Global Women Who Ride on American Motorcylist

I wrote a guest column about Global Women Who Ride for the November issue of American Motorcyclist magazine. Here it is for those of you who aren’t subscribers.

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Global Women Who Ride on American Motorcylist

Global Women Who Ride on American Motorcylist


Motorcycle Film Festival 2015: Movie Shorts

The world of big budget movies has traditionally had very little to offer motorcycle enthusiasts. Since the inception of cinema, there have been little more than a handful of movies that told our stories or represented motorcyclists accurately. This is why it is so exciting to see that access to affordable cameras, editing software and online distribution has finally driven motorcycling related film making out of the confines of Hollywood studios and into the hands of people who ride and build bikes and understand motorcycling best. We have seen an explosion of independent movies that capture all that motorcycling has to offer.

The Motorcycle Film Festival in New York was started three years ago by riders and film enthusiasts who wanted to showcase these movies and bring the community together for three days of high quality movies, interviews with film makers, and an opportunity to meet other riders in the city. This year’s selection of 35 films featured everything from slick productions with significant sponsor backing to amateur garage flicks. It was especially thrilling to see movies made by and featuring women and people of color, hitherto almost non-existent in popular motorcycling culture.

The 2015 Motorcycle Film Festival (Image depicts a row of motorcycles parked on the street in front of a building with a sign that says Motorcycle Film Festival)

The 2015 Motorcycle Film Festival


These are some of my favorite films from the festival.


The Coast to Coast Relay is a five minute gem of a film about two men riding across England on completely inappropriate vehicles – Montesa Cota 315 trials bikes with 3-liter gas tanks, a top speed of 30 mph, and of course, no seats. They ride from Newcastle upon Tyne to the Irish Sea through rough single track trails, logging roads and frozen snowscapes with minimal gear – handlebar mounted packs, backpacks, and a homemade selfie stick.  They take in their stride the various mishaps they encounter, ranging from overheated engines and flat tires to the inevitable running out of fuel.

The fun, upbeat score and the self-deprecating humor makes it impossible to watch this movie without a big smile on your face. By the time it’s done, you want to grab your bike and go have a micro-adventure of your own. Filmmaker Greg Villalobos truly knows how to say more with less as he hits the magic formula to portray the joy of riding and having fun with your buddies. The movie took home the prize for the Best Short Documentary, and deservedly so.

If you enjoyed watching that, check out this interview with the filmmaker Greg Villalobos, where he talks about the making of the movie:

Follow Greg Villalobos’ work at:


“Don’t assume that because people are older than you, they’re going to be slower than you.” This line from 50 Years of Kicks summarizes the message of this twenty minute documentary. The movie follows 60+ year old dirt riders Paul Rodden and Larry Murray from Oklahoma and Ontario respectively. Each of them have almost fifty years of riding experience and many enduro championship wins, which comes across when you see them tearing through ruts, sand, mud, water crossings and hill climbs on their KTMs. They fall, drop their bikes, pick them back up and keep going.

They reflect back to the old days when Husqvarna manuals dedicated half their space to physical conditioning in the rider, paving the way for good workout habits that stayed with them for a lifetime. Habits that served them well in one of the most physical demanding sports there is, especially as your body ages and you lose core strength and balance. During one sober recollection, they talk about a close friend who died of a heart attack while riding on the trails with them. And of that being the best possible way to go – with a smile on your face minutes ago while doing what you loved best.

Motorcycling media tends to focus on young riders as their core target demographic. This leaves us bereft of older role models. It is harder for us to envision riding when we hit a certain age because we see nobody else doing it and doing it well. That’s what makes this movie especially important. It drives home the fact that we don’t have to give up our passion as we age. Here’s hoping that 50 Years leads to more positive representations of old folks riding their bikes and showing the youngsters how it’s done.

