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IndoChina Adventure 2008 - Week 03 Chapter : 08 Oct ~ 14 Oct


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Flag of Vietnam


Flag of Laos





We are making our farewell to Vietnam this week, and entering Laos in the North.  As you have read in the previous installments, the tour has been great.  Even the weather has been fantastic - all thanks to good planning!


Well, that is a joke; the weather in this part of the world can be quite unpredictable. Just a couple of weeks prior to our ride along the coast of Vietnam, there was a tremendous typhoon making landfall and continuing inland all the way to Laos as a tropical storm.  As you will see from this week’s contribution we had to struggle with the aftermath of the record-breaking rainfall. Roads had been taken out and emergency repairs made our progress difficult.


In Laos we learned that the storm was the worst in 23 years and many people were killed.


After this experience, I have been told by the group to predict road conditions as what I experienced last year, and not necessarily assume that it is the same this year.


The group is fantastic and I really must say that it is a pleasure to travel with all of them.


Enjoy the mud and hardship of this week and know that we loved every bit of it.

Helge Pedersen, Founder


Day 16 - Sapa, Vietnam - Linda Sikorowski


In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and City of the Soaring Dragon, we met up with Karen (Helge’s wife) and Marlene (Joe’s wife). By now, those of us who arrived a week earlier are used to the congestion, ocean of motorbikes, the active street scene, etc., but it’s fun to see Karen and Marlene’s first impressions of it all. But before they have a chance to get over their jet lag and learn how to cross the street, we’re off on a 2-day side-trip to Halong Bay and an overnight on a “junk” (i.e., a boat with cabins).


Halong Bay is one of those “must-see” places in Vietnam. Check out the great pictures of this natural wonder in Week #2 of the Live!Journal. There are thousands of vegetative-covered limestone islands with grottoes and caves created by wind and waves. We hiked into the “amazing cave” and had fun kayaking away from the anchored boat. A guidebook says that “the real beauty of the bay is best experienced from the deck of a junk over a gin and tonic, as the sun sinks into the horizon.”


Well, it was equally beautiful with vodka and tonic.


Back to Hanoi for an informative city tour and a water puppet show – another “not-to-be-missed” experience while in Vietnam. Originating more than 1,000 years ago, rice farmers created the wooden puppets using the water-flooded rice paddies as their stage. One didn’t need to know Vietnamese to understand the entertaining stories. The show was extremely artistic and creative…and amazing when you think about just how old this art form is.




Enjoy Each Sunset You Have,


Love, Linda





Day 16 - Sapa, Vietnam - David Ow


Hi Family & Friends,



It was late afternoon and I was riding on highway 70 from Hanoi to Sapa.


The road turned to hell.   Asphalt disappeared. replaced by many, many miles of dirt, slimy mud, giant mud holes, gravel, rocks, and creek crossings.


Road construction was taking place and a huge rain storm created the mess.   Trucks stuck in mud bogs backed up traffic in both directions.   I followed a local motorcyclist thru the narrowest of openings.   It was differently technical riding and one mistake could end my day.


Daylight was disappearing so I quickened my pace and rode close to my limit, trying to make Sapa before dark.   I rode the last one and half hours up a steep curvy mountain road.    I got lost a couple of times, but what a challenging and wonderful day!   I felt as if I was in Motorcycle Heaven.


This happened again from Vietnam to Laos, with even worse road conditions.  I was riding on a high in the Land of Buddha.



Motorcycling On,






Day 16 - Sapa, Vietnam - Mike Mathews


Hanoi to Sapa - A Day of Transition



The riding so far has been exciting with all the traffic, riding on generally fair-to-good to very good road conditions in Vietnam. For this day our guide book states “the roads are sealed, but because of road construction there are some difficult sections”. I have highlighted this statement in my mind. We have a very early departure, 6:30am from Hanoi, anticipating a long day. As we leave the electrical problems (did they add that “ ! ” sign after the wires came down?), black diesel bus exhaust, and motorbike traffic of Hanoi, we look forward to the cool mountain air we will enjoy in Sapa and say, “OK , a few road difficulties will be fun…?!?”


