Days 9-12 - Montenegro & Grossglockner
Following most of the day spent with possibly the nicest people in Montenegro and riding around south part of the country, then getting soaked by the rain in the afternoon, I ended up in Podgorica where I found a cheap room for the night. I didn’t really know what route to take from there, but the woman – owner of the house suggested Tara Canyon and Zablijak to me. I took her advice and this was the route I did that day. After I got to the Montenegro – Bosnia border it was time to start heading back home to the UK and I managed to get through the whole Bosnia in the afternoon.
(First picture is full route that I did that day, second one is zoomed in route through Montenegro.)
Podgorica – Kolasin – Mojkovac – Zablijak – to Bosnia – Sarajevo – Slavonski Brod
I left Podgorica in the morning and set off towards Tara Canyon. It was dry at first and stayed dry until Kolasin.
Views through the canyon were amazing. It started raining at some point after Kolasin. I didn’t have my waterproofs on and I thought that maybe it will stop raining soon, but it didn’t. I went through Mojkovac and most of the way to Zabljak before I finally decided to put them on, when my jeans we already all soaked through. This part of the ride wasn’t very enjoyable, being soaked and not feeling my fingers. Stopped for about 5 minutes in Zabljak hoping to heat up somewhere, but in torrential rain it was hard to find a good place to stop and decided to just keep going.
After Zabljak there was a single track road going towards the Bosnian border through Durmitor National Park. I was already frozen but it was even colder there. It would probably be a very enjoyable ride if only it wasn’t raining and I wasn’t completely soaked.
My helmet camera died just before I got to Zabljak and being frozen and soaked I didn’t want to wait for it to charge, so I didn’t get anything after Zabljak on the video. Here’s the video from Podgorica to Zabljak:
The single track road ended near Pluzine, where it joined the main road. From there it was half an hour ride to the Bosnian border. Luckily this time I didn’t have any issues with the Green Card as I have already purchased one on another Bosnian border few days ago, and it was still valid.
It was still early in the afternoon, around 2pm. I didn’t have much time left for this trip and I really wanted to do the Grossglocker pass in Austria on the way back, as it was still shut to bikers when I tried to get there a week ago. Decided to try do it on the way back when it hopefully would be open.
I kept going through the whole Bosnia for the rest of the afternoon without stopping much. Got to the border in the North with Croatia late afternoon. There was quite a big queue at the border, around half an hour wait. Usually I skip the queues in the traffic but I think that skipping the queue at the border would be considered more rude and decided to wait.
It was getting dark and I managed to find a cheap room in Slavonski Brod in Croatia, just across the border. I was all soaked and still frozen, so camping would not be fun. They let me put my bike inside, in the hallway. I was tired so went to my room, hanged wet clothes to dry, went for a shower and went to sleep.
From Slavonski Brod it was around 7 hours ride to get to Grossglockner, through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.
I set off from Slavonski Brod in the morning, hoping to do Grossglockner pass late afternoon.
Weather was nice all day. Spent most of the day on boring motorways. Finally got to Austria in the afternoon. Kept going towards Grossglocker, and finally got there late afternoon as planned. It was my second attempt – first time on the way South it was still closed to bikes, was only open to cars due to surface being slippery after the winter (even through it was May already). This time it was open to bikers.
It was around 30 euro to to ride Grossglockner pass on the bike. Paid at the entrance and started riding up the pass. Views were breathtaking. Stopped to take some pictures few times.
Surface was some of the best I have ridden. So smooth, no potholes at all. And these views. It was well worth paying 30 euro.
To get to the highest pass of Grossglockner – viewpoint Edelweißspitze (2.571 m a.s.l.) from the Fusher Törl (2,394 m) I had to take a left turn and ride on a short cobblestone road with several hairpin turns.
After a couple of turns my bike started struggling. At first it left like battery was dying. I didn’t really know what to do. I tried to keep going but it kept dying every few metres. Eventually I got off the bike and tried to have a look to see what could be causing it. Having no idea what it could be I tried to keep going with bike still stopping every few metres, hoping it doesn’t stop half way through the hairpin turn.
Eventually managed to get to the viewpoint (it was hard to do anything on the side of narrow and steep cobblestone road, and there was big car park at the viewpoint). I took my tools out and lifted the tank, but still no idea. Usually other bikers would come and ask what’s wrong and try help me (that was my experience in the past anyway and that’s what I normally do when I see someone having issues with their bike) but this time no one offered their help. I guess it could also be that it was getting late and sun was settling down, so it was very quiet and people who were still on the pass wanted to get down quickly.
Some biker asked if my bike doesn’t get enough oxygen and walked away. Then I remembered something about carburetted bikes struggling at heights due to this (lack of oxygen). While the difference in oxygen level wasn’t noticeable to me at all at 2.571 m, it made my bike struggle a lot. The previous year I did Stelvio pass (2.757 m) but that was on a fuel injected bike, that’s why I had no issues with it.
I tried to quickly google what can I do to make my bike run better at heights. I found a lot of answers saying to adjust air/fuel ratio in the carbs. It seemed like a lot of hassle just to ride one mountain pass. I couldn’t do that anyway at the highest point of the pass with sun setting down, so decided to get off the pass, find a place to camp and then think what to do. There were some small motorcycle shops just down the pass so maybe I could ask them for help.
