Mar. 14 – Santiago to Curico

2009 April 3
tags: ,
by joe

We wake and have another generous breakfast at the apart-hotel, load up, and head out. The way out of town takes us down a street named ’10th of July’, and it is a solid row of auto and motorcycle related businesses and shops. Just amazing to see. Men stand in the street in front of there business, and wave at you, or signal with automobile side-view mirrors, to try to get you to stop and patronize their shops. It is a madhouse of traffic and congestion, as cars stop and pull over, and mechanics do brake jobs or tire work in the street!

We pass a place that advertises motorcycle oil changes, and we stop there and get both bikes serviced. We then stop and find a parts store where I can buy a new chain for my bike, as the one I had installed in Belize is already stretching badly, after only 8,000 miles.

When we finally get out of town, we are back on super-highway, and making great time for the first 100 miles. We stop for a coke at a gas station, and decide to do a chain adjustment and lubrication on both bikes. This is when we make a terrible discovery – Levi’s rear sprocket has come out of the rear wheel hub, and has moved over so that the sprocket bolts have worn a channel part way through the left side of the aluminum swingarm! It looks REALLY BAD! We are both shocked, and are not certain that it is safe to move the bike further at all. There is nothing we can do where we sit, and we finally decide to continue on, as slowly as possible, till the next town that has a hardware store and a place to work.

The nearest place to stop turns out to be a town called Curico. We get off the highway, and stop at a large box-store like a Home Depot. We buy some large washers to use as spacers on the axle. Levi stays in the parking lot, while I drive around the town looking for a place where we can get the bike up and remove the rear wheel. I pick a spot near a park, and return to the spot where Levi is waiting. We ride over to the park site, and use our ratchet come-a-long to hoist his bike up a telephone pole brace. It does not work all that well, but we are able to remove the rear wheel, and see what has happened. The news is not good.

Somehow, when Levi’s bike was serviced by Nosiglia Sports in Bolivia, they either over-tightened the rear axle nut, or some other way damaged the bearing in the rear sprocket carrier assembly. When we pulled the axle out, the bearing was totally destroyed… the races were just metal rings, and the balls came pouring out in a stream. The aluminum sprocket carrier casting was worn away so far that the snap-ring groove was gone completely, and the sprocket bolts had ground through a good potion of the swingarm itself. Everything left of the wheel hub was a mess. The left-hand spacer, that is supposed to keep the sprocket assembly inside the wheel hub and away from the swingarm, was completely inside the sprocket-carrier assembly. Lots of damage.

Our options were limited. We had bought the largest washers that the store had had, but it turned out that they were just a tiny bit too small to fit onto the rear axle. Just at the time we discovered that, a friendly native stopped by, with is child in a stroller, and asked if he could help. We showed him our problem, and he went home, and returned with a file that allowed us to enlarge the washers enough to get them onto the axle. This friendly guy stuck around for hours, and helped us where he could, even running around in his car looking for other parts to help us out; a real hero of a guy!

Our hope at this point was to get the bike able to be driven, short distance and slow speed only, without doing any more damage to itself. With the washers we had, we were able to re-assemble the rear axle assembly in a way that kept the sprocket carrier inside the hub, where it belonged, and away from the swingarm. It took as two hours of grunting and sweating, but we did manage to get it ride-able to that extent.

With the bike minimally drivable, we select another over-priced place to stay, a fancy hotel near centro, settle for Chinese food close by, and do internet research on what parts we think we need to get the bike repaired.  At this point, it looks like it may take lots of time, and lots of money to get Levi’s bike back on the road. This has been a tough day indeed, and we are both quite depressed.

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