Day 265: Who needs an engine?
So it turns out that Sam sold me a bike with a busted up engine. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
I snap hang up on Sam, the guy who sold me the Yamaha DT175.
“What he say?” Mike asks from his work bench.
“Sam's a real fucking piece of shit,” I sneer.
Mike and one of his mechanics stifle laughs. I get the sense they might agree with me on this one.
“I'll just pay for it.”
Mike tore the engine out of the Yamaha on Friday to check the condition of the piston. The mechanics at the official Yamaha shop said there was tell-tale sound of the piston rattling a little in the shaft. However, Sam insisted that a new piston was put in before he sold me the bike.
“The piston is new,” Mike confirmed. “But the engine block is shot.”
A mechanic who dumps a brand new piston into an engine block without boring the block is a scammer or incompetent – neither the type of person you want working on your engine.
Mike rubbed carbon residue off the flat, burnt head of the piston.
It's an over-sized piston; the largest of the over-sized pistons made for the bike, which means the engine block has been drilled three times already.
“You have to replace the entire block,” Mike explained to my dumbfounded ears.
What did I pay 2,200 dollars for if the entire engine is shot?
The over-sized piston is still too small for the engine block. The whole block needs to be replaced. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
After I rained hell down on Sam for selling me a bike with a faulty engine block, he promised to make things right. He said could get his hands on a nearly new engine block down in Mombasa and have it in Nairobi by Monday or Tuesday.
“Don't worry. It will all be taken care of. I promise you'll be happy you bought the bike from me,” Sam kept writing in one form or another.
What he couldn't get through his head was that there was no possible way I would be happy I bought the bike from him. Over and over again his dodging, slowness and shenanigans have delayed my departure. Though I'm not paying for accommodation, each day I'm delayed, money slips through my fingers as I spin my wheels in Nairobi. That's money better spent on an adventure with the bike outside the city.
Money aside – Sam's a black hole of opportunity costs. But I can't get into it. Thinking about it too much means that if Sam and I do end up crossing paths I could end up in a Kenyan prison for assault. Okay, I'm not a violent person, but I'm thankful that I don't have to see him in person as we work this out.
While waiting for the appointment with Mike on Friday – the one where he tells me the entire engine of my new baby is good for anchoring a very small rowboat, but that's about it – I've managed to get the rest of the bike ready for an adventure.
Custom-made, soft panniers were put together by Sabora Canvas. The small office was clutter with leather and canvas bags piled in the corners and hanging from the ceiling. Three men sat behind three sewing machines. I ordered 20-liter bags, only to find out when I came back that Sabora Canvas doesn't work in liters. They work in centimeters.
Custom panniers are made up out of water-proof, rip-stop canvas -- the color was chosen by the dice. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
The man in charge of making the saddle bags chose a length, width and height for the bags without regard for the amount of space inside. Thankfully, he hadn't started working on them. So, we were able to sit down with a pencil and some scrap paper and do a little geometry. It's strange to have class-room math appear in a real-world setting. Even stranger when you realize that if you shift the dimensions, taking one inch of the length and adding it to the width, the volume of the bags significantly changes.
The seamster paid close attention to how I did the math, asking me to explain the process, stashing the information away for a future date. It's such a pleasure to see someone engaged in their work and constantly looking to improve.
While the seamster started on the basics of the rip-stop canvas bags, I popped up the road to a strip of welders. Several hundred meters of Ngong Road is cluttered with jungle gyms, grills, porch swing and an odd assortment of other contraptions made from sheet metal, rebar and metal tubing.
Based on my description, the welder was able to create a rack for the bike. Video: Isaac Stone Simonelli
A man in front of one of the little working shacks, behind brightly-painted equipment for a playground, is able to build a makeshift rack for the DT175 to prevent the bags from bouncing against the wheels.
Once the rack is bolted in place and painted black, the guy from Jerusalem General Welder, charges me a little more than thirty dollars for the entire job. An off-the-shelf rack would cost between 150 and 300 dollars.
The inspiration for business names in Kenya continues to confound me. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
With the rack and panniers taken care of, I had expected to be on the road shortly after Mike tweaked whatever needed fixing on the engine.
That, as we already know, ended up being a bit more of a problem then anticipated.
So, the engine block arrived and Mike put it in. However, about 40 dollars worth of extra parts were also needed.
Sam promised to cover everything – everything.
He promised to make things good.
And here, as the hot noon sun burns down on me he decides to dig his heels in over the last 40 dollars.
“Just give the bike back then,” he quips at me as I'm pacing through Mike's garage.
“What? Are you crazy? You've delayed this trip by weeks. What would I do now? I can't believe Yuri vouched for you,” hatefully type back.
I call Yuri to get his opinion on the situation, as well as to bring him up to speed with Sam. It's hard to believe he vouched for a guy like this. It's not that Sam isn't in some ways trying to make things okay, now that he's been caught out. However, if that petcock hadn't broken when it did, I'd be out cruising Africa on a bike on chugging forward on its last leg.
It's easy to imagine how quickly the situation could get bad: off-road, two bottles of water, 50km from the nearest village, which won't even have a mechanic that can work on the bike or spare parts for a Yamaha, and then the engine coughs and gives up the ghost.
“Just pay the 4,000 Shilling and be done with it,” Yuri advises.
So that's it. I'll pay the money. It's not a lot of money, it's just that between the costs of the delays and the extra costs of getting the bike ready, I'm deeper into my savings and feeling robbed of adventures.
I give Mike the money with a smile – he's always given me a fair shake. Driving away, I realize I could rush and be on the road the next day. However, after ten days of delays outside of my control, what's one more day on my terms?
Almost time to get on the road. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
I take the extra day to run a few last minute errands, picking up a riding vest, a lock, spare parts and a pump. I then spend the evening methodically packing the panniers, leaving an entire bags worth of unnecessary gear with Michael and Amy.