Filmmakers: Anthony Kerr and Dallas Shannon
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Motorcycle Movies: Dirtbag II: The Return of the Rattler

The premise of The Return of the Rattler is simple. Four men decide to participate in the Dirtbag Challenge held annually in the San Francisco Bay Area. The challenge involves building a chopper in one month for less than $1000. It needs to be a rideable machine that can run at least 100 miles without breaking down. They have a Yamaha XS650 to work with – the Rattler from the title – but they are complete novices to building choppers, with no prior experience with welding or fabrication. What could go wrong?

The movie is a riot of laughter as you watch the bike evolve from design to final assembly. Our protagonists cuss and laugh their way through all the unanticipated problems they run into. You laugh with them as they mess up, but you also see them learning from their mistakes, thinking through problems and asking for help when they are stuck. Somewhere down the line, you realize that they have passed on to you the secret to creating anything new.

Film maker Paolo Asuncion likens the process of building the bike to his own journey of questioning the belief system he grew up with. “I was put together a certain way but the stock parts didn’t work for me anymore.” he says. As with the Rattler, he had to figure out which parts of that system to keep, which ones needed to be swapped out with something different, and which ones needed to be created from scratch. Moments of reflection like these are interspersed throughout the movie, breaking up the laugh-a-minute ride and keeping it grounded.

You also get to see builds from other participants in the challenge – a Honda CM400 with modified beer bottles for headlamps, a 750 Monster with a girder front end – and understand how much the end vision can vary between builders. The one thing they have in common though is that they want their bike to be like nothing else out on the road. They talk about how satisfying it felt to build something real and tangible, and to ride something that they built with their own hands. Their firm belief is that “Anybody can do this.” By the end of the movie you start to believe them.

This is a movie with soul. You laugh, you learn, you grow, and you come away thinking it’s time to go get a project bike and start wrenching. All you need is a vision, a garage, and a buddy or two by your side.



Read an interview with film maker Paolo Asuncion:

Motorcycle Movies: L’équipée en Himalaya

This is a story of four French women who fly to India and ride across the Himalayan mountains on rented Royal Enfields. Women riding across the Himalayas is not a new thing – the Indian all-women motorcycling group Bikerni last did it in 2010. Riders from various countries have done it over the years. For those of us who haven’t yet ventured out there, this film is quite thrilling to watch for some of its incredible footage of gorgeous scenery and the dizzying roads the group traverses.

The movie begins with the four women starting their journey wearing three-quarter helmets, flowing scarves and regular street clothes – no real motorcycling gear between them. You wonder if you’re in for a very short movie because they’re probably going to bite the dust any minute now. As they climb in altitude, you see them adding more layers to keep warm, to a point where one of them is wearing seven t-shirts underneath her flimsy jacket. You wonder to yourself – “Did they just wake up one morning and think – ‘I think I’ll go ride the Himalayas today'”. Yes, that is a Legally Blonde reference.

After the first 45 minutes, you get over their poor clothing choices when they start traversing some incredibly difficult roads. You see them riding down rocky roads with sheer cliffs that make you dizzy even from the safety of your theater seat. You see them dealing with altitude sickness, freezing weather, rockfalls, and some of the most challenging roads in the world. All you can think is – respect!

By the time the credits roll, you know what kind of person you are – the kind who can’t wait to book a plane ticket to India and rent a Royal Enfield, or the kind who is happy to live vicariously through the people who thrive on this kind of adventure. Our ladies have earned some solid street cred and you can’t wait to see what their next adventure is going to be.




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Motorcycle Movies: Road Less Travelled

Dirt bikers and brothers James and Steven Beatty ride off-road across the Trans-America Trail – a different type of classic American road trip. They ride 5,000 miles from Tennessee to Oregon before reaching their final destination at the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they ride across forest service roads, gnarly single track trails, slippery water crossings, and get caught in quicksand. They deal with crashes, injuries, getting lost, and breakdowns. This is a must-watch for those who hope to do the Trans America trail someday.

In one breathtaking shot, one of the riders narrowly missing a wild horse that runs across the trail. Another scene shows James working on his bike and getting indirectly zapped by lightning.

