Ridin’ through Oz, Days 4 and 5: Nothing like “Total Recall”, schadenfreude, and sunsets to lift the spirits!

Day Four

The Twelve Apostles near Petersborough, Australia

The Twelve Apostles (but there are really only 8)

We woke up to gray skies, and quickly reached the executive decision that we were making good time, wanted to hang around the area for a bit longer, didn’t really want to slog it out on twisty roads in the rain, and so stayed another day. We lounged about, went back to see the erroneously named 12 Apostles (there are only eight) and London Bridge (which had previously collapsed, marooning a few people on a limestone stack for several hours). All this sightseeing quickly made us hungry, so we continued on to a nearby cheese factory, where we took part in a cheese tasting, ordered a cheese platter, and then bought some Brie and blueberries for the evening meal. The weather started to sour, so we went back to the pad, watched the overly-cerebral and unnecessarily-complicated Schwarzenegger masterpiece ‘Total Recall’, and whiled away the afternoon on an epicurean bender.

Day Five

Bay of Martyrs

Yaegan and I at the Bay of Martyrs

We woke up to perfect blue skies and almost no wind, and so, somewhat reluctantly, said goodbye to sleepy Peterborough. We were both feeling fresh and keen to ride, and set to move into South Australia by the end of the day. We rode out of Peterborough, passing by the Bay of Martyrs, and winding around the coast.

Sadly, as we moved out and away from the GOR, the road turned into an incredibly boring arrow. No bends, no scenery, just red earth, scrub, and an antipodean sun bearing down upon us in our leathers. However, shortly after thinking this, we passed by some bloke on a pushbike going the same way, and my little burst of schadenfreude made me feel slightly better about our situation. We continued along, and passed through the state border into Mt. Gambier in the late afternoon. For the last few hours, we had been riding with our eyes into the sun – I had a tinted visor, which made life better, but we both were in need of a sit down in the shade – this came along in the town of Robe.

We were feeling like camping, so, five k’s after we passed through Kingston S.E. (this presumably stands for South East, though we were never able to find any evidence either way for this hypothesis), we went down a little dirt road. After coming up a crest, we were rewarded with a view of our own private beach for the evening. Being unsure as to the legality of camping, we hid our bikes off the road, set up a tent behind a shrub (quite a sizeable shrub, mind), and were able to watch the sun set over the sea. We had both been reading, but looked up from our book, transfixed, for the last twenty minutes, as the oranges morphed into blues into purples into darkness, forming a perfect blanket dotted with stars. I hadn’t been away from the city for a while, so was floored by the beauty of the un-light-polluted night sky.

Beach Hideaway

Our Beach Hideaway just past Kingston S.E.


Named my Chinese Bike: 麻烦

I recently came up with a name for my new, Chinese-branded motorcycle, a Jincheng 250cc. After going through several difficulties with my bike from the get go involving my battery and rectifier (which you can read about here and here) and then recently having my license plate stolen, I decided upon a very fitting name: 麻烦 or Ma fan which means “trouble; troublesome” in Chinese. It’s typically used as a type of exclamation, such as when something is acting particularly annoying or troublesome, you say something like “很麻烦“ or “what a pain.”

Of course, I knew that buying a motorcycle in China would come with its fair share of difficulties, so it hasn’t come as much of a surprise. But still, doesn’t mean it’s not a pain when these things do crop up!

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

Buying a Chinese Motorcycle: Jincheng 250cc

A Very Chinese Motorcycle Repair Experience

Video: Riding through the Chinese Countryside

A Very Chinese Motorcycle Repair Experience

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After nearly a month of suffering through having to push start my Jincheng 250 anytime I wanted to ride, no easy task particularly when you’re dressed for winter riding weather, I finally found the time to locate a motorcycle repair shop in Beijing. Actually what happened first was that I spent a significant amount of time texting back and forth in Chinese with the guy who sold me the motorcycle trying to explain to him the problem. Here’s a quick summary of this exchange (entirely in Chinese):

1) I explained in detail what was going on and my conclusion that it was a battery/alternator issue. I included in my explanation how I knew that it wasn’t an issue with the cold weather

2) His response: it was the cold weather.

3) I repeated my explanation.

4) He told me the battery was new and should last a year.

5) I told him that regardless of what he said, the battery was having problems.

6) He told me I just didn’t know how to ride then (I actually laughed out loud at this).

Unfortunately, this all happened right before the Chinese New Year, during which time we were both out of the city. After I came back and texted him again he said it was probably a battery issue (welcome to China!) and that I should take it to a repair guy because he was still on holiday. Apparently it should only cost 100 RMB (approx. US $15). I made a point to tell him that this was contrary to what he said, but then agreed to go find a place.

So I got a recommendation from a friend that I knew had motorcycles in China as well and recommended me to a place that was nearby to my work, and this past Monday, I push started my bike one more time to ride it to work and bring it by during my lunch.

The place itself was very classic Chinese. It clearly doubled as these guys’ apartment. They also had quite an impressive collection of motorcycles including an almost brand new Honda CB400, an 1100 Kawasaki, a Honda Magna that was torn apart, and a Honda Valkerie (which has a crazy looking 6 cylinder engine!). When I pulled up there were two guys in a traditional Chinese squat fixing some piece of equipment. I briefly explained my problem, the one guy checked it out, confirmed it was the battery and went off to get a new one. As it turns out, the battery I was given with the bike was Chinese and only meant to last half a year at best. So for 300 RMB (3x what I was told, but of course that guy wasn’t the best judge of batteries) I got a new battery that has worked like a charm so far. I also had a problem with my “rectifier” as it turns out (which I think is another word for alternator), and that ran me 100 RMB. But overall I got a good deal as I didn’t have to pay a service fee and they even fixed some loose wiring with my horn.

