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Old 06-10-2010, 05:01 AM   #1
Smackit OP
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China, The rewards and punishment tour

This is our "rewards and punishment tour of China 2010". I've told many riders that China offers some of the finest motorcycling on the planet. However, she will make you pay for those kilometers of sweetness with an equal amount of hardship. This 15 day tour lived up to that expectation in every sense. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed each minute, and I'm sure everyone agrees, even the worst day on a motorcycle is better than any day at the office.

So, here are the players, from left to right.

Me / Lorne (Mr. Black), Felix (Mr. Yellow), and Daniel (Mr. Blue).

Before I move on, I just want to mention we put all of our photos and videos together at the end of the trip. Everyone gets credit for having some great shots. Being that I almost always travel alone, it was nice having the other guys capture moments that I missed or pics of each other riding by.

Sometime during Chinese New Year, Felix and I came up with the bright idea of making a tour up the Nujiang River into Tibet. We quickly realized this was a pipe dream and would never happen. We weren't born into the clan of the Han, and those areas are off limits to us round-eyes. So we pondered other routes that would still allow us the opportunity of burning petrol and consuming piss warm beer. The main goal being, at some point we wanted to gaze at the snowcapped mountains of the Tibetan Plateau. I suggested a route through Yunnan and Sichuan, and thus a plan was born.

Here is the original idea for our Dongguan to Chengdu route, roughly 5000 kilometers. Things never go as planned.

In the meantime, Daniel, a veteran round the world motorcyclist, was making his strategy for discovering China. I suggested tagging along with us, as it would be a good eye opener for riding here without the stress of navigation and dealing with all things Chinese. Daniel accepted, and headed for Dongguan from his home in Puerto Rico.

I won't bore you with the preliminary details, you can read about the bike prep of the Galaxy XTR's in my thread on MyChinaMoto here. I will put out a quick thanks to the people at Galaxy (Tiger, John, and Lydia) for letting me into the factory to gather parts. I also want to thank the folks at MyChinaMoto for giving me the motivation and advice to improve the Galaxy XTR for touring in China. It might not be a fancy KTM, but I will say it was the right tool for the job at hand.

Oh, one last thing, this story starts off really slow, the first section is rather boring, but once I crash, and the bike slides off a small bridge, it does get rather good. The further we travelled, the more magnificent the scenery, so you need to check back in towards the end of the story to see the best stuff.

Hope you enjoy....


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Old 06-10-2010, 05:02 AM   #2
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Day 1

Felix and Daniel arrived, and bike preparation was in full swing. Everyone is busy trying to figure out how they're going to strap so much crap on to such little motorcycles. We plan on doing some camping, so tents, sleeping bags, etc., are piled up on our 223cc wonder-bikes. We're all riding the same model motorcycle, thus we split up the spare parts and manage to a carry a fair amount of extras "just in case".

Prep time.

Felix, ready for action.

Heading across the pearl river poo poo pit on the ferry from Humen. We're eager to get the cities behind us, but there's much diesel to be inhaled before we will finally break free of the factories. A couple onlookers comment on the bikes and are surprised to learn they are made right here in Guangdong.

It's a rather uneventful day as we had a very late start so we only covered 200 kilometers. A nice gentle ride to get us familiar with the bikes and carrying all the gear. We reached the town of Zhaoqing, checked into the Hai Tao hotel and headed out to find some cold beers and food. Luck was with and we managed to find both and then called it an early evening. We wanted to cover serious ground the following day and planned on an early start.

Distance = 203 Kilometers - Time = 5:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 54 kph

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:02 AM   #3
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Day 2

Off to an early start and I'm hot in pursuit of a Kingway beer truck.

The morning passes quickly as we make our way to the West side of Guangdong and we finally cross the border with Guangxi around noon.

Having worked up a bit of an appetite, we stop for lunch and are a bit surprised at what's being offered. Deciding to pass on fido as the main dish, we manage to get some tofu, veggies and rice.

Outside the restaurant, some locals are doing a brisk business in selling and transporting pigs. I thought my panniers were rather cool, but they have nothing on these guys packing pigs. Think of how much weight they're throwing on those little bikes and how much fun it must be when they move around.

