Bikes in bits, bits in boxes, boxes in cages

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Flag of Nepal  , Central Region,
Monday, November 21, 2011

So I woke up today, after a fashion. I stubbornly refused to allow the fact that my brain had started working in a certain kind of way to force my body to function in any kind of way and laid there trying to get back to sleep. I couldn't get back to sleep and eventually had to get up. We had to go to Eagle Exports around 10am to confirm the flights so we played around online and took a leisurely walk to their office, only 5 doors away. Everything was getting sorted so we left them to it and headed off to breakfast. We tried somewhere new, there are hundreds of great little places stuffed into every nook and cranny so finding one wasn’t hard. We went to one and checked out their breakfast menu and just ordered pretty much everything on it. Marcin ordered the same but with extra eggs.

It took ages, just ages. We waited and asked and waited some more. In the end, just as were about to leave and go somewhere else they served up a small plate of chips and two omelettes which was nothing like what we ordered. They apologised and tried to make us more. We just paid and left, both of us still hungry. We got a cheese croissant from a street seller which was actually excellent, I will get more tomorrow. By then we had confirmation of everything. We had to meet at 1pm to crate the bikes and the flights for ourselves were all sorted. Marcin absolutely insisted on going out for a ride to take pictures but I refused. It just added a level of stress and trouble. The traffic is a nightmare here and I knew he wouldn’t make it back in time. In the end there was no talking him out of it so I had to go with him to make sure he made it back. I got him to set the hotel into the GPS so we could find it if we got lost and we headed out. It was largely what I thought it would be, a complete waste of time, we saw very little other than congested roads that should only be open to pedestrians. We did find the Royal Palace which was cool, they let us into the security area to take pictures although they shouldn’t have and the guards who did got into trouble. We left and tried to head back but the traffic by then was a nightmare. We got lost too, the GPS took us only so far and gave up. After trial and error we made it back, grabbed the gear we were shipping with the bike and headed to the meeting. We were 20 minutes late so I shouted at Marcin. We found the guy who was going to lead us back to the airport and we got under way, hoping we still had time to get our bikes into customs. They wanted us to go even earlier as there are usually problems and it can take all day. On top of that, our Carnets weren’t stamped at the entry point but they assured us it would be no problem. You can’t stay mad at Marcin, he’s just a force of nature, so I didn’t.

So then it happened again. The heat caused the KTM to start stalling badly. Whenever it was stuck in traffic it died. On top of that the clutch gave in so when he could restart it he had to slam it into gear to get it moving along which caused the back wheel to spin and slide. I ran interference at the rear, covering his arse when the bike stopped and clearing a path so he could start it and make another run and we made it to the airport like that through the busy traffic. In the end we got to the gate and it crapped out entirely leaving us pushing it to the packing area. Either way, we made it. Last night we had a conversation about bikes. I brought mine for many reasons. When i get to Thailand it’s an ideal lightweight commuter I can use on any terrain. It’s frugal and light and cheap to get parts for. It’s also ideal on difficult roads and I thought we’d see much more of them than we did. During my trip in Europe I wished for more power and a bigger, more comfortable seat. I fancied an R1150gs and one of those might have been ideal for this trip too as the roads were manageable on a heavier bike. I take it all back. The best bike for any trip is the one that gives you the least hassle. I’ve had a few problems. Full beam HID blew out early on so I’m running on a single light but they were cheap Chinese units I bought on the last day of preparation. One of my indicators also broke, it was an Oxford unit I bought as it looked like decent quality but it rattled into pieces. The word, "Oxford" on the side of something fixed to an adventure bike is about as much use as anything with “KTM” written on it... sorry Marcin!

I’m happy with my little single. She’s a great little bike in every sense.

She’s an outsider. There are certain bikes to look for when you’re choosing a machine for anything, a big trip, a trackday, anything. Some bikes are built to be better than the rest. Take the Honda SP1, when Ducati brought out the V-twin 916 it cleaned up on the track and shocked the cash-rich Honda team to the core. To come back and show them who was boss they built and sold the SP1 so they had a better, faster V-twin to race. It worked, Honda pulled back some dignity but to do it they had to swallow a loss of a rumoured 10 000 on every SP1 they sold. Now that’s a great bike to own. It’s built just as well as it can be and was sold for even less than it was worth. It was built for a reason, not to sell and make a profit on but to race and win. The G650 range is another bike not really made to make profits on. It was built so BMW had something to race in the Dakar rally and it was far too expensive and didn’t sell well. People didn’t know what BMW were aiming at with an overpriced 650 class single with a tiny tank. Of course they were aiming to sell just enough to justify building a toy to race in rallies. It’s a good basis for an adventure bike because again, it was built just as well as it could be. Some of the bits are compromised, corners have been cut but I’ve spent money on uncutting them so now it’s as good as it can be. I could have had a bike with more power, a more comfortable seat or better wind protection but could I have bought another bike for this money that just carries on putting up with this abuse and doing it with style? No, she’s perfect. If you’re looking for a motorcycle or anything else then look for bikes that companies build for prestige, not profit. Profit is a lousy motivator, it makes things a lower quality at a higher price.

So the packing area was ok, not too busy and we grabbed ourselves a quiet corner. I had to take off the screen and beak and handlebars. The handlebars were a pain and i had to strip off all the electronics to get them to fold away. It seemed they had built us 2 boxes when we’d asked for one taking both bikes believing it would be cheaper. In any case the price was ok, considering. It wasn’t cheap but it was tolerable. I had to check my bank balance and it was ok too, this trip was not as expensive as I had feared but expensive enough.

So the carpenters came in and started making the boxes around the bikes. Two guys held her up while I took off the front wheel and slowly she was packed away in bits. Mine was easy compared to the lardy bulk of the KTM. We had to be inspected by customs, they asked to open the tank and take off the seat and that was the end of their detailed inspection. She was cleared into customs and the boxes vanished into a cage on the arms of a forklift truck.

We had to hang around for paperwork but once that came we were free to head back. The carbide was awful, really congested. The roads are mostly tiny and the traffic is heavy. Marcin wanted to walk but our driver found a way through, mostly by bullying and battering his way through the cars with less dents than his. He did a good job and earned a tip. We headed back to the Eagle office to sort out last minute stuff and because the boss had promised to help us hire a couple of Enfields. I needed an additional favour. I had found the keys from the hotel we stayed at before in my pocket. They were nice enough to call the hotel and explain I had the key and arrange to post them back for us. Nothing was a problem, as usual and the young guy at the hotel told her he knew we’d call to sort it out. Of course we would!

So we headed out to find a pair of Enfields for the morning but after a few places we soon realised that it was too short notice and it wasn’t going to happen. Well, I realised it but Marcin was arguing the whole time. In the end it was just too much so I went back to the first place and saw what they had. They had a VR 180 and a Chinese made chopper. I liked the VR and Marcin liked the Chopper so we’ll probably take these and abuse them like we stole them, which for a daily rental of around 3 we pretty much did.

We fancied a night out but were frankly too tired and stressed. There were a couple of other guys at the office so we arranged to meet them tomorrow and we’re all going to hit the bar opposite which has daily live rock music and see what happens from there. The owner of Eagle is going to join us too for a beer.

For now we’re officially pedestrians. It’s a scary thing. I miss my bike.
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