Thursday, November 17, 2011

A few things to do in San Jose when your bike is dead

Ivan's place in San José was an absolutely great place to chill.  We were able to get laundry done, hang out and watch movies, read, cook food in a comfortable kitchen, and just have a place that felt like home. Partially because Ivan even moved out of his main bedroom to make room for us, and wouldn't move back in no matter how much we insisted.  It was way too kind of him, but very much appreciated. After being on the road for 5 months, it's nice to have a place that feels like home, even if for only a few days at a time.

San José has a bustling, modern downtown area that doesn't fit with the rest of Central American cities.  There are long pedestrian streets, lots of vendors (some of them are the "hey, that's my camera!" kind), and some prime people watching. 

(downtown area)

We also had the chance to explore some interesting small cafes in the University neighborhood near Ivan's place and really enjoyed meeting some of his friends at a get together full of good food, great mojitos, and even better conversations.  His friend and colleague Cici was especially helpful with anything and everything we needed.

(there are, of course, neighborhoods that feel more Central American)

The next morning after arriving in San José, I went back over to LaMotoAG to check on the work that they did and to ride the bike over to the other mechanic's shop.  With the new Full Bore back tire in place, I followed Luis over to his shop.  Given all of the great reviews of LaMotoAG that I have read, and their direct recommendation to use Luis to troubleshoot the electrical issues on the TA, I felt like I was in good hands.  I should have been more leary...

I dropped the bike off and talked through the outstanding work to be done:  find the original electrical fault that caused the TA to stop running, eliminate the short-term jumper wire fix that was still in place, check the front end out, and change the oil and filter.  I  know that when starting this trip, my intention was to perform most maintenance myself, but I talked myself out of it this time for a few reasons including not having any electrical troubleshooting equipment, my thought that electrical troubleshooting is one of my least favorite activities in the world, not having a garage to use, and wanting to have a pro check out the front end.  Turns out I should have spent money to buy a multimeter instead of paying Luis to look into it...

When we dropped off the bike, Luis talked through what he was going to check in the electrical system.  At this point he seemed to really know what he was talking about, and I thought I was still in good hands.  Luis even suggested eliminating the wiring connectors closest to the voltage regulator-rectifier (VRR) by soldering the wires together for a better connection, which I was convinced by and told him to go ahead and do.  Also, he suggested wiring the VRR directly to the battery (with fuse) for better charging.  Seemed like an easy enough job to me and how he explained it made sense.  We then proceeded to talk about oil selection and what I wanted to run.  It turned into a what-type-of-oil-is-best discussion/lecture/sales pitch that I really didn't want to hear.  But once I got through that conversation I figured all topics were covered and the TA would be tip top by the morning.

That next morning I returned to find out that one electrical issue was a blown diode in the wiring harness.  It fell on my shoulders to find a replacement.  Thankfully a nice guy with a pickup truck had just dropped an airhead off with Luis and was willing to drive me to a couple of dealerships.  The Honda dealership didn't have a diode in stock.  The Yamaha dealership found a diode that looked identical and was only US$4 (instead of the Honda part at US$18).  That errand took almost an hour with the help of a pick up truck for transport.  Without that help this could have easily become one of those all day errands.  When testing the diode back at the shop, it had a lower rating than the original, but should work in the meantime.  With that diode in, more troubleshooting had to take place.

Soo, day 3 rolls around and the bike will still not be ready to go until that afternoon.  That's fine, but when I got down to the shop at 4, Luis still hadn't looked at the front end at all.  I also found out then that instead of troubleshooting the original wiring issue, he just soldered the jumper wire fix in place, bypassing the Stop/Run switch.  Not what we discussed.  He had yet to look at the front end or change the oil.

It took a couple of hours of hanging around and then he finally looked at the front end.  I assumed the bars were bent and wanted to find out what else may be bent.  Instead of looking into it, he just slammed the front tire against a pole to create a neutral hand position.  While this did feel better riding, since my hands were now even, I'm pretty sure that I may have a bigger problem than what I started with - instead of bent bars, the TA is probably now sitting on a bent triple clamp, maybe bent forks, and maybe damaged bearings.  Yikes!

Nevertheless, I was happy to get the TA back, as we were planning on hitting the road the next day.  Well, I was happy until I heard the price for all this "work"- US$160.  Yikes again!  That number is not unreasonable for a lot of good work accomplished, and seemed to be appropriate for the outrageous prices we have found elsewhere in Costa Rica.  Keep in mind, though, that really all that was done was soldering 10 wires together, finding a shot diode, slamming the front wheel around, and changing the oil.  Overcharged.  I felt taken advantage of, but given that everything was running well and that the electrical system should be in good shape now (according to the expert), Jill and I were both ready to hit the road.   My negative sentiments became stronger once I realized how much got screwed up during this 160 dollar hack job...  (Final details of correcting the "fix" in El Rincón, Panama.)

1 comment:

  1. You have brought up very fantastic points, thank you for the post.