Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding A Motorcycle, Part 2

After looking at a few different bikes, and finding more bikes with suspect papers, Bikes that were in need of more maintenance than I was willing to give, or older bikes which I was concerned about having enough miles left in them to complete our intended tour of the Philippines, a good friend of mine suggested the KTM dealer in Manila. Our first attempt at locating the KTM dealer proved to be more eventful than you would expect for such a simple task.

First one has to understand that Manila, is a rather large city, and is not that easy to get around in. Traffic is a nightmare, the street numbering, and naming system are also very confusing. Many streets have the same name, they are rarely straight, one minute you are going north, the next your going East and your still on the same street, the numbers are rarely posted on buildings and many addresses simply tell you the name of the street, the nearest Cross Street, the building name and the Barangay (neighborhood). If you look at a detailed map of Manila, you might have a hard time discerning it from a plate of spaghetti.

I thought hiring a taxi for the day would be the wisest thing to do as I wanted to look at a couple of other motorcycle shops on our way to the KTM dealer. The taxi driver, as it turns out most taxi drivers in Manila are, was not too interested in helping us accomplish our tasks for the day or in getting us from point A to point B. They are more absorbed in dragging your need for a taxi out as long as possible in hopes of relieving you of as much money as imaginable. The typical scenario, goes something like this.

First, you are not a Philippino, and he usually and correctly assumes you do not know your way around the city. You have just become their mark for the day. If you provide an address, his first response will be he does not know where it is. Now keep in mind you could give him an address to a well known place in Manila, such as the American Embassy, for instance. Almost everyone, and most assuredly every taxi driver does know where the American Embassy is. But if you don't know, he will play dumb and drive around in as many circles as possible trying to jack up the fare as much as he can. I was aware of this little charade so I attempted to cut him off at the pass so to speak by simply hiring him for the day.

He did take us to a few bike shops, where I found nothing that remotely fit the bill for the kind of bike, I was looking for, but I thought it was worth a shot. Trying to find any location was a nightmare as he played dumb most of the day. By the end of the day, he still did not manage to locate the KTM dealer. The next day, I realized we were only one block away from it at one point. My mistake was being stupid enough to believe that he had nothing to gain by not getting us to our destination since I paid him for the day. However, on our way back home, I had him stop in Makati at a place I knew the location of, where I had to take care of some business. While I was doing this, my wife decided to take the taxi to get some food and then come back and pick me up.

Here was the taxi drivers mistake. Obviously, he did not know the relationship between myself and my wife, and he started chatting away about how he was going to get more money from me by me having to hire him for another day since the day was almost over and we had still not found the KTM dealer. I found this out later, when we got home and my wife filled me in.

It was not really necessary information as I had already decided the guy was a worthless taxi driver and had no intention of calling him the next day, but it was enlightening information. The thinking in the Philippines is a bit different and not something that most Westerners are accustomed to. I may be wrong on this, but this is where I see the difference.

The way I think about doing business. If I hire a taxi driver, and he does a good job, his job being, to be honest and get me to my destination in the quickest way possible, I will hire him again and will go out of my way to use him because I know he is honest and does a good job. On the other hand, the Philippino taxi drivers only focus is on getting as much money out of you as he can.

He knew he already had the money for the day, so if he can play dumb and drag it out for another day he could make twice as much. He doesn't care if I get to my destination or get done what I need to get done, his only focus is making more money. If I don't call him the next day, he does not care, he still gets the money for that day. If I am stupid or feel sorry for him, or like the guy, or for whatever other reasons I might call him the next day, he gets another day worth of cash out of me.

To make a long story shorter. I found the address, and located it on a map before we left then next morning. Furthermore, I have since downloaded a very useful app on my wife's HTC phone. It is called Osmand+. It is an open-source map that works with the phones GPS and location service. You can download the area map for the location you are at so you can use it off line, and it works quite well. We used it almost exclusively for our navigation throughout the Philippines, and it is a lot cheaper than buying a standalone GPS unit, or having to go online and use Google's maps. So the next time a taxi driver tries to give me the run around, I simply pull out the phone, find our location, and direct him right where we want to go. I pay him what is on the meter and never bargain up front. If he does not start the meter, we get out.

When we got to the KTM dealer the next morning, I was a little more than excited as they had about three different bikes on the showroom floor that were about as close to what I was looking for as I could have found. Unfortunately they were all new and were out of my price range. Way out would be a more applicable statement. However after poking around the shop for a bit, looking to see if there happened to be any used bikes in the back room, one of the sales guys came up to me and started getting as much information on me as he could to try and make a sale. In my mind I had gone up in price already since I was not having any luck finding anything in my initial price range so I gave him a figure and he said they had a bike. They had to get it from the warehouse but if I would wait around a bit they could bring it over.

The bike was an older KTM 640 Duke. It was in reasonable good shape and after I took a spin on it, we agreed on the price. The valves were making a bit of noise and they promised to give it a tune up and adjust the valves. I picked the bike up a few days later and we got ready for our first little ride. Hallelujah, we were finally going to get on the road!


  1. I'm a little suprised that you chose a KTM over a Kawasaki considering that only 3 KTM dealerships exist in the Philippines. I'm guessing your a "Wrench" of sorts so maintenance and minor repairs may not be a issue. I on the other had am not a wrench whatsoever. Since acquiring the "Orange Crush" have you taught your wife to ride it yet?

  2. The problem is the availability of Big bikes. Kawasaki does not import their KLR 650 to the Philippines, so you need to find a private citizen that has imported one. Of the very few big bikes imported to the Philippines most are street bikes. KTM was the only dealer I found that imported big bore singles. I think you need to be able to do some of the wrenching yourself since you will not find any or very few Philippine shops that work on big bikes. My wife can not even touch the ground, so I don't think she will be learning to ride this bike.