When we arrived in Nosara I by chance noticed something I should have noticed a long time ago. We were parking for the umpteenth time to check for a room in one of the hotels when I noticed how little slack there was in Inna’s chain. Mine was even worse.
The mistake I had been making was doing the chain slack adjustment when the bikes were unloaded. I had been doing it at the end of the day after we were unpacked and following the specs in the Kawasaki service manual. Once all of the luggage is on the bikes, the rear squats considerably and the chain was far too tight.
As unfortunate as it was to have figured this out so late in the trip, at least it was before we were riding the serious dirt roads of South America. The 40 miles up and back to Miraflores and the 30 miles of dirt roads down to Nosara were the only dirt roads we’d ridden so far, so it could have been a lot worse.
The following afternoon after moving to a new hotel, we left all of the luggage on the bikes and properly set the chain slack. It consumed precious beach time, but it made me ill to think of riding another mile on those dirt roads with the chains so tight.
Once we were done with the chains, other problems came into view. On the ride in to Nosara, the left lower subframe bolt on Inna’s bike had come loose and fallen out. Falling out is better than shearing off, but it is a serious problem and good that we noticed it as soon as we did. Fortunately I had some spare bolts that would work and we were able to get it properly mounted again. I’m so glad we caught this early as the next step was a collapse of the subframe, which is very expensive and difficult to fix on the road.
The other maintenance highlight was finding stress cracks on the corner welds on two of the panniers. They were small cracks, but they will only grow with time. I wish the welds were stronger, but it’s hard to fault Happy Trails since the panniers have taken a few hits in tipovers. We will have to get them welded by a soldadura as soon as we can manage.
It’s stressful to discover these issues, but at least we caught them before they caused serious delays. Setting the proper slack in the chains made a noticeable performance improvement to the ride quality. The rear suspension was free to work now, and we both felt comfortable riding the dirt roads at 45 mph instead of the previous maximum of 30mph. It was like having a new bike and very confidence inspiring.
Update: Since I first wrote this post Inna’s oil leak has actually gotten worse. It seems like by removing the pressure from the countershaft has allowed the oil to leak more freely. We noticed a small puddle forming under Inna’s parked bike today. My bike’s left pannier has also split down the seam in the back where the aluminum was folded to form the box. Weak. I’m going to have to find a welder immediately.