The Switchback started. And stalled. And wouldn’t stay running, unless, as I soon discovered, I kept the revs above 2000 rpm. Even then, it was running rough. I was 400 miles away and slated to head home the next day, but I wasn’t sure the bike and I would make the trip safely, if at all. I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong, and lay awake that night, tracing the route in my head as well as mentally reviewing things I might try the next day.
Finally, I decided to do what I always do when I’m stuck for a solution—ask the Internet. Or, more specifically, ask my Facebook friends. Even though it was after midnight by the time I posted, I immediately received a number of responses, ranging from “I’m praying you make it home okay,” which was, of course, much appreciated, to some concrete diagnostic suggestions as well as some instructions on how to rectify this problem or that, which I appreciated even more.
What impressed me most, though, was that some of my friends (and these are actually real friends who are my Facebook friends as well) offered to help me out in many ways. One longtime friend said that if I got stranded, he’d drive a truck to my location to pick up my bike and me and take us to his shop, even though he lives over 350 miles away! Another friend who happened to be staying about 25 miles away offered to ride down and help me out. And yet a third friend, actually the former editor of a motorcycle magazine where I used to work, called me and said that if I made it as far as his shop, about 75 miles from the start of my journey home, he’d help me resolve the problem. I was a little surprised at this last one because he rarely signs onto Facebook, but as it turned out, another magazine editor friend saw my plea for troubleshooting assistance and texted the guy about it.
This isn’t the first time my motorcycling friends have stepped up to help out when I’m in a bind. I had “bike won’t start” issues with my FXD a while back, and there were many posts with suggestions, and even detailed troubleshooting steps, on how to identify and fix the problem. As it turned out, the simplest solution was the one that worked. I suppose I should mention that it was an idiotic thing that I did, which I forgot that I did, that caused the non-starting issue. (OK, full disclosure: I forgot to turn the petcock on. Duh.) I thanked the person that first put forth the obvious solution, and then fessed up to my entire “friends” list about the stupid human error I’d made. If anyone was pissed off, or even annoyed, they didn’t let on. And I thank my friends for that modicum of mercy, too.
This generosity of spirit doesn’t stop with motorcycle issues, either. One of the guys in my club is a plumber and when I had trouble installing a faucet in my kitchen, he suggested an easy way to remove the old, rusted, stuck faucet. And when my furnace thermocouple replacement attempt failed this past winter (my methods had always worked before!), another one of my friends pointed me toward an excellent YouTube video that made the job a lot easier.
This time, though, I was afraid that it wouldn’t be so easily fixed. I couldn’t imagine anything I’d done that would cause the bike to stall out like that. Electronic fuel injection still confuses me, especially since there are few adjustments that can be made on the road. If push came to shove, I did have my laptop loaded with the latest ThunderMax software, and it would’ve been fairly easy to cable the TMax module to the laptop, record what was happening, and via my MiFi modem, transmit the file over to the TMax support staff so they could figure out what was wrong. After all, I’ve done it before.
After reading all the suggestions on Facebook, then tossing and turning for a while, I finally fell into a fitful sleep, waking up early the next morning with a fresh outlook. More posts had come over during the night, and I decided to go outside and try the easier ones first. One very early post read, “Sounds like it could be an electrical issue. Did you check all your spark plug connections?” Sure enough, the rear spark plug wire boot was only halfway on the spark plug. I pushed it down more securely, started the bike, and it idled smoothly, not stalling at all. The guy that posted was someone I hadn’t seen since high school (coincidentally, he’s on the planning committee for our high school class’s 45th reunion happening this summer). I thanked him for his suggestion and asked if he rides motorcycles. Turns out he does. “You know us old motorheads from Wyoming Valley.” He also became certified by ASE in engine performance and a few other areas, even telling me how he reached his conclusion: “If it was a gasoline problem, it would not have happened only at low rpm. Also, it was still happening at the higher rpm but it just becomes less noticeable.”
People might complain about Facebook, but social media has made it so much easier for me to reach out for help and my friends to respond—en masse. In fact, I got so many responses from so many people that I was overwhelmed. My saying “thank you” just isn’t enough, especially to those who were willing to take time out of their day, open their homes and their shops, and most importantly, their hearts. Thank you again, my friends. I hope one day I get the opportunity to help when you need it, too.