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Old 12-15-2009, 02:14 AM   #46
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Old 12-15-2009, 02:36 AM   #47
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On the Road ... at last !

The four of us left the Gutov beer house at 6:30pm. It was about 30 degrees and really humid. The priority was getting airflow thru the clothes and I led the way out of town at a brisk pace. We zoomed in and out of the traffic, slowing down only for the traffic police posts. Joon was at least a seasoned urban rider and kept up!

About 200 km out of town and we hit the first bit of gravel road - a stretch of roadworks about 800 yards long. A couple of kilometres down the road and Terry and I stopped to wait for Tony and Joon, who had disappeared after we had blasted thru the roadworks. After 2 minutes, we turned round and returned.

Joon was down!. Off the road. The bike was off the embankment and down a metre or two at the side of the road. Joon seemed ok, but the bike was in bad shape. One of his plastic panniers had broken open completely and his stuff was scattered throughout the dust. It was his first few hundred yards off asphalt. I have never been to South Korea but from what I have heard, the roads are immaculate asphalt, similar to Japan. I am not surprised Korean riders have never seen dirt roads before arriving in Russia.

Terry set about sorting out a temporary fix for Joon’s pannier, while I tackled his badly bent gear lever. Tony was helping sort out Joon psychologically - telling him that these things happen and everything is fixable, and giving him tips on dirt riding.

One thing that didnt seem fixable was the clutch lever. It had snapped near the base. Joon came up with the answer himself after Terry had been unable to splint it. He had a pair of multigrips and clamped them round the base of the clutch lever. His clutch now was a pair of multigrips.

Terry, using his years of wild-man enduro riding experience, took Joon’s bike back up the embankment and onto the dirt road. We all chipped in to put the luggage safely back on, held together with string and duct tape, and rode on to the next town where we found a hotel and settled down for the night.

It was an unusual, surprising 40th birthday for me … We celebrated by going to the local store (all restaurants were closed by now in the village of Sibirtsovo) and loading me up with my favorite beer, Sibirsky Korona with Lime. It was a birthday in which Tony and I got our bikes back and on the road, Terry finally got going in Russia and Joon was struggling with the idea of continuing his ride.

We beered the night away in our dingy hotel room.

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Old 12-15-2009, 02:52 AM   #48
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On the asphalt to Khabarovsk.

We slept in till 11am before Tony knocked on my door and suggested we make a move. The birthday beers were still wearing off.



Soon after leaving we were within 5km of the Chinese border. Tony and I both received texts welcoming us to China. This is the region that is home to the Siberian Tiger, largest cat on earth. Only the Russians dont call it the Siberian Tiger, since they dont consider the far east to be Siberia. Here the big cat is called the Ussuri Tiger or Amur Tiger, after the two big rivers that dominate the region between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk; and this region is known to the Russian ans the Dalny Vostok ... the Far East.

It was another sweltering day, and I was determined to make it to Khabarovsk today. I had already texted our contact in Khabarovsk that we would get there this evening and I dont like revising plans if I can help it. Roman, our man in Khabarovsk, also had a set of tyres for me, a set of tyres for Tony and a rear sprocket for Tony.

Joon had clearly listened to the advice the three of us had given him … particularly to relax and dont try to or expect to control the bike as precisely on the dirt as you can on the asphalt. We went thru a few more roadworks sections including some deep gravel, and Joon made it without problems. I'll give him one thing, the kid listens ... really listens to advice.

We stopped for lunch and I introduced both Joon and Terry to Shashlik, a fine delicacy and a common source of protein for the Sibirsky Extreme Project. As it happens it was the finest shashlik I had eaten since Uzbekistan and the meal made a very positive impression on Joon and Terry.

About 200km from Khabarovsk the sun faded away in about 5 minutes and within a few more minutes the rain was pelting down. As the light faded I had zipped up while riding so headed on into the rain. Tony did the same. Joon had stopped earlier to put on wet weather gear. I saw a covered petrol station and Tony and I dived in there just as the storm picked up intensity. Terry behind us hadnt seen us or the petrol station, but had stopped 200 yards short of it to put on his wet weather gear.

We waved frantically at him so as to encourage him not to bother as we were only 20 seconds ride down the road, but to no avail - Terry wasnt looking up. By the time Terry finally got on the road, saw us sheltered and dry in the petrol station and pulled in there too, Joon pulled up, just where Terry had stopped. Again we waved any tried to catch his eye, but Joon didnt see us. He was on the side of the road 200 yards away, adjusting his wet weather gear in the heart of the tropical downpour.



