Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Butt builder"?

I've had my share of long distance days, the longest one being 1,350Km in under 14 hours. Even though I could easily qualify for one of the Iron Butt Association certificates, I could never be bothered with all the paperwork that is required to actually acquire one.

Enter some fine Ontario riders led by David Purdy that organized a ride with an interesting route that is also an IBA sanctioned 500 mile "Butt builder" and is free to attend. I enjoy riding other people's routes because it relieves me from planning the ride, lets me enjoy the road more and usually takes me to a few places/roads I haven't seen before. If I manage to cover over 800Km of twisty Muskoka roads in under 12 hours I may even spring some coin for a patch for the bike and certificate for the garage. A win-win-win proposal, even if i lose :).
So, I'm almost certainly going and am trying to get some of my buddies from MC Tesla ( to join the fun and share the pain in the butt :)

See you at Bikefest 500!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I really wasted that scoot

The first majesty is almost totally disassembled now, leaving only the frame, wheels and the motor still attached.

Apart from damage sustained due to passive neglect and active abuse while stored in NB, I observed some wear and tear that was entirely acquired on the road:

- Dust really got everywhere, which is to be expected from riding on 800+Km of gravel.

- UNI foam air filters that are normally bright red were completely grey. They were so caked with dust that they were heavy as a brick and almost as hard.

- Dust got into the transmission case as well, which is quite unexpected. Belt sheaves have wear marks due to the grinding and the sliders left quite an impression on the plate. The dust didn't affect any of the bearings as far as I can tell, but everything else (especially roller cage, again unexpected) was coated in it.

- The dust seal on the rear wheel was disintegrated. The dust got in big time, but didn't affect the bearing at all, probably due to centrifugal force that kept it at bay.

The lesson learned is that if I ever attempt to ride gravel roads on the Majesty again I will have to do more maintenance during the trip. It may mean air filter washing as frequently as once a day and oil check/change every few days. Even in low-dust conditions some maintenance has to be done at least once a week on a long ride.

I am pretty diligent with maintenance and take good care of my vehicles, but find it hard to adjust my habits and schedule to riding five to ten times as much as usual. For example, lubing the chain once a week is more than enough under normal circumstances. On a 750km/day ride I have to do it at least once a day. If I forget, the chain can be gone within a week. Oil changes are relatively easy to schedule because I do them based on the distance traveled, but other "minor" stuff needs more attention and discipline. Most people under normal circumstances don't think much about tire wear and change their tires once a year at most. Even if I start a three week trip with brand new rubber i can still end it riding on the steel belt, so I have to plan for a tire change somewhere in Utah...

Dear CAA...

I don't write complaint letters very often, especially not long ones, but this was a special occasion. I've dealt with some unprofessional jerks in my time, but this person takes the cake:
Dear CAA,
I've been a member since I owned my first car and motorcycle in Canada and so far have been a very happy customer. Your employees and contractors were always friendly. They often significantly exceeded my expectations in delivering their service, providing not only highly professional but also compassionate care in my time of need. Being an avid long distance motorcycle rider I had my share of mishaps, all of which were made considerably easier to cope with by fine folks from CAA.
Unfortunately, there are always bad apples and I feel obliged to report them since I know you care about your customers and want to maintain a high level of service you are famous for. I recently had an extremely unpleasant experience with one of your contractors, Kevin Douthwright, the owner of Ralph's Auto Repair Ltd. from Apohaqui, New Brunswick ( It went from cordial to rude to verbally aggressive and vulgar, to extortion. I am not the only person that directly experienced such behavior from Mr. Douthwright with regards to this matter. Here is how it all went:
- On August 8, 2014 my motorcycle suffered a catastrophic engine failure on New Brunswick Highway 1. I called CAA, was dealt with very efficiently and the tow truck arrived within half an hour.
- The truck driver Daniel Douthwright was very friendly and helpful, so I decided to have the bike towed to his shop since he has the tools and knowledge to inspect and possibly repair the bike.
- We quickly found out that the engine has seized and the repair will likely cost more than the bike is worth and will take considerable time. After examining several options to transport the bike to Toronto (Daniel was very helpful there too) I decided to get on the bus home and leave the bike behind.
- Upon my return home I exchanged several e-mails with Daniel (he was always very responsive and understanding) to figure out what to do with the bike. No solution was found, but we had a general agreement to sell the bike as a whole or in parts and split the proceeds in order for me to recover some of my losses and make it worth his while as well. 
- I bought an identical bike two weeks after my return to Toronto so I contacted Daniel to see if he can remove some aftermarket parts from the bike and mail them to me. This is when he started to avoid my e-mails, so after waiting for a few weeks and repeating requests for a response I decided to call.
- My first call to Ralph's Auto Repair was answered by the owner, Kevin Douthwright. This was my first contact with him since I didn't meet him while I was at his shop. I asked to talk to Daniel, but Kevin insisted I deal with him since it's a business matter and he is the business owner. I explained what I need and he said he has no issue with removing the parts for $75/hr in labor, plus the cost of shipping. I agreed and he gave me his e-mail address so I can send him the list of what I need.
- As soon as I sent the list, Kevin called me back complaining that it's "half the bike" (total weight of all the parts I requested was under 20Kg) and that it will cost 2 hours of work (which sounded just about right to me) and $500 to ship it (which was a gross over-estimate). He said that he doesn't want to do it and that he feels pressured. I explained that I only want to find an option that is acceptable to both of us, but I have nothing to say if he doesn't want to do business. He repeatedly asked for me to "come and get it" to which I replied that I'll examine the options and let him know.
- Thanks to, I quickly found a shipper willing to transport the bike door to door for around $400. That worked for me very well, so I e-mailed Kevin right away to expect someone to come for it in the near future. I also offered to compensate him for his time and effort in helping to prepare and load the bike.
- The shipper I engaged sent his trucks on three different occasions, but was unable to pick up the bike. According to him (and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt his report), the bike was behind the shop, sunk in mud up to the axles and impossible to retrieve by towing truck. Requests by the truck driver for assistance with loading were flatly denied by representatives of Ralph's Auto Repair on whose property the bike was. Their behavior was described as very rude and uncooperative. According to my shipper, the bike cannot be removed from the property without a forklift or at least a winch, none of which the shipper has, but the shop does. My shipper also told me that Kevin offered to transport the bike to his location in Moncton for $150, but refused to just extract the bike for the shipper to pick it up, for any price.
- On December 18 I called Kevin to see what can be done. He was very rude and started ranting about how the shipper arrived after business hours and he "wasn't about to do any work at 6PM" (BTW, as per their own web site, Ralph's Auto Repair is a "24 hour towing" operation) and how he wasted too much time with this (he only answered a few phone calls and did absolutely no other work). My polite insistence to find a way to do business for a fair compensation resulted in a statement that "the bike is gone" and that it was "thrown in a dumpster", after which Kevin hung up on me.
- I called him back immediately, just to tell him that he is very rude and unprofessional and that I'm amazed he can run a business while treating his customers like that.

