Like all plans, the one we thought was locked and tight was subject to change. It was time to give our Dakar’s a bath. Washing the bikes periodically is important because if you do it yourself (as you should) it provides an excellent opportunity for inspection. Always checking for loose bolts, dangling parts, something odd and and the overall condition of the bike. As I handled the super-powerful sprayer watching layers of mud, tar and junk fall off the bike, I noticed something about my rear tire that didn’t look right. Without going into the minutiae, suffice to say that I wouldn’t feel safe about taking the 500+ mile to jaunt to Puno or Copacabana (in Bolivia) today on the rear tire.
So the scavenger hunt began. I’ve read horror stories about trying to find a decent 17″ rear tire for the F650 in South America — or in Africa, too. It’s an odd size for the rear tire of a dual-sport bike. As such, motorcycle shops and dealers in small towns such as Cusco don’t tend to inventory them. For example, Jeremiah in his search to replace a bent rim from the rear of his Dakar, it took him nearly 3 weeks and dozens of phone calls before one was found and trucked in from Lima. I noticed on the way to the “lavenderia” we passed a string of motorcycle shops. There was a KTM dealer, Honda and parts store and more. So after buzzing out of the car wash I hustled up the street and pulled into the first motorcycle shop — a Honda dealer.
We pawed over a dozen tires when peeking out was a decent looking Pirelli MT60. To my luck it was the exact size I needed. After some quick negotiations and the exchange of about $78 I got the new tire and installation performed immediately and on the spot. Now this Pirelli is a Brazilian made which means it’s not “really” a Pirelli MT60, but it was there, the price was right and would be much safer than ride on a tire that is questionable.
When the mechanics at the shop pulled out a couple strips of rebar to pull the tire off the rim, I knew it was time to pull out my AeroSTICH Titanium tire irons, which they were so happy to see and even offered to trade the rebar for them. The entire job was done manually as if I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. They even used a bicycle pump to inflate the tire and without a tire gauge they got it spot on at 32 psi.
I’m not familiar with this tire, but just a half-mile down the road I was following Jeremiah back to the hotel when riding across the cobblestone street the rear tire slipped out from under me forcing me to counterbalance with a long leg extension and toe tap on the pavement. Scared the crap out of me as I felt the bike go nearly perpendicular to the lane I was riding. Jeremiah saw it in his rearview and though I was going down. But somehow I was very lucky. Especially given that only protective gear I was wearing was gloves and my helmet. My guess is that the new tires were just not hot enough and didn’t have the grip. I think I ran over a groove in the pavement that might have spit my tire sideways a bit and then threw me into this precarious position. I was shaking at the next traffic light. Wanted to get off that bike immediately.
When my nerves chilled and I stopped shaking, we decided to take a short ride just outside of town to check out some colonial ruins in Chinchera. Stopping along the way we ran into a group of native/indigenous people who were packing up their portable stores on this dirt road next to a bus stop. We took pictures and started chatting with these women who were incredible cheerful and flashed big smiles, laughed and truthfully were having fun with me as I suggested I help them carry this huge sack of product down to the road. Even better, most of the native people top off their colorful wardrobe with a fedora style hat. It’s the coolest but strangest thing I’ve ever seen. These hats sit precariously on top of the women and men’s heads and when riding through a bustling market in a small town I’ve seen hundreds of people milling about all wearing these hats.
So it was natural that I wanted to try one of these hats on for size myself. This drew more laughter from our new friends. But let me tell you I’ve never lifted something so heavy on my back before that I was blown away that this tiny seemingly frail little women would carry this massive load every day to this bus stop and try to hawk here wares. She sells 2 or 3 items on good days. Sometimes nothing. I had to put the sack down and acknowledge that she is better suited to carrying this sack and I’m better suited to riding my motorcycle.
i know these ladies will be talking about this day for sometime, as it will be a favorite in my repertoire of stories of my time in Peru. Damn those smiles! Tomorrow it’s Puno or bust!
(R) Supporting the local people with a good luck wrist band purchase. Worth the smile any day!