was going to happen, so I hopped back on my bike, moved forward, and Stiffy tried to get as far off the road as she could. The rear end of the bike was just smoking and the stench of rubber nearly overwhelming up close. Stiffy then said she was NOT tring to do a burnout, rather, she heard a clunk of metal and then smelled tire as her bike dropped way low in the rear. After standing around trying to figure out our next moves, we sent Tami on her way home so she wouldn't be late for her event. She was very reluctant to leave, but since there was two of us to get Stiffy's bike situated, we insisted she head towards home and we would figure it all out. That is the bonus of never making reservations ahead of time - we literally had no where that we NEEDED to be. So we started pulling Stiffy's bike apart - mind you she was loaded up with 10 days of camping gear and necessities, so there was quite a pile of gear on the side of the street! Since she heard a loud metal clank and knew approximately where it had occurred, I hopped on my bike and she started walking back to the spot it happened. I doubled back and she was standing in the center of the main drag of town holding something metal, which I grabbed as I rolled past her in traffic. Back at her bike, we inspected the 6" long, thick, cylindrical metal object trying to figure out where the heck it came from. Not recognizing the part, I sent it to The Boy for identification, to which he assured us that it was NOT part of Stiffy's bike, rather, it was a trailer hitch pin. Back to square one, Stiffy hopped on the back of my bike as we cruised across town to 2 independent bike shops, hoping they could help. The first one was adamantly opposed to working on anything but Harley. While the 2nd guy in the shop really wanted to help us out, his boss was NOT having it. So we went across the way to another independent bike shop. At this point, we had ridden all day - from Utah into CO and then up the Million Dollar Highway. It was late in the afternoon, Stiffy was stressed out, and we were at a loss of what to do. So when the gravel road ended at the next bike shop, Stiffy lost her ability to gracefully exit the back seat of my bike and took a digger. Like a good friend, I first took a picture laughing before helping her up (she was fine).
The bike shop owner happened to move to the area from Wisconsin, in an area that Stiffy and I have done a lot of riding in. So while they were SWAMPED with work, they were incredibly interested in helping us out, but without seeing the bike in person they were unsure if they could help. We described the lowering link and the shop was pretty sure ordering such a part would take weeks, so while they would have helped us, we went to her bike and called our local Victory friend - he is always tinkering on his Victory's and customizing his bikes. If anyone was going to be able to help, it would be him. While Stiffy was on the phone with him, I started reaching under the bike and just feeling around. Not having a clue what I was feeling around for, my hand hit something that made a clang of metal. Assuming this metal thing was not SUPPOSED to move as freely as it was, we explained the location to MR and he confirmed, it was an issue with her lowering link. My bike doesn't have this, so I had no clue what the purpose was, aside from lowering the bike making it easier for her to reach the ground. It clearly played an important role, as without it, the bike was literally resting on top of the rear tire. She lifted the ass end up, and it stayed somewhat up and off the tire. This meant the shock was working ok. Through phone guidance, google searches, and luck, we found the exact cause of the issue - the upper bolt of the lowering link broke off. Part of it was still in the connector thing (yes, that is a technical term lol) - the other part was assumed to be what made the metal sound when it hit the ground. The bad news: It is not easy to reach/fix on the side of the road. The good news: It can be done. As long as we had tools (yes!) and there was an auto store nearby with Grade 8 bolts. We were in luck! There was a parts store within walking distance.
After wrenching on the bike for what felt like hours, a guy who had just swung in for coffee, asked what we were doing. While we had found the issue, the bolt was stuck in the link and we couldn't get the bike lifted high enough to get it out. He said he had a friend with a bike shop a ways away and made a call to see if that guy could help. He gave us the guys number and headed out. Stiffy made a call, explained the situation, the guy said he was really busy but would try to come help. Sure enough, a little while later, both of the guys showed up and saved the day!! He was able to get the bolt out by jacking up the bike on the side of the street to gain access to more space. Once the bolt was replaced, Stiffy's bike was back in action and no longer resting on her tire, which miraculously looked just fine.
We thanked them eternally for their help and as nightfall took over, we decided we would stay in the town for the night. We headed to the local brewery, recommended by the guys who saved the day, and grabbed dinner, just as a massive storm was encroaching on us. We had no luck finding lodging, everything was booked solid. I got on Bunk A Biker site and there were 2 people listed in the town - I texted both. The brewery closed, so in the darkness of night, in the pouring rain and whopping winds, we found an enclosed carwash bay and closed the door to figure out our plan while staying as dry as possible. We settled on the fact that we would have to sleep in the carwash bay. Which smelled AWFUL. Like wet dog crossed with sewer gas. We decided to leave one wash bay door open so we didn't gas ourselves out.
Just then, my phone dinged, and it was one of the people from Bunk A Biker saying she had just gotten home and we could crash in her yard, and even park in her garage. THANK GOODNESS!!! We were beyond grateful in that moment. We hopped on the bikes and headed 1 mile across town to the gals house as she was opening her garage door for us. She then invited us inside and said we could sleep on the floor in her spare room with our camping gear. She said we had lucked out as she was gone all day and didn't know if she was going to come home tonight, but was almost home as she got our message and was able to help out in a pinch. She wouldn't accept any money - we were SO GRATEFUL for her hospitality!!! And her dogs became Stiffy's new best friends, which helped create laughter and take our minds off the crazy day!
Every time something seemingly bad happens, I try to think positive, after all, the 'bad' has already happened and that cannot be changed. So, the fact that this happened in a TOWN and not in the middle of the Million Dollar Highway, was a miracle. Also a miracle: We could walk to the parts store that was still open, a biker was getting coffee who knew a local bike mechanic, who then saved the day, and lastly, the kind soul on Bunk A Biker just HAPPENED to be home a day earlier than planned..... definitely a miracle!
A HUGE THANK YOU to the guys who stopped to help us in Montrose, CO, the shop that would have loved to help us, and the Bunk A Biker who saved the day!!! (No names used to protect the privacy of those involved). WE APPRECIATE YOU!! And we will definitely pay it forward.