The movie does have its weaker points. The first hour is an entertaining narrative that focuses on the riding and the scenery and brings the viewer with them. Towards the end though, it breaks down into reality TV style melodrama, taking the focus away from the riding. The protagonist’s struggle to deal with his father’s death and seeking to expunge those demons during the ride frequently struck a false note, something that could easily have been remedied with a better voice actor. In spite of all this, the movie is worth a watch for the first hour alone.

Filmmaker: James Beatty

Project Livewire test ride

On June 19th, 2014, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company made a big announcement – the launch of a prototype electric bike dubbed Project Livewire. This was certainly a big surprise for HD purists as well as the rest of us. The first images of the concept bike looked promising. With its sleek styling, flowing lines, black with red and chrome accent paint scheme, it looked nothing like the traditional American-made cruisers that the factory has been putting out for the past 100 years.




HD purists were up in arms against what they perceived to be the company selling out to the Prius-driving, latte-sipping, tree-hugging hippies. The rest of the riding crowd – the sport bikers, the younger riders, the technology lovers and the electric bike aficionados – were curious but skeptical. Electric bikes have thus far been the province of small startups like Zero and Brammo who have consistently been putting out production quality street and dirt bikes since 2006, and one-off pioneers like Eva Håkansson, whose ElectroCat was to the first electric motorcycle to complete the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2010.

I’ve kept an eye on the evolution of electric bikes ever since the Zero first launched. The ride reports were promising but the limited range (approximately 40-50 miles between charges) and the lack of charging station infrastructure meant that it would be a while before I put down serious money for one. The old school motorcyclist in me was a little reluctant to give in to this change. Thus, I imagine, it has always been, from the switching over of landlines to mobile phones, and paper maps to GPS units, all changes that have happened in my life time. There is no stopping disruptive technology though, and the world moves forward whether or not you choose to go along with the change.

How did I get this incredible opportunity to ride a Project Livewire concept bike? Long story short – Jeff Henshaw of Microsoft Corp wrote a brilliant open letter to Harley Davidson congratulating them on making such a bold move urging them to bring these bikes to production immediately after fixing the range and battery charge time issues and pricing them to right to make them accessible to a different crowd. Harley Davidson HQ took note and contacted him, offering to set up a special test ride day for Microsoft motorcycle riders, a community that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of for almost ten years. This would be part of their Project Livewire Experience Tour. When I saw that the Livewire had a low seat height of 31″, I signed up immediately and made the cut for the small group of riders who would get to ride the bike the tour hit Seattle. Major thanks to Jeff for making this happen!



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Product Review in American Motorcyclist

I was very bad about updating this blog last year, so I’m going to do a few posts to get caught up on a few notable things that happened last year. One of them was doing a product review of VNM Sport Gear for American Motorcyclist magazine.


More info about the Global Women Who Ride Project

My initial proposal for the Global Women Who Ride project has received some pretty enthusiastic responses and I’ve gotten email from lots of really amazing women who want to be a part of this project. This makes me so happy that I have no words. Looking at some of these womens’ achievements and credentials is humbling and inspiring! The first round of interview questions has gone out to riders across the world. I’m so looking forward to hearing back from them.

For those of you who might be visiting this blog because you were linked to the project, I thought I’d write a little bit more about this idea and try and explain what I am trying to accomplish and why. When I look at contemporary motorcycling literature and media, I find very few women being represented or in positions of influence like writers, editors, test riders, product testers etc. This is of course in large part because we are such a minority. And yet, I long to see other people like me and to hear their stories. I know that there are amazing motorcycling women out there with whom I’d love to sit down and talk over a cup of tea (or beer!) and listen to them talk. And I know that most of us want to hear each other’s stories and learn a little more about the other’s life. So my aims here are manifold. I want us all to have a platform to tell the world about our experiences, I want to make women motorcyclists more visible to the motorcycling industry, to advertisers, to non-motorcyclists, and to the world, and I want to create a global community where we all learn from each other and get a deeper understanding of each other’s lives seen through the lens of this shared passion of ours. (more…)


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The Global “Women Who Ride” Project


Hello, would you like to be a part of the “Global Women Who Ride” project? :) My aim with this ambitious new project is to highlight women motorcyclists across the globe and provide an insight into what a motorcycle rider in another country looks like, what she loves about riding in her particular part of the planet, and what commonalities and differences there are in her riding experiences vs. those of other riders.

