Making emergency bike repairs while on a ride is never a fun task. I am always concerned about the bike that will have a catastrophic failure in the middle of nowhere. I travel to plenty of remote spots and I do it fairly often.
Fortunately, serious break downs are so rare these days, that travel on a well prepared bike should cause little concern. But then there is the self inflicted damage. In my case it was a backwards tumble off a rock. Climbing up a tricky single track trail in Baja, I hit the approach to a short vertical rock face wrong. I hit a small rock just in front of the climb that sent the front end in the air. The wheel already starting to come back down when it hit the vertical face. This caused the wheel to rebound back in the air. I had to get out of the throttle and lost momentum. End result, took a small tumble backwards off the rock. The bike came down hard enough to bend the shift lever, but I didn’t see any other obvious damage.
Fast forward 24 hours to day two of our five day Baja excursion. I start to wonder why I have the faint, but persistent smell of Pemex in my helmet. It wasn’t until we hit town for lunch and I realized my bike was dripping fuel on the ground. It had apparently been leaking for some time.
Upon removing the tank, I could see that the tank actually had two punctures. One was from it coming in contact with the valve cover and the other was in the recess for the rubber frame mount. I should clarify that this tank is on it’s third test bike. It is three years old and probably has 400 hours on it. I have seen holes develop around the rubber mount before. So it was probably a compromised spot even before the fall.
But here I am, alongside the road in Mexico with a leaking gas tank. Time to find a fix. I always carry quick steel with me. But my assumption was that it would not be as good as plastic epoxy for a tank repair. As I started to tear the bike apart, I sent my riding partners in search of an auto parts store to see what they could find. Within minutes they were back with a two part, quick setting plastic weld and a can of parts cleaner.
Once I identified the two holes in the tank, I cleaned them good with parts cleaner. I was able to prop the tank in manner that it would not leak fuel during the process. We used the epoxy package to mix the two parts. Needing something to stir with, I looked down to see there was literally a popsicle stick laying at my feet to mix with.
I didn’t have anything to properly rough up the plastic surface, like sand paper. I used the file on my multi tool a bit, but it would not reach into the recess. I applied the epoxy liberally to both locations. Within minutes it started to harden. I put a large amount of the epoxy in the recess. I was concerned about the rubber frame mount pushing or rubbing against the repair. I used my knife to whittle the rubber down just a little.
Once the repair properly hardened, I made sure it was no longer leaking and then mounted the tank back on the bike. All seemed fine, so off we went again. We did three and a half days more riding, probably 400 miles total. The repair held for the entire time. But I did carry the left over epoxy and cleaner with me just in case.
Once home I took the tank off to inspect everything. The recess area had started to leak slowly again, just enough to leave a dirt stain on the underside of the tank. Just for fun I checked to see how well the epoxy was adhered to the plastic of the tank. As it turns out, not very well. I was able to peel both patches off with my fingers. This was never going to be anything but a temporary fix.
On the other hand, I have one tank in my garage that was repaired 10 years ago in a similar manner. It is still serviceable. But the damage was on the outside were it could be properly accessed and prepared. It is also a Clarke tank which is a different construction material.
Fortunately this incident only cost a few dollars and one hour of ride time to make the repair. It will be time to replace this KTM 13 litre tank for my 450. It has had a long and fruitful life. I have certainly got my money’s worth out of it.