The luck of breaking down

Filed in Montenegro, Travel by on May 16, 2017 1 Comment

I often get asked what happens if I break down? The answer; I get excited about the unknown about to head my way.

While riding from Holland to Turkey (and back), my brother and I were passing through the small nation of Montenegro. A country that was supposed to be no more than a days transit on the way to the nights camp in Albania.

That all came to an end after the GSXR failed to start back up after a quick photo-stop along the scenic Adriatic coastline.

The scenic coastline…moments before realising the bike was stuffed

A quick test with the multimeter showed that the battery wasn’t charging. This had to be either the stator or the regulator/rectifier; not exactly a big surprise with Gixxers as I’d found from a previous breakdown during one of my Australian rides

A push start from my brother got me going again, but the question was, for how long would it last?

As we rolled into the small port city of Bar, the dash started flickering and the bike was losing its fight to live. So, even though I thought it might be possible to get to Albania, I gave in to better sense and decided to head for the first hotel that came up on the GPS.
As luck would have it, the bike came to a dead halt right outside the Hotel Pharos; the same place the next part of my journey began.

Parked up outside the Pharos

The hotelier came rushing out to ask if we were okay as he heard me trying to start the bike back up and within seconds was on the phone to his “biker friend”. And so it was that the biker, Goran, assured me that he would start making calls as soon as he got back from his weekend away and meet me first thing in the morning.

With a contact in place for the next and a bed to sleep in for the night, it was time to explore Bar and find some food.
After snacking on some delicious (and cheap) cevapi I got to know a bit more about my unintended stopover. Bar was a port city used as an entry point by mainly Russian tourists coming in on cruise ships. Although it seemed that many opted to drive there too going by the smattering of large black SUVs with Russian plates.

Beautiful ‘beaches’ of Bar

A surprisingly number of large, black, luxury SUVs for such a small city

Sleepy, serene Bar
Delicious cevapi from Konoba Sunce

The following morning, Goran met us out the front and after a quick push start for the Gixxer, we followed him. As we wound through the backstreets of the small city we started heading into more remote areas until the bike promptly died right in front of a farm property littered with bikes.

At the farm

As we were introduced to Darko, the young mechanic roughly my age, it was hard to ignore the registration plates of the bikes scattered around the property ranging from Turkey through to Sweden. This was only made more curious a little later in the afternoon when a brand new Volvo SUV proudly displayed yellow plates that said ‘NEW YORK – THE EMPIRE STATE; sometimes it’s just better not to ask questions.

Farm chopper

After the introductions were made, Goran assured us that we were well taken care of in Darko’s capable hands. As Darko proceeded to start stripping down my bike, we explored the farm and saw a couple of custom choppers amongst the piles of scooters and parts. But by far, the greatest discovery was in the shed, under boxes and fans, a red Ducati 916, Darkos personal bike.

A perfectly good way to store a Ducati

While we got to know that Darko was a very chill guy, we also found out that I had a burnt out stator, for which, no replacement part could be found in the whole country of Montenegro. Even getting it rewound would be a matter of getting it sent to Serbia and back again, seeing us off the road for at least a couple of days.

A cast of millions with no idea what to do

The offending part; a fried stator

As the day went on and I took the occasional nap to beat the heat, Darko was on his phone non-stop calling anyone and everyone he could think of to fix my problem.

When all else fails, nap

Finally, it appeared that salvation appeared to come in the form of a 3 way exchange; Darkos friend from a city 2 hours away had a Honda stator which a wrecker 4 hours away needed, for which, he was willing to exchange a Yamaha stator that JUST MIGHT measure up to my Suzuki stator.

Once this trade was done, the defining moment came after having soldered up the connections and sitting the ‘new’ stator back in the cradle…only to find that it was 2mm too tall; would the cover fit?!

Fire fixes everything

Hoping for the best, a generous amount of gasket glue was applied and the cover placed back on; success! The bike ran like new.
And after all that, the cost of the days toil? $120 for the stator and $30 for the labour.

Inspected by goat

While I do often worry about what would happen if I break down, I try to cover the basics by carrying the basic spares, having the ability to do some basic troubleshooting; but when it comes down to it, it’s the generosity and willingness to help a traveler from people like Goran and Darko that I keep faith in.

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I take GSXRs to inappropriate places