When the black Duke was in the shop waiting for the new bearing, that I had no idea when it would arrive, I thought it would be a good time to get the luggage rack design fabricated so we would be ready to go once the part came in. The design software on my computer that I used for the rack design also allows me to plot out full-scale drawings, which could be used to make a cardboard mock-up of the rack. I decided it would be a good idea to make a mock-up of the rack design out of foam board, to make sure it would fit before I got it made of Aluminum. Once I had the foam board mock up finished I took it over to the KTM dealer to try it on the bike.
When I was at the dealer testing my mocked up part, I started chatting with one of the sales associates about how disappointed I was due to not being able to ride and how much I really wanted to get on the road. Well, as any worthwhile sales associated would do, he took this opportunity to tell me they had another bike available for a bit more money. It was a newer bike, had dirt bike size rims and tires, and already had some excellent mounting points for a rack. It was a 2008 version of the KTM 640 with a slightly bigger engine. It was also an enduro type bike rather than the super motard type bike the 640 was.
A motard bike is a cross over bike that works well on the street and the dirt but is geared and has suspension and wheels that are designed more for the street. An enduro bike is also a cross over bike but is the reverse of the motard bike since it is geared and has the suspension and wheels designed for the dirt. It is a slight difference, but it can make a big difference depending upon what kind of terrain you will be riding on the most. I did not know exactly what the roads were going to be like in the Philippines where we were intending to go, but based on what roads I had ridden and driven on, I had a pretty good idea. That idea told me there would be many pot holes and broken-up roads, lots of dirt roads, and lots of road constructions, along with a lot of fairly decent concrete or paved roads. Either bike would have worked, but available tires for street bike sized rims that work well in the dirt are minimal, and the dirt bike suspension can handle rough roads better. This made the enduro type bike a more attractive option.
He then introduced me to the Orange KTM 2008 690 Enduro or "Orange Crush" as I have heard the KTM 690s called before. It is a fuel injected bike, and it was definitely more suited for our intended purpose of touring around the Philippines considering the rough roads and many dirt roads I was expecting. I was immediately fond of the bike after taking it for a test ride, but the higher price was making me a bit tentative. I had already paid additional for a bike than I intended so paying even more was making me cringe. He offered to credit the full amount I had paid for the Duke 640. All I had to do was pay the difference. I told him I would have a think about it and let him know.
When I got back home, I went through our finances and figured out I could afford to pay a bit more for a bike, but not his asking price, so I called him and made an offer. He said he would check with his manager, which may or may not have been the case. It was irrelevant as my offer was the price I was prepared to pay, and if he did not accept it, I was happy with the black Duke.
After about four days of not hearing anything on either the part arrival date or the offer, I decided it was time to take things into my own hands. I started looking at ordering the part for the black Duke from the US. I would have to pay express shipping and Philippine duty so it was going to be more expensive, but at least I could get the part quickly and get the black Duke back on the road. I called up the dealer to get the exact information on the bike as I wanted to make sure I ordered the correct part since returning it was not a viable option.
About an hour later after calling to get the information on the bike, and luckily just before I was about to place the order for the part, I got a call back from the dealer telling me they would accept my offer on the 690. This was excellent news. I picked the bike up the next day and said good-bye to the black Duke. It was a short romance between me and the Duke, and it was a good one up until the point it decided to chew up a bearing. It was a fun bike to ride, and I would not be opposed to owning one again. Now it was just me and the 690 which would still need a rack made up, so we could put some luggage on the bike. However, it would be relatively simple to fabricate without any design. Other than that she was ready to go.
As it happened, right about the time I was picking up the 690 a friend of mine was in town and was heading up to Pampanga for a few days, so we decided to ride the bike up there and join him for a day or two. I figured this would be a good shakedown ride on the bike to make sure everything was ok, and if there was not any problem we would ride further north along the west Coast of Luzon through the Zambales Province to Alaminos and 100 Islands National Park.