Got off the pass and stopped at a campsite 5 minutes away from the pass entrance. I put my tent up and went to get some food in the restaurant which was beside the campsite, and ordered a pizza. I tried to search for other solutions and found some answer saying that removing air filter would help. That would be much easier and much faster solution, and I could do it easily myself. There was a risk that dust and stones could get to the engine with air filter removed, but surface was so clean with no gravel, sand or stones at all and I decided to do this. By the time I finished my pizza it was dark already so I went to have a shower and went to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning it was nice and sunny. I was only hoping that removing air filter would actually help. This was the view from the campsite:
I packed my tent and removed air filter from the bike. Bike was louder than normal with no air filter and it wasn’t nice kind of loud noise.
It was time for attempt number 3 at Grossglockner. I rode to the entrance and was ready to pay another 30 euro. But they recognised me and said that it’s only half price since I was there the previous day. I didn’t know about this and if they didn’t recognise me I would have paid full price again.
Pass was much busier than last evening. Started riding up the pass, stopping every now and then to take pictures. There were a lot of cars, buses, cyclists and other motorbikes but it was easy to overtake comparing to some of the other mountain passes I have ridden.
I got to the point where I would take the left turn onto the cobblestone road leading to Edelweißspitze viewpoint where my bike was struggling the previous afternoon. But it was fine this time (apart from the annoying loud noise). It didn’t seem to have any lack of power at all.
Got down the cobblestone road to the main Grossglockner pass and continued riding in the south direction. It was one of the most enjoyable rides ever.
I spent hours riding up and down the pass in every direction. I started getting hungry so stopped at one of the restaurants on the pass. It was probably the best view I ever had food at:
After food it was time to start heading back home. Took few more pictures on the way down the pass:
There was a photographer on the pass and later I managed to find pictures they took of me:
Got down the pass and started riding towards the motorway. I almost forgot about my air filter, and had to stop to put it back in. Stopped at some petrol station and once I put air filter back in the bike, set off again.
Not long later I started feeling something not right in my rear wheel. Pulled over and put my bike on the jack stand. It felt like collapsed rear wheel bearings. There was also a gap between cush drive hub and the wheel and I was not able to push the hub more towards the wheel. I tried to keep going. Got on the motorway and I noticed that although more dangerous, riding at higher speed felt slightly better. Riding with collapsed bearings feels sort of like riding with flat tyre, it wasn’t fun.
I started thinking what my options are. It was Saturday late afternoon and I had to be back home on Monday as I had to be back at work on Tuesday. One option was to try and find bike shop, but that would mean loosing a lot of time most likely and it would be hard to find a shop with correct bearing in stock. Also the fact that it was late Saturday afternoon and most of the shops would probably be closed.
I tried to keep going. From Austria went through South part of Germany and into France, riding towards the Calais – Dover ferry. It was around 500 miles from Grossglockner to the ferry and another 500 miles from Dover to my home in Glasgow.
I didn’t have European breakdown cover because of the age of my bike – 20 years old – not many companies provide breakdown cover for such an old bike and these that do, are expensive, so I never bought any. But I had breakdown cover in the UK. I was thinking that I could try and at least get to UK and then it would be easier to figure something out.
The handling was terribly awful. At some point when riding through Germany I pulled over on the rest area. I was trying to think about a way to get my wheel off and see what’s actually wrong, but the jack lift that I had with me was small and if I tried to take wheel off, bike would probably fall over.
I tried to keep going. Sun was going down and soon it got dark. It was around 1am when I was riding through France and I was really tired. Tried to find some campsite to stop at. My sat nav found one in Moineville. When I got there, there was some hippy type music playing and there seemed to be some festival or a party. I rode on the side of the campsite, avoiding any people so i didn’t actually see what was happening there; I just saw some lights in the distance and heard the music. Went to the far end of the campsite, put my tent up quickly and went to sleep.
This was the route I did that day:
Woke up early and left before anyone else got up (I probably woke everyone up when leaving anyway). Bike still felt horrible.
Got to the ferry around 2pm and ferry was to depart around 3pm. I rode 500 miles with collapsed bearing and still had another 500 miles to go.
I spoke to another biker when getting off the ferry and he also thought it’s probably collapsed bearing. He suggested to spray some chain lube on the bearing. It would make a mess but if anything it could only help. I pulled over once I got off the ferry and he stopped there with me. There was police around. They asked if everything’s ok. I didn’t want to tell them about the bearing as they could say that my bike is unfit for the road and then I would need to pay a lot to get my bike transported to Glasgow. But he (the other biker) told them about it. Luckily they didn’t do anything just said to be careful.
I decided to not phone my UK breakdown insurance and instead try and ride my bike home. Insurance company would probably only take me to the nearest garage and my bike would be stuck there.
It was a long and tiring ride home:
Spraying chain lube didn’t help much, bike still felt horrible. But somehow managed to get back home around 2am.
This is what was left of my bearings. Turns out that it was not just wheel bearing but also sprocket carrier bearing that was collapsed:
It was a nightmare to get all of the remains out. While the balls and inside parts of the bearings just fell out, the outer races were stuck inside. It took me and my mate who came over to help all day to get them out. As it was Monday, I went to Honda bike shop to get new bearings and put them in. I decided to also get new (used) rear wheel just to be safe and new chain.
That was the last part of my trip to Austria, Croatia and Montenegro 2017.
Next: Greece & Italy trip 2018.
Also, here’s the video from Grossglockner: