Highland Adventure or Disaster part 2


A quick lunch and we were on our way. The trip started with a drive along a beautiful stretch of road departing Nha Trang to a fishing village where Chris and John had a walk around while we fueled the bikes in preparation for the long drive. The fish market had already closed, so we were off on a short drive on dreaded highway 1 past some shrimp farms and then onto the road we would travel to Buon Ma Thuot, Leaving later in the day had a bit of a bonus in that we were passing a lot of farm tractors hauling the field workers home, so, after the beautiful drive up the mountains into the highlands, we were greeted by smiley faces, waves, and cheery hellos. My mood was lifting. We were back on track after arriving in BMT 2 hours later than expected. After a late meal in a vegetarian restaurant, it was off to bed. Oh No!!! I forgot to set the alarm and it was 7:30 am already. We were meeting for breakfast at 8 so taking the bike it would be delayed until the evening…. No problem though. The drive to Pleiku was going to be a leisurely one and we would arrive in plenty of time for me to stop and have the service done on the brake. It was a great day of friendy people and beautiful scenery. Chris and John really seemed

Ethnic Village

to enjoy the interaction with the local ethnic minority people. Pleiku is a small city that saw its fair share of military conflict. It was virtually an abandoned city after the Americans withdrew and the Russians helped in the rebuilding of the city causing Pleiku to have a reputation as looking like a Gulag. (I never noticed though) Time to get the bike fixed. There was an hour before the stores closed, so Tien and I found a motorcycle shop that supposedly specialized in brakes. The problem is that most motorcycles here are little scooter repair shops and the mechanics are unfamiliar with larger vehicles. Again like in Nha Trang, the mechanic started maniacally pumping the brake and once in a while opening the drain plug at the caliper. For a hour until closing time he tried to get the brake to work, but without success. We were told to come back tomorrow morning when his retired father would be there. Since we had plans to sleep late and not depart until 9 or 9:30, I figured with 2.5 hours, even the worst mechanic could finally figure out that there was air in the master cylinder. The

Rest stop

next morning I went back at 7 am. Again the mechanic was pumping the brake furiously when father arrived. The old man shooed his son off, took one look at my rear disc brakes, and then made a phone call telling me to wait a few minutes. Now what I am thinking, when a fellow on a big motorcycle roars up and says….. follow me to my shop. I can help you. Yipee!! The two of us go roaring through the Pleiku streets to his shop that just happened to be 1 block from our Hotel…. Doh!! I told him the problem as best I could in Vietnamese and he seemed to understand and started with the same insane pumping, but he was starting with the master cylinder…. Great!! This guy seemed to know what he was doing (sort of) until he started to mimic the other mechanics NO.. I SAID!!. Air in cylinder, but he just insisted that there was not and he knew what to do.. AAARRGGHH!!! If I had hair, I would have been pulling it. After an hour of trying to improperly bleed the system, he declared that the brakes were broken and he could not figure out why they wouldn’t work. He knows I was in a hurry so he declared that what I needed what a completely new system… Caliper, hoses, master cylinder and all! For sure they would work if he did that! Ok


I agreed……… Anything to get back on the road on time and continue the trip. It took only 45 minutes to install a new system, but then what happens???? He tries to get the new brakes working by the same insane methods as before with all the others. The mechanic is now angry and swearing that he has never encountered a problem like this before as after an hour (and me now being late to leave one hour), I told him that it was enough…. Just put it all back together and I would continue with the non working new braking system. This was just too much.. I knew exactly what the problem is but I did not have the tools or the time and the mechanics just did not believe me. The mechanic was putting everything back together and I told him that I would walk the one block and bring my customers to his shop so we could leave right away. 5 minutes later we returned to continue our journey but low and behold, the bike was not there. It seems the mechanic could not admit defeat so he drove off to see in a friend could help solve the problem. Now I am infuriated!! I am standing with my customers, trying to keep a façade of pleasant demeanor, but I was not thinking pleasant thoughts. For almost an hour we waited for the fellow to return my bike, him knowing all the time that I was late and wanted to leave immediately. He returned with the brake still not working. I had

Silk worms

enough of Vietnamese mechanics and brakes. I put all of the old system along with all extra parts left over from him not putting everything back together properly into a bag and again, with a barely working rear brake, we started out 2 or 3 hours late. As before, it was a short driving day so we were still able to get back on track. The tale continues in the next post.

Mountain Pass

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

One thought on “Highland Adventure or Disaster part 2

  1. Pop open the reservoir, fill to the full line, leave it open, then go back to the caliper and open.Let gravity do the work and drain the system, adding more oil when needed.Pumping is ok if you want to flush a bit of oil out, but usually will not get all the air bubbles, and can add more air to the system.

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