Now the dust begins from the dry dirt road sections. It can be difficult to manage around the trucks with all the dust flying and also from my fellow riders, but just wait, it will change very dramatically. Once we reach the upper mountains in elevation the road begins to change quickly from dry dirt sections to slick muddy sections because of run-off from the mountains. The drainage systems along the road have all but been wiped out (if they ever existed) due to the huge storms that came through the area only weeks ago.


You can see evidence that a lot of road work has been done to repair as best as possible, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We encounter places that seem to be impossible to pass, but work our way through the mud, sliding and maintaining control of speed and acceleration. Our progress is delayed and sometimes halted by huge trucks stuck in the mud or in some cases, that have slid off the road into the ditch. The area becomes a huge traffic jam, but the locals are determined to help all the truckers work their way out of the slick mud. They do a great job in managing the traffic and working chains to free the trucks from the slick mud.


Traveling with a large motorcycle in this type of terrain can be challenging, but then add a passenger and you are really challenged! I was doing what I thought was very well. Once you enter the slick mud tracks from the trucks, you stay in line if at all possible. Well, I was in the left track and an approaching motorbike was also in the same track. I decided I would accommodate the oncoming motorbike and change tracks….big mistake! As I passed over the higher middle as smoothly as possible moving to the right side track, the thick mud allowed no traction with my tires as the front tire slid away from me. “We are going down!” I said, and then Tiger Lily, along with me, took a dump in the mud.


It was a slow fall, but still very exciting. Linda rolled well in the mud as she was thrown free from the bike. All was well, no injuries and the bike was just fine, only really dirty! “WOW”….were the only words for the moment from Tiger Lily….more discussion would come later. This was the first time Linda and I had fallen riding on the Tiger. The very kind motorbike rider, for whom I changed lanes, stopped and helped us pick up the huge Tiger.

The time was now late afternoon and the daylight would be gone in 4 hours. We were once again halted by stuck trucks, but not to be Deterred GlobeRiders, we convinced Vince to work his huge bike around a stuck truck. There was a big drop-off to the right, so we helped him by holding the big bike upright. Vince, like any rider, was quite concerned when he could not put his right foot on the ground, but all worked out well. Fortunately for the rest of us, the truck was quickly pulled out of the mud and we were able to pass with less effort.


The last 3 hours of riding for the day would be on really smooth sealed roads, but in the dark. The delays earlier in the day put us really late traveling at night with fog from the high mountains, bicycles, motorbikes without headlights, animals and just plain people walking or sitting along the road with no lights. The challenges of the day continued right up until the 8pm arrival at the hotel…. a long exciting day of adventure with more than 13 hours on the move. The dinner was held for all to arrive as we all celebrated the journey and experience of the day. It was a great day!



Mike Mathews




Day 18 - Sapa, Vietnam - Linda Sikorowski


Tiger Lily Takes an Unexpected Mudbath



What do you get when you mix roads under construction with a typhoon from 3 months ago and recent rains? Mud – we’re talkin’ getting-tractor-trailers-stuck kind of mud.


On October 9, we traveled from Hanoi to Sapa. In this week’s journal (Week #3), you’ll no doubt see pictures and hear about this day from the drivers themselves. From a passenger’s perspective, I just held on…until…we went down. Mike had to change lanes due to oncoming traffic, had a difficult time in the mud, slowed down, and at almost the point where he was stopped and in control, the bike tipped to the right. It was the Triumph Tiger’s first fall and mine. Jack “laid his down” as well, but fortunately no one in this whole mud fiasco was hurt.


It wasn’t just the muddy roads; it was also the parking lot of tractor trailers stuck in the mud and being hauled out of the mud with chains. The mess blocked much of the road and created narrow passages for us to get through.


