Aquaman Revisited

I am a magazine junky. That goes without saying.

Having said that, the other day I picked up the March 2014 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine because it had a picture of Maria Folsberg on the front cover. How cool is that? Inside there was a great article called Forsberg’s Farewell to Arms about her pro racing career with KTM (full factory sponsorship) and why she decided to retire although she was at the top of her game, having won WORCS and then GNCC  championships, an x-Games gold in Germany and two ISDE Gold Medals. See:

They even asked her to test their KTM500 EXC to show that girls can ride big bikes. (Could anybody doubt the truth of that statement after reading my blog?)

An article about using dirt bikes for scuba diving got me thinking. The article was in The Long Haul Wrap-Up called 2013 YZ250F A Little Water Never Hurt Anyone. It was not about an accidental dunking while on the trail but instead the wrecking crew thought that it would be cool to just ride the bike into the deep end of a swimming pool.

They took underwater photographs of it as it sank to the bottom.   The article was about resuscitating a four stroke and bringing it back to life without any long term ill effects even after a thorough dunking.

Let me just say that I have had some experience submerging my bike completely underwater (accidentally) and then resuscitating it. It is like taking a fish out of water.  Dirt bikes were never meant to be scuba divers and I never succumbed to the temptation to intentionally take any of my bikes for a swim.

In the nineteen-eighties I saw an intrepid Maico 490 pilot try to jump his  2-stroke over a muddy creek during a cross country race. But not getting a good enough launch on the greasy bank, it landed in the middle of the stream and promptly tipped over. It was completely submerged and it took a few seconds for its rider to find it lying on its side under the water. When he found the bike he picked it up and pushed it to the other side.

Then he kicked is over several times and when it finally started a twenty foot jet of water squirted out from the exhaust pipe. No kidding… That really happened. I was there. But I doubt a modern bike could pull that one off today.

My own experience drowning my bike happened while riding during a storm. We were competing in a trials when the rain started coming down really hard. The trial was not cancelled but the organizers took pity on the poor checkers and sent the riders out in groups and instructed them to check themselves.

The loop crossed a creek and then wound up through the hills and back down again across the creek. The rocky sections we had to ride were not impassable, but as the rain was coming down in sheets, getting across the some of the deep water that had started running across the loop proved to be problematic.

One of the guys we were riding with drowned his bike in one of these water crossings and we had to wait as resuscitated his bike in the pouring rain. First he took off the air filter and squeezed out the excess water. Next he turned the bike upside down. Then he took out the spark plug and cranked on the kick starter trying to force the water out of the cylinder.

After he wiped the spark plug dry and put it back into the bike, he got it started but not before the rain started coming down really, really hard. When we got to the bottom of the canyon the creek was flooded and it looked totally treacherous.

I put my bike in third gear and tried to go directly across the stream because I thought it was the shortest and safest route. Boy was I wrong. I should have hit it at an angle running with the current, because as soon as I hit the deeper water the force of the rushing current hit me broadside and pushed me over into a seething mayhem of whitewater rapids.

I guess I forgot to turn off the throttle when I came to the realization that it was all over as the bike started to go under. That was a big mistake because when we finally managed to drag it over to the other side the engine was frozen up solid and the kick starter would not move one tiny bit. The bike had to be pushed in neutral.

The crank was bent because water cannot be compressed. That is right; water can bend steel. It required a rebuilt top and bottom end. Oh well I always seem to learn by trial and error. Even though I have studied physics and understand the properties of water theoretically, it doesn’t always translate into common sense.

I never meant to completely submerge my bike. My grandson however had no such compunctions.

In his last incarnation he was Aquaman. Imagine his disappointment when he was born a normal boy. An octopus would better but the vagaries of fate were beyond his control and he knew it. There are ways around these small inconveniences and to his mind they involved riding his motorcycle through water.

First a little background…

He was in his favorite element as a fetus in his mother’s womb surrounded by a nice warm comforting liquid. Everything was fine until his mother’s water broke. That was the start of the first real struggle in his short life.  In the end his mother’s contractions and the doctor’s efforts overcame his trepidation and he was expelled from his watery Eden.

When he was really little his favorite computer game involved racing motorcycles. They went underwater as easily as they sped about on dry land. He inevitably pointed his steed towards the water. It sprouted a periscope as soon as it disappeared under the waves.

If only real engineers could be as fanciful and imaginative as software engineers. So far nobody has invented scuba motorcycles with snorkels attached to the air box and one way valves on the muffler.

When he finally got old enough to ride a real motorcycle we bought him a Honda XR80 minibike. He loved to ride that bike especially through puddles. One day he came back to camp soaking wet and begged someone to help him get his motorcycle started.

I volunteered and followed him along the trail to the deepest water crossing in the whole park. I asked him what he did with his bike and he pointed to the water and told me that he had lost it.

“You mean it is in the water?”, I inquired.

“Yes”. He pointed to the middle of a rocky creek and said that he had crashed while trying to cross over to the other side. I waded into the water and found it totally submerged. Needless to say I hauled it out and pushed it back to camp. We did get it back to life but it was a long complicated process.

Because it is not a 2-stroke, the process was not simple. Let me just say that it took multiple oil changes. We had to remove the plug and pump the kick starter to get water out of the head. Then we drained the crankcase, put in fresh oil, started the bike and repeated this process over and over. It took a long time to finally be rewarded with nice clean oil coming out rather than the milky substance that is oil mixed with water. There might have been a fish or two that escaped as we were working on it. I don’t know because they were too small to see.

Believe me because I have been there and done that. And I am not Aquaman…


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1 Response to Aquaman Revisited

  1. Dave Duffin says:

    No fish in the crankcase? Funny:)

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