We finally settled in Mexico City (at least for the next 3 days). Our mission for today was simple, in theory. Find spare front and rear tires for the bike. Searching online didn’t really help much, so we called the hotel and they gave us 3 places somewhat nearby to try. One place didn’t answer, another only had one of the tires. And the other didn’t have any.
Cynthia was manning the phone making the calls as my Spanish is more like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to speak Japanese (maybe even worse). After making endless calls to businesses in the phone book, she found one place that had both the front and rear tire and a Honda dealership that had the rear tire at a better price and another dealer that had the front tire at a better price but not the rear. Aside from one Bridgestone tire, the only matching front and rear tires available in the right sizes for the Suzuki GS850 were Pirelli MT66.
I have always run dual sport tires on this bike because we simply have no idea what roads we’re going to encounter, and I personally like to go off the beaten path if possible. MT66 tires are just bland road tires which I wasn’t hoping for, but we had no choice. I figured if we can’t find a decent tire in the biggest city in the continent, we’re probably not going to have too much luck further South. (Well, I was wrong. As I write this, we’ve found much better prices and selections in practically every country in Central America but Mexico.)
We got directions and headed out on our tire hunt. When we arrived at Motos De Calidad, our first American stunt was to tell the dealer, Carmelo Ruiz Garcia, about the competitors’ prices. Mr. Garcia ended up reducing the prices to match his competitors. Score!
You would think that purchasing tires would be a relatively straightforward task. However, we waited and waited and waited while the employees took phone calls and served customers in between looking for our tires. After all, it turned out that they didn’t have the rear tires as they had told us on the phone. We finally decided we would buy the front tires from them and go to the Honda dealer for the rear tires. I also decided to buy two sets of tires as I would need to change the current pair in about another 1000 miles, somewhere after getting past Guatemala. The dealer offered to call Honda and see if they had the tires and upon confirming that they did, offered to arrange for them to be delivered for us to the dealer. This was great for us as that meant that we only had to drive to one more location, the bank, to get cash for our better rate on the tires. They told us to be back in an hour and a half.
We headed off to the bank down the road to get some cash. Once there, I was told that I had to belong to the bank to withdraw cash inside and could only get cash from the cash machine. The ATM machine was inside a little room with a glass door and you have to slide your bank card in the door to open it. It took me three tries to withdraw the pesos as apparently, you have to take cash out of your checking account and not the saving. With money in hand, we headed back to the dealer to wait for the tires to be delivered.
On the last traffic light, a city bus rear-ended us while we were completely stopped. I managed to keep the bike upright and thank god the damage was minimal. It hit us right on the corner of the right aluminum pannier and broke the mount. Luckily the stove fuel bottle was inside the hotel that day otherwise it would have blown up the pressurized can. Since then I relocated the fuel bottle to the front.
While waiting at the dealer I tried on nearly every helmet they had in the store. I wear an open-face helmet and I love it. I love the freedom it gives me, the taste of the bugs, the sharp needlelike sensation of cold rain, the frozen cheeks in snow… actually I don’t even know why I wear an open face helmet. It’s the rainy season here and it rains and rains and rains… and then it rains some more. I decided that I was tired of getting rain on my face, and Cynthia was tired of me borrowing her full-face helmet at the first sign of rain. So I ended up getting a nice Italian Flip-Up modular helmet made by Nolan Group. It’s not available in the States, but it’s a very nice helmet. Better yet, it was only $140. I’m protected for the next city bus who tries to run us over.
By the end of the day we had two sets of tires and a helmet. I have to say that the dealer who helped us went above and beyond with reducing the price for the tires and then arranging their delivery to us. All told, our mission took from 11 am to 7:30 p.m. Thank God we had a “free” day from traveling on the road to take care of this important little bit of housekeeping.