Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO

Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO      01/07/11      Mileage: 266

Today was a transit day down to Cali and half of that road I had already ridden, so it was not a super exciting day. So after chatting with Albert over coffee and saying goodbye to his attractive staff, I hit the road.

The one exiting thing today was getting to try out the new Ricor suspension parts with the bike loaded up. As expected, the suspension is way better than stock! First off, the ass end of the bike now sits up where it’s supposed to instead of sagging like it was. The next thing I noticed is that the bike felt 100 lbs lighter, partly I’m sure due to the steering head angle now being back where it should be because the back end is up where it’s supposed to be. A problem I noticed with the stock KLR shock is that the rear end bounced around and lost contact with the ground under power over bumps. Now, when I gas it over rough sections of road, the rear tire remains planted and hooked up with the road… and does not bounce around…amazing! This is all just on pavement…I can’t wait to get it off-road! OK granted, the KLR’s stock suspension is not very sophisticated, but holy crap what a difference! So I knew that the Ricor shock would be a substantial improvement over the squishy stock unit, but I was shocked (pardon the pun) at how well the Intiminator inertia valves improved the front forks. For adventure travel, I didn’t really have a problem with the front forks and I think they are adequate for the job at hand. However, the stock forks have three weaknesses in my opinion, they dive a lot under braking, do not absorb square edge bumps well and loose contact with the road over chattery sections of road because they can’t react fast enough. All of those problems were mostly eliminated with the Ricor Intiminators. They use 5 weight oil, much lighter than the stock oil, so the forks feel much more lively and are faster to react. When braking, the Intiminator valve remains closed limiting the front end dive. When the wheel hits a bump, the valve opens allowing the fork to compress much faster to absorb the bump. I know a tiny bit about inertia valves as the rear suspension of my Stumpjumper mountain bike also has an inertia valve they call “the Brain”, and I know how well that works! I’m looking forward to really testing the Ricor parts back in the dirt where it counts! Also, just for the record, this is my honest no BS assessment of the Ricor parts, sponsorship aside.

Now, for the not so shameless plug:

http://www.ricorshocks.com/

So, I rolled into Cali shortly after dark and found the Casa Blanca hostel, popular with overland biker as they have secure parking 2 doors down. After dropping my gear, I went out for quick dinner before calling it a night.

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Day 138 – Medellin, CO

Day 138 – Medellin, CO      01/06/11      Mileage: 0

At 7am there was a knock on the door to my room. I opened it to find the Shamrock’s cleaning lady with a notice she found taped to the door of the pub about my package. Score! So after some jawing with Albert over a coffee, I hopped a taxi to the central post office to retrieve the Ricor goodies! The form said I owed $45 for import duties…a real bargain compared to some of the horror stores I’ve heard, like $300 for an umbrella! After about 45 minutes of the usual photo copies, paper shuffle and bureaucratic bumbling, I had the Ricor box in my cabbage claspers! I was giddy like a 5 year old on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza morning and promptly opened the box to inspect the goods. The shock is a beefy hunk of well machined aluminum and the spring looks to be double the diameter of the whimpy stock shock.  I hurried back at the Shamrock, loaded the new bits on the bike and went to the Kawasaki dealer a few blocks away. I was told that service was closed until Tuesday…it was only Thursday. Crap! Indeed, all of the shops seemed to be closed…apparently they all close at the same time for the holidays. Luckily for me, there was one shop still open…MSM.

 Inside I was greeted by Daniel and I told him my story. It turns out that my luck would continue as Daniel totally hooked me up! He brought the KLR right in and had the mechanic, Edwim, start right in on it.

Daniel is on the right, Edwim on the left.

First he dropped the forks and disassembled them to install the Intiminator’s.

It’s actually pretty simple, as they just drop in between the push rod and the spring, top it up with 5 weight oil and re-install the forks. Edwim made it look even easier as he knows all the little tricks of the trade.

What took him 40 minutes would have taken me 2 hours I’m sure! Next up was of course the Ricor shock. That just bolts directly in place of the old unit.

Comparing them side by side was almost laughable…the stock shock looks every bit as whimpy as it is next to the beefy Ricor unit, and the Ricor is noticeably lighter to boot! Edwim had the new shock in place in a few minutes and that was it….done!

The clean looking blue thing in the midst of the all the dried mud is my beautiful new Ricor shock!

I was also looking for a set of tires, which MSM didn’t have in stock, but Daniel made some calls and tracked down a set for me at another shop a few miles away. Awesome! So, if you guys find yourselves in Medellin and need anything for your moto, MSM is your shop and Daniel is your man! Oh, and he also speaks very good english also!

So, I thanked Daniel and Edwim for their excellent and prompt service and headed off to Africa Motos to pick up the tires Daniel had tracked down for me.

I was greeted by Andres who also took great care of me. I noticed some shops guys cleaning up some bikes in the back, so I asked Andres if he could squeeze the old war horse in for a cleaning, seeing as the last time it was washed was in Los Angeles! He said no problem at all and cued up the KLR next for a bath. While that was being done, I walked out for some lunch and found an ATM for more fun tickets.

When I returned the KLR was just coming out of the wash area and they did an outstanding job cleaning her up, considering the mud bath I had given her 3 days earlier.

So, with a fresh set of tires strapped to the back, Ricor suspension upgrades installed and a fresh cleaning, I was ready to get back on the road south! Tomorrow, I set off for Cali and hopefully I will be in Ecuador in 3 days time.