We packed the same bags we had used for the trip on the Black Duke, and I bought a cheap set of saddle bags to hang over the back fender of the bike. We were not able to leave Manila until the late afternoon which was not ideal, since traffic was going to be a nightmare, but once you get a little north of the city near Balintawak you can get on the North Luzon expressway.
There are only three expressways in the Philippines, and there is a grand total of approximately 286 kilometers or 177 miles of Express way. There is the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) which goes from North Manila to Mabalacat/Angeles City area, The Subic to Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) which runs from Subic Bay to Tarlac City and then there is the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX) which goes from South Manila/Makati to Batangas. They are all toll ways, but they can save you vast amounts of time since there are rarely any traffic jams on them, and even if there are, they are still quicker than taking the two-lane highways. You can never make good time on the two-lane highways since they are always crowded with trikes and jeepneys, and you have to go through the center of every little town.
When we left our place in Manila, I thought it might be a good idea to try and not use the EDSA because of the traffic. The EDSA is a four land ring road but not an expressway and during rush hour it gets heavily jammed up with traffic. This was a mistake and I should have known better since, it does not matter what road you take in Manila anytime near rush hour. Traffic in Manila is awful. I mean dreadful, I am sure there are similar places in the world with horrendous traffic, but I don't know how it could get any worse than Manila. Every road in and around Manila slows to a snail's pace if not to a complete stop, and it can take hours to go even small distances.
You have some advantage being on a motorcycle since you can split lanes or pass on the side of cars, basically any available piece of roadway and or even the sidewalk at times can be used to try to get around traffic. However, in spite of being able to go between vehicles or use the sidewalks you will still inevitably be held up in traffic. Buses, cars, trucks, trikes, jeepneys and motorcycles will all be crammed into the lanes and any available space in-between, with everyone jockeying for position. What should have taken us 45 minutes, ended up taking us over two hours. When we finally made it close to the freeway entrance it was dark, and as we were about to get on the freeway an issue with the bike began to appear.
The issue with the bike started showing up when I would chop the throttle. The bike would stall and have to be restarted. It was rather annoying, especially when it happened at a stop light, in the middle of traffic or some other inconvenient location. I could ride around the problem once I began to notice when it was happening by blipping or giving a bit of throttle when I pulled in the clutch to stop. This would usually eliminate the stalling problem, but not always. When we were moving along it was not a problem and the only time it was really annoying was in the stop and go traffic, so once we got on the expressway and out of Manila, it became less of an issue.
When we finally got to Pampanga, we met up with my friend, got something to eat, had a few beers, and then went to our cheap hotel to check-in and unloaded the bike. When we took off the saddle bags, I noticed they were not doing so well. The design of the motorcycle and the bags put the bags to close to the exhaust, and it was starting to melt the bags. I had put some heat resistant tape on the bags before we left Manila since I had already noticed they were a little close to the exhaust for my liking, but it obviously had not worked. I needed to pull my plan forward of getting a rack made up and purchasing a good plastic luggage box before we could go anywhere.
Fortunately, I was able to find a decent luggage box or Givi box as the brand is called and found a little fabrication shop to build me a rack to mount it with. It took about eight hours to get the rack finished and it turn out to be a good strong rack that only cost me 500 pesos. I was more than happy with it.
The shop itself was a rather interesting affair. It was nothing more than a shack on the side of the road, with dirt floors and what looked to be at least 50-year-old metal fabrication tools. He had a little press break, a drill press, a cutting torch, an arc welder, a small lathe, a rotary grinder and a nice big bench vice along with various other hand tools. It wasn't much but it was more than adequate, and I was rather impressed by how quickly he could fabricate up a rack. There are a lot of these type of shops throughout the Philippines, which is convenient to know if you ever need any metal fabrication work done. They are also very good at making the side cars for trikes and for adding bling to jeepneys among other things.
With our luggage, problem solved and the bike running well despite the stalling issue. We decided to continue our ride and head over towards Subic Bay and up the coast through the Zambales province towards the 100 Island National Park. (To be continued)