Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trailer Project Update

The trailer project has not been without its trials and tribulations. With each step of completion, there is a level of anxious impatience to “test things out.” This assessment of course, is my own evaluation of events as they unfolded and may not reflect the view of others. With that disclaimer, I shall proceed on with the update.

With the platform complete, Andy is anxious to ride his bike onto it and test the strength and space with a three dimensional eye. He locates a make shift ramp and with cinder blocks under the corners and the ramp secure calls to me so that I can help with the assessment. As I stand on the front stoop, I question the strength of the make shift ramp and can feel my anxiety level rise. Reassured that the home made ramp is strong enough for an 800 pound motorcycle, I hold my breath as he begins the assent.

The flaw in the plan is the lack of chocks behind the wheels of the trailer. With the weight of the bike, and a slight shift in the trailer, the ramp comes down, bike, biker and all. With heart pounding, I race to assist, and we have the motorcycle righted in no time. Then we view the damage with sinking heart. The left mirror is snapped off, and there is a dent in the fork. The rider is unharmed. The dent is superficial and does not affect the shock’s operation. The mirror is toast.

I, of course, spend some time fuming, but then realize things could have been worse. We spend the next week researching ramps, and order a tri-fold variety that advertises weight capacities that fit our needs. With the new ramp delivered, we try the three dimensional project again. This time we have more success. We can see that both bikes can fit on the deck. It’s a tight squeeze but doable. We get both bikes back down safely and are on the hunt for chocks.

We spend a few weeks researching chocks, but always find possible flaws with each. The timely arrival of Americade offers us an opportunity to touch, feel and ask questions about the variety of chocks we see at the vendor booths. As we watch the demonstration at one vendor booth, we are pleased with what we see, and in the end, we select the Condor model.

The next day Andy is anxious to test the chocks. He assembles them but does not secure them to the deck. First, we must decide where they should be secured for the best weight distribution. Once again, Andy is riding the bikes up onto the trailer. Each bike is rolled into a chock. I’m uneasy as they are not bolted down. Andy gives them each the shake test and it seem OK. We inspect the location, and measure for the next step in securing the chocks. Andy moves the ramp and with the slight jarring the trailer takes along with a sudden stiff breeze, I watch in horror as Jade takes a nosedive off the trailer.

I feel like I’ve been sucker punched in the stomach. Andy is nearly sick. We are both silent the rest of the day which is spent with Andy attending to Jade. One mirror is badly scratched and the only thing he cannot fix is the windshield. I order a new one. In the days that follow, the chocks are secured, and anchors for the tie-down straps are installed. With a bit of trepidation in our hearts, we see that it is time for the next test.

Once again, the ramp is put in place. Both bikes are rolled onto the deck and locked into the chocks. Each is strapped down securely. We check all connections with the hitch, test the lights, and take the bikes for a short ride up the road. The motorcycles don’t move from their positions. Good. However, the weight distribution is not optimal. We see that we need to relocate the chocks further back than we have installed them. It is also evident, that the van will require heavy duty shocks as well. Thankfully, without incident, we return to the drive, roll the bikes down, and call it a night.

While unfortunate, these incidents point to how easily accidents can happen. We have now taken the pilots aviation checklist approach. We all get lackadaisical in our riding habits as well. How many of us follow the suggestion from our motorcycle training course each time we take out the bike? Do you check the condition of the tires and tire pressure? Are all nuts and bolts nice and tight? Have you looked closely at the throttle cable? Did you test the lights and signals? If you follow the advice in the safety course, you do this each and every time. Don’t find out the hard way, as we did, that safety is no accident.

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