After the New Years I spent a couple more days in San Miguel de Allende. Then, when I was packed and ready to leave, I couldn’t because my motorbike wouldn’t start. The battery was dead and, after a quick revision, I discovered that the battery was completely dry. It was a new battery so I took it to a motorcycle shop and had them refill it and put it on a slow charge. They didn’t have one in my size so if this didn’t work it would be eight days to get another from the capital. Eight days to send a motorcycle battery 300 kilometers from Mexico City – crazy, right? Fortunately, the battery took and held its charge. But my problems weren’t over. Now she would start but when next I set out she performed miserably and the engine kept cutting out. It was early in the morning so I found a motorcycle shop in San Miguel and waited in the parking lot until they opened. When the shop opened we wheeled the bike inside and a young mechanic listened to the engine and felt the exhaust pipe and, finding that it was not warming properly, he determined that the front piston was not working. He discussed the situation with the manager and they decided that the piston would have to be replaced. I was quoted a price and a timeline.
Obviously, I was suspicious that a mechanic, no matter how good or experienced – and this kid was neither – could determine that a piston needed to be replaced based on how quickly the exhaust pipe warmed. I decided to call a motorcycle shop in Mexico City that the Yamaha main offices had recommended. The shop owner asked some questions and was noncommittal but suspicious about a motorcycle needing a piston replaced after only 10,000 miles. He offered to drive the truck to San Miguel and haul me and the bike back to the shop in Mexico City for 1000 pesos, about $80. I accepted.
During the drive, Guillermo (Memo) and I slowly became friendly and by the late evening we were at the shop in Mexico City. The mechanics were in the process of closing up but everything stopped and they gathered around the gringo with the sick motorcycle, amazed that I had come this far on this bike – I didn’t yet know what they meant by ‘this bike’. Memo started the engine and felt that the pipe did not heat propely but then he tested the compression in the cylinders and found that both were the same and within the proper limits. In one, thirty-second diagnostic he had disproven the need to replace the piston.
Over the next few days, Memo and another mechanic, Eduardo, whom they call Tocayo, which is what you call someone that has the same name as you only no one else at the shop is named Eduardo, took apart the carburetors, cleaned them and replaced seals, they adjusted the engine valves and conducted a the rest of a full tune-up. At the end no obvious culprit for the severe performance problems had been identified but at least now she was running well and strong and I thanked them all and went on my way.