Corporate Runaways logo

Corporate Runaways

Overland travelers and certified geeks, based in Vermont.


14-Minute Read

So, yes. The bike was overheating. After dinner and Googling (the only net access was in the restaurant) we went back out to the bike checked the oil level and then ran the bike until the overheating light came on to see if the fan would kick in. It didn’t.

So, we went back to the cabin (tiny one all to ourself. Rustic and cute) and I pulled out the iPad to check my downloaded copy of the FAQ (damn I love this device) while Dachary checked the Haynes manual. The Haynes manual had better pictures and, seemingly clearer instructions.

My back was sore at this point. I suspect I used too much back and too little leg when we were lifting the bike after draining some of the coolant. I tend to do that without thinking. Dachary had a splitting headache. So, hoping against hope, that I’d be able to do something that would be able to make the fan come on even if I had to manually wire it up to the battery. The goal being to be able to see the volcano in the morning that we were barely 10k down the hill from before returning to BMW in San Jose.

I followed the instructions and removed the fairing, then looked for the circular doohickey with a tube and the fan switch that was pictured in the manual and in the FAQ. There wasn’t one. I checked under the left fairing. It wasn’t there either. I went back in to recheck the manual. Yup. Circular doohickey. I brought the manual out.

I sat down beside the bike with my headlamp and reread it. Staring back and forth between pictures and bike. Eventually I realized that the text was ambiguous and the FAQ had mislead me. It was the OTHER picture i was supposed to be looking at.

“Oh THAT thing… how do I get it off?”

There was a nut. I grabbed a wrench. I undid the nut. I got antifreeze on my hands…. electrical switches, in my experience, don’t tend to live in fluid. I examined what I’d just removed. A copper rod that lived in antifreeze. Hmm. That must be the business end of the temperature gauge. I thought it sensed the oil temp, but whatever. I examined the wired up lipstick tube it was attached to. Hmm… little clips. Would have been nice if the manual mentioned those. I screwed it back into the engine. I pried at the clips and out popped a thingy with four sockets (two just empty plastic and two with metal connectors for two of the four pins that shoved into it). Some instructions said to try shorting it and seeing if the fan came on. I grabbed the handy piece of wire in the tool kit and did so. No good. Next it suggested taking a 12 volt battery (got one of those in the bike) and running leads with the “appropriate connectors” i think the phrase was, directly to the fan. It should be noted that the only people on the planet who might have something with the “appropriate connectors” happen to be standing in a BMW mechanic’s workshop.

At this point I noticed a large half pit-bull mutt standing in front of my bike wagging so hard it almost made its rear end hop every time. It desperately wanted petting. I obliged it with my right hand whilst attempting to roll up the tool kit and move the *stomp* The Haynes Manual’s page on troubleshooting the fan now has a large dirty brown footprint in it. More petting was administered until he was satiated enough to let me get back to work.

I went the brute force route to wire up the fan and disconnected the 12 gauge leads from my battery to my Fuzeblock (you should totally get one by the way) bent some of the extra wiring out of the way until each was small enough to fit in the socket and shoved them in. Nothing…. “are these things even live???” I touched them together… no spark. Shouldn’t there be a spark?

I’ve gone through all the suggestions at this point. Simon says it’s a dead fan. I don’t have a spare one of those. But I’m not 100% confident in my tests, so it could also be a dead switch. I don’t have a spare one of those. Or a fucked temperature sensor. I don’t have a spare one of those either.

I put the fairing back on (six screws and the blinker), thoroughly annoyed that the manual was wrong and there was zero need to remove the thing. Put the seat back on. Put the stupid door behind the seat back on. Rolled up the tools and went back in. At this point the back pain is not an issue when in the correct position, but when not (upright, walking, moving) It’s a problem. I’ve started walking like I have scoliosis, but it’s not too bad. I just can’t stand up straight.

I also can’t lean over to reach my tank bag to put my Leatherman away without involuntary yelps…. not good. I go to bed. That should help.

It doesn’t.

We set the alarm for 7:30. I wake up around 6:30 I think, and read for half an hour before Dachary wakes up and officially starts the day. The plan is to make it as far as we can towards San Jose. We’ll call for a tow if we need one, but we suspect we can make it there… eventually….with lots of stops.