Another testament to the friendliness of the Vietnamese people was their willingness to help unsnarl the traffic jam, and help us and each other get out of the mud, as we also helped people get their motorbikes out of harms way.


If that wasn’t enough, we ended the 13-hour day with the last hour going up 4,500 ft. in the dark to Sapa on twisty roads encountering livestock, rock slides, and motorbikes with lights off.


It took another 2 hours until the chase vehicle arrived at the hotel with Karen, Marlene, Than, our IndoChina guide, and our amazing vehicle driver, Khanh. The first group that arrived thought for sure that the van would be taking an alternate route, but they took the same road we did!

Here’s a toast to all the motorcycle riders and Khanh for a safe arrival.



A Muddy Tiger Lily (aka “Pig Pen”)




Day 19 - Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam - Mike Mathews


After several days in Sapa, visiting the Hill Tribe villages, washing clothes and cleaning the bikes, we are ready to continue through the mountains of Vietnam.

A new ignition antenna arrived for Vince’s 2008 BMW Adventure. This is the second one we have installed on this trip. Fortunately, failure of the part is random (due to a bad batch) and all have failed at the hotels vs. on the road. We think we have the problem licked now with the newest antenna.


The day was an excellent one for a ride. The roads are very good, curvy with beautiful valleys and lots of scenery. The weather was warm with sunshine. Joe offered to give me a break and rode Linda on the back of his BMW Adventure for the better part of the day … thanks Joe, but no transition from Tiger Lily to Beemer Babe coming!


Stopping at the local villages just for a drink and cookies is always great fun. You don’t have to speak the language to communicate with smiles and hand signs. Stopping to watch a couple of boys ride a water buffalo gave me a chance to give away colorful Smiley balls and to share the unique experience of mounting a large motorcycle. The smiles on their faces tell the story best.


It was another great day in Vietnam.



Mike Mathews




Day 19 - Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam - Linda Sikorowski


Hill Tribes in Vietnam



By far, the most moving experience I’ve had has been to stand in a mountainous rice paddy watching women, men and children work the field. There’s a colorful blanket on the ground near them. A closer look reveals a baby tucked away in the cloth. I think to myself that the only difference between them and me is we were born in different countries. The mountain Hill Tribe people work so hard to live with so little.


We visited an area in northern Vietnam, near the Chinese border, where diverse minority tribal people live throughout the hills. The only way I was able to tell a difference between the separate hill tribes is how women and girls dressed. Their clothes were extremely colorful and fascinating to look at.


We had the “privilege” of walking through two Hill Tribe villages while in Vietnam. Our young guide, Chau, grew up in one of the Hmong villages and proudly takes tourists on tours to help them (the tourists) experience and hopefully appreciate another world outside of their own. At the same time, the effort may help to sustain the Hill Tribes. She shows us how they make the cloth and harvest the Indigo plants for the dye. They market and sell their beautiful handmade fabrics and embroidery to tourists in the village and also at the local market. Someone taught them a very useful phrase: “buy from me”.


There are 54 different hill tribes in Vietnam today (85% of them are Vietnamese). Tomorrow will no doubt be very different for them. International tourism has increased in this area during the last ten years, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, one can love an area to death and change people’s lifestyles for the better or sometimes the worse. It’s even more complicated than that considering the politics and economics of nearby countries.



Wishing peace and better living conditions to hill tribe people everywhere,






Day 20 - Muong Xai, Laos - Mike Mathews


Dien Bien Phu to Muong Xai, Laos



Today we travel a short distance, leaving Vietnam behind, and entering Laos to ride about 45 miles on an official dirt road before we will have good road and travel the remaining 75 miles to our hotel. We will cross several bamboo bridges, take a ferry across the Nam Ou River, have a fantastic lunch, and … keep reading.


