Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 6 Oct 06
Odometer 30,734 m 49,462 km

It's rare when things work out exactly as planned. Though that's a part of life we all come to understand and accept, sometimes it takes a while. Motorcycle travel in particular is full of potholes and wrong turns that can lead you down blind alleyways. I know!

I had arrived in Rio after a five-month hiatus in my 18-month journey with a very specific mission and a carefully laid out timetable. Fly out of Albuquerque on Sunday, land in Brazil on Monday, spend the week working on El Viento
, then blast off for Paraguay on Sunday.

At first, things were rolling along nicely. From the airport a Brazilian friend and I successfully tracked down a new battery. The next day we located a bicycle shop with an expert wheel builder who was able to re-lace my rear wheel with the new rim I had brought with me from the States (I had bent the original rim back in
Costa Rica).

Next, I had to replace both tires' tubes, repair the headlight mount, drain the stale gasoline, swap out the fuel filter, and finally--replace the rear suspension. This last step is where my plan went south.
The first impediment that came to light was that the large 12 mm x 100 mm linkage bolt, the one that allows the rear shock to float the frame as you bounce down the rutted road, was bent! This must have happened in Costa Rica when I hit that now infamous hole that also bent my front and rear rims (I repaired the front rim in Panama, and replaced it in Peru). One can only imagine the titanic forces necessary to bend a hardened 12-millimeter diameter piece of solid steel.

Not to worry, I imagined, in a large city like Rio it shouldn't be too hard a task to find the industrial sector of town where there had to be a
parafuso (bolt) vender. Sure enough there were several, although only one had a 12 mm x 110 mm suitable replacement. It was 10 mm too long, but that shouldn't cause a problem. And although it wasn't zinc-plated, like the original, slathering it with grease would adequately slow the rusting process. I'd carry a spare just in case.

The real fly in the ointment actually occurred back in the U.S. when I made the ill-fated decision to purchase a new after-market shock from a company in California called
Works Performance. Never again will I make that mistake.

Besides offering an under-built and over-priced replacement for BMW's stock shock, they throw in the worst possible customer service at no extra charge. To begin with, their primitive web site offers no specifications or information that would allow an objective shopper to compare and contrast their products. Instead, I blindly relied on advice I had received from a friend to give them a call.

My second clue that something was amiss should have come when I had to call them over and over and over again trying to get some information, leaving detailed messages each time, and never receiving a return call or email. When I finally did reach their head engineer, he matter-of-factly assured me that their product was top notch and worth the price. I explained to him in great detail that this was not enough. I was headed to South America and his shock must drop-in to the existing mounts on a BMW F650GS Dakar with no special tools. I went on to emphasize that because I would be so far away, everything had to go right the first time--there would be no second chance.

Then, I made my third mistake: I went ahead and ordered the thing anyway, based solely on the engineer's bogus promise "not to worry." Although I had received no order confirmation in the mail or via email, the engineer had verbally assured me that the custom shock would be built and delivered in no more than three weeks. Four weeks later--nothing--so I was forced to call again.

The harried customer service rep was curt, "We have no record of your order."

"How is that possible," I protested? "I'm leaving on an eight-month trip in two weeks and your chief engineer assured me that I'd have the shock a week ago!"

"Apparently, he never entered the order into our system," she apologetically replied. "I'll see what I can do."

Fortunately, she called me back a couple of days later with news that my shock was now in the works, and would be delivered in another week or so. I received the package just prior to departure, which included the shock and two plastic bags with supporting parts, and an invoice. No packing list was included for me to check to see that everything was there, so I committed my fourth mistake by assuming the shipment was complete.

Off I flew to Rio with the shock safely ensconced in my boot, confident at the time that El Viento would soon have a new spring in her step. You can imagine the look on my face when ultimately I discovered that the top of the shock failed to fit in the bike frame's bracket. It rattled about left and right, up and down, like a two-year-old's foot in his father's boot!
Furious, I immediately emailed Works Performance to investigate the discrepancy. No reply. The next morning, I emailed again and finally received a call from the same engineer I had ordered the shock from. "There should be a set of bushings zip-tied through the eye of the shock. The bushings allow the shock to be fitted into the frame," he said. There was no zip-tie, no bushings, and no indication on the non-existent packing list that either were required.

"Oh, no problem," the engineer casually proffered, "You can fabricate your own bushings with the proper materials and a machine shop." Never mind that I have neither at my disposal; that I'm thousands of miles away from my own shop; that I have no transportation with my bike torn apart; that I'm in a huge, unfamiliar city congested with traffic; that hour by hour my time, energy and money are further wasted; or that any homegrown solution should even be necessary to make a $1000 part fit in the bike it was supposedly designed for!

"No," I diplomatically replied, carefully biting my tongue, "That's not practical. You must overnight the proper bushings to me today. I will email you shipping instructions within the hour. They must go out today (Friday), so that I will receive them no later than Monday."

I dutifully emailed the shipping instructions in fine detail as promised, and requested a return email confirming the tracking information. All was set to dig my way out of this hole come Monday when the parts arrived.

Friday afternoon came and went. So did Saturday and then Sunday. No email. No tracking confirmation. I had a bad feeling in my stomach. Could these people be so inept that they could actually fail to ship a red-hot package of in-stock parts that should have been included in the first place when they had an entire day to do so?

Pathetically, the answer was yes. On Monday afternoon, after repeatedly emailing requests for the elusive tracking number, I at last heard back from the engineer. He said that he just now--on Monday--got around to shipping the package. I hope he enjoyed his weekend.

He claimed that they were confused as to how to ship something via DHL, the world's oldest and largest international delivery company, listed in every phone book on earth with a toll free number, with anywhere pick-up service and an obvious web address: Along with this admission did he offer any sort of apology for Works Performance's many screw-ups and my consequent inconvenience? Did he suggest a partial refund on the shock to at the very least cover my added expenses incurred while hanging out in the priciest city in South America? Did he seem at all concerned that I had paid a premium for a product and service that thus far had tendered nothing but headaches? No.

So, as the title of this rant began, sometimes nothing
Works--especially the company. My only hope now is that the bushings will arrive on Thursday, that they will actually fit, that the shock will hold up to the rigors ahead, and that I will forget my rain-soaked couple of weeks in Rio waiting for a lackluster outfit in California to learn the meaning of customer service.

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