Problems tend to surface when you’re on the road. Then again, so do solutions. Nancy’s doing a thinking thing about New Zealand.
The BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) Holiday
It’s hard when friends leave. Two of my closest friends left town within 24 hours of each other—one permanently, the other on vacation. Both have given me ideas about motorcycle adventures for my future.
After graduating Ontario’s paramedic program, my roommate Christopher Langford, originally from England, decided to move to BC’s Sunshine Coast, which is enough to make me green with envy at a time when we’re dealing with minus 20s and snow.
Chase Freight International of Mississauga has many answers for bikers on the move, when the cost of crating a bike can be as much as shipping one. Chris rode his bike to their warehouse where they strapped it to a skid and trucked it away. His Thumper arrived with riding gear strapped on. Chris arrived sometime after by air with helmet in hand. (Later, he used the same company to truck his personal effects.)
Want to ride the Rockies but don’t have the time to ride both ways? It cost Chris $900 to ship the 650 KLR one way. And there weren’t extra fees beyond the original quote.
I called Carolyn Ukrainyc at Chase who told me that not only do they ship bikes cross Canada, they also ship internationally. For around $750 plus DIY crate (or one you might grab at the local bike shop), my bike Casper could be Hamburg in 18 days—or in New Zealand in 40 days for $2,000 including the stamped, heat-treated insect-free crate (NZ tries really hard not to import foreign insects).
New Zealand is a biker’s dream: incredible scenery coupled with wonderful back road riding makes me want to go. But it’s a big ticket to fly down under. Big.
My best friend Cheryl Stewart is in New Zealand on a bike she rented with a road map for a guide. New BMWs were available for $250 a day, but she instead opted for a 1995 Suzuki RF900 from Wild Freedom Motorcycle Rentals NZ for $100 a day plus 10 cents a kilometre up to 3,000 km—not cheap, but I’d have done the same thing.
I looked forward to hearing about riding a bike on the “wrong” side of the road, beautiful scenery and twisty roads. Instead I’ve been hearing about a poorly maintained rental that should not have even been on the road. The rental shop mechanic who prepped the bike had to be prompted to replace a missing bolt, one of only two that held the tail rack together. He had no Loctite. That was a clue.
Cheryl took a short test ride and her vacation began. By day two I was hearing it. The tires had tread but felt hard. The suspension so miserable it was hurting her bones and teeth. The rear shock had so little life the bike had to be pushed far to the right before the side stand could be lifted. The front suspension had as much play as a pair of broomsticks. Who knew when the fork oil was changed last? Every day the bike seemed to be getting worse.
A small bump at 100 kmh took the entire tail rack off with Cheryl’s gear strapped to it. (Use Loctite!) The cable lock threaded through kept gear from flying all over the road but it dragged and nearly caught in the rear wheel before she came to a stop. The bent clutch lever and broken front turn signal tell a story—a less experienced rider would have gone down hard.
Adding insult to injury, office manager Lorraine Dowdle suggested the damage from the drop shouldn’t eat up the entire $2,500 deposit. The offer to deliver a replacement BMW for the rest of her trip was reneged upon when the vacationing owner did not approve. Cheryl had already ridden from Auckland on the North Island, taken the expensive ferry to the South Island where it’s even more beautiful and less populated. She was near Queenstown and the 43rd parallel, stranded.
Told she must be the cause of the problems because “a man” who had previously ridden the bike said it was fine, Cheryl went to a shop and paid to get the serious issues documented. While waiting a day for parts she wrote, “I rode that heap out to yet another impossibly beautiful location on the lake where Queenstown sits. The glacial water and the amazing mountains with clouds draped delicately over some of the highest peaks were already indescribably beautiful. Then a wide, Technicolor rainbow wrapped a mountain under some of the clouds. This place is beautiful enough to silence even my rants.”
Queenstown Motorcycles sounds like a destination shop with several perfect Triumphs from the 1950s through ‘70s adorning an attached cafe and a fabulous customer service coordinator, Jenny Cooke, running the show. Excellent mechanics worked quickly to get Cheryl back on the road. They determined the chain (which appeared to have normal slack on day one) was already set past the last adjustment mark. It was definitely a factor in the poor handling: dangerously loose with one tight spot. They replaced the chain and sprockets.
The brake light failed to activate when using the rear brake, which Cheryl rarely uses anyway—and a good thing too because the rear pads were worn to the metal. The front brakes were also worn, but not yet dangerous.
The return throttle cable was broken. Clutch fluid was low. And due to a leak the engine was nearly out of oil on a bike that she had put less than 3,000 kilometres on!
The mechanic said the front forks were too stiff and there was excessive play in the rear shock linkage due to wear, plus there was no rebound in the rear shock. The rental company agreed to pay for some of the most egregious safety issues but ignored the oil leak, the low clutch and brake fluids, and the sketchy suspension.
After riding away from the repair shop, the speedo cable broke! I’m laughing. Bet it hadn’t been lubed in years. Then a local rider pointed out that the tag approving the bike as being fit to ride was obscured, and it didn’t have the proper rental tag. Perhaps the bike is one the company solicits from private individuals in NZ, as I saw on their website. I’m forewarned.
A guy on a Z1000 who Cheryl met in the street on her last day in New Zealand was horrified when she told him of the problems she’d had. She said he reacted like every other Kiwi she’s met, and said, “We’re not like that!” Then, “What can I do to make it right?” He picked her up at the shop and took her a very long way to the airport. She loves the country and plans to go back.