Finally we all met up in the fuel station and waited for the storm to pass. It was clearly a localised storm cell, and I advised the gang to button up and ride through it (it was headed roughly the same direction as us). Off we went into the intensifying rain and darkness, and just when it was at its peak, I caught a glimpse of blue sky ahead. 3 minutes after the heart of the storm and we were on totally dry road. I turned round to give the boys the “I told you so” look, but there were only 3 of us. Terry had stopped back in heart the storm just as it was worsening, to put on his waterproofs again. Oh he of little faith!

It was almost 8pm when we got to the outskirts of Khabarovsk. We arrived as a three, as Joon had dropped off the pack somewhere down the road. Tony suggested he go back for Joon while Terry and I push on into the city to find the GPS co-ordinates I had been given for Roman (and our tyres).

10 minutes later and we were with Roman. I called Tony to find out the latest on where he was and had he found Joon. Tony had found Joon not far back and they had been met by a Russian biker on a yellow Honda X11. A bit on confusion followed before we realised that the guy on the yellow bike (called Slava) was a mate of Roman’s and 5 minutes later we were all re-united at Roman’s massive garage.

Roman lived onsite at a big automotive service centre in Khabarovsk. He said the plan was we garage the bikes, take just what we need and he will run us into a hotel. We did that, checked into the Amur Hotel, showered and headed around the streets of downtown Khabarovsk to an Irish Bar round the corner for some much needed food and refreshments.

Here's Joon getting introduced to some quality British culture ... beer drinking from bloody big glasses!
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:08 AM   #49
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:12 AM   #50
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Khabarovsk

The weekend began with a plan to get to the bikes and start working on them about 9am. Roman had arranged for a bike mechanic to check the bikes out around 11am and we had a list of things to get done. We hadnt given the bikes any real loving since Mirny, and that was over 5000 km ago.

This is Roman, pictured a few days before our arrival in Khabarovsk with Moscow bikers Pate and Gelos. Pate and Gelos were on their way to do a comprehensive ride around Sakhalin Island. (Pate's thread is here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=539358). From L to R ... Pate on his 650 X-Challenge, Gelos on a 690 Enduro and Roman on his 1200 GSA.



I needed to change my oil from the temporary mineral oil solution I used in Mirny back to the full synthetic I preferred. My air filter had to be cleaned, new tyres and mousses had to be fitted, both of my rims needed a little bashing, and my front assembly needed straightening up. Also needed to find why one of my headlights hadnt been working since Yakutsk. Tony had a more comprehensive list, and Joon also now had a list of things that needed to be attended to after his fall.

We started on the lists while we waited for the mechanic. Terry put on the knobblies he had been carrying since Seoul. That was his list done. The mechanic, Sasha, arrived checked out what had to be done and said he will do the oil changes later as he is busy now. We continuted to work away on the lists ourselves.



I removed my front assembly, found a blown fuse on my headlight switch, so solved that problem. With a bit of heaving I had bent the front assembly straight. With a bit of Joon’s Korean shampoo I cleaned my air filter. My bike went up on a stand and both wheels were removed. The tyres were removed and I took the rims downstairs with a big mallet to sort them out. Later in the afternoon, Slava, the guy on the yellow Honda X11, ran me down to the Shinomontazh (tyre service centre) with my rims, new tyres and mousses.

I had a set of Michelin Deserts delivered to Roman’s address by Pate and Gelos (photo above), a pair of Russian off-road bikers from Moscow who had come out this way a week earlier. They were riding across Sakhalin, or rather Sakhalin top to bottom. It was another rendezvous I had hoped to make, and to join them for their 2 week adventure, but we were about a week behind the initially planned schedule, so they went ahead to Sakhalin without us, leaving the tyres with Roman.



Also with the tyres were a pair of Michelin bib-mousses. I was tempted to get another set of mousses sent out earlier to Irkutsk so I could have used them on the Irkutsk - Magadan leg, but concerns about fitting the mousses made me err on the side of conservatism. This time I would try the mousses - especially after all the flat tyres we (or rather Tony) had between Irkutsk and Magadan - 14 in all !!!

Down at the shino-montazh (Russian for tyre service centre), the big burly Russian lads had never even heard of mousse, let alone seen one, or fitted one. Luckily the mousse came with lubricant and diagram instructions for fitting. The boys took to it like kids with a new toy.



Slava lubed up the inside of the tyres while extra tyre levers were called for. They were going to tackle the mousses by hand! The front went first and only needed 3 guys straining and groaning with extra long tyre levers to get it on. The rear took longer … a good 10 minutes, with the tyre being levered onto the rim one inch at a time, this time it took 4 guys. But we got there. Puncture free off road motorcycling. These mousses will last me at least to Irkutsk and maybe beyond. I hadnt ridden with them before so it was a good chance for me to try them out.



