Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thailand - The singing mechanics at The Piston Shop

When I say that we've been to the Piston Shop in Chiang Mai, you could be thinking 'Ah... rebuild time!' Strictly speaking this could have very well been the case as the Piston Shop is a motorcycle shop which also does rebuilds and both our bikes have now covered distances which in the not too distant history would have been considered well out of warranty. But we were there just to do a service on the bikes, fit new brake pads at the rear (what can I say... India has been hard on the brakes :-) fit two new rear tyres and add LED spotlights (more on which later). 

In theory I could have fitted it all at the excellent guesthouse we found in Chiang Mai, the Panda Guesthouse, but as I lost my oil filter tool it would be easier to see if we could find a bike shop where I could work on the bikes. We've met lots of very friendly people during our travels, people who will help you when they can and love to do so. I prefer to work on our own bikes. I know them inside out, am a qualified mechanic, have 95% of the tools I need with me and thus can't see the point why I would ask someone else to do it. The way I go about it is: buy the oil and parts I need from the shop and ask if I can do the work there in return. Usually the answer is yes. Sometimes though it's an unsympathetic no, which makes us look elsewhere. As Triumph has a dealer in Chiang Mai, called Britbike, I went there first. Unfortunately it turned out to one of those upmarket bike shops who are only interested in people spending obscene amounts of money on unnecessary accessories. All in all I wasn't impressed with Britbike and thus looked elsewhere. Vince had read good reports about the Piston Shop, ordered his tyres there and we thus went for a look as well. I'm glad we did as it turned out to be a great place, which is why I've made this post about them, so that you know you can go there too :-)

The guys from The Piston Shop certainly belong in the category of helpful and friendly. Not only did they gave me a very clear 'yes', they also thoughtfully erected a party tent for me to work in the shade. Very thoughtful as it was sunny and 35°C plus. The owner speaks fluent English, which is a bonus as my Thai is non-existent. They have a tyre fitting and also a proper motorcycle tyre balancing machine... (bike shops world wide: take notice) which resulted in the first ever dynamically balanced rear wheel on my Triumph! The second surprise was the amount of stock they keep. Basically everything we needed was in stock despite them not being a Yamaha or Triumph dealer. 

The only thing I couldn't get there were LED spotlights. Britbike could order them for a cool US$600... BNS, just 1 km further on, has them in stock for a much more manageable US$ 36,- each (Including an adventure type aluminium protective cover. They use 10 Watts each. The reason I wanted them is for a different reason than you might think. We avoid riding at night at all cost, although sometimes it can't be avoided, but that's not what I bought them for. All I was after is more visibility during the day! I've noticed that in countries where small motorbikes are plentiful, car drivers tend to mistake us for a small 125. Seeing Vince's BMW with its distinctive steam locomotive look when he's using both head and spotlights, immediately looks much bigger than when just using the headlight. So that's why we fitted spotlights!

Back to The Piston Shop, and the title of this post. The people there make this place to what it is. They are happy, cheerful, singing and clearly enjoying what they do and where they work. This very important but often overlooked necessity for any workplace means they do a better job too, simply because they enjoy it. The enthusiasm rubbed off on us too, it was a pleasure to be there! The Piston Shop comes highly recommended, even when you don't need new pistons! You can find them at N18.80170° E98.99515°, put it in your GPS!