Thanks to all the hard work by our guide, Than, the border crossing from Vietnam to Laos goes off without any problems. We were less than 1 ½ hours before we were on the dirt road in Laos. Several miles down the road we encounter the first bamboo bridge. Larger vehicles venture into the river, finding their way across, but the current and the depth are too much for the heavy bikes we are driving. Small motorbikes go over the bridges all the time, but the 500 pound beasts we ride will challenge the suspension of the bridge. First, we must pay the toll to the bridge keeper. Even the locals pay a toll but I am sure it must be less if you are a regular traveler. I am glad the rate was not based on the weight of the vehicle. After inspecting the bridge, each of us venture onto the bridge as the crackling of the bamboo makes you wonder if the bridge will hold. The first bridge holds and we continue.


The second bridge is a larger suspension bridge but is very narrow for our panniers; no one elects to take them off to cross. All fair well except David and myself. David catches a loose pipe and bends his pannier out of shape. The Tiger has the widest measurement for the panniers and much to my surprise only fits in spots crossing the bridge. Brute force of the throttle completes the crossing but the panniers show wear from the metal pipes and the bridge structure.


The last bamboo bridge is fairly simple, but on this one I take a measurement and decide to remove one of the panniers to make the crossing easier. No one has any problems, but once again you wonder if the bamboo will hold the weight. The bridge keeper at this bridge was concerned also as she watched us cross.

The dirt road we’re riding has been challenging due to the extreme flood that took place only 3 weeks earlier. You can see the high water marks along the river. The locals tell us it was the worst flood in more than 23 years. The banks of the Nam Ou river have been washed away, houses slid into the river due to mud slides, and the road bed in some places is broken away with steep drop-offs into the river. If I had counted, I probably passed more than 50 landslides that have occurred covering the roadbed with mud, rocks, and wood debris.




Once again, deep ruts were in the dirt road from the vehicles that had passed through and the best way to make it through on the motorcycle is to follow the rut and stay in it or try to ride the top of the hard middle. Some of the ruts were so deep that the motorcycle pannier would hit the dirt on each side. This happened on one occasion when as I was riding the hard middle, the Tiger slid down the right side and into the deep rut we went. The right pannier hit the high mud side jerking the bike to the right; I corrected then hit the right again with the Tiger crashing into the mud once again (no injuries to us, and no damage to the bike, only to my pride). Tiger Lily had this amazing look on her face again and said her usual….WOW!


After a short break we continued and arrived at the ferry crossing of the Nam Ou River. We rode our bikes on the ferry and along with a few local vehicles made the simple river crossing in only a couple of minutes. Lunch awaited us at the other side at a restaurant overlooking the river. The setting was simple and the food excellent. We stayed way too long, stretching the lunch into almost 2 hours when we had many miles to go to get to our hotel.

Rested and relaxed, we continued along the difficult road. I looked at the GPS and determined we were going to be riding in the dark again for several hours if we could not make better time on the road. As the day was coming to an end, I came upon a long stretch of mud. I entered the right rut and as I approached the end I saw that I would not be able to continue due to the depth of the rut and decided to change ruts. I called out to Tiger Lily, “we are crossing over” and made my move.


I hit a large pothole in the road, causing the front wheel to jump into the air, throwing me off balance and heading the motorcycle more to the left. I could see ahead the road was completely washed out on the left side, but I could not steer the bike quickly enough. So before going off the edge, I laid it down on the right.

The drop off to the river was about 60 feet. I think the photos will show more than I can explain. It took us several minutes to survey the situation. We could not pick up the bike without the front wheel sliding in the rocks which would surely put it over the edge. Once again, two local motorbike riders came to our rescue. After unloading some weight and moving some rocks, we were able to drag the bike away from the edge, stand it up and drive away from the edge of the road. Shortly after Vince and Jack arrived at the same section of mud. I directed them in what not to do!


It was dark for 2 hours when we finally arrived at the hotel, and once again, celebration by all for a good day of riding was in order.



