Fixing Scooters

29 Jan

Once again today started with darkness in the dungeon, but according to our previous nights agreement (to get up early to service the bikes) we were both in the bright whitely decorated Blue Pumpkin for the now routine breakfast in lightning time. By lightning time i mean about an hour later, and not before Dave had well and truly tainted the atmosphere of the dungeon beyond thoughts of any further habitation.

I guess that’s one way to make sure we get out of the room quickly Dave…

Rule No 7 – Dave yields the bum gun with an iron fist. Be warned.

Last night over some beers we got chatting to some moto taxi guys about the going rate for bike service work, and armed with the new information we started by asking the hotel staff for the nearest strip of motorcycle repair shops.

The Official Ride For Cambodia Workshop.

“You go up and first of block, then straight and straight and on left side find”

“ummmmm ok.”

It was actually really easy to find, and in a new tactic for trying to close the gap between local prices and stupid tourist prices, we entered the negotiation by offering the correct amount for what we needed rather than asking for what it would cost.

WIN for the Ride for Cambodia team!!

Oil Change $5
Chain and Sprockets $9
Front Brake Pads $2.50
Rear brake light switch $2
Labour $0.50

Rule No 8 : First find out what something should cost from someone without a vested interest, then go buy it.

The guys in the shop spent a couple of hours on our bikes collectively, changing parts and chasing up loose wiring to get the tail lights working again. I guess that’s one advantage of using these bikes, there’s someone on every corner who knows how to fix them! We were really impressed with how quickly they worked, and the guys were really friendly and spoke enough English to tell us what the various parts would cost before going ahead and doing the work.

While the wheels were off we were able to check the wheel bearings, one of which needed replacing on Dave’s bike at a grand total of $1.50. Eventually we each paid our $19 bills and left 2 happy men.


No traditional gender roles here. This is the first time I've had my oil changed by women.


The older woman's assistant is by far the best dressed garage employee


The counter sprocket from Dave's bike was really worn. Dean's bike was in good shape


The work is quick and of good quality.


Electrical problem diagnosed and fixed in less than 30 minutes. Total labor cost: $0.50


The Damage. This shows that there is no reason to fix your own machine here in Cambodia.


Rule No 9 : Leave the bike repairs to the locals.

That done it was back to the hotel to take stock, eat some food, and generally be enthused about how easy getting some work done on the bikes had been. We resolved to return to the same shop on Monday and have all the bikes oil, chain/sprockets and wheel bearings changed, along with a check of brake shoes, and repair to any faulty wiring. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way.

I don’t mean this to seem as though i’m riding like a lunatic, but i’m trying to do a bit of a ‘high speed test’ to gauge what sort of highway speed we will be able to maintain with these bikes. The result is not encouraging. It goes like this…

Lights turn green and i surge forward in first gear to a max speed just a bit faster than walking, select second and nail it again. A few minutes later second gear has run out and i’m travelling marginally faster than a jog. Yawn… The jump to third is a long one so the little 100cc motor needs a bit to get wound up but at the top of 3rd I see about 45 or 50km/hr on the GPS – now we’re really moving!! This is the tricky part because the traffic in Phnom Penh only travels at about 40km/hr (max) so by now i’m working hard to judge the distance to the next potential obstacle… i snatch 4th gear and move into the left lane now outpacing even the bravest teenagers on their shiny new fuel injected Honda Dream 125cc bikes (insert jealousy here).

Fourth gear is L O N G so the speed now builds even more slowly than before, 55….. 56…..57…..58……59 well you get the picture. Eventually i see 70-something just as a huge black 4WD pulls out in front of me and i have to execute an evasive manoeuvre that even Bill Clinton would be proud of.

On my best run i think i saw 72km/hr on the GPS, by which stage everything on the bike was starting to shake and make those strange noises that usually serve as a warning to slow down. I think with a bit more road we’ll see over 80, but i have no idea how long the engine will hold together at this speed.

Rule No 9 : There is no shame in being towed to the finish line.

Street food in Phnom Penh

So I went out for a more leisurely spin on the bike for the rest of the afternoon, buying some antibiotics ($1 for a full course), and about 5 meals at different stalls i moto’d past while exploring the city. I love the little encounters you can have by eating in tiny little ramshackle places most tourists only take pictures of. First it’s surprise and the “are you lost?” look, closely followed by shock when i point at something and say “one”. Next people scramble to get a clean chair and somewhere for me to sit amongst the crowd of locals. Then there’s the raucous laughter by everyone present when the food arrives and i smell the various bits and pieces and don’t really know where to start. But finally it’s just warm friendliness as they mime out the process for me, then linger to see if i pull a face at the taste, and smile broadly at my approval. At the end of the meal i say O-kun (thanks!) and Lee-Hai (good bye) which again gets the crown laughing, and even more chatter follows when i get onto the Dailem scooter and point to it smiling and say “Mine”.

This trip is going to be so much fun.

One Response to “Fixing Scooters”