Exhausted No More

Nedjielko Kucelj, the owner
 of Kucelj Exhaust Systems,  tackles my exhaust problem with ease. Notice how heat stained and rust-colored my exhaust is as he started his rebuild.

I prefer not to ride when I’m staying in and exploring a city like Zagreb. So given its central location and neighbor to a number of foreign embassies, I decide to leave “Doc,” my motorcycle, at Logobola B&B, even though I’m staying with Stanka on the other side of town.

Doobie offers me to join the other guests for the breakfast buffet at Logobola, so before heading to the shop where a technician will service my exhaust I fill up on juice, coffee and treats. The lounge and breakfast room at the B&B is packed with maps, tourists resources and guide books, and a collection of vintage memorabilia including an operational vinyl record player with a small library of classic records. The WIFI is speedy and an all day espresso machine and selection of teas makes the lounge a perfect place to resarch or catch up on writing and digital content management.

It takes nearly an hour ride to the countryside outside Zagreb to get to the shop where Dooby arranged to service my exhaust. I blindly follow the turn-by-turn GPS through the SENA bluetooth communicator attached to my helmet and connected to my iPhone. After pulling off a two-lane highway in good shape, I find myself winding around narrow country roads, through little villages and residental neighborhoods. It appears to be more of a farming community than an industrial sector where I’d expect to find a mechanic. 

Check out how heat stained and rusted my pipe looks.
Kucelj Exhaust Systems modest but adequate workshop in the outskirts of Zagreb.

When my GPS announced “You have arrived,” I am on a one lane road topped in front of a modest home. A driveway dips down where I see a few cars and a cornfield. on the lower level of the two story home is a workshop. Tucked inside are a few machines, a couple motorcycles under tarps including a vintage Czech-built Jawa, and Nedjielko Kucelj the owner of Kucelj Exhaust Systems.

I realize that this is not a motorcycle repair shop, but rather a small specialty company that handcrafts custom performance exhaust systems for motorcycles. Ned doesn’t speak English, so hand signals and sign language serve us well. A short-legged furry and friendly dog is his assistant. 

Ned quickly removes my exhaust and gets to work. I replaced the SuperTrapp pipe in 2010 after my original three-year around-the-world adventure. But since then it’s seen many other adventures. Heat stained from my travels across the United States, Baja California, Iceland, Scandanvia, Central and Eastern Europe and now through much of the Balkans, the pipe looks as bad it sounds.

He dismantles the exhaust and breaks it down into several pieces. He then fires up an arc welder and reattaches the connector pipe and one of the end caps. He then makes proceeds to rebuild my entire exhaust, repairing the core and the other end cap. With all the pieces back together, he goes through the painstaking process of riveting, grinding, sanding, and polishing all the stainless steel parts.

New weld for the rear connector flange.
Ned goes about polishing the tired and well aged and ridden pipe.
He gives it a finer polish on his band polisher.
The pipe is looking brand new! Now he must work on the end cap.

I snap photos while he is busy at work, taking breaks to play with his dog. At one point his ten-year-old daughter comes home from school. They share a short conversation in Croatian, then hugs and kisses her before she heads upstairs into their home. 

He carefully polishes all the curves and beveled parts of the end cap.
Ned shows me that even the cap can look new again!

He then repacks the exhaust first with steel wool, then with fiberglass sheet packing material, rolling it first around the core, and then adding additional material before threading the core back into the shiny like-new looking exhaust pipe. His attention to detail, evident in ever step of the process, is especially noticed when attaching the pipe back to my bike. Unsatisfied with the dampening material inside the main clamp, he somehow is able to remake this, too

Once installed I’m taken back at beautiful my exhaust appears—at least how beautiful ANY exhaust can be. Seriously, his workmanship and attention to detail is welcoming and brings a huge smile to this world traveler’s face. Even better, when I fire up the single-cylinder Rotax power plant on my BMW F650GS, it purrs. No more rumble. No more rattle. Just a smooth throaty hum.

First he wraps the core with steel wool, then fiberglass for baffling and sound control — muffling!
He suggests that we use rivets instead of nuts and bolts—less chance of them rattling loose and creating that annoying vibration.
First, he rivets the core in place, then secures the end cap, making it perfectly flush with the outer pipe.
The mounting bracket heat-proof washer had deteriorated. Ned even made a new one for me, ensuring it would be a solid connection and mounting.
He positions the pipe perfectly and secures it to the engine.
I don’t even recognize the pipe anymore. Excellent job and all performed in under an hour. Excellent!

The ride back to Zagreb is bliss. I thank Doobie for finding such a legendary source. I’m now confident and no longer exhausted nor anxious.

I pour myself an espresso and get to work figuring out what’s next on this Balkan adventure.


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