I would love to cover a woman rider from every country across the planet.These riders will be featured in my blog on a regular basis and who knows, hopefully also be a part of a full-color coffee table book (either self-published or the real deal if I can find a publisher). [Note: I also have a sub-project to cover a woman from every state in the United States! And perhaps more such sub-projects set in other large countries like Canada, Australia and Russia if I get enough participants from there.]


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Cambodia Clip

Chris made a short video of Brett and I riding through Cambodia. It’s kind of fun. :P

Day 7: Kep to Phnom Penh

It was finally Day 7 – the end of our tour. Today we would ride back to Phnom Penh. I think that something happens within my mind when you are approaching the end of a ride. I no longer have the urge to explore, stop, dawdle, dream etc. Instead, everything within me is focused on getting home and finishing. That’s the spirit in which I started the day. I didn’t particular care to go off-road, see any sights, try anything new and difficult. I just wanted to take a straight line path back to Phnom Penh. I think the rest of the group had the same sentiment. We were only about 150km away though and we didn’t mind getting to the city later in the day, so a few backroads weren’t entirely out of the question. I also wanted to get a few pictures of me riding on unpaved roads as all of the GoPro/Contour photos so far had been on paved roads.

We left the island at around 7:30AM on another boat. It was a quiet, peaceful ride. When we got to shore, we picked up our gear, filled up petrol, and took off.


Day 6: Kirirom to Kampot and Koh Thonsáy


Day 6! I was rapidly approaching the end of my ride. By now I had settled into a nice groove and was excited for more. What a change from Day 1!

We woke up at 7AM and set off without any breakfast, much to my surprise. I guess the homestay included only one meal. I wasn’t very hungry so I didn’t mind. It was also really pleasant to ride early when it was cool. I guess some things are constant no matter where you are in the world – Sunday morning motorcycle rides to breakfast are always a wonderful thing! We rode through small villages where dogs came running out into the street at the sound our engines. No survival instincts, these dogs! I narrowly avoided a few of them.

We stopped for breakfast at a local place where we had our first taste of what the locals eat for breakfast. Our options were fried rice or noodles. No omelettes or egg related dishes here! I opted for the fried rice with a hot coffee with sweet milk. Cambodia coffee is very like its Vietnamese counterpart, which I have had in Seattle. It is a thick strong sludgy drink made with chicory coffee and sweetened with condensed milk from a can. I usually avoid drinking coffee in the mornings during long rides to avoid getting dehydrated, but I couldn’t resist. It was odd to eat rice for breakfast, but as always, I was grateful to get good, delicious food for under a dollar. The place was buzzing with flies, something that I could never get used, although my Aussie tourmates told me that you soon got used to it when you lived in hot humid places. Fair enough!

After this, we had a good few hours of riding where it got quite a bit difficult for me. The roads were dusty like yesterday and had a lot of bumps and potholes. At times, we went off into a little bit of single track, which although wide, was a little sandy and rutted and twisty. I went a lot slower here. It was also very hot as the day went by. My dual sporting outfit was fine for most of the roads we had done so far, but on the slow unpaved roads it was less than ideal. For the first time, I wished I had brought a dirtbiking outfit.

We went over quite a few rickety wooden bridges for the first time. We stopped at the end of one and the others went up and down it to take pictures. I was too hot and tired though, and I opted out. Kind of wish I had though, as it would have made for great pictures.


Day 5: Phnom Penh to Kirirom

Our departure from Phnom Penh was delayed by a parade being held in honor of the funeral of Cambodia’s king Sihanouk. We waited around the hotel for almost an hour before the cordoned off streets were opened to traffic again.

