After our late lunch and another very friendly encounter with locals we continue on through the mountains. The temperature is quite high, but the riding is good. And the ventilation on our suits is doing a reasonable job of keeping us comfortable. The maps show a large lake a little south of Rudbar where we should be arriving between 4 and 5PM. Looks like an ideal place to find a nice spot to put up our tents.
When we arrive though it is extremely windy. Strong gusts of wind are rolling down the mountains across the lake. It is extremely difficult to even keep the bike on the road. But we are still hopeful to find a spot. Sofie is leading our little group and I am riding last with Hette and Mirjam in between. Sofie spots a small dirt road down to the banks of the lake and turns in. Just as Hette does the same a large gust of wind makes him lose his balance and the 800GS and Hette topple over. Mirjam was right behind him and has to take a tighter turn to avoid Hette. She’s very close to a steep drop next to the trail down to the lake. The wind also gets hold of Mirjam and her XChallenge and down she goes as well. The motorcycle lands on the edge of the drop and an instant later I see Mirjam go over the edge. I manage to stop my bike and jump of to check on her. By the time I get to her she is already crawling back up. Luckily she’s not hurt and it probably looked a lot more spectacular than it really was, but I am very relieved to see Mirjam is ok. With the help of 2 Iranian guys that have also stopped meanwhile we pick up her bike, but at the same time mine is blown of its side stand. We pick that one up as well and position it differently so the wind doesn’t affect it as much. Hette has also picked up his bike with the help of the 2nd local. Sofie has in the mean time realised something is up and has returned to the top of the trail. We decide to give up on our plan of camping at the lake and make our way slowly towards Rudbar, hoping to find a camping spot or a hotel there.
On the way Hette gets blown off the road and against a high curb. He manages to save the bike, but Mirjam isn’t as lucky. The people in the cars behind her aren’t very enthusiastic to get out into the wind, but after some gesturing on her part they do come to her rescue. Meanwhile Sofie, Hette and me aren’t able to turn back because the strong wind doesn’t allow us to find a safe place to stop.
In the end we do make it to Rudbar and we find a place that looks suitable to camp. But after the adventures around the lake nobody is very enthusiastic about going to bed without a proper shower. There’s a hotel a few hundred meters further and we manage to negotiate an acceptable price for 2 rooms. While Hette and I stay in the hotel, Sofie and Mirjam want to go shopping for a spare dress and hijab so the others can get a wash. The receptionist of the hotel rings up one of her friends to accompany them. When they come back we get a small fashion show and there’s a little photo shoot.
The hotel does not serve breakfast unfortunately. But we still have a big melon and some cookies from yesterday, so we share that in the room. It will be our last breakfast together with Hette and Mirjam for a long time. They plan to ride on to Tehran, where Mirjam has a friend she met on a previous visit. Sofie and I have a bit more time to stay in Iran and we want to visit Esfahan and Yazd before continuing towards Turkmenistan. Looking at the map we plan to say goodbye to each other in Qazvin.
We quickly turn onto a main road that sort of twists and turns alongside the highway. It is good riding, despite the temperature that is already well above 30 degrees. We are enjoying the ride until suddenly my bike stalls. It restarts immediately though, but a few km down the road it happens again, the engine also does not sound entirely right. We decide to pull over to investigate. Because of the heat the others put up our tarp while I get to work on the bike. I look at everything I can think of, but can’t really find a fault.
While I am doing that 2 guys on small motorbikes stop to see what’s going on. They call themselves Iranian adventure travellers and immediately offer their help. They tell us there’s motorcycle workshops in Qazvin and lend us a tow rope, so Sofie can tow me until we can make a better diagnosis.
After an exciting ride being towed into Qazvin we arrive at a small street with a dozen or so motorcycle workshops. A couple of older experienced guys are called in. We drain the oil and take out the oil filter. There are a few metal particles on the drain bolt magnet, but nothing major. The mechanics don’t seem to worried about it either. Since on the ride over Hette’s bike also started acting up and stalling, the verdict tends towards bad fuel and pinging.
