Pop goes the tube

Day 38 Saturday 10th August 2013 – Lusk, WY to Denver, CO

Thankfully there was no sign of rain when I woke today. I loaded the Trooper quickly, and after saying farewell to Mark, I was back on highway 85 and on my way to Denver.

The ride most of the way to the interstate was uneventful, it’s a relatively flat landscape, unlike some other parts of Wyoming that I had visited, and the road is long and straight. I had to check my speed once when passing a state trooper, but otherwise I was speeding back to my baby.

A mile or so short of I-25, I hit what I thought was a patch of gravel. There’d been signs for road works and I’d slowed down to something near the 45 mph speed limit. My front wheel started wobbling uncontrollably. Instinctively, my hand was off the gas and I dared gently to touch the back brake as I wobbled onto the hard shoulder. I gingerly got off the Trooper and looked at his front wheel. The tyre had blown off the rim. I couldn’t see any damage to the tyre, other than it not being quite where it should. I couldn’t believe it. I had only had that tyre replaced a week earlier and I had ridden only a couple of hundred miles since then. With no sign of a nail or other puncture, I was left wondering what the feck was going on?

When I had booked the Trooper’s passage to America, I had also taken out medical insurance for me and accident insurance for the Trooper. As part of that accident insurance, I also got free breakdown cover. Luckily, today I was in an area where I had phone coverage, and that is not a given. I’d bought a GSM phone because I could take it back and use it in the UK, but that meant I was stuck with second biggest cellular operator in the US, AT&T, rather than the biggest operator, Verizon, that uses the competing CDMA standard, one which wouldn’t work for me back in the UK. I’d expect not to have cell coverage out in the desert or up a mountain, but AT&T has proved to be sketchy even in built up areas. Right then, I was just thankful I had a signal.

I called the number for my breakdown assistance, and the lady I spoke to took all my details, the nature of the problem and my location, etc. She called back a couple of minutes later to tell me a recovery truck was on its way and would reach me in 30 or 40 minutes. It would take me to High Country Motorsports, an independent Harley-Davidson dealer, in Cheyenne, WY. She also told me that the cost of the recovery was covered by my insurance – nice.

The towing distance covered by the insurance is actually ridiculously small for America, at just 35 miles. Today I was lucky I had nearly reached Cheyenne before misfortune struck. On my previous trip, I had been much further from a convenient Harley (or any motorcycle) shop, and I had had to pay the hefty multi-hundred dollar towing charges, but actually covering the towing charges wasn’t the main benefit of the roadside assistance for me. It was just having someone to call, who would check out all the options and who would coordinate both the towing and the place where the bike had to be taken. That piece of mind was invaluable – provided I could make the phone call!

At High Country Motorsport, we discovered exactly what the problem was. The inner tube had been twisted when it had been fitted and had exploded as I had ridden along. A tell-tale sign, which I should have checked for in Sturgis. The huge amount of weights that had been added to the spokes on one side to balance the tyre clearly suggested not all was well. The exploding inner tube had also wrecked my new tyre from the inside out, so I paid to have the tyre replaced with the recommended Michelin Scorcher. Easy Eddie’s stand at the Buffalo Chip had been easy for me to get the work done quickly when I needed it, and when nearly every other shop within 100 miles of Sturgis was only offering an oil change with a significant wait. But a few hundred miles down the road, and the choice of Easy Eddie’s didn’t prove to be so easy for me. I was thankful I’d slowed down to 45 mph rather than the 90 mph I had been doing on some of the straights.

Two hours later and I was back on the road, and High Country Motorsport had even given the Trooper at cursory clean.

The rest of the ride to Denver was uneventful. I checked into my hotel near the airport and began preparing for Doreen’s arrival.


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