The eastern section of Guanxi is rather flat and boring and we cover ground zipping along G324. Our plan is to spend as much time as possible in Yunnan and Sichuan, so we rarely stop for anything other than food or fuel. I'm not a big fan of the "G" roads, but G324 is in fairly good shape and it's the fastest way for a motorcycle to get across Guangdong and Guanxi. The bikes roll along comfortably between 90-100 kph, I'm pretty relaxed on one of the many long straight sections.

We start rolling through some of the karst mountains and the road gets a bit more interesting. We also get hit with our first rain showers of the trip and dodge between pockets of dry and wet.

A gentle reminder from the local traffic police to pay attention. Felix and Daniel both missed seeing the wreck as they were paying attention to me taking their picture.

Getting tied up in some heavy rain and a really bad traffic jam, Felix and I go motocrossing around the pack and stop to wait for Daniel who is slowly getting the hang of the "anything goes" road rules in China. It's getting a bit late, and I check the GPS for major towns ahead. It looks like we have about 50 kilometers to cover before the next place with a hotel and Felix's bike is acting a bit strange. Hoping that it's just a bit of water in the carb, we drain the bowl and it seems like we're good to go again.

I make it to the small town of Litang and decide this will be a good spot to end the day. After a long wait, I realize something must be wrong, as the boys should be right behind me. I backtrack about a kilometer from town and see Felix messing with his bike which won't start. We try draining the float bowl again and the bike almost wants to go, but just won't catch. I'm thinking it would be strange to have a fuel problem as we all get gas from the same pump each time. I tell Felix it's about 1 kilometer to the hotel and we should tow the bike there so we can get settled and work on it in better conditions. It's starting to get dark and the side of the road during a rain shower is not a great place to work on a bike. A local guy sees us and comes over to help, first he rips off the spark plug cap and exclaims that the problem is spark. I sort of agree, but the bike does seem to have some intermittent spark, so I rule out anything major and assume it's probably a chaffed wire. He's already decided that it's the kill switch and starts ripping into it. I'm loosing my shit because I've seen these well intentioned "mechanics" before, and quite often they do more harm than good. I'm also thinking that it would be nice to be in a well lit area that doesn't have container trucks zipping by every two minutes. After destroying the kill switch, the guy realizes it might be something else and recommends taking the bike into town and waiting for the motorcycle shop to open the next day. We thank him for his "help" and manage to tow the bike to the hotel. First we fill up on food and beer and then prepare to tear into the bike. As soon as the gas tank is off I immediately see the problem, the connector wire that should be on the front of the coil is hanging. Tighten the crimp, attach, and presto, bike is fixed. What looked to be a long night of electrical diagnostics turns out being a ten minute job. We're happy and decide to drink more beer in celebration.

Distance = 462 Kilometers - Time = 12:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 67 kph

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:03 AM   #4
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Day 3

We all tried to get going early in the morning. As Dan and I sort out our bikes, Felix is off snapping pictures of this bizarre little water park that sits behind our hotel. The grey weather adds a touch of eeriness to the dull surroundings.

As we set off out of town, the little mechanic from the night before calls me and asks if we're going to the motorcycle shop to fix the bike. I tell him we already repaired it and not to worry. Not much of a mechanic, but at least his heart was in the right place.

It's more of the usual as we continue along. The rain is holding off, and we're looking forward to an alternate route I picked that will keep us well north of Nanning and out of the city traffic. Dan passes by me on another concrete chunk of G324.

We finally hit our first real stretch of rural riding and everyone starts to smile. It's nice to trade diesel fumes for cow and pig fumes and we manage to catch a nice photo op as the sun breaks through the clouds.

It feels like the trip has really begun and everyones starting to enjoy the roads.

A little rain here and there, but somehow it just doesn't bother us.

Felix grabs a picture of some of the locals, they're probably laughing at his mustache.

A brief clip of the road conditions.

Our usual stop for noodles... yum!

After filling up our bellies, we get suited up in our rain gear for a long day of wet riding. This really slows us down, but the low clouds, karst landscape, and rich farming offer some nice views.