Mike Mathews




Day 21 - Luang Prabang, Laos - Linda Sikorowski


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



In 20 days we’ve traveled 2,670 kilometers through Vietnam. We crossed into Laos now and at this point, David’s killed a chicken; Joe thought he killed his clutch during the mud fest, but didn’t; and Vincent is ready to kill BMW since he replaced a very important part (not once, but twice) on his brand new BMW GR1200GS Adventure. Mike mentioned this a bit in his story above, and more to come in Helge's story to follow ....


Oh yea, and by now Jack’s laid his bike down twice, and Mike’s laid the Tiger down three times with me on it (see Mike’s stories this week), and worried about how dirty the bike was after each time. (Don’t worry, everyone’s fine and so are the motorcycles.)


And Helge smiled through it all. Because he’s seen all this happen, and more, in the many years he’s traveled the world on his motorcycle(s). Up until the mud day, the roads had been in fairly good shape. As expected on any motorcycle adventure, the road conditions will vary. Don’t let the congestion in the city or our muddy day deter you from taking a GlobeRiders adventure; I’m impressed how riders work together to make sure everyone gets to the destination safely and has a good ride.


We’ve also had incredibly beautiful rides through unending winding roads on cool, overcast days; sunny days and good roads through rice paddy terraced terrain; curvy roads cut through jungles with orchids and huge ferns hanging on the side of the bank; and roads with views of mountain scenery I didn’t know existed in Vietnam and Laos (we topped out at 6,565 ft.).


But what makes a good ride, a bad ride, or an ugly ride can only be judged by the rider and passenger. I’ll just offer up some pictures….you be the judge.



Keep on riding…..Linda




Day 21 - Luang Prabang, Laos - Karen Ofthus





Nearly every morning, Helge and I wake up and exclaim, “Ah…just another day at the office”. Given everything that we’ve done and experienced these past days, I must say it’s not a bad way to start the day. Vietnam and Laos, where we currently find ourselves, are stunningly beautiful countries with sweet and gentle people. Here are some of my impressions.


A rough and tumble road from Hanoi to Sapa, Vietnam, with potholes the size of elephants and swamps of mud threaten to swallow our chase vehicle. Two weeks ago, a typhoon hit the coast, causing tremendous damage. Trees were down, and houses are hastily being erected on the sites where they once stood as people try to get their lives back to normal. In several locations, our truck could barely squeeze through the line of huge trucks awaiting better conditions. Our truck was smaller and more nimble to cover ground. Sections of roadway had eroded away and fallen far down to the river below. Want a snack? Vendors sell baskets of frogs along the road, no doubt entertained by the attempts of motorcyclists and truckers alike to negotiate the road. It was a long, challenging day, but the riders are in hog heaven.



At 11:30pm, we arrive at our lovely hotel in Sapa, Vietnam, where hoards of Hmong Hill Tribe people can be found eeking out a living on the steep slopes of gorgeous mountainsides of lush jungle. Chau, our Hill Tribe guide, takes us on a walkabout through several villages. She speaks very good English, (learned from tourists), though she’s never been to school. She cannot read or write but wants to learn, so I’ll send some children’s ABC books along with Helge when he comes again next year. Each of us receive a personal escort through the village … mine are four young girls, all eager to make friends. When asked what their dreams were, one beautiful nine-year old tells me that, like Chau, she just wants to go to school. For the first time of the day, the other three are quite silent. They may never have thought about a possible life away from the tribe, outside of the village on the hillside with the rice paddies. There is a life purpose here just calling to someone. Come teach in Sapa, you won’t be lacking in willing students.


Along the way, I draw pictures for toddlers. They smile and giggle as if they’ve been presented with an original Picasso. I try, but fail, to catch a teeny-weeny newborn potbellied piglet, the size of a can of soup. More giggles erupt from the cloud of kids that follow. Several of us purchase exquisitely embroidered cloth, dyed a deep indigo blue and handmade silver jewelry for ridiculously low prices. It was a good day in the village, in spite of all the steep steps.




