Roadside repairs in France


So we`re talking about a trip that me and my dad did back in 2011. Going from Groningen all the way down to the Algarve in Portugal and then of course head back up again to go home. Me on my Moto Guzzi V50 Nato (1984) and my dad on his Norton Commando 850 MK3 (1977). The whole trip went relatively smooth but on the way back, just as we entered France, a Dutch couple wished us a “good journey” as we left the campsite in the morning. Since there was no need to worry we happily accepted to good wishes and on we went. Not knowing that about a 100 Km after that….. 

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As I was heading into the last turn into a little village in France (Chaudes-Aigues) I changed gears, as one does when slowing down, followed by a “I don’t feel it anymore” from my bike. The darn thing flat out refused to bring any power to the rear wheel and there isn’t much power to go missing to begin with. No clue as to what was wrong with it, it just refused to go anywhere. So I rolled to a parking lot and that’s exactly where this photo was taken. This fateful day carried the date of 20 August.

We tried to figure out what it was, but decided that it wasn’t something that we could easily fix then and there so we called the KNMV (Royal Dutch Motorcycling Association). After a couple of calls back and forth they sent us someone who only spoke French.

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 Luckily both my dad and I have the same grasp of French as a rock so everything went swimmingly. It ended up in communicating using our hands, feet and sounds, but mainly a lot of pointing and grunting. The kind man loaded the bike on his truck, pointed at me to get in the cab and for my dad to follow… so we did. He brought us to his shop Teissedre in Saint Flour, where we unloaded the bike and called the KNMV who put us through to the ANWB this time around. The guy would call me back to tell us what would happen next, which “might take a couple of hours”, haven’t heard anything since and by now it’s 2016. The man who picked us up told us to go for a walk (I think) as he went for his lunch.

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 We didn’t want to wait any longer than necessary so we started to take the bike apart to see what was really wrong with it. Just as I reached the part where I would have to take the rear wheel out, the big boss came back, looked a bit like “the fuck is this”, and pointed us to his shop where we could continue inside.   As I removed the rear wheel and swing-arm the culprits showed themselves. Both of these whatchamacallits were completely smooth, having nothing left to connect them together. Freely rotating the power from the engine came really close to my rear wheel but never actually reaching it.

The magical word of souder


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What needed to be done was basically to weld it. So off we went fighting the language barrier between me, my dad and our soon to be angel. Once again with the help of some noises, pointing en moving of parts we got the idea across and we learned a word of French… “souder” it was. My job was to keep it as straight as possible, my dad was standing at a distance pointing left or right to get the driveshaft and these two whatchamacallits aligned and our angel would weld. After a bit of grinding to be able to fit the welds through the swingarm and we were back in business. 

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Putting the whole bike back together was a good feeling. Doing a little test ride around the property was probably even better. Definitely a day well spent, although it wasn’t as we initially had planned. And of went went…. 
Now I can hear you think…. a trip with only one major break down is boring. Luckily for us we had another one coming! 

The very next day, by now it’s the 21 of August still in 2011. We were happily packing our stuff when a Dutch family came over to wish us a “safe trip”. In normal circumstances very nice, but after our previous experience it left a bit of a sour aftertaste. Now the best part of this, and I kid you not, after  approximately a 100 Km of riding we were standing by the side of the road again. This time to Norton decided it had enough, was jealous of the attention the Guzzi received the day before or something we’re not sure. Somehow the chain tensioner gave way and resulted in the chain skipping over both front and rear sprockets destroying most of the teeth that should be on there.

Now I didn’t know this yet, I was out in front wondering why my dad wasn’t in my mirrors anymore. Waited a bit until a car went by with people frantically pointing behind them. So I turned around and raced back not sure what to expect. Let’s just say that above scenario was a whole lot better than the one playing in my mind. Since we were at the side of a main road my dad pushed to Norton back to a parking lot we spotted a good 30o meters back. This time around it was Sunday so everything was closed, so we had no choice other than go ahead and get the Norton rolling again.

First things first was to free the chain which was seriously stuck between the chain guard and sprockets. One of the tools required for this subtle job was a hammer, as we all know, to save space you store a hammer in your tent. Luckily for us that was exactly what my dad decided to do that very morning. So here we were, happily tinkering away and unpacking a tent on a parking lot as if it was the only normal thing to do on a Sunday. When we finally managed to free the chain and put everything back where it needed to go, we tested it. Starting the bike, shifting it into gear and the moment we did that the chain pulled it everything out of alignement again. Trying various ways of keeping the chain tensioner where it needed to be we ended up with using an alan key.


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With some smooth clutch work from my dad’s end the Norton was rideable again. It sounds like a couple of marbles in a tin-can but hey, at least we could finish the last 400 Km’s to get home! What could possibly go wrong you ask? Wel…..

A couple of kilometers down the road as we were riding through a vilage I heard me dad shout my name, of course I turned to see what was going on and saw my dad steer the Norton to the sidewalk. Expecting to continue our tinker adventure but luckily that wasn’t the case.

It’s time for a riddle… here you see my dad’s Norton. But something is missing, what is it?

The Answer
Aye, the gear lever decided it had had enough of the Norton and was looking for a different life. That life it seemed, was quite a bit behind us and happened to be exactly where we entered the village. I found it lying on the middle of the road, passers by couldn`t help but laugh as I picked it up.

So to celebrate this wonderful day we gave ourselves something to drink at a nearby cafe where it seemed that somewhere in the past the ‘Tour de France’ went through whatever village we were in. That even was still represented in the pricing on the menu for the drinks.

When we finally arrived at the campsite that night (Camping de Hei in Siebengewald) we arrived wel after midnight.

Wiel (the owner) was still behind the bar with one customer so we grabbed a drink before pitching our tents and grabbing some wel earned rest and needed showers. The following day my dad (with the borrowing of tools) shortened the chain so the alan key wasn’t necessary anymore.

Photos of the entire trip can be found >>here<<

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