- He hung up again, only to call me right back. This time he was not just rude and verbally abusive, but also vulgar. He told me to "Shut the f**k up and f*****g listen!", after which he practically yelled the ultimatum to pick up the bike within seven days and pay $50 for loading it up. I barely had time to agree when he hung up on me for the third time.
- Not willing to suffer any more abuse over the phone I followed up with an e-mail just to confirm that I accept his "offer". He replied that he doesn't want to receive any more communication about this and that he will charge every attempt to contact him an additional $25. I just responded that i agree, to which he responded "$25", meaning that my response will cost me $25.
- At this point I pretty much gave up hope since I was obviously dealing wit a person that cannot be trusted with anything. However, my shipper was kind enough to attempt another pickup and he finally managed to get the bike loaded. Not after he paid Mr. He paid Mr. Doutwright the $75 ransom, but the request for a receipt was simply ignored (Mr. Doutwright went into the shop, locked the door and turned off the lights).
I finally received my bike on March 3, but that's not the end of the story. I won't bother you with all the damage the bike suffered due to passive neglect and active abuse while in Mr. Doutwrights custody. I'll just mention the fact that the removed the exhaust pipe. His son Daniel did mention in one of his early e-mails that he received an inquiry from someone interested to buy the exhaust pipe, but he said that he refused it. In any case, I never authorized the removal/sale of the said pipe and intend to send an invoice for it to Mr. Douthwright for it (not that I expect any response except maybe more profaqnity ::( ).
My entire e-mail correspondence with Daniel and Kevin Douthwright, as well as my shipper is available.

Speaking of my shipper, he deserves to be mentioned again as he was nothing short of extraordinary. The service he provided is above and beyond anything I would expect from, let alone ask for, a close friend or relative. He was absolutely brilliant throughout this whole ordeal and if it wasn't for his professionalism and persistence my bike would still be rotting in Ralph's Auto Repair, right behind the shop and trucks that bear CAA signs. He is:
Paul Matchett
Choice Logistics
Dartmouth, NS
That's it. I hope you'll do what needs to be done to protect the reputation of your organization and prevent people like Kevin Douthwright from ruining it.
Best regards,
Vlad Marinkovic

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Seeing double?

No, you are not drunk, and there is no mirror in my garage :). If you recall my Trans Labrador trip, the engine died and I left the bike in New Brunswick, not planning to ever see it again. Well, since I bought an identical Majesty soon after I came back, I figured it may be worth to bring back the dead one. After a bit of research, I found an affordable priced shipper, but that's only the beginning of the story I will have to tell later. There are quite a few parts I will use from the old bike and will probably sell the rest. In any case, I'll be busy all the way to the spring thaw.