For reference, the Chinese word for battery is 电池 (dian chi, “electricity pool”) or 电瓶 (dian ping, “electricity bottle”) and the word for rectifier is 整流器 (zheng liu qi) and alternator is 发电机 (fa dian ji, which literally means send electricity machine). There are still some issues I’m experiencing with the bike here and there. Though there’s still a sense of anticipation every time I go to start it that it just won’t click, it’s quite a relief to not have had to push start this past week.

The Qianjiang QJ250- A Chinese Clone of the Yamaha Virago

So, I’m still on the hunt for a motorcycle here in Beijing, and I came across this seller of new and used bikes. The new bikes don’t really get bigger than 150cc or 200cc but they find some bigger second hand bikes as well. They did have a Honda CB400 but it got sold. This other bike they have is a Chinese brand, Qianjiang which is now owned by Lifan, I’m going to be taking a look at it this weekend and see how it runs but they did send me some pictures:

Not too bad looking I think, and for a good price too, 5300 Renminbi (about USD$800, negotiable) for the second hand and 10,2000 RMB (USD$1,540) new. I wanted to do some research and see what people said about the bike. On one forum, I read about people completely slamming any China made bike saying you could forget about user manuals, parts, etc. But as it turns out, the bike is a clone of the Yamaha Virago. So I kept searching and found this one guy who has one in Texas and had done some nice mods and tweeks to it. Check it out here at his motorcycle blog, Motorcycle Leather Blog. There’s a video as well to see how it performs and sounds.

Another bike that’s come up in my search is a Yamaha YBR250. That I may be buying new and, particularly because it’s foreign, will probably be more expensive. From the reviews of it though, it sounds like a quality bike, and it’s got a good sporty look to it (even though I’m more of a cruiser type, I could learn to deal).

Riding Retro Style from the WSJ

I came across this article a while back in the Wall Street Journal.The author talks about the fact that auto and motorcycle manufacturers seem to be exploring throwback designs and models more in recent years (aiming for a look reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s). In particular, he talks about the H-D Iron 883, Triumph Scrambler, and the Moto Guzi V7 Classic. He test rode all three and gives a review of each (what a job!). It seems the author’s favorite, despite an issue with starting up, is the Moto Guzi V7 Classic.

I’m a sportster man myself. I think it’s interesting though that, it being the smallest Harley model available, the sportster is marketed as a beginner, short city ride kind of bike, with the right adjustments made for comfort and cargo space, it can be used as a touring bike with a lot of kick because of its lighter weight.

Read some tips on how to customize your sportster for longer trips.

I also really like the idea of the retro style. I’ve always been interested, if I were to somehow come upon some extra cash, in getting an old, used Indian bike. I find the stripped down look of older styles in general very appealing, plus having a retro company just adds to the fun!

China and Motorcycles!

So after a long hiatus, I thought it was time for a new post, particularly with the weather getting so nice. I am currently in Beijing, China studying for a semester and with my beloved Sportster sitting in a garage 10,000 miles away and the weather in Beijing in the high 20’s to low 30’s (celsius), I’m feeling that inevitable itch to get back onto the road more than ever!

For whatever reason, it seems as if Rubber on the Road had been blocked for me in China until very recently. What’s even stranger is that my political blogs seemed to get through the Chinese firewalls, but the motorcycle one apparently took a while to gain approval. Either way, I’m back and thought I’d give a little summary of what I’ve seen of the motorcycles in China.

Motorcycle in Mandarin is 摩托车, the pinyin is mo2tuo1che1 (pronounced muotuochi). The motorcycle culture here is certainly different from the western countries with developed highway infrastructures. However, the desire to be on motorized two wheeled vehicles is alive and well, if not simply for the practicality. In Beijing, scooters seem to be the most prominant and popular forms of transportation at this point. There are bikes that have pedal start engines (start pedaling until the engine kicks in), bikes with electric engines, old, motorized tricycles with trailers used for transporting things, and then a lot of motorcycles (cruisers, sports bikes, and dirt/road hybrids) with no bigger than 125cc engines. In fact, during my nearly two months since arriving in China I probably have seen no more than 5 bikes with 2 cylinders. There are a lot of Chinese manufacturers, but the two most popular, at least around Beijing, that I’ve seen are Chongqing and Jiangmen, the rest are Japanese, usually Suzuki or Honda. The few bigger bikes that I have seen usually have a sidecar attached and made by Chongqing. These have a really cool look to them though as they’re older and have a sort of WWII feel about them.

My plan right now is that I would really like to get a bike while I’m here, because, of course, once you’ve been on two wheels, you can only stay off for so long! Obviously, something around 500cc minimum would be preferable in order to take long trips on it (I’d actually like to drive in Beijing as little as possible, as it can be quite treacherous, as anyone who’s been to China could tell you). My school semester finishes up on the 12th of June and my flight out is on June 30th, so I’d really like to take the time to see how far across China I can get in that time. I’ll either buy and sell back at the end or rent, whichever turns out to be the cheapest and most convenient. A friend that I’ve met at the school here is also into bikes, which means I’ll have some company for any motorcycle adventures I may find myself in. Currently, I’m most interested in getting one of the WWII looking Chongqing bikes (minus the sidecar), but it seems it’s been pretty hard to find any place in Beijing to get any sort of motorcycle with a decent sized engine, which doesn’t surprise me given the number of motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc I’ve seen. So if any readers have any experience with motorcycles and motorcycling in Beijing and in China in general any advice or stories you may have are welcome! In the meantime, I’ll post updates and should have some pictures up soon.