What’s up with Beastie? It’s the burning question. She was running fine, but suddenly became difficult to start. I thought flat battery: engine was turning over too slowly to catch, sounding sick, voltage plummeting to 9 or 8 volts as the starter motor laboured. I couldn’t jump start her off my Antigravity jumper pack but jumping her off a running Landcruiser worked twice – once in Gregory, once in Burketown. By the time I got out to the fishing camp, however, that didn’t work either: plenty of charge was going in but the engine just wouldn’t turn over fast enough. No luck with a bump start either.
What could it be? Possibly something wrong on the starter motor end – maybe the brushes are toast? Maybe there’s a bad earth or a bad connection somewhere? Or maybe there’s something wrong in the engine that’s making it difficult to turn over – is the automatic decompression not working properly? Is the engine in the wrong part of the stroke?
Lots of questions, not many answers. The only other piece of the puzzle is that I think she might have been a bit more ‘rattly’ when running during the last big run between Winton and Burketown – but I’m honestly not 100% sure about that. She’s a thumper, she rattles hard at the best of times. You could go mad with a 690, trying to figure out which rattles are normal and which rattles are not.
Actually, that probably happened some time ago: I am definitely mad. I am also willing to admit that this is diagnostically beyond me – especially in the middle of a salty claypan, with no phone reception and limited ability to phone a friend. Not an ideal place to pull my engine apart and start poking around for a black cat in a dark room that isn’t there.
* * *
On one hand, this all sounds horribly unfortunate, doesn’t it? Broken down, four hundred kilometres from the nearest bike shop, thousands of kilometres from parts and thousands of kilometres from the nearest bike shop that wants anything to do with a KTM.
But on the other hand, it seems that Lady Luck had saved my arse again. There I was, stubborn solo traveller, perched on a remote edge of the Australian continent, and the only time my bike really breaks down… I’m right beside a bunch of good people who have spare trailer space and are only too happy to help me out.
I could not be more fortunate or more grateful. Instead of facing a potentially dangerous and expensive episode of pedestrianism in far North Queensland, I found myself with friends, food, drinking water and transport.
Ever optimistic, we made a few more attempts on the battery – first using a solar charger to rejuvenate it, and then trailering into town where the kind people at the Burketown Bakery helped me out with new battery acid and a fast charge. (How good are people? If you’re in Burketown, make sure you drop by for a coffee and a chat.)
Sadly, none of this had the desired effect: Beastie still wasn’t starting.
So a few days later, when my fishing friends packed up camp, Beastie and I hitched a lift. They would drop us at the motorcycle workshop in Longreach on their way back South.