Joon had been in the workshop with Slava for much of the day and came out punching the air and screaming how much he loves Russia. Slava had repaired his busted pannier with metal sheeting and no less than 50 rivets. Joon just needed his alloy clutch lever repaired and he was back on the road, good as new. The welding couldnt happen today as it was a weekend and the argon welder was back at work on Monday.

Like me, Tony had also been steadily working thru his list all day and Terry had been lending both of us a hand, in between snoozing on the floor.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:21 AM   #51
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Down at the Harley Bar

Evening came and Slava insisted we head out with him to the Harley Davidson bar near the river in Khabarovsk. At the time it was suggested, we just wanted to head back to the hotel for a shower - but felt obliged to do what the local boys asked as they had been so helpful to us. The 30 degree temperatures were still complimented by 90+ percent humidity and we were all a pool of sweat.



Once down at the Harley bar, our mood changed immediately. Cold beers came out and we were feted as visiting celebrities by the staff and the ACDC cover band that had just started playing. The band was good, the crowd lively, the beers cold. In between sets, we were entertained with the likes of female arm wrestling.



Joon was ecstatic. his first day in Russia had been a bad one, having his wallet stolen. His second saw him come off his bike and have his luggage smashed, and he was at a very low ebb. Now we had made it to Khabarovsk, his bike was well on the way to getting fixed, and Russian bikers, Slava in particular, had been helping him out all day to get the bits he needed to get and rivet up his panniers. To top it all off he now was being treated as a visiting celebrity by local bikers. It was great to see the change in his face over the past 24 hours.

Tony here narrowly avoids having his eyes poked out:


Joon found the waitress's uniforms impressive and worth a closer look, and wondered why there was not more of this back home in Korea:


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Old 12-15-2009, 03:37 AM   #52
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Getting into Position

Joon needed to get a mobile phone. South Korea and Japan have different mobile phone systems to the GSM world (everywhere except Japan, South Korea and North America) so he will need to be in contact with family, friends and other travellers like us along the way to Europe. His South Korean format mobile didn't work in Russia so we helped him get a new phone (as it happens also South Korean but in the international GSM format) and a Russian SIM card. We told him to text us every day with where he was and how things were going. We wanted to keep as close an eye on him as possible because we were parting ways later in the day and were genuinely concerned for the guy.

Then it was off to the bikes. Sasha the mechanic had argon welded Joon’s clutch lever back together, and everything was in readiness for the road, so we packed up and prepared to leave.

Joon rode with us to the main road and the fuel station where we topped up with fluids and fuel. We said farewell to him there at 2pm and wished him all the best. He was heading west to Birobidzhan, and we were headed north east, to Vanino, and the start of the BAM road.

It was still very much a ferry stage for us … there was not a lot to see until we turned off the main road. It did feel a little like riding thru the east coast of Australia … lots of forest, long empty roads, sparsely spread out towns. We stopped for a bang up lunch in the town of Mayak.

By 6pm we turned off at Lidoga, the turnoff to Vanino. We had fuelled up for the 333km road, which I assumed would be all dirt. We would have to push the speed to get to Vanino by nightfall. To my (and Terry’s) disappointment, the road was asphalt … at least the first 60 km was. The fun and the dirt started after the 60 km mark. This was Terry's first proper taste of dirt since leaving England, and he had come for the dirt!

The road wound thru low hills, following rivers and was a lot more twisty than the dirt roads we had ridden further up north. The first few dozen miles was just getting used to the feel of the new knobblies on the dirt road, but once the comfort factor increased, we cranked up the speed.



“Enduro Terry” saw a chance to speed past a van in some thick mud and ended up in the mud himself. His first hour on dirt roads of the trip and he muddies himself up. Humidity was near 100% all day.

After the halfway mark, the speed cranked up again to 115 km/h as the roads were a bit straighter. with 70 km to go and darkness not far away, we hit asphalt again. The 200 km of dirt roads were behind us and the bright lights of Vanino came into view just before 10pm. By 10:15 we were showering in a hotel by the Pacific Ocean, BAM railway in full voice across the street.

We were now in position to start the next phase of the project, the BAM Road.

Now the proper riding (and proper photography) begins ...
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:52 AM   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishfund
I would love to follow that guys ride report. I like the thought of a guy getting in way over his head and coming out on top.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colebatch
I can tell you the latest I heard from Joon was that he had made it to Italy (as of about a month ago) and had crossed Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey on his way to Europe ... I am pleased to tell you, the little guy won ! The underdog came through!
Joon made it to England!

