Houston, we have a problem.
Yesterday started beautifully. Coffee with my friend in front of the National Museum in Phnom Pehn; we sat on the sidewalk drinking coffee and talking motorcycles, and all was well in the world. But it’s rainy season, and the metaphorical as well as the literal dark clouds were gathering on the horizon.
Heedlessly, I skipped about. I changed some Thai baht into dollars at an extortionate rate – there has to be a secret money exchange somewhere in this town with better rates, but I haven’t found it yet – and tried not to think about the pain. As my Thai friends would say, mai mi payot: there is no benefit in worrying about it, in stressing about it. If you need to change some money and you don’t have other options, you just change a little and don’t cry over spilt exchange rates, because there’s no benefit to that.
So I pushed the slightly sick feeling away, and carried on with my day. I retrieved my tools, spare oil and tubes from Thiro who has been the kindest custodian of my stuff, and tried to convince him to come to Kampot. More on that later.
Then I waltzed across town – if you can so describe a hot sweaty tuk tuk ride featuring only one traffic accident – and back to my motorcycle. Steve at Dyno Tuned had been so generously taking care of my KTM, and I am much in his debt for it. There she was, taking up space in his garage, my beautiful decrepit Austrian animal. I love her so.
Steve was snowed under with work but one of his lovely employees showed me the way to his wife’s phone shop so that I could grab a new phone case and phone holder for my navigation phone. It’s an old Samsung that goes on my handlebars – they are waterproof and vibration tolerant – and I’d forgotten to pull my Ram Mount X Grip off my KLX in Thailand. I have no great expectations of just how much enduro my new $15 phone holder is going to withstand, but I guess I’m going to find out. I am mulling over how I can devise rubber and safety wire failsafes so as not to have my phone fly off into the wilderness.
Still, that barely classifies as a problem.
What DOES classify as a problem is the engine overheat light on my dash. I had gotten only a couple of kilometres, I could hear the fan running, and the engine was overheating. What the hell. Now, if you have a 690 Enduro, you know they run hotter than the sun. But overheating? I have only seen that light come on twice in the last six years, and only during gnarly low speed, high heat conditions, and only for a moment.
Now it was on and staying on. The traffic was light and I was getting plenty of air flow through the radiator – PP is still quiet after the election day holiday – but there was no cooling happening. I quickly pulled over in the shade. I was 8km and 22 minutes away from my mechanic, and there was no way I was going to risk cooking the engine.
But again, mai mi payot – there’s no benefit in getting upset. I parked the bike in the shade and bought myself a cup of coffee. By the time I’d finished my coffee and contemplated the world, the bike was cool enough to open the radiator cap. I bought water, opened her up, poured it in…. and poured and poured and poured.
More than a litre later, the radiator was full again and I could see a telltale drip from the bottom right hand corner.
Well there’s ya problem.
With water back in the radiator, we cruised on down to see Chek again – my mechanical hero, who rebuilt my rear shock last time and looked after my bike for two years during covid. I cooled my heels for a while in his shop before he reappeared and inspected the damage.
“It might take a long time to fix,” his apprentice told me in English.
How long? I asked, apprehensively.
“Maybe a day,” he said.
Blessed be the gods of motorcycling.
* * *
Now, I remain mildly apprehensive of course. I’m hoping the problem is a small patch of damage I can see on the top left corner of the radiator, and that it’s not all rusted out beyond repair (or, whatever other catastrophic things happen to radiators). Radiators are not only heinously expensive, but getting one imported to Cambodia or Thailand would probably cost me about the same as a new bike. So my heat is not entirely easy as I await to hear Chek’s verdict. But here’s hoping for the best.
In the meantime, I am a pedestrian in Phnom Penh. And for some reason, I am very tired. I need a nap.