We're back on a major road, G323, but its condition is much worse than many of the others we've travelled. Felix's bike is running like crap again and darkness is creeping in. We need to find a town and this is the only place showing on the maps and GPS for the next 50 kilometers. There is a tiny binguan (hotel) and the owner agrees to let us keep the bikes in the lobby. We are home for the night.

Felix's bike is running with the choke open, but close the choke, and it just won't take throttle. Obviously we need to pull the carb and I'm just hoping the problem is a clogged main jet or something else that won't require parts. I have to mention at this point.... I think his motorcycle is possessed. I've never had a bike draw so much blood sweat and tears from me. Despite my best efforts, and replacing almost every part, she still manages to bring pain. I lovingly refer to her as the **** (rhymes with hunt). Fortunately, there's a tiny motorcycle shop directly across the street from the binguan. Felix and I quickly pull things apart and the shop has exactly what I need, air compressor and carb cleaner. I pull the main jet and see a nasty chunk of spooge blocking it. A few strategic squirts and everything looks good. Get her back together, fire her up and all appears well again. Thank goodness! We're late for beer o'clock and our stomachs are rumbling. I joke with Felix that the only thing we haven't replaced is the horn... hope that doesn't break, as riding in China without a horn is suicide.

We ask some kids where the best restaurant is and they take us up the street. There are only two places to eat in the whole town, we take their word that this is the best. We chow down and share a beer with the drunkest lady I've ever seen in China. It's all good, another great day.

Distance = 438 Kilometers - Time = 11:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 63 kph

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:03 AM   #5
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Day 4

We're off to a very early start at 6:30 and I mention to the guys we've already left Guangxi and we're now in Yunnan. It's time to ease up a bit and take in the scenery, unfortunately it looks like rain will be on the agenda today. It's slow going as we make our way through the fog and less than ideal road conditions of G324 in eastern Yunnan.

We stop for a quick breakfast and route discussion for the day.

There's a motorcycle shop next to the restaurant with some peculiar brands being sold. I wonder if "YMHMNA" also makes pianos?

I reached a beautiful overlook and grabbed a photo. As I was taking it all in, a few young kids came by and gave me the usual "hello" "hello", "ha ha ha", and then they ran off.

Felix came by a few minutes later and managed to grab this perfect picture of the kids.

A giant cave in the karst hillside.

Around 2:30 the sun finally breaks through and we're happy to get out of the rain. We had heard about the draughts in Yunnan, but so far everything was just green and wet. Felix and I joked, "give us a vacation and we can end any draught". We never saw another drop of rain or much water for the remainder of our ride in Yunnan. You can see the soil in the following picture is still fit for growing, but the further north we went the worse it got.

Sunshine always makes for better pictures and it's nice to see a little blue sky again.

I was a bit ahead of the boys and came around this turn to see the following breathtaking view of amazing terraces and a beautiful road twisting and turning its way down into the valley bellow. I plopped onto a rock and waited for Felix and Daniel to show up. Daniel was first and Felix was a few moments behind, I watched each of them come around the turn and you could immediately see their reaction as they caught their first glimpse. We stood there with stupid grins on our faces, each of us thinking the same thing. This was the Yunnan we were looking for.

After soaking in the sights, I mentioned there was a major town in the valley bellow, Kaiyuan, and we could probably find a good place to stay there. It was only 5:00 so we had plenty of time. I also gave a little lecture on the dangers of the particular road surface we were traveling on. Although it looks like black asphalt, it's actually a bit different in that the heat seems to make it sweat oil and the trucks going down the hill would be dripping water off their brakes to keep them from overheating. I should have paid more attention to my own words as little did I know I would be sliding across the road in about 10 minutes.

Before we get to the bad part, let's enjoy a few minutes of quality riding. I had the helmet cam running, and we were having a lovely time making our way down into the valley.