Selecting the Chau Long massage, Huan gives me the best massage I’ve ever had in my life, working the road-less-traveled out of my bones. Her wispy frame belies her immense strength. Climbing up on the table with me, she uses her feet and knees, as well as her hands and arms, to get the job done. Soft as a feather here, just the right amount of intense pressure there … the woman is an expert! As she stretches and rubs, I’m busy brainstorming the ways I can bring her and her entire family to set up shop in Seattle. I would go to her everyday if given half the chance and she would make a fortune once word gets out she’s in town.


At the Saturday Market, Nam Li, a red Zau Hmong, dressed in colorful traditional garb, is persistent to sell me a beautiful silver bracelet. She has four children, no teeth, and a sweet disposition. I trade her 90 dong (US$6), and a tin of perfume. She wants to know if it will help her headaches if she puts it on her forehead. I’ll give the bracelet to Becky. Marlene, Linda and I spy a basketful of wriggling, lime green grubs and try to find a place where they are fried. I’d eat ‘em if they are fried, but we have no luck. Instead, I purchase tiny salted and dried minnows and feed them to the kittens we see along the way. Sapa is a beautiful little town and must-see destination in northern Vietnam.


Leaving Sapa heading towards Bien Dien Phu close to the Vietnam/Laos border, we stop at a roadside stall and enjoy tea and a hard boiled egg. The woman has tiny, skinned birds impaled on a skewer for snacks. I wonder what kind of birds they are. At our lunch stop, I try some banana flower salad. Delicious! Mr. Than, our wonderful guide and partner, doesn’t get any as I gobble it down so fast. Sorry Than!


The Nha Khach hotel is operated by the Communist Party department, as indicated by the neon green table cloths which shriek against the bright pink furniture and tackily painted plastic chairs. Overhead is the ugliest light fixture I’ve ever seen-a gaudy, Chihuly-like imitation in plastic. Jack and I laugh so hard over it I nearly stop breathing. I can’t help chuckling over that ugly fixture as we make our way down the road towards Luang Prabang, Laos.


Our lunch stops are always interesting. We usually choose stalls along the road in some out of the way village. Perusing the merchandise, I come across many treasures like smoked fruit bats and some kind of rodent that looks like it was burned in the fires of hell. I haven’t tasted them … yet, and can’t say that I plan to anytime soon. The bugs, however … now those I’ll eat! A few days ago I lunched on fried Rhinoceros beetle and bamboo grubs, which look a lot like mealworms. Marlene was pretty grossed out, but I think I impressed our driver with my enthusiasm for the crunchy critters. Let me say here that they were delicious! They eat them as they sip a Lao beer, much like we snack on peanuts offered at the local bar.


There are so many interesting things to see and do and so much more to come. It’s all “just another day at the office”.







Day 21 - Luang Prabang, Laos - Helge Pedersen


EWS Ring Antenna Kaput



Shame on You BMW!


Most GlobeRiders clients ride BMW’s, not because we ask them to do so - that is their own choice.


On this trip, we have three models of the latest BMW 1200 series GS-style bikes. Great bikes, voted the best by motorcycle magazines worldwide. Traveling to the far corners of the globe, we all feel that the $20,000.00 or so that we spent on our bikes is worth it. After all, cutting corners and not having the right equipment when you ride the back roads of Northern Vietnam would be a sad story if you broke down. Not many dealers in this part of the world to give you a helping hand.


Through experience we have learned to prepare for our journeys and try to take the right spares along for a potential breakdown. A common spare part for the BMW GS bikes is the rear shock absorber. We carry one on this journey, after all Chris broke his on our IndoChina scouting trip last year, and on our Silk Road Adventure in 2007, we had two rear R1200GS Adventure shocks fail. For this reason many people replace the original shock absorber with an aftermarket shock before any big adventure [Editor’s Note: though to be fair, we’ve seen more than anyone’s fair share of after-market shocks fail as well.]