It also meant that traffic going out of the city was horrendous. It reminded me a lot of the traffic in Bombay. Lane markings are completely ignored and it is mostly a free for all. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be though. Even though the road was full of vehicles, as long as you held your line and didn’t make any sudden movements, there wasn’t any danger of being rear-ended. If a faster moving vehicle wanted to pass you, they’d always pass from the left, and honk to give you fair warning to move over. The order was something like bicycles and scooters to the extreme right, us on our bigger bikes to their left, and cars and vans to our left. We would occasionally encounter a few vehicles coming straight at us in the wrong direction, but they were usually going very slow and avoiding then was not much of a problem. Still, this kind of riding was slow and boring.

After about two hours of it, we finally got out onto the outskirts of the city with more breathing space. I kept riding on the unpaved shoulder, because unbelievably so, I was really starting to crave riding offroad. Maybe we’ll make a dirtbiker out of me yet!

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Day 4: To Phnom Penh!

We had a very short day ahead of us a mere 60 km ride to the capital city of Phnom Penh. The plan was to arrive there early enough in the day that we wouldn’t get stuck in rush hour traffic on a Friday evening. I was quite pleased about having a shorter day as a little respite from the longer riding days we had had so far. It’s true that we covered very short distances on even the longer days but riding on unpaved roads on small bikes meant that we rode a lot slower than I normally would in the United States. The heat also made it a lot more tiring.

We made a short stop at a market which specialized in insects. As in, insects that you could consume. They had fried spiders (tarantulas, I believe), crickets, roaches and some small birds. We tried spider from a young girl who had two baskets full of them, one of which was filled with live spiders, while the other was full of cooked ones. I’m not an arachnophobe but the sight of the gigantic spiders crawling around the basket made me shudder. A couple of my group let the spiders run over their hands and one of them stuck it right on his face. He said that they had little suction cups on the ends of their feet (just like Spiderman!). I refused to handle them even though they had had their teeth removed and could not bite. I did try eating a couple of legs of the fried spiders though. They tasted more of the spices that they had been cooked in than anything else. The feel of eating the hairy legs still made me squirm a bit though, and for the rest of the day I couldn’t help but think that I had spider stuck in my teeth.

I refused to eat the crickets too as they didn’t look as appetizing as the spiders. As for the roaches, forget about it. These were water cockroaches, something that I didn’t know existed.

The kids who were selling the insects were amused by our reactions to the insects. They had grown up around them and were used to handling them, of course. It did strike me that my reaction was absurd but not something I could not control. Intellectually I can understand that poor people eat what they can get their hands on. The more privileged people could get access to eating cows, pigs or chickens, while poorer people had to make do with rodents or insects. If we were suddenly in the midst of a famine, I’m pretty sure most of us would throw our apprehensions out the window and eat what was available.

Live spiders!

Live spiders!


Day 3: Kompong Thom to Kompong Cham

We left Kampomg Thom after breakfast, and looked forward to a slightly shorter day than the previous one, about 150km. It was also by far the most perfect one riding-wise. We started with two hours of riding on paved tarmac, which was a bit dull. We took a short break to stop to see a some sculptors carving out gigantic statues of the Buddha. I was also surprised to see a few little statues of the Hindu god Ganesha.

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Day 2: Koh Ker to Kompong Thom

The next morning, we set off for Kampong Thom. It would be a 200km ride with one detour to a temple. We did mostly asphalt roads for the first half of the day before switching to dirt. The dirt riding was a little challenging to me as it was riddled with potholes and very sandy. I spent a good bit of time going thunk into each pothole and bottoming out, which got very tiring very quickly. I was relieved when we stopped for a break near a river, the first real water body we had seen in the past two days. After the break, things seemed to come together pretty well. I learned how to weave around the pot holes and power through some of the more slippery bits. I was more able to enjoy the scenery as we passed through more villages with lines of houses and banana trees in their backyards. Lots of kids stood by the road and running with us and waving. It struck me that the red mud roads that were so challenging and new to me were just “roads” to them.