Meanwhile, Mirjam’s friend Ahmad has arrived. Mirjam had called him and he just jumped in his car and drove all the way from Tehran to meet up with us. He invites us all over to his house. That sounds like a good plan, as we are not entirely sure about what was causing the bike to stall. After an oil change and a fuel drain, we all get going on the highway to Tehran. Everything is going well at first, but than the engine starts running a little bit warmer than usual. Since it is really warm out and the cooling system seems to keep it under control, I keep going. Until suddenly the temperature jumps to max, the engine stalls and coolant starts squirting out of the filler cap. It is very clear that the bike is not going to make it to Tehran.
Ahmad immediately starts waving down cars and trucks to see if we can get the bike into Tehran on the back of a truck. We get a phone number from a car driver that has stopped and a little later one of those omnipresent blue pick-up trucks shows up. Yedoolh, the driver looks like he comes straight out of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. Turns out he is a martial arts instructor in his spare time as well. With his help we manage to lift the bike onto his truck.
I ride with Yedoolh and the rest follow Ahmad in his car. Even though Yedoolh does not speak any English and I don’t know a word of Farsi, we have some interesting conversations on the long ride (150km). With a whole lot of gesturing we talk about life, family, religion, Iran and the world beyond. The others still have a few exciting moments when they lose Ahmad in the busy Tehran traffic while dusk has already set in. But in the end we all arrive at Ahmat’s house. Although, not before being pulled over by some sort of police (basically 2 blokes in civvies on a small motorbike).
Ahmad prepares us a wonderful meal and lets us settle into his bedroom. Mirjam gets the room of his daughter, who is staying with her mother at the moment. Hette and Ahmad sleep on the floor in the living room. Our host also arranges for a mechanic to come by in the morning to look at the bike.
The next morning Mahammat, the mechanic takes a look at the bike. After a few rotations of the engine it is already clear to him that the engine needs to come apart. Another truck is called in to move the Terra to the motorcycle shop. Hette’s bike is still riding, although with intermittent hick-ups, and he will ride it to the shop himself.
At Mahammat’s shop, the boys get right to it.
Once the engine is out of the frame, a pretty big job in itself as the design of the bike is very compact and a lot needs to be moved out of the way, we get a first look at the top end of the engine. Valves and cams all look pretty good.
A few hours later the bottom end looks a lot less healthy. There is a lot of play on the connecting rod, suggesting a bearing failure. The shop has an old 650 GS crank shaft lying around and compare it to the Husqy one, in the hopes of being able to just replace it. But the Husqy crank is a bit wider, has smaller and lighter flywheels and a slightly different configuration. So that idea is out the window.
The crank shaft itself can be split, so together with Reza, Mahammat’s partner I hop onto a small 250cc motorbike and we go looking for a place with a large press.
With the crank shaft in pieces it becomes very clear how extensive the damage is. The bearing has virtually disintegrated and the crank shaft pin is damaged beyond repair.
While I get in touch trough various channels with Husqvarna, BMW and KTM, Reza also starts looking at ways to repair the existing crank shaft. It becomes clear pretty quickly that shipping things to Iran will be a logistical nightmare. KTM cannot provide a delivery date on a new crank shaft and suggest a whole new engine for about 4500 EUR, that’s not an option either. In the end, with the help of the lads over at Cafehusky I manage to buy a second hand bottom end from Ebay. We’ll have that shipped to a friend in Belgium first as direct shipment from the US to Iran has its own challenges, despite the end of the embargo.
The whole thing is causing a lot of stress, with the rest of our plans now seemingly doomed, the deposits for the carnets hanging over our heads and the uncertainty of whether and how we’ll be able to get the motorbike out of Iran. It is all part of the adventure and in the end we’re sure it will work out but at this point the worries are slightly getting the overhand.