In times of need

We finish our tea in the little cafe at Kapetanovo lake, say goodbye to the owner Zaritsa and get back on our bikes. The plan is to ride into southern Bosnia today to do some more exploring in that region. We’ll spend the night somewhere in the mountains around Tjentište and cut back into Montenegro to meet up with Ioanna and Chris from Out And About. We’ve been Facebook friends for some time but haven’t met in person yet.

Coming down from Kapetanovo lake on the Morača plateau

The ride back to Nikšić is just as enjoyable as the ride up to the lake. The skies still look pretty grey after the rain from yesterday. No doubt the local firefighters were very happy to get some help in bringing the forest fires under control. We start seeing some breaks in the clouds at the horizon and it doesn’t look like more rain is on its way, so there’s no need to hurry.

Grey skies in the mountains, but sunshine ahead in Nikšić

On the outskirts of Nikšić we stop at a bakery for some fresh burek or ‘Balkan pita’ as some call it. That will do nicely for lunch later on.

Suddenly Sofie points out fluid is dripping on the floor from the rear of my bike. Upon closer inspection we see the entire left side of the swingarm is covered in oil. I mumble a couple of swear words because it’s clear the source of all that oil must be the rear shock. I fear it is again the same seal which failed last year in Eastern Turkey. And replacing it is a pretty annoying job.

Swingarm covered in oil from a leaky rear shock

The behaviour of the shock still feels normal, so I haven’t lost too much oil yet. But it is obvious we won’t be doing much more riding before it does become a serious problem. I reach out to our friend Blazo for the contact details of a mechanic. He had already sent a few other HU visitors to the same place a few days before. We know it is somewhere in Podgorica, so we don’t wait for his answer and turn our wheels towards the capital again.

Just before we ride into the city I check my phone. Reliable as ever, Blazo has come through with the address and coordinates for Vladan, his friend and mechanic. How can you ever feel down with friends like this who always have your back?

The GPS takes us directly to Vladan, but when we arrive we’re told we’ll have to wait a bit. He’s out for lunch at the moment. No problem, we’ll just chill in the shade until he returns. His young apprentice brings us chairs to sit comfortably. It also gives us the opportunity to have our burek lunch.

When Vladan arrives we get to work together immediately. He’s clearly very experienced and a creative mechanic. The shock is removed from the bike and I’m relieved to see the leak isn’t coming from the seal. This time there is a leak where the banjo bolt is crimped to the oil hose. My new mechanic friend admits he is not sure he’ll be able to repair the hose, but we’ll give it a go.

Disassembled rear shock, missing the leaky hose

There’s a few specifics Vladan needs me to provide. Like how to release the pressure from the expansion reservoir, which oil is required, how much and what pressure the reassembled shock will require.

We manage to disassemble the hose without losing any oil from the shock or the expansion reservoir. Meanwhile Sofie is admiring the other bikes stored in the workshop.

Sofie going crazy with some of the bikes in Vladan’s garage

The apprentice is dispatched to find the oil we need, while Vladan himself makes some calls to a hydraulics workshop which might be able to crimp a new banjo on the hose. They aren’t completely sure they have a tool which can do the diameter we need. But after checking with me that shortening the hose with a few cm won’t cause any problems, Vladan sets off on his Triumph regardless. We can only wait for him to return with good news.

He returns triumphantly (pun intended) with a repaired hose. We’re both very happy with that result, since that’s our main worry for the repair dealt with. For the oil unfortunately no 2.5w could be sourced locally. We agree that a little bit of 5w won’t be a problem as it will be diluted with the original oil that’s still in the shock and reservoir. With the hose reattached, our next challenge is to make sure all the air is purged from the system.

Without special tools, the easiest way to get all the air bubbles out is to compress the shock. But with the spring still in place that is easier said than done. The biggest and heaviest bloke of the crew still only manages to compress the shock by a few millimeters.

One of the guys comes up with the idea to use one of the hydraulic lifts in the workshop as a press. The weight of the bike on the lift should be enough to push all the remaining bubbles out of the shock. It takes a few attempts and some unorthodox measures, but in the end we succeed.

Some useful tools for rear shock maintenance

On to the next hurdle, which is to pressurise the balloon in the expansion reservoir. Experience from last year taught us this isn’t as easy as it sounds. A special needle tool and a compressor which goes to over 10 bar are normally needed, neither of which we have at hand. Last year Bas from Hyperpro suggested a medical needle. we tried that but didn’t succeed in hooking it up to a pump sufficiently air tight to sustain 10+ bar. Vladan tries a few other approaches, but in the end we give up on that and return to the same solution which was semi-successful last year.

Needles, never leave home without them

The needle used to pump up soccer balls fits perfectly on the pump, but has a pretty large diameter. As we’ve learned last year, chances are it will damage the self-sealing rubber plug. Vladan has an extra trick up his sleeve though. Making a really sharp point on the needle should reduce the risk of a leak after removal. Simple! Why didn’t we think of that last year?

On our first attempt we don’t push in the needle far enough apparently. The little snow scooter air shock pump shows 10 bar in only three pumps. The second attempt takes a bit more effort to get to that pressure. The shock is really hard to compress now as well. Looks like we’re all set!

After reinstalling the shock on the bike, Vladan categorically refuses any form of payment. He just spent his entire afternoon working on my bike and will not take my money. He does invite us to go have a drink and eat something. How can we refuse now?

Switching over Sofie’s clutch cable

We don’t even make it around the corner though before Sofie tells me over the intercom her clutch isn’t working. A quick inspection shows a frayed clutch cable holding on with just a single remaining thread. Back to the workshop. It’s a really quick fix because I already routed a spare clutch cable in parallel to the original before we left on our trip last year. You know it will happen some day and replacing a cable on the road side is just annoying. Being prepared pays off, even 80.000 km down the road.

On the second attempt we manage to make it to the bar where Vladan’s friends are already waiting. For some reason Vladan is under the impression he should now also be paying for our food and drinks. But we’re having none of it. While he’s outside taking a call we grab the receipts and quickly pay for everything. he clearly isn’t amused when he comes back in. We’re his guests, we shouldn’t be paying for anything! I try to explain we would find it extremely rude if we’d let him pay for anything after helping us get the bikes fixed for free. He’s still a bit grumpy, but when Blazo shows up as well, and another round of drinks is ordered, his mood clears and we let him have this one.

Since we’re still in the city, Blazo invites us to stay at his appartment. His wife Marija and their little daughter are spending holidays in Cetinje where the air is cleaner and the weather more moderate than in Podgorica. Spending the evening with Blazo is always entertaining, so we agree. We get the main bedroom while he takes the spare. Haven’t we received enough hospitality yet today?

View from our place for the night in Podgorica

Jo Written by:

Roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond.

Keen and curious adventurer who feels just as much at home in IT as in the workshop tinkering on bikes. Loves exploring the world, its people and himself, preferably on 2 wheels behind the handlebars of his beloved bike. Lucky to have found a partner in life and on the road to share this with.