The accident:
You ride, you crash, it happens. No excuses to be made. Maybe a little too much speed, maybe a little lapse in concentration, maybe a little unfamiliar with the road, maybe a little oil spot.... maybe I just suck at riding motorcycles. Whatever it may have been, it doesn't matter. All I can say is that in the blink of an eye, I went from watching my buddy Felix, to watching my motorcycle fly off the road. There was no warning, no slide, no braking, just an instantaneous slam on the ground and the vision of my bike going bye bye. I jumped to my feet, ran over to where I thought my bike would be, and my first reaction was, shit...trips over for me. The bike was mangled in a crevasse about 2 meters off the side of a bridge. I ran over to the other side of the road and starting waving my arms in the hope that Felix would see me and stop. He did, and starting coming back, Daniel was soon to follow and they both had the same reaction. "Where's your bike, oh no, shit, are you OK, shit, are you sure you're ok"?

So here is my moment of glory. Not every day that you crash, and almost never happens when you happen to be filming, I hope you all enjoy.

There was no place to pull the bike out, and the only thing keeping it from dropping another 3 meters was the handlebars being wedged between two rocks. I couldn't really find any way to get a hold of it and the small tow line we brought would never be able to take the weight of dislodging it from its current position. I think this video will give you a good idea of just how crappy the situation was.

Here's a good photo showing the area where the accident happened.

Not such a good landing but looks like my luggage system is pretty tough.

We were hoping that maybe we could flag down a truck with some rope and tow it out, but nobody seemed interested in stopping and helping us out. After about twenty minutes, an off duty police car came along and we waved it down. Two very nice guys assessed the situation and told us not to worry, they would make a few calls and the traffic police would come sort things out. Eventually the police showed up, asked a lot of questions, checked all documents pertaining to our existence on the planet, and photographed every little detail of the accident scene. These photographs and details were posted in a Chinese forum within 24 hours, where most people commented that because we were foreigners we were treated like kings by the police. I would just like to point out. #1 we were one-hundred percent legal with our bikes and documentation. #2 I paid about 500 RMB to get the bike pulled out and trucked to Kaiyuan. #3 The police were very nice people and made sure that we arrived at a hotel safely. I really don't think the situation would have turned out differently in most any other country in the world. The police are there to serve and protect, maybe a lot of Chinese people feel differently, but in my opinion they did a good job and don't think it had anything to do with us being foreigners. If one single document had not been in order, I think the situation would have ended much different.

The "tow truck" was an old 4x4 of some kind with a long steel cable. Felix, Daniel and I all got involved with the rescue, I was sweating bullets thinking the bike would be torn apart.

Eventually we managed to get it out and into the back of the truck. Felix and Daniel followed into town as I enjoyed my first ride in the back of a Chinese police car. We dropped the motorcycle at a small shop and the nice police officers took us to a hotel and showed us a place to get some food. As I got to my room, the only thing I could think about was the crash video. I really wanted to see what happened and quickly unpacked my laptop only to fine the screen shattered. It still managed to fire up and the LCD still worked so I pulled the SD card from the camera, only to find the last film clip was corrupted. I was seriously bummed out, and it wasn't until just a few days ago that I finally found a way to resurrect and rebuild that film clip.

We all headed to a small restaurant and tossed down some beers and reflected on the days events. I was pretty sure my trip was over and I would be sending the bike home in the morning. I told the guys continuing on was the right thing to do and not to worry, I could probably get everything arranged by myself. The boys tried to keep my spirits up by saying we might get her fixed in the morning, and they didn't mind hanging out to see if I could get back on the road. Damn fine chaps Felix and Daniel.

Tomorrow.... can we rebuild her?

Distance = 400 Kilometers - Time = 14:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 55 kph

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:04 AM   #6
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Day 5

I was up very early the next morning and tried to snooze a little longer. I knew the bike shop wouldn't be open until 9:00, but something just made me feel like waking up and getting on with the day. I wrestled with the idea of trying to fix the bike or to just go home, but it was still too early to make any decisions. We never really got a good look at the damage having arrived so late the night before. I was feeling a bit stiff and my left hip was sporting a huge bruise from slamming the pavement. Wearing good gear definitely minimized the damage, and other than a small rip in my pants, everything held up well.

I walked out of the hotel and was greeted by the most beautiful sunny day I had seen in a long time. Crystal clear blue skies, birds singing and a cool morning temperature, perfect motorcycle weather. My mind was made up, life is too short to miss riding days like this, let's hope the damage can be fixed. Felix came round and we headed for the bike shop to survey the situation.