Another known issue that is much more severe than the mechanical failure of a shock is an issue with BMW’s newer generation GS bikes that are equipped with a anti-theft system (known as the Engine Immobilizer). The part that is known to fail is called a “Ring Antenna”. As I understand it, the technology has migrated from a system used in the BMW automobiles, and the idea is that any tampering with the ignition key system will result in a vehicle that is impossible to start.


Without going too deep into the details of the issue, reports from around the world tell about “Ring Antennas” that fail for no particular reason. This has left the innocent motorcyclist stranded with a bike that is not possible to start. Personally, I have received several emails from people seeking advice after having their vacations ruined when their BMW did not start for any particular reason due to a Ring Antenna failure.


We had one incident of this on our Silk Road Adventure in 2007, but fortunately reports had warned us, and a spare “Ring Antenna” was brought along - this literally saved the journey for Robin, one of our clients from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


One should think that the problem had been corrected by BMW – it’s now several years later. Unfortunately not, and actually to the contrary, this has gotten worse.


Two weeks ago in Vietnam, Vincent’s bike would not start and on the Rider Information Display, the dreaded EWS Warning flashed, indicating that the “Ring Antenna” had failed. Fortunately Vincent’s dealer had, on his request, removed the tamper-proof bolts that hold the antenna in place over the ignition key switch, so a spare could fairly easy be replaced.


Vincent was very relived that he could fix the issue, but now Joe and I started to worry now that we were without any spare antenna should this happen to our bikes. Vincent’s bike is a 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure. Joe has a similar model, and mine is the HP2 derivative of the new R1200GS series.


Immediately we contacted Mike Paull, who arrange to have a new “Ring Antenna” shipped express DHL from South Sound BMW in Fife, Washington, USA, to Hanoi, Vietnam. The part did not make it in time for our departure from Hanoi, but we could not wait and asked to have it forwarded to Sapa in Northern Vietnam.


On our second day in Sapa, we all get ready to go and wash our bikes – incredibly, Vincent’s bike would not start. The same EWS fault indicated that his newly replaced “Ring Antenna” has failed -again. Two days later, as we are to leave Sapa, the replacement antenna miraculously arrives by train from Hanoi at 7am in the morning. By this time Vincent has been in contact with his local dealer, Island BMW in Victoria, BC, Canada. The dealer explains that the two first “Ring Antennas” came from a bad batch produced in September 2007. The new “Ring Antenna” that we received from Mike Paull is of a different production.


I am writing you this story from the capital of Laos, Vientiane, and so far we have had no more problems. We also today received 2 new “Ring Antennas” from Bangkok, Thailand, ordered by Island BMW, who has gone out of their way to help us in this bad situation - thanks so much!


The bottom line is that BMW now is changing the “Ring Antenna” on bikes with specific serial numbers that are likely to have this issue. My problems with BMW, and the reason for naming this story “Shame on BMW”, is that they have not made a recall and changed ALL of the “Ring Antennas”. The change is done only when certain bikes are in for service.


What about all of the people that have had their vacations ruined because of this problem?


What about all of the riders that will have the problem occur before next service at a BMW dealership?


What about all the riders who have purchased one of the newer BMWs with the same Engine Immobilizer system, first introduced in 2005?


I can promises you that I will demand that my dealer change my “Ring Antenna” immediately after this trip, and I suggest that you do the same before you head out for your next ride. For a bike that I paid over $20,000.00 for, I should not have to worry of when the “Ring Antenna” will fail.


Another question is why do we need this technology on a bike that is made to travel on roads few dare to ride, where dealer are virtually non-existent? At the very least we should have been given a choice – what good is an “anti-theft” system that totally prevents the owner from starting his or her vehicle?



Enough Said - Ride Safe,


Helge Pedersen




Helge Pedersen Images from the IndoChina Adventure 2008 - Vietnam & Laos




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