The final drive

17 Sep

Jim’s bit ……

Something feels wrong but I can’t put my finger on it. It almost feels like the wheels are egg shaped or very slightly buckled. Must be the road surface surely? Probably a bit ‘bouncy’ – it happens. Or am I imagining it?

Leaving Berlin after 4 days we were headed south east for Poland; Wroclaw to be exact. Driving out of a major city on a weekday morning when I don’t know my way around always makes me a little apprehensive. What will the traffic be like? How many tram lines or dodgy road surfaces will I encounter. Will there be the usual ‘road closed’ or ‘umleitung/diversion’ signs to screw up our exit from the city? Will the ring road (when we reach it) be totally manic? In addition, it always feels a bit strange being back on the bike after a break and I’m always more sensitive to every whir, creak or movement that Bertie makes. That’s it then! I’m being overly sensitive and it’s my imagination, the wheels are not falling off nor even egg shaped; phew!

We cleared Berlin with no problems and without being trapped by tram lines, run off the road by mad drivers or any other disasters and before we know it we’re sailing down the A13, initially south toward Dresden then peeling off south-east on the A15 toward the border and Poland. Once we’d got up to autobahn speeds and settled into the ride Bertie felt fine again and I relaxed a bit. The weather was good and all was well with the world. As ever, in my helmet, I passed some time by running through ‘bike’ things in my head, checking time and distance (checking my mirrors for demented high speed Audi, BMW, Mercedes drivers up our backside – delete as appropriate), checking fuel consumption and engine temp and thinking about any service items ahead that I might have to take account of. We’d had an oil change and new tyres near Hamburg so Bertie was good to go. As these thoughts went round in my mind I recalled a strange incident – it was Timmo, the BMW mechanic in Hamburg, that had noted our rear brake pads were down to 1mm and we agreed he should change them aswell. I hadn’t even looked at them up till then because I knew I’d changed all the pads a few thousand kms ago in prep for the trip – I thought when he said it that it seems very strange they’ve worn to nothing so quickly; must have been a duff set of pads – ah well. However, it turns out they weren’t a duff set and all was to become horribly clearer later that day ……

As this was a ‘transit’ day for us and we were merely getting from A to B we followed our ‘transit day’ routine of blasting down the motorway and coming off at a McDonalds for free clean toilets, good coffee/cake and somewhere to park where we could easily see the bike. Today was no exception and approaching exits for Cottbus, probably the last major town before the Polish border, we exited. Damn! The Mickey D is about 6 kms down the road in the town centre. Shall we just get back on the autobahn? No, we quite like going into town centres, always interesting. This turned out to be a very very good decision for reasons we had no idea about at that moment.

Cottbus, former GDR (East Germany), was indeed interesting. You could immediately tell it was former GDR. The roads, tram system and many of the buildings were definitely more run down than in the former west. Even now, 28 years after the fall of the wall and 27 years after the collapse of the East German Socialist Unity Party and even with a lot of ‘re-unification’ investment, some towns still clearly show their ‘past’. All very interesting. As we rode down one street, with attendant tram lines, we got a bit of a shock when we saw a tram. Not unusual you may say, they are sharing the same road after all. But this tram, sharing our side of the road, was coming toward us, not travelling in the same direction as us. All very strange and some quick manoeuvring and tram line avoidance solved the problem. (note to self, expect the unexpected)

Finally we found the McDonalds but there was so much reconstruction going on we actually couldn’t figure out how to get into it. Time to give up and return to the autobahn.

Now, am I being sensitive again or can I hear a bit of noise from Bertie that wasn’t there before? Pull over in a bus layby before we commit to the autobahn, pop Bertie on the centre stand, get it in gear and turn the rear wheel – something isn’t right, I’m sure of it. Clank clank clank, oh oh. The shaft drive on the BMW’s is known to go after a while (it’s called the clank of death) and Bertie is 115,000kms old now. This doesn’t sound at all good, is the drive shaft on the way out? If it is it’s a major problem requiring the intervention of a full blown BMW dealership. I didn’t want to accept that we probably had such a big problem but on the other hand was rather glad we weren’t still speeding down the autobahn. Is there a BMW Motorad dealer here? Look on the internet (thank heavens for 4G and a smartphone) and YES there is, I can scarcely believe it, if this had happened in Patagonia on our last trip we’d have been truly stuffed. Ring them, they say come in now and see us. Only 7km down the road. We set off, gingerly and at slow speed and arrive safely. The biggest irony when we get there – there’s a McDonalds right opposite!

So today turns out to be the final drive, and perhaps in more ways than one (see Jenny’s post below). The BMW mechanics put Bertie on his centre stand then after a while call me over and show me how, at slow speed, the rear wheel is actually wobbling – seriously not a good thing. It seems that at slow speeds it wobbles but at higher speeds it becomes less noticeable as the speed starts to stabilise it. A light bulb moment – this probably explains why the rear brake pads had worn away as the brake disc attached to the wheel wobbles with it and nips away at the pads. So it’s not the drive shaft, it’s the final drive (or angle drive as they call it in german) that is knackered. The ‘Final Drive’ is the bit that converts the spinning motion of the drive shaft through 90 degrees to turn the rear wheel. The dealership would have to get the part ordered and that would arrive the following day. But guess what, there’s a hotel 50 metres away for 85 euros a night with breakfast so we’ve got somewhere to stay.

So the final drive gets sorted in less than 24 hours and what could have been a disaster is averted in the nick of time and not without a fair sprinkling of good luck thrown in. The bad news, a bill for euros 1,700. However, there’s lots of positives – the back wheel was actually wobbling slightly, that could have been a major incident if we hadn’t stopped. There was BMW dealer just when we needed it, in a town that we’d visited on a whim and …………… we found a McDonalds.

Jenny’s post below these photos …….

New shiny FD fitted and tested

Jenny’s bit ….

The final drive – Jens take on it

The final drive almost became the final drive from my point of view. Over the previous week we had had several discussions about going home mainly because of the bad weather of which we knew there was more ahead but to have such a big costly problem with Bertie just seemed the final straw for me. Over a cup of caffeine and a rather large pastry I told Jim that I was ready to go home. Romania would still be there another time. This isn’t like me as I tend to be very keen on the next adventure so he took my request seriously and we discussed the best route home. All was settled.

That decision kept needling though, having come so far, so later in the day the subject was broached again.

What about getting a shift on down to Romania and leaving Poland and the Baltics for another day. A look at the trusty and tatty Europe map combined with Google maps showed we could reach Oradea in 3 days if Bertie was repaired. It was settled. Again!

One of the things we have realised over the time we have been travelling on the bike is that emotions are like swings and roundabouts and when there are 2 of you there has to be a lot of give and take and a heap of understanding on both sides, being prepared to accept that feelings may change in a very short space of time.

So we collected Bertie with his nice, shiny, very expensive new part, waved goodbye to BMW and set off again.

Over the intercom comes “Gosh, the bike is sounding so much quieter” to which I could not resist the retort that if I had just had 1700 euros spent on me I could be a lot quieter!!! Enough said.

Next stop ….Poland


3 Replies to “The final drive

  1. I love a good Mickey Dee’s story!
    The sun shines on the brave.
    Money comes and goes.
    Memories last forever. (and are priceless)
    Thank you for sharing and very well done to both of you once again.

    Cheers now . . . . . .

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