His bike is now 'resting' at my London home while he flew home to Seoul for work matters. He is expecting to come back in the New Year.

He knows of this thread and will see Fishfund's interest and everyone's congratulations and good wishes.

Well done Joon. SibirskyExtreme is proud of you.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:56 AM   #54
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absolutely brilliant! very curious to see how all the bikes (well, we know how the F650GS will likely fair thanks to Striking Viking beating the daylights out of his) manage and i'm awaiting the next post.

can you explain further this mysterious "source of protein" to which you introduced your fellow riders?

how necessary is it to be able to communicate in Russian? could an Engish speaking fellow make this trip? how many folks, if you can guess, did you meet in these settlements along the way? any? i'm used to finding at least a couple of English speakers just about everywhere in Western Europe, even in the the Belgium countryside, but i've never been East and i have no idea.


fantastic start...

now get on with it, we're all waiting!
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Old 12-15-2009, 04:15 AM   #55
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Originally Posted by strongleftleg
The Road of Bones RR was great. If you can up the ante on those photos I'll be doubly impressed.
Bear with me ... this will be a long thread. And the further down the road we go, the better the photos become.

By the time we get half way through the road, the photos will already be better than the Road of Bones photos. And they will get better from there.
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Old 12-15-2009, 04:25 AM   #56
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can you explain further this mysterious "source of protein" to which you introduced your fellow riders?

how necessary is it to be able to communicate in Russian? could an Engish speaking fellow make this trip? how many folks, if you can guess, did you meet in these settlements along the way? any?
Our protein, Shashlik, is pieces of meat cooked on a skewer/spike over a wood fire. BBQ style.

Recognition of Russian alphabet and basic phrases of greeting etc could see you through. In bigger towns and cities some people understand English - particularly the younger folks. Out in the villages is virtually non-existant although we did find English speakers in some unlikely places - as you will read.

Russian peoples are inherently interested and want to be helpful - particularly in remote areas with difficult conditions where co-operation is essential to survive. People who want to communicate invariably do - it just might take a little longer.

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Old 12-15-2009, 04:37 AM   #57
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wow man !!! you seem to have an unlimited stock of blockbuster ride reports

nice pics too

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Old 12-15-2009, 05:18 AM   #58
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Quote:
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can you explain further this mysterious "source of protein" to which you introduced your fellow riders?
http://images.google.ru/images?hl=ru...ed=0CBcQsAQwAA
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:27 AM   #59
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Count me in, your reports are great!
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:50 AM   #60
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Vanino

Vanino is a compact town, built next to a natural deep water harbour. Last night we had found a decent restaurant next to the hotel and had a surprisingly good meal too.



Two tasks this morning: First to find out why Tony’s right trouser leg was covered in oil and second to get my trousers sewn up, finally. The first was quick and easy … Tony had a leaky fork seal on the RHS and was losing fork oil. As for my trousers, I went for a wander around town and found a general shoe / leather fix-it man and got my trousers restiched together for 60 rubles.

After our lazy morning and team consultation re Tony’s leaky fork, we decided to continue, and address his fork in Komsomolsk.

Tecnically the BAM road from Komsomolsk to Vanino includes the stretch we did from Lidoga to Vanino, in reverse, but with the impressive speed of roadbuilding in Russia, we needed to check out if there was any way through following the BAM Railway more closely between Vanino and Komsomolsk. Road atlases were out of date quickly here. Most maps still dont have the road from Lidoga to Vanino in there. The fact that I had no map indicating a road along the BAM certainly didnt mean there was not one.



I asked about the existance of a road in Vanino. No-one knew. The advice I had was to get closer, probably to Orochi, and see what the locals there had to say.

We went up the coast, towards Datta and turned inland a bit to Mongokhto. That was a dead end. Mongokhto was a closed military town. As the pic below suggests, its a Naval missile and aviation base.

(Mongokhto) (Russian: Монгохто, Каменный Ручей) is an air base in Russia located 29 km north of Sovetskaya Gavan. Located just north of Vanino, this is a major military airfield that has 63 hardened areas. The airfield is designated by CAICA as Kamenny Ruchey, but the nearby settlement northeast of the airfield is Mongokhto, which is also synonymous with the military base. The airfield was a joint Soviet Navy and PVO Air Defense base, home to 308th Interceptor Aircraft Regiment flying MiG-23MLD, the 183rd Naval Missile-carrying Aviation Regiment flying Tupolev Tu-22M, and 310th Independent Long Range Anti-Submarine Aviation Regiment flying Tupolev Tu-142 aircraft. The 89th Naval Aviation Division was also probably located here.
The airbase was completed in 1953. During the 1970s it was one of the largest bases in the Soviet Far East, with 8000 residents in Mongokhto. The Navy nuclear weapons storage is either at this airfield or at Maygatka.
A high-res Google image from around 2000 showed 19 Tupolev Tu-22M and 14 Tupolev Tu-142 aircraft.