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Day 1 – Siem Reap to Koh Ker


We set off at 8:30 from the hotel. After a brief stop for gas and adjusting of various equipment, we took off down the streets of Siem Reap. After a few kilometres of riding, we turned onto a red dirt road. I struggled on this for the first few minutes, like I always do on dirt, as I try to get used to the feeling of the bike moving around under me, and rolls over gravel and small rocks, and negotiates with bumps in the road. Pretty soon I got used to it and started speeding up. The bike handled really well, much like the TTR125 which I had ridden in the past, and better than the XT225, the dual sport which I rode. There was something to be said for riding a pure dirtbike.

This was the dry season and we kicked up a lot of dust. We shared the road with other scooter and bicycles and the occasional car, farm truck, cart and pedestrians, depending on how populated the area we were passing through was. People on the scooters and bicycles were wearing their street clothes and wide brimmed hat, occasionally wrapping their faces with scarves to guard against the dust. I felt a little overdressed in my full riding suit and helmet.


We passed through small villages where the houses were built on high foundations, presumably in case of flooding during the monsoons. Little kids on the side of the road waved excitedly, motorcycles being a rarity here (I had yet to see a single one on the road). It made me sad to realize that many of these kids were of school going age, but they were either working or playing in the streets. We did see a few children in school uniforms, but they were hugely outnumbered by the ones who didn’t appear to have had the opportunity to get an education. Seeing this and seeing the extremely humble conditions in which so many of the people here lived made me thankful for everything I had. It reiterated my belief that travel is such an important learning experience that should be a part of everyone’s lives. The more I see how other people live, the less judgmental I find myself, and the more thankful I am for the things I have due to nothing more than circumstance.

We made a brief stop at a temple and hung around a bit chatting with a food vendor outside, who had all sorts of fresh vegetables and disembodied animal parts for sale. It made me think of how real the connection between the animal and food is here, unlike in most developed countries, where unless you live on a farm, you can go a lifetime without seeing an animal cut up for food.




From here, we rode through more flat dirt roads for about 30 more km to get to the next temple. We parked next to a food vendor in a village and first got some coconut milk. I don’t think I’ve drunk it straight out of a coconut since I was a child! After this delicious break, we set off towards the temple. It was a 500 meter walk, so I took off all my gear. I was a bit relieved to not be wearing dirt bike gear that I couldn’t take off. My boots were the only things not conducive to walking around and exploring, but I’d deal.

It was a short but very hot walk, as it was almost noon and the sun was high overhead. The temple was a crumbling ruin. As we were walking past the first one, a guide magically appeared and told us that we could climb inside. He indicated a narrow flat stone stretched across what looked like a moat connected to the building. Sure, why not? We walked over it, clung to the building wall and walked along the side to the entrance of the building. There were more collapsed stones inside the building. We walked in and clambered onto them and walked from room to room. The guide pointed out various things like intricate carvings on some stone, and thick vines that had overgrown and taken over the stone. N0thing lasts forever! In my head, as I walked down a darkened passage, it felt a little awe inspiring that I was walking in the footsteps of people who had walked here more than a thousand years before. We saw buildings that had been libraries, bridges over what had been pools, coffins, and more intricate carvings of Vishnu and his wife.
We finally arrived at the place where our guide informed us that the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie was shot. It has been almost 10 years since I saw the movie, but the setting looked familiar.



When we were done, we tipped the guide and left. We got some delicious inexpensive lunch – I got some fried fish with ginger and rice for a princely $5 (tourist prices, but who cares at that price?).

The rest of the riding was on more flat roads to a guest house where we stayed for the night. I got to watch the sun go down in Cambodia amidst an immense vista of a completely different landscape that I’ve been used to.


First day in Cambodia

My flight from Zhongguo, China took about three hours to get to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This would be the starting point of my tour of the kingdom of Cambodia. I had spent a week in cold, snowy China and was now on my way to warm, tropical Cambodia. As the plan descended and got closer to the airport, I gasped. The airport looked like no airport I have seen before. I commented to my seatmate that I felt like I was arriving in Vegas. This was a bit of a disservice to Seam Reap, although it did seem near magical to arrive at a place full of palm trees, where the airport building looked like a little villa. I got out of the airplane and was greeted by warm air, statues and chirping birds. The wait for my checked in bag was short, and I went through immigration fairly quickly.

