Submitted by Dale Nordlie
I was cruising along on my way to the Baxter Rally last Friday (August 20th) thinking what a wonderful day. The weather was great, the roads in the Loess Hills of Iowa were grand, and my GS was running fantastic. I had just finished lunch at Runt’s in Smithland and was moving along about 90 mph on the road south of town when I had to stop for a stop sign. I took off from the stop sign and the bike just doesn't feel quite right. Real squirmy and I'm thinking I must have a flat tire. I jump off the bike, kick the tires, do a quick look around, don't see anything wrong, get back on the bike, take off, still squirmy, something happens, bike kills on the side of the road. I try to get the bike up on the centerstand. Doesn't budge. Give it a little more push and all of a sudden the rear wheel falls completely off and the bike goes all the way down with the final drive supporting it in back. What would a real biker do in this situation? Call triple A? Set the piece of crap on fire? Get drunk? Never mind, real bikers ride bikes that have axles!!!
After the initial shock wore off, I determined that I would need to lighten the rear end of the bike in order to get it up on the centerstand. I removed the camping chair, trunk and saddlebags and the thing was still too heavy for me to get up. If you are familiar with the roads in the Loess Hills, you already know that there isn't much traffic. I'd already been stopped for 10 or so minutes and no one goes by. I'm thinking what I should do next, when two pickups appear, one out of the north and one out of the south. I flag them both down and the fellow out of the south agrees to help me out.
Ryan is a paramedic and he thought he had stumbled onto a bad accident. He saw my helmet and jacket lying off in the grass and initially thought it was a person. He also is young, big and strong and has no problems lifting the bike 2 feet off the ground so that I can get the centerstand down. He helps me get the wheel back on, and he is the one that gets the first bolt started. I haven't mentioned it yet, but all four of the bolts were still with the wheel, they all must have worked out simultaneously. He also has a 4 way tire iron to torque the bolts on. He stays with me while I give the bike a test ride to see if it is roadworthy. It is, I thank him and he takes off.
Now it is duct tape time!! When the wheel fell off it did a number on the rear brake calipers, bent them up and made them not functional. I removed them from the mount and taped them to the final drive swingarm. I didn't want to remove them completely because I was afraid that it might affect my front brakes. I also note that the saddlebag mount on the lower right side is broke off, can't duct tape in on though. I load everything back on the bike and then get the great idea of lashing the wobbling right saddlebag onto the camping chair with duct tape. Works great, thanks to Red Green, he's my hero.
Now what to do? Go home and get a different bike? Go to the rally and get a cold beer from Paul (my brother)? Yes, go to the rally, slow at first, but the bike seems to be tracking OK. I made several stops to see if the bolts were holding and they were. Larry and Bill arrived shortly after I did and shared some cold beers with Paul and me. Paul went for ice at the bar to cool down some beer he had purchased earlier and while he was there visited with Steve, the owner of the machine shop in Marne about fixing a few things on my bike Saturday morning.
Steve welded the saddlebag mount together and straightened the calipers out enough so that I could reattached them with bolts, still not functional, but I got rid of the duct tape. We agreed that if the wheel bolts were holding OK the way they were I shouldn't mess with them until I got home.
The ride home was nice, although any little squirminess from the bike made my ass pucker. What is the moral to the story? Check the wheel bolts occasionally? Find a better mechanic? Get a bike with an axle----no wait, 4 of the 5 bikes I have do have rear axles. I don't know, but I know that last Friday, considering what the outcome might have been, I was one of the LUCKIEST people in the world