I did however, find out that the road to Orochi was back towards Vanino, and was a turnoff inland. We found the turnoff and headed on down a very dusty track, that for the first mile or two led to a quarry and all the heavy traffic that entailed. The track continued round the edge of the quarry and down a hill, so we followed it. There was no traffic at all here. It was a very rough track indeed and the bikes were feeling it. We got to Orochi after an hour on the dirt track and stopped at the town shop to refresh ourselves. I asked around about a road forward and was told no. There was an even rougher track to the next town, and then nothing.



Reluctantly, at about 4pm, we decided to head back towards Vanino. As usual, I led the way. But halfway back down the road I noticed I was alone. I found some shade and waited for 10 minutes before I realised I was waiting on a stretch of track that was duplicated. There were countless splits in the road, some times for a few hundred yards, and sometimes for a few kilometres. I was waiting on one track of a split section. The guys had probably gone a different track. I jumped back on the bike and sped ahead, trying to catch them up, while looking for any possible clues to confirm they had been this way in the track.

35km down the track and I saw a 4WD coming the opposite way. I stopped him to ask if he had seen my 2 colleagues ahead, but he hadnt. I was wrong. They must be behind me. I pulled over at a bridge and waited by a river. For 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour, 3/4 of an hour … when I reached the hour mark, I decided to turn around and find out whats going on back there.



Naturally enough. within 500 metres of turning around I saw Terry … he had had a flat tyre and was now charging back towards Vanino. I turned to follow him and we made it back to the asphalt about 6pm. Only there was no Tony.

‘Terry, when was the last time you saw Tony?’

‘Just before I met you’ he replied.

Bugger … that was 15 km back, maybe more. Neither of us wanted to go back, having made it back to asphalt. We decided to give him 15 minutes. That too came and went.



We turned the bikes around and headed back into the dustbowl. Only a mile down the road Tony was marooned on the side of the road, with quarry trucks buzzing past regularly. He had hit a big bump and the bike had died. Ignition cut out. Electrics still worked but ignition wasnt firing.

This had to be the side stand switch.

Manufacturers are obliged to sell motorcycles with a cut out so that the engine can't run when the side stand is down, unless the bike is in neutral. That's all good and well for road bikes, but if you do a bit of dirt roads or off road, then you really have to short the switch. I had mentioned this to Tony over a month ago but he hadn't gotten around to it yet. Tony got down in the dust and traced the switch wire. It had been severed by an impact where it was attached to the frame. Tony trimmed the wire ends back and we began the trial and error process of identifying which 2 of the 3 wires needed to be shorted.

I spoke to the guys, and amended the plan. When we turned around at Orochi, we had planned to make the cafe and hotel at the halfway mark of the Vanino Road. Now, with Terry’s flat and Tony’s side stand switch having eaten two hours out of our day, we would be better off just going back to Vanino.



And so we returned to the Vanino Hotel, checked in for another night and while we still had some daylight, Terry, who had had a look at Tony’s F650 manual and decided we/he could have a go at changing Tony’s leaking fork seal, started stripping Tony’s front end. While the lads did the fork seal change, I went out and got the team some beers to work with.

A middle aged woman speaking very bad english tried to talk to us from a window in the hotel while we worked in the yard. None of us could understand a word she was saying. Eventually I worked out she was Flemish and spoke to her in Dutch. She had just taken the BAM train to Vanino and was about to take a more local train down to Vladivostok.

I took a run around town in search of hydraulic oil that we could use in the forks. I didn't find any but I did find a local biker. He then turned up at the hotel with a couple of biker colleagues. We had 3 of the 5 bikers in Vanino visiting us now. One of the bikers quizzed us about what we needed and then made some calls to contacts, in search of 10W or 15w hydraulic fluid.

He promised to return in the morning with the stuff.

After the boys had fitted the seal and refitted the fork we showered and went out for a late night pizza and beer session. All we had to do in the morning was top up the fork with fluid and go. The pizza, I should add, was surprisingly good!
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Colebatch screwed with this post 12-16-2009 at 06:17 AM
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