Varanasi

The hotel was quite pleasant with a big central courtyard to park the bikes and a nice friendly receptionist guy called Sundip from Nepal. He seemed to silently understand the hectic nature of India and what we must have been through and was reassuring and informative about Nepal without trying to sell us anything, I liked him immediately.

Helens bike had worn the brake pads down to the metal at the back and scored the disc slightly. One pad was worn much more than the other which is never a good sign. I dismantled the caliper thinking perhaps the seals were full of dirt but soon realised one of the sliding pins was welded into the carrier plate with corrosion. a rickshaw took us to a couple of poorly equipped garages who didn’t understand the problem as they were used to drum brakes. Eventually we ended up at an engineering place who had a bench vice and I explained what was needed by demonstrating with a big hammer. The guys got to work and freed up the pin and applied some grease as well. The reason the pin had seized was a rubber boot was missing, obviously from some bad maintenance by the previous owner. Always the risk with a second-hand bike.

Since it took most of the day to fix the brake we went to see the Ghats at night. We took a boat trip along the ganges and lit some candles to put in the water like good little tourists. It was quite peaceful though we were aware this is one of the most polluted waterways in the world and didn’t fancy falling in. After we had enough of the evening ceremony we headed back and I took a turn at rowing. It was a mix of fitness and technique required, neither of which I had so I was glad to hand the oars back to the owner.

Helens bike had the problem that it was cutting out and not idling well. She had noticed it first in Lahore but it had been getting worse along the way. This didn’t help over the rough roads in slow traffic where she couldn’t put her feet down and had also just lost use of the rear brake. It meant coordinating front brake with throttle (bearing in mind her smaller hands) and keeping the bike moving. It made lots of black smoke too which is strange on an injected machine. Craptacular. I also noted that the waterpump was leaking yet again.

I called our parts man Alan at BMW for some advice and had a chat with the workshop guy. It was not great news, they suggested perhaps the idle control actuator was the problem but that it could be anything at all. If we put a new actuator on it would need to be calibrated on a GT1 computer, none of which seemed to be anywhere handy in India or Nepal. Of course it could be something different altogether and we would not know unless it was plugged into the computer. I had no waterpump parts left for the bike either, foolishly believing that 2 spare pumps was surely enough. Posting stuff to India would mean waiting and then dealing with the bureaucratic machine that is Indian customs.

I did some research on the internet and found a few things that could be the idle problems. I decided to clean the throttle body, check the air intake rubber for cracks and reset the ECU. We spent about 2 hours in the morning looking for a simple spray can of carb cleaner, getting directed from one shop to the next. Eventually we wound up at the Bajaj garage right beside the hotel and of course they had the stuff we were looking for. After we had established what I wanted it took a full 10 minutes for one of them to get off their arse and go get it for me, preferring instead to sit around and look at us while doing very little work.

So I spent a full day stripping the bike down to work at it, with an audience. Occasionally one would get bolder than the rest and come right up close for a look. I got kind of used to it after a while because although it was annoying they didn’t ask any questions so I could ignore them and work away. At one point some guys setup chairs on the lawn beside me to watch too, it seemed I was a tourist attraction, perhaps i should have been charging – foreigner 10rs, Indian 200rs would redress the balance. I would not have minded so much had someone offered a cup of tea or something for the entertainment being provided.

I pulled the airbox, battery etc off and disconnected the throttle cable and fuel line from the throttle body and took it off. It was a little dirty inside so I emptied the entire 500ml can of carb cleaner through it, paying particular attention to the idle valve. Quite a bit of gunge came out so I kept going til it ran clear.

After I reassembled everything I checked the battery connections for tightness and checked the wiring loom near the rear preload adjuster and found 2 wires with worn insulation. I judged one to be ok with a wrap of tape but chopped out and soldered a new piece into the other one before taping everything up again. After this was done I reconnected the ecu, meaning its trim values should be reset by now and put the rest of the plastics on. We turned the bike on and gave the throttle a few complete turns to calibrate the throttle position sensor. I turned the bike on and held the starter button til she fired with no throttle. We let the bike warm up til it was hot and shut it off. Time would tell if this did the trick or not though it did seem to be running better already. The waterpump would just have to wait til Nepal as we could not find the right size seals anywhere in Rewa or Varanasi.

When we got up to leave Varanasi it took us a while to get packed and get breakfast. Then I discovered the battery was low on my bike, probably due to the very cold weather here and with the bike having been standing for so long. Some things were tried but the thin wires kindly rustled up by the hotel were nowhere near up to the job of cranking the big diesel engine. In the end we got the loan of a battery and a couple of car earth straps from a garage and that got it going. I paid the garage guy some rupees then the rickshaw guy got in on the act and wanted more money than would have been reasonable otherwise, cashing in on my misfortune. Nothings for free in India and by now we were both growing pretty tired of it by now.

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