When the bike went off the road it must have turned upside down as it went over the edge. The tail section and console area looked to have taken most of the impact.

It didn't look too bad, but most of the damaged items appeared to be Galaxy specific. The local shop wanted to help, but it was obvious they didn't really have the kind of stuff needed to get me going. I grabbed a couple wrenches and moved the handlebars back into position, then hot wired the bike to get it started. It came to life instantly and I rode it up the street to see if anything was seriously tweaked. It felt OK, so I went over to the car wash and gave everything a good cleaning so I could clearly see all the parts. My main concern at this point was getting going in 24 hours or less. I wasn't going to let any well intentioned person get in the way of us making it back on the road. There was a local TV crew filming Felix, and I could just see that people wanted to make this into a huge event. That was not going to work for me, so I quickly started making other plans.

The first thing I did was call one of the MyChinaMoto members, andre555, in Kunming. He had invited us out for beers before the trip, but I unfortunately had to decline as our original route was not near Kunming. Let me point out here that MCM is cool because you barely know people and they immediately treat you like a long time friend. It's kind of like ADVRider, just a bit more China specific. "Hi André, Lorne here, still want to have a beer?" "Sure, are you coming to Kunming?" "Yes, I crashed my bike and need parts." "Oh, hope you're OK?" "Yes, I'm fine but I need Galaxy parts, do you know anyone that can help?" "Give me five minutes and I will send you a number." True to his word, in five minutes I have the number for a Galaxy shop and I tell Felix that if we get to Kunming today, I can probably get what I need.

The first problem Chinese people will create for you is time, they just never seem to understand the importance of it. The second problem is money, they never consider that sometimes time is more important than money. The third issue becomes personal profit, how much can be made regardless of time and common sense. We are 250 kilometers from Kunming and I am guessing 4-5 hours should get us there. Let me cut this short. Truck to Kunming 1500 RMB, pre negotiated to only take the highway. 8 hours later I arrive in Kunming with my bike, we didn't take the highway, the truck was overheating the whole way and we never passed 60 kph. Although I have paid 3 times the market rate for a 250 kilometer ride, I have lost money, time, and each of the Chinese people involved have profited nicely. This is not an isolated incident, This is China.

A few photos from Felix and Daniel's ride from Kaiyuan to Kunming. They arrived about two hours before me as they were able to weave through a major accident scene. I was not so lucky and got to spend two hours sitting in ten kilometers of backed up traffic.

The fun part of the ride is that I had my laptop, 3G internet, camera, photoshop and QQ (Chinese MSN/Skype). The Galaxy guy ends up being about 1.5 hours North of Kunming in Dongchuan, so I'm taking pictures and messaging all the things I need via QQ. After three hours, a lot of confusion, and the longest QQ chat of my life, I think I have it arranged to get the parts. I give him André's address and contact info and get a call an hour later that the parts should arrive in 3 days. Here we go again with time vs money. Long story short, we are sitting in a bar at 10:00 that night and the parts arrive. Total for the parts 600 RMB, plus 150 RMB taxi fee Dongchuan to Kunming. This time I've paid a very fair price, gotten incredibly great service from the Galaxy guy, and he's probably made little or no money on the deal. Again, This is China. You can start the day getting screwed over and then have the nicest person go out on a limb and reaffirm your faith in the kindness and honesty of Chinese people.

A special thanks to the Galaxy shop of Dongchuan.

A massive, super huge thanks to André and his wife for giving us a place to work on the bike and helping us with everything in Kunming. You are truly fantastic people.

A long hot stressful day ends with cold beers, great company and awesome Mexican food.

Distance 250 Kilometers - Time = Forever - Average Moving Speed = Who cares, I was in a truck.

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:05 AM   #7
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Day 6

It turns out that after the great food and company last night, Felix and Daniel aren't really that disappointed about loosing a day of travel. Daniel had a day to recuperate by going to the gym for a workout, and Felix managed to connect with some old friends now living in Kunming. Crashing wasn't so bad after all.