Time to load the bikes…. shit. I can’t lift my pannier. “Um… Dachary?”
I decide I can at least take my Camelback and my tank bag. I grab them, and make for the door. I get to the first stair (of maybe 8) and drop the Camelbak. “Shit.” I put the tank bag in my right hand and hold tight to the railing with my left. I go, very, very, slow, and almost fall to a squat a couple times from the pain. I barely hold myself up and make it down. Slowly. I go slowly, to the bike. I fall to my knees half way there. I breathe… I get up. I keep going. I make it to the bike. Dachary has moved it out for me.

I stay at the bike. I can’t do anything else. I *should* be able to ride, because sitting is ok. I just hope it doesn’t start to lean to far one way or the other when stopped because i’m dubious of my ability to keep it from going over.

Dachary brings out the panniers and puts on the first pannier. It’s pointing on a slight downhill and the kickstand starts to slide back. I barely hold it, but only because it’s barely trying to roll down the hill. She comes around, takes the bike from me, hands me the helmet, and walks it down to some flatter ground twenty feet away. I follow.

Or, rather… I attempt to follow. After about six feet I fall down. The pain in the lower back was simply too much to remain upright. I try and sit up straight. That hurts more… laying down… laying down is good.

Dachary sets the bike up and walks over to me, questioning, dubiously, my ability to actually ride five hundred pounds or so of bike. I question this too. “Help me up?” she tries. It doesn’t work. “Pull hard.” That hurts… hmm. “I think I’ll crawl up.” I roll onto my hands and knees and get up from there.

“Why don’t you go to the restaurant. I’ll take care of the rest. Can you make it?” I think I can, and I do. I wait. She finishes loading the bikes up and comes in. I’m fully expecting her to declare that we’re staying here another day, but she doesn’t. Neither of us want to stay. We order breakfast, and while I was starving when I woke, I can barely finish mine. She barely starts hers, and uncharacteristically, declares she can’t eat it. We order her something else, and i force myself to eat. She does the same with the ginormous cheese pupusaish thing that her first plate is replaced with. Neither of us finishes, but the waiter was totally attentive and helpful, so we tip him well.

The ibuprofen I took at the start of breakfast seems to have done some good, or maybe it was just the sitting. Either way, I can walk to the bike, and miracle of miracles, I can get it up off the kick stand.

I go down the volcano in neutral 90% of the way trying to keep as much air flowing over the radiator as possible, and a few revs on the engine. I’m convinced we’ll have to pull over in less than three kilometers before the light comes on, but we make it almost all the way, until Just before the bottom a truck is inching out into traffic and I stop for him. Dachary expected me to just go around, speeds up to follow me, notices I’m not going around, slams on the brakes, the ABS kicks in, she’s leaning a little to the left, and has now stopped so quickly that she doesn’t have time to get upright before she’s lost her momentum and down she goes.

She’s fine, but I’m in the middle of the road and there’s a truck blocking me from getting to the side. It moves. I move. I hop off, and by the time I’ve made it to her bike (ten feet behind me) three motorcyclists have appeared, are at her bike, and by the time i start to touch it are already lifting it.

Before either of us get a chance to really say “Thank you.” they’ve disappeared in a puff of smoke. Ok, the smoke’s an exaggeration. A white guy on a bike appears out of nowhere and starts chatting. Mentions how he got screwed by a local honda dealer when he did a shite repair job on his bigger bike that ended up screwing it over worse than when it went in. I’m thankful for my BMW Roundel.

We continue through town to a McDonalds just up the road from the Pan American. They have net. Maybe we can figure out what the deal is with making phone calls in Costa Rica. We attempted this morning, but kept getting some spanish error message we couldn’t understand. They have net. It doesn’t help. We can’t call Costa Rican or even US numbers from Dachary’s phone.

After an hour of letting the bike chill and giving a quick update, we set out again. We figure the volume of air over the radiator that we’d get from highway speeds should keep it cool. We’re wrong, and just as we hit the permanent traffic jam caused by the bridge construction, the light comes on. “Shit.” This road has no shoulder. But there’s a bus stop on the right. We pull in. We let it cool, and while we do I notice a tiny turn-off just after the stop. I absolutely do not want to continue on a highway with no shoulder and a right lane that is exclusively for buses, so we take the turn off.

I don’t care if it’s slower. I don’t care if the motorcycle overheats more times between here and the dealership (about 10 k away) so long as there’s somewhere safe to pull over when it does.