Outside the airport, I was met by a guy holding a sign with my name on it. He led me to a scooter driven tuktuk, a vehicle where a scooter pulls a carriage where the passenger sits. I need hardly say that I was delighted, although I felt a bit sorry for the guy who had to lug my two heavy suitcases onto the tuktuk and then get the scooter off of its center stand. As we took off from the airport, I saw a girl riding a scooter while talking on a cellphone held in her left hand. Welcome to Cambodia! Women on scooters and bicycles everywhere was something I’d see quite frequently over the next few days.


Everything I saw seemed new and exciting. Different clothes, different faces, billboards and road signs in Khmer, palm trees and other tropical flora, warm, humid air. We stopped briefly for gas where the attendant helped us fill up. When we got ready to leave, he looked me in the eyes and said – “Have safe travels. I hope you have a good time in my country.” I burst into a grin. In all my travels, this was the first time that I had been welcomed into any country in such a warm and friendly way.

The tuktuk driver moved on, and as we rode down darkening streets, two wheeled scooter and mopeds kept whizzing past us on both directions. We eventually came upon an intersection where the left arrow pointed to the famous Angkor Wat, while the continue arrow pointed to Seam Reap. Sadly, we continued. Through a turn of circumstances, my flight to Cambodia had been delayed by a day, and I would be unable to see the famous temples like I had planned.

The tuktuk turned right onto a rougher road riddled with pothole and gravel. Before long we turned into the courtyard of the Central Boutique Hotel where I had been booked for the night. The hotel grounds resembled a botanical garden, filled with all kinds of tropical plants and flower. The two swimming pools looked very tempting, but I was too exhausted and I needed to get together with the group to discuss logistics for the next day. I proceeded to check in, and ran into Nicole, the gal from Australia with whom I had been exchanging emails for the past couple of months, trying to plan out this trip. She was accompanied by the two other guys who would be doing the tour with us, Chris and Brett, both Australians, our tour guide Chia, and Pich, the guy who would ride sweep, who didn’t look much older than fifteen. We got together for dinner and chatted a bit. The logistics turned out to be – “Show up here at 7:30AM tomorrow.” *groan* How I wish I’d had at least one rest day.

But first – beer!


Cambodia by motorcycle…


How did I end up riding a dirtbike in Cambodia? Here’s the story so far.

Two months ago, sometime in mid-December, I had found out that I’d be going to Beijing for a week on business. I started scouting around for something fun to do at the end of the trip, since I had some time off saved up, and I would be on the other side of the world anyway. January would be cold enough that any extended travel in China or Japan would not be much fun, and motorcycling certainly wouldn’t be. I looked southward at the warmer countries, like Vietnam and Cambodia. Thanks to a Top Gear special I had watched, Vietnam sounded like it would be an incredible place to ride in. I included Cambodia in my search, even though I knew very little about it. I searched the internet for motorcycle touring companies in the area, and halfheartedly sent off a query to a company that looked like it had the best looking website. It was called Dancing Roads. I didn’t hear anything back for a few days, this being the busy Christmas season. Then one morning, I woke up to a reply from Sonia from Dancing Roads in Cambodia, who said that they didn’t have any rides scheduled for January, but they could put something together for me if I was interested. I think I can honestly say that this was the happiest day I had last year. I replied excitedly to let her know that I was very much interested in a beginner level dirtbkiking tour which would let me experience the country in a unique way. I spent the rest of the day dreaming, and hoping that this would work out.

I had a few qualms about doing any sort of organized tour, something that I have actively avoided, as it conjured up images of overfull tour buses groaning with the weight of bored tourists ferried between scheduled stops and unloaded at regular intervals to take in a bit of culture while insulated from the local people. It also went against the grain of self-sufficiency and independence that had led me to do my previous motorcycle rides on my own. My decision to go with a touring company in this instance was influenced by many different factors, partly on account of my experiences during my solo rides.

