The wife, Binky and I took a ride up to the Jonquil Festival a couple of weekends ago. The weather was great and we were just looking for an excuse to ride. We left the house about 12:30 pm and got there in a little less than an hour. We checked out the vendors, bought a few trinkets, showed off Binky in his stroller and just generally enjoyed the weather and atmosphere. By 4:30 we were ready to load up and head for home.
Instead of taking the same road back I headed west on state Highway 73, intending to go back through Ashdown. I made a mistake where 73 intersects state Highway 355. I should have turned north and followed it up to where 355 meets with state Highway 32. Instead I turned south and followed 355 back to Fulton. But the road was pretty, so there’s no real tragedy here. I just had to rerun the part of U.S. Highway 67 from Fulton to Texarkana.
But with Fulton still in my rearview mirror, the bike started to sound strange. It’s hard to describe the sound except to say it sounds harder. It’s as though there is a harder bang when the cylinder fires. At first I wasn’t sure I was really hearing anything, but it got worse and worse. Then it started to slowly lose power. By the time we got to within 5 miles of Texarkana, I had the throttle wide open trying to maintain 55 MPH.
I kept the throttle cranked open trying to shave every mile I could before the bike finally died. I figured that as soon as I let off the gas, it would die and I’d be calling somebody for a ride. Every mile closer I got, was a mile I wouldn’t have to trailer it.
We finally got into town. I hoped that I might get lucky and hit the first few signal lights green. Fat chance. The first one I came to changed to red, just as I got to it. I got in the far right lane and looked for a place to push the bike off the road when it died. I let off the gas expecting to hear the engine sputter and stop. To my pleasant surprise, it idled down and sounded fine. I cranked the throttle a couple of times, winding the engine up to red-line. It revved perfectly, never missing a beat.
I was convinced that the engine was suffering gas starvation. Even though it would rev up in neutral, I figured that I’d have to really pile on the RPMs and slip the clutch to get it moving without dying. The light turned green and I cautiously eased out on the clutch, ready to give it all the gas I could if it started to lug down. But it eased right through the intersection as though there was nothing wrong. I hit several more red lights on the way home, and never had a problem. The bike ran just fine the rest of the way home.
I rode it the 10 blocks to work all week and never had a problem. Sunday the three of us ran about 40 miles up 67, cutting back west at 108, then eventually coming back into town on Summerhill Road. This was as much to check out the bike as it was a joy ride. It seemed to do fine.
That’s not necessarily good news. It might have been a little water in the tank that I finally burned out. Possibly it could have been a clogged vent tube pulling a vacuum on the gas tank. It could have been several things. The problem is, I don’t know what it was. More to the point, I don’t know that it won’t come back. I’d feel much better if I had found something to fix. Now I keep listening to the bike, wondering if it sounds a little strange. Buzzing around town is one thing, but I don’t have the confidence in it yet to load up and take a long trip. And unless I find the cause of that episode, I won’t trust it for some time.
All I can do is ride it until it happens again, or I eventually stop waiting on it to happen. I don’t enjoy not having faith in my bike.
－ Guy Wheatley