We go. It overheats.
We pull over.
We go. It overheats.
We pull over.
We get off and give it a longer rest.
“Wait… do you smell cookies?”
Dachary wanders off to find a bathroom at the Office Depot we see across the intersection, and eventually returns a liter lighter and in possession of more lithium AAA batteries! Not that we needed them, but now we have two extra sets. (They also had AA lithium batteries, so if you need some for your SPOT tracker, try the Office Depot in San Jose. They had a ton. Dachary didn’t have enough money on her to buy them all so there are still plenty left.)
We set off. We make it to maybe one K away from the BMW dealer when the light comes on. We pull in a gas station and practice our sweating techniques for ten minutes.

We take off and YES! the Dealer!

We pull in to the bike area and before we’ve got our helmets off Adolfo has appeared. “You’re back. How are you?” We say we’re good, and I explain that “mi moto es enferma. el ventilator es muerte y le “antifreeze” est pfft pffft pfft out the side” “It’s overheating?” he says. “Yes. Let me show you what I’ve tried.” I do, and he says “so the fan is dead.” I shrug. “I think so.”

Dachary asks him if that’s a part that he has in stock. “Let me check.” We pull the panniers and bag off the bike expecting to be told it’ll be a day or two. He comes out, grabs the bike, and wheels it into the belly of the shop, then returns and says “we’ll examine it now. You can sit here or over there.” he says pointing to the couches by their accessories shop on which we watched Dr. Who just yesterday…

I’m somewhat awestruck. I was NOT expecting to have them tackle it immediately. We go over to the couch after a moment of cooling in the breeze so they don’t feel we’re hovering. We watch more Dr. Who until someone rides up on a F800GS, kitted out for adventure. We’re intrigued. Someone tells him to move his bike over by where we’re sitting, and as soon as he gets his helmet off we pounce with the questions. “Who? Where? How long?”

It’s Cory (Oso Blanco on who, we quickly discovered, is way more badass than us, and we had a great time chatting him up. We felt a little bad because at one point Norval (the Director) came over and totally wanted to chat too but we were completely monopolizing Corey. Norval’s a good guy, and like most real motorcyclists, loves encountering an adventure rider.

Bike folks

Somewhere in there Norval brought out the dead fan / motor, and had me feel the resistance it was putting up when you tried to turn it. There was barely any, but i surmise that there’s supposed to be none. Regardless, it was dead and there was a new one being put in, and eventually, it was done and ready to be set free with a swipe of the magic card. I go in. They hand me the bill…. “so many digits!"… she converts it to dollars. “Such BIG digits!” I hand over the card, because what else can I do. The bike doesn’t work without a fan… a fan that cost 189,158.63 cordobas or approximately $378 US! I shit you not.

I am totally regretting not having taken a picture of the dead fan because it is a simple sealed electric motor with a cord coming out one end and a rod with a fan blade coming out the other. The motor fits in the palm of your hand, and nowhere in our wildest expectations, did we think it would be more than $100 US. I just checked BikeBandit and it’s $237.83 there… but, add in Costa Rican customs costs, and some dealer markup and they didn’t screw us. It’s just another case of BMW screwing people for some random part.

Now, some of you would argue for ordering it online and having it shipped in, but when you add in the days of expensive San Jose hotels, plus customs fees, plus taxis / hassle getting to FedEx, or wherever, to pay the customs… It’s actually cheaper. Plus, they didn’t charge us jack shit for the labor. Eight hours of it (two guys for four hours I assume) and it was such a negligible part of the bill it may as well have been free.

So, once again the guys at a BMW dealership have done the best they can for us, and as we set off (after many pictures with us and Cory) they were walking Cory off to see a list of local hostels they’d pulled up for him since the sun was about to set.

We made our way back to the hotel we stayed at last time, grabbed dinner, diagnosed why nothing coming out of my Fuzeblock was working (because I’d blown the fuse when I’d crossed the wires last night - a new fuse put it right), and settled in for some relaxation, oh, and some laundry. Poor Dachary’s back is now killing her from leaning over the sink and scrubbing so long.

Doing laundry in a sink takes FAR longer (and takes far more work) than you expect.


I love the incredible service and support we’ve received from that BMW Roundel, but sometimes it comes with a price…literally. I consider it a case of getting what you pay for.

Unrelated: ask Cory about the mods to his bike. This is my favorite one, but he’s got a bunch of nifty little tweaks that he’s made.

My favorite mod

Recent Posts



A couple with 2 dogs and a thirst for exploring the places in-between.