Yesterday I thought the ride to Popayán was stunning, and then today the road from Popayán to Pasto amazing, but it was the road from Pasto to Ipiales that stopped me in my tracks.
Can words describe this? Cruising through the lush, green and fragrant cordillera through cloud forests was breathtaking. A sign warns travelers that the road is in bad condition due to geological challenges, but overall it was twisty, smooth and scenic. Passing through poor villages and more children dotting the highway with hands folded or held out for money. Some hold a string across the road and as I approach pull the string. But I don’t stop. The string drops down and I continue my ride.
At one point I can’t take scenery much longer. Pushing some of my caution aside but maintaining vigilance, I pull over to take a picture. In a move that is automatic and executed practically unconscious, I kick the heel of my boot backward catching the kick-stand and then pulling my foot forward extending the kick-stand down and leaning the bike over. As I performed this roadside ritual, I happen to gaze down and notice that half my kick-stand was gone.
My kicks-stand was missing in action.
There sitting lonely like an injured yet healing stub, the kick(side) stand jutted out only a few inches. There was no way to set the bike down. True, I have a Touratech center-stand, but the weight of my bike combined with the location of the Jesse bags interfering with my getting a good grip and the right leverage, it’s impossible for me to get it up on the center-stand alone.
I sat on the side of the road straddled — but stuck — on my steed. What a predicament. What a challenge. No kick-stand.
How did this happen? The standard kick-stand for the BMW F650GS Dakar is notoriously under-designed. It’s too short. With a bike loaded like mine, the stock kick-stand would not be able to withstand the weight. Enter Al Jesse. Al designed a kick-stand extender that lengthens it by 4 or 5 inches. Not only will the bike handle a heavier load on the side stand, the extension lessens the lean angle and therefore makes it easier to life off the side stand. But adding this extension requires sawing the bottom part of the side-stand and inserting the extension between the side-stand and the part that was cut off. I’ve ridden nearly 20,000 miles with this side-stand modification with no problem. The only other modification I did was add a Wunderlich accessory that enlarged the footprint of the side stand foot plate so the bike wouldn’t sink into soft ground or tarmac. I can’t say for sure what happened, but obviously that uneven stone parking lot in Popayán combined with some rough roads spelt doom for my Jesse side-stand extender and left me in this predicament.
What could I do? I took a couple pictures while sitting on my bike. I was still a couple hours north of Pasto, but hoped in that town I’d find a fix. When I rolled into Pasto the rain poured. And poured. I rode through the center of town looking for a bike-shop or a soldera (welder) and for the first time since I’ve been on this journey I didn’t see one. I guess the old adage is true, when you’re looking for something, you just won’t find it. I’ve seen a hundred welder shops on my journey. Pasto’s alluded me.
The gas station I pulled into was a stroke of luck. While there wasn’t a welding shop there, there was a guy who worked in metal fabricating place next door. The attendants helped me get the bike up on the center-stand while I was happy for the chance to be out of the rain and have a fabricator crawl through his pile of metal pipe, bar and scrap. He found a tube that seemed strong enough but a diameter exactly the same as my stand. A little smaller it would fit into the stand; larger it could slip over like a sleeve. He disappeared and then reappeared with the piece ground down just right to slide into my kick-stand. But the small diameter tube would simply sink into the ground like a stake. There was no welder, but he took it back and returned with the bottom bent at 45 degrees giving me a small, but sufficient, footprint for leaning the bike.
We tested his engineering. Hammered the tube deep into my kick-stand. It held. Not perfect, but the best interim solution. He asked for $2 and I was on my way.
An hour later I was struck with more awe and as I rounded a corner saw a 100 foot waterfall splashing above me and a second tier falling another 100 feet below me. Situated at a hairpin turn which also served as an outpost for Colombian military personnel keeping an eye on the road. I passed their little guard shack and pulled over on the scant sandy and damp miniscule “shoulder”. I performed my kick-stand ritual and feeling happy and confident with my new interim kick-stand, I looked down at my feel and noticed it was gone. It vibrated loose and fell off.
So much for my interim kick-stand and two dollars.
It was funny before, but now I was frustrated. This minor inconvenience was haunting me. I just sat there and took in the scenery. Then buried my helmet in my hands and sighed. Soon two of soldiers from the military oupost were standing next to the bike. I showed them the kick stand and then asked if they could bind a decent rock that I could perch my bike on so I could get off and take a picture. One hobbles down the steep cliff returning with a nice flat rock perfect for my needs.
After the usual diatribe, they take me on a walking tour of the waterfall and offer me tips for the next leg of my journey. Hiking through the jungle, I convince them to take a picture of me under the waterfall using their automatic weapon as a prop. And they agreed! With my hand on the trigger, the younger cop cautions me, so I adjust my grip so there are no accidents. Hiking back to the bike they want to pose again with my motorcycle before our tearful goodbyes.
I continue winding through lush jungle and tropics until dusk starts settling with a misty rain as I roll into Ipiales. It takes three stops but I find my welder. And within 45 minutes with the eyes of every other shop owner, worker and their friends watching me watch my welder repair the kick-stand. After concocting the extender and making a “foot” he grounds the bike with massive alligator clamps my and asks me to start it and keep it running while inches from my feet he welds the new piece solidly to my stubby kick-stand. Five dollars later I cruise into Ipiales just as the city goes black. A power outage. I’m sure triggered by the massive amount of Christmas lights adorning every park, building and office I ride by.
I find a hotel with lights on and underground parking next to the noisy generator. And there I slept just a short football pass from the Ecuador border dreaming that I might find my motorcycle lying on the floor of the hotel garage sans kick-stand.