I take off from the hotel and head over to André's house to begin the repair work. One of my travel cases was punctured in the crash and Felix sets off to the local photo market to see if he can find one. Unfortunately no luck, so I decide to make some support pieces and hope they will hold.

I only need to replace about a half dozen items to get the bike going again, but I end up taking a lot of stuff apart to be sure there's no hidden damage. Seems like the right thing to do, and gives me a little piece of mind that the bike will hold together for the remainder of the trip. I'm short a large allen wrench and Daniel heads out on an adventure to locate one. Sounds like a small thing, but it's little stuff like this that can be difficult to find and eats up time.

The handlebars I was sent have no rise and will be torture for the rest of the trip, so I decide to man up and bend the old ones back into shape. Not perfect, but good enough, and far more comfortable than riding with straight bars. I'm kind of amazed that after what the bike has been through, I only have to replace the headlight, instrument console, license plate bracket and taillight. Heck I didn't even break a turn signal. We finally manage to get it all back together and put the finishing touches on around 6:00.

Having completed all that hard work, we had quite an appetite. Felix and I decided to head back to the same place we had dinner the night before, Salvador’s. We never planned on going to Kunming, but it's funny how fate steps in and takes over. I crash, which takes us to Kunming. Kunming brings us to André. André brings us to Salvador's, and it's here that I meet one of the owners, and fellow Galaxy rider, Colin. He's interested in our bikes and trip, I'm interested in picking his brain about northern Yunnan and southern Sichuan. I tell him about our planned journey and he informs me there's a much more remote way to get to Litang and G318. It's a rough journey and we may not be able to get through, but it will be very rewarding if we manage to make it. He bolts off to get an atlas and shows me this ride he did in 2008. If we head north out Luguhu lake, there's a road that runs with the Litang river. This is basically a big hydro and mining area, so almost nobody would think of heading there. If you look at most maps and GPS's, not much shows up. The atlas page that Colin gave me indicates a lot of roads, but I can assure you, most of these are barley more than goat trails. You would think that a major road like S216 (big orange line) would exist, but a lot of it didn't.

We have another fine meal and a few beers before bidding thanks to Colin and calling it an early night. I would again like to give a big thank you to Colin and his fine establishment Salvador’s. If you're ever in Kunming, be sure to stop in.
Salvador's Coffee House 76 Wen Lin Jie, Wen Hua Xiang, Kunming, Yunnan 650031, P.R.China Tel & Fax: 86-(871)-536-3525 昆明市文林街文化巷76萨尔瓦多咖啡馆650031

Repairs are done, bellies are full, completely new route has been planned. Tomorrow we're back on the road.

And that's all for now. I'll be back later to post more.


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Old 06-10-2010, 07:44 AM   #8
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great RR!
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:19 AM   #9
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Exploring the back roads of Montana....and beyond
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:59 AM   #10
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Wow! Bring it own.
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Old 06-10-2010, 11:47 AM   #11
Is this thing on???
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Great report with awesome pic's!
Very glad your get off was not too serious...


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Pulling on that bike with all I have, I fear that I will pop a vein in my anus any second. - metaljockey
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Old 06-10-2010, 02:42 PM   #12
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great report, and glad you were ok after the mishap.
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Old 06-10-2010, 03:27 PM   #13
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Good choice on not eating that thing with two heads.
I'm all for eating local but that thing aint right.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home. ~James Michener
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Old 06-10-2010, 04:53 PM   #14
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Reports like this reassure me that when, not if, I return to China, it'll be for good.

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Old 06-10-2010, 05:20 PM   #15
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Day Ja Vue

Quote "Whatever it may have been, it doesn't matter. All I can say is that in the blink of an eye, I went from watching my buddy Felix, to watching my motorcycle fly off the road. There was no warning, no slide, no braking, just an instantaneous slam on the ground and the vision of my bike going bye bye. I jumped to my feet,"

You perfectly described my accident two days ago.

flying bike, no warning, oil on the road, and wham. I agree the right gear can save your bacon as mine did. I am Glad you are ok, i love reading about China. All the best on the rest of the report.

Yellowknife - New France New Scotland (Nova Scotia)
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