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO      01/05/11      Mileage: 58

After breakfast I packed up the bike to head back to Medellin. The bike had another plan and stalled every time I put it in gear. Bollix! Well, there were two likely candidates…the clucth safety switch and the side-stand safety switch. On my 2005 KLR, I had bypassed both of these because all they do is cause you trouble for the small amount of safety they provide, in my opinion anyway. So, after some trouble shooting it ended up being the side-stand safety switch, but not the switch itself but the wire that runs to it. It seems over the last two days of rough roads, when I had bottomed out the bike a few times, the center-stand mount had bent just enough to pinch the wires going to the side-stansd switch causing a short. The fix was easy, cut the wires and twist them together, tape them up and zip tie them to the frame. Done.

So, that problem solved I hit the road back to Medellin hoping to collect the Ricor parts …which I really wish I had for the last 2 riding days!

I goofed around with the helmet cam also by mounting it on the left side engine guard, so your seeing what my left foot is seeing! lol.

Back at the Shamrock I met up with Albert who was back from Scotland so it was nice to finally meet him. unfortunately, there were no Ricor parts yet and I was beginning to formulate a plan B. As good as Medellin is to visit, I need to keep rolling south as the clock is now ticking in Ushuaia to arrive and get out of there before winter arrives. That night I returned to my favorite cafe in the Zona Rosa and wrote a bit more for the blog as I’m still several days behind.

Day 136 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO

Day 136 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO      01/04/11      Mileage: 0

The Hotel Pipinta is so good, I decided to stay another day. I focused on getting some blog posts written as I was several days behind. I still couldn’t post them because of the lack of internet, but at least I can upload them the next chance I got. I also took a short hike down to the river, spent an hour in the Turkish steam bath, did some pool time and drank some beer. Here are some token picks from the hike…

Day 135 – Pereira, CO to Cerca Valparaiso, CO

Day 135 – Pereira, CO to Cerca Valparaiso, CO      01/03/11      Mileage: 116

I wanted to stay one more day in the area, and specifically in Manizales. It was early enough in the day to perhaps hunt down a room, and still get somewhere else in case I didn’t. The road from Periera to Manizales is really fun 2 lane divided highway with endless 3rd and 4th gear sweepers and I was glad ride that a second time, this time going up hill.

Check this out…a side car Vespa!  We we’re stuck in traffic in Manizales so I got to chatting with him. He’s from the UK originally but was in town to see if he could get the Vespa in the parade later that day. That’s one crazy rig!

I didn’t have any luck finding a place to stay in Manizales…the closest being a 6 square foot patch of cement in an open courtyard at a hostel for $22…no thanks! I guess it wasn’t meant to be, so I hit the road back north towards Medellin. After about an hour of riding, I came across a nice looking hotel-restaurant perched on an outcropping overlooking the river. The Hotel Pipinta is a great place…good food, pool, awesome views, sauna, turkish bath, pool tables, and all for $22! Hmmm, slab of cement in a smelly hostel, or all of that…it’s a no brainer to me and I’m glad I passed on the hostel. After getting settled into my room, I hit the pool and had a light lunch.

Now that’s a gym with a view!

They build a nice overlook with an excellent view up and down the river.

The only thing missing from the mix is internet, which is too bad as that would be the cherry on top. But given their distance from the nearest town, this was the trade-off. Dinner was equally tasty and after I retired to my room to get some work done on the laptop.

They even ordered up a great sunset over the mountains…

Day 134 – Santa Barbara, CO to Pereira, CO

Day 134 – Santa Barbara, CO to Pereira, CO      01/02/11      Mileage: 199

Like yesterday, I could have taken the main road to Manizales, but where is the fun or challenge in that, right? So after the town of La Pintada, I banged a left over the river and headed back up into the mountains. The road today was like yesterday with plenty of mud, dirt, land slides and missing pavement….in other words, good fun! Some condensation got in the helmet cam housing, so most of the pictures did not come out today…I salvaged what I could so that’s why some appear blurry…

You might want to take this turn on the outside!

I finally pulled into Manizales and the place was packed. What I didn’t realize is that it was festival week so the chances of finding a place to stay were zip.

I had just enough daylight to make it to Salento, a small town tucked into the foothills of the Andes Mountains. When I arrived, it was even more packed than Manizales! My search for a room didn’t produce any results, so plan C was to backtrack…I hate backtracking…to a no-tell-motel about 15 miles back. Once again, it proved to be a great option…clean, inexpensive and my own garage for the KLR.

They even had room service…chorizo with papas fritas and 2 cervezas…served through the secret pass-through of course.

Here’s the secret wall pass-through. They put the food in the pass-through and then knock on the wall. Dinner is served, I I never saw the waiter!  lol.

Another fun day in the saddle!

Day 133 – Rionegro, CO to Santa Barbara, CO

Day 133 – Rionegro, CO to Santa Barbara, CO      01/01/11      Mileage: 116

Morning came and I was up around 9…which is not bad considering we didn’t get home until after 3. I packed up the bike, thanked my hosts for their generous hospitality and then hit the road. Given the late start, I wasn’t going to get very far, so I had the modest goal of Manizales some 160 miles away via all back roads. That was the plan anyway…but what I really did was chase roads that were on the map but did not exist, and find roads that did exist but are not on any map. I had to backtrack some 20+ miles today because of a road that simply wasn’t there…I hate backtracking! I also had to give up my goal of getting to Manizales to backtrack to a hotel before nightfall. So as far as progress goes today, I went almost nowhere…but the riding was great and I guess you could say I had a great time getting nowhere! Here are the pics… 

You could use that leaf for an umbrella!

One of countless landslides on the road….

Now we’re having fun!

They weren’t kidding!

This landslide took the whole road with it, so they just carved out a new temporary path across it. Just don’t fall off to the right side, it’s a looooooong way down!

Now where did I put that coin?

Now that was a great day of riding!!!!  🙂