I didn’t have much time to plan out the details of such a trip, which would include finding a bike to rent, getting spare parts for it, research routes etc. There was a certain kind of freedom in being able to have someone else take care of all the details and just ride your bike and enjoy the ride. In the past, finding accommodation at the end of every day had always been a bit of a source of stress, especially in countries where they didn’t speak English. During many of my rides, I had been consumed with the minutiae of travel, like food and accommodation and hadn’t had the time to check in any of the sights. Another important factor was that since I didn’t have much experience with dirt riding, it made more sense to have the company and backup crew.

A month later, everything had been finalized. I would fly from Seattle to Beijing for a week, the fly to Siem Reap for a seven day tour. The tour would go from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh during the first four days, and a small round trip south to the beach area during the last three. There would be a good mix of sightseeing and riding. There would be four of us on the tour, two women and two men. Since we were all beginners to dirt biking, the tour would cater towards our skill level. We had the option to start out easy and build our skills us as each day progressed. We would ride Yamaha TTR230s. All we had to do was wait until the day arrived…

Wrenching and fixer-upping

Since I shouldn’t be all doom and gloom and remember all the work I’ve put into getting my bikes running, here’s a somewhat positive post about all the fixing and maintenance I managed to do over the past month or two (with major thanks to Mark Price without whom I might have dragged this out by another month or so). :P

My initial sentiments about not bringing the bikes to the shop to get all the work done and being stubborn enough to want to do it all myself – the good part is that I learned a *lot* about how my bikes work, the kind of knowledge that you cannot get from books alone. The bad is of course that I lost out on so much riding time. Ideally I’d have had one bike running and been working on the other, but things didn’t turn out that way. I think I’ll be relieved when I can finally stop futzing with them and just ride.

I prioritized doing just enough to get it roadworthy. Keep in mind that this bike hasn’t run since that little incident at the Canadian border last July.

– Replaced hosed regulator rectifier with one from a Honda CBR – saw the idea here, bought replacement regrec cheap on eBay, swapped out connectors, hooked it up and it just worked. I had a daft idea of mounting it somewhere in the front of the bike so that it wasn’t restricted under the tail section with limited airflow, so we hooked up four feet long cables for it, only to find that there weren’t many convenient locations up front, and mounting it near the engine to prevent it from running hot was ummm… not very smart. So I now have four feet of cable wound up in my tail section. LOL… it works though, which is the important thing.
– Replaced battery
– Oil change, replaced oil filter
– Cleaned K&N air filter
– Replaced handlebar
– Replaced bar end mirrors
– Replaced cracked headlamp glass
– Mounted Givi windshield correctly (one side was missing a rubber grommet so that there was a gap between the windshield and the headlamp, which I suspect had a lot to do with the rattling sound I kept hearing)

The only thing we didn’t manage to do was to put the handguards back, leading the to the inevitable quips of “How many engineers does it take to figure out how to mount a pair of handguards to a sportbike?”

Things remaining to do:
– Fix ignition key problem – it takes on average three tries and bucketloads of patience to get the key to turn in the ignition. I will either need to re-key everything or bypass the starter circuit with a switch or something.
– Lube cables
– Replace coolant and oil
– Replace front end with Gixxer front end if I can find it cheap
– Replace exhaust

Things I’d love to do:
– Fix dented tank
– Get Sharkskinz fairings, paint and mount them. I am tempted by the thought of getting my bike to look totally new on the outside instead of actually coughing up the $$$$s to buy a new one.
– Replace seat covers or seats if I can find some cheap and used from a crashed SV

– Took out carb and inspected it to figure out starting issue
– Straightened out bent brackets on both turn signal indicators
– Charged battery (I hate taking out the XT’s battery and fiddling with those tiny screws)
– Oil change
– Cleaned oil filter

Things remaining to do:
– Fix fuel issue so the damn thing actually runs
– Replace starter cable (the hack from last fall works fine, but I’d rather just have a new cable)
– Put Acerbis handguards back on after I find the elusive long bolt that I lost from off of one of them
– Install new Clark tank
– Sell tail rack and order tail plate and SU rack from here, giving me the option to add either hard or soft luggage

Things I’d love to do:
– Add kickstart
– Add centerstand