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I killed Sasha.

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I keep going over in my head. What went wrong. Don’t worry yet, she is not dead, but it doesn’t look good. It had to be not putting in enough oil with the petrol after I left my friends house and we drove to Chumphon.

Sasha will die soon. She has developed a serious case of piston/bearing rattle. I must have screwed up and didn’t put enough oil with the petrol and caused the piston or bearings to burn up. The semi-good news is that beyond the horrendous piston rattle she is running fine. Starts up no problem, seems to have the same amount of power, can’t determine if there is any blow by as 2-strokes are meant to smoke, but the rattling is bad and it can’t be good. I just don’t know how long she will last.

More Education.

What is the difference between a 2-stroke and a 4-stroke?
Most people will not have even seen a 2-stroke as they have pretty much been phased out. 4-stroke is the standard in all current cars, trucks, and motorcycles. The difference is that in a 4-stroke engine, the piston which compresses the air and fuel and then is blown back down by the ignition of the above is required to go up and down for the compression (gas and air in) and up and down again for the exhaust (burnt gases out). The 2-stroke only goes up once to compress and then exhausts on the downward stroke making for a more basic and efficient motor.

The major difference between the two motors is the oiling system. On modern day 4-stroke motors, the piston rings seal the lower compartment where the engine oil is circulated from the top of the piston where the gas and air create the power. This is why 4-strokes tend to be fairly smokeless depending on how efficient the engine is. 2-strokes on the other hand don’t have oil reserves and require the same motor oil to be mixed with the petrol. The engine oil does not burn, rather it sticks to the cylinder walls lubricating the piston rings and keeping the metal to metal friction to the minimum. The oil however runs down the sides of the wall and is blown out the exhaust in the form of white smoke. It is very similar to the old beater car that you see running down the road blowing out white smoke and making bystanders shake their head. It is probably a 4-stroke engine, but with bad piston rings so the seal is not good and the oil is getting into the compression cylinder and thus creating smoke. That is just an example so you might get a gist of what it would be like to drive behind Sasha as we are moving along. Because of this major pollution creater (I use roughly one litre of oil for every twenty litres of petrol), two-strokes are pretty much being phased out and are no longer being sold. That is another reason why the Minsk is a classic, dirty and polluting but still a classic.

In regards to Sasha, the only thing that I can deduce it to is that stretch of road from where we left my friends house and we stopped for some petrol as I was getting low. (Sorry for all this gibberish but it is helping me cope with my soon to be departed.) I didn’t have any oil so I picked up a litre of 2-stroke Castrol. Usually the bottle has a little clear strip with measuring marks so you can calculate the 5% required mix. This bottle didn’t have it so I ended up just guestimating. Looking back I might have undermixed by a little bit but couldn’t have been less than 3%. We drove the 70kms to Chumphon with no sign of problems. The next day I took off and stupid me stopped for my usual 100km 7-11 break and didn’t check how much petrol I had. Since the road is straight, I really didn’t mess with the throttle much and kept to a steady pace, faster than usual but a lot less than when I was traveling with the other guys. The motor sounded and felt normal. About five kilometers from my last stop, the bike started to lose power then died. I instantly knew what the problem was. I was out of fuel. While I was checking the fuel switch, I noticed that the motor and even the carbuerator was really hot. That was out of the ordinary, but I figured it was because I was running on a long straight away. I had to push the bike to a side street and walked a few hundred meters to a little bike shop that sold petrol out of a drum. I got a litre, mixed in some oil and took off down the road to a gas station. I had to prime the carburetor but it started fine.

I can’t remember when I started to hear the rattle, but I think it was after the last fill up. It started to cool down and then started raining. The last 15kms took about an hour as I had to stop twice to let the rain pass over. This I assumed would have helped in cooling down the motor. From then on it was rattling horribly. I found the hotel and checked in leaving the bike alone for the night hoping that a total cool down would resolve any issue. Unfortunately the next morning the rattle was still there and after about 80kms to the ferry and another 20 or so on Ko Samui island it is still rattling.

I did the usual checks which was to make sure the exhaust bolts were tight and then got down to ensure that the rattling was coming from the piston (it definitely is). I even thought that possibly the spark plug had been damaged or possibly had burned the tip off thereby causing some odd firing. Nope. It did have a bit of build-up so I put in a new spark plug. Still rattling.

Now, I am stuck and not stuck. The good news is that Sasha still fires up and runs fine, however it rattles. The bad news is that I am sure it will go bad and when it does she is finished. Now, I have to get off the island so I guess that will be a good test. The 80 kms back to Surat Thani will be a good test and I will take it easy on her and include some extra oil. If I make that without any huge changes then I will try for Ranong on the Andaman side as I have to be there within two days as my visa will expire. That is the jumping off point for Burma (Myanmar). I can’t cross the border with the bike so it will just be a visa run for the day. From there I have to make a decision. My original plan was to keep going south to Malaysia where I can take the bike and do some traveling there. I would be able to get a new full month Visa and then head back over to Cambodia where I would get another full month visa. With a full month and starting towards the north I would be able to do a good exploration of North Thailand. Once that was done I would be finished with SE Asia and would just have to figure out an escape plan. Now, not knowing when Sasha will die it throws it all off.

Another worry is that there is a huge import fine if I do not take the bike out of Thailand. I am not sure if there is any way that they can enforce it, but my info was inputted into a database.
Fixing her would be another option but it would involve getting her at the minimum back to either my main mechanic in Phonsavang, Laos or over to Saigon, Vietnam. An alternative would be to try and get the parts shipped to where I am and trying to find a mechanic who was willing and capable of fixing the damage.

The last alternative is to walk away. Either while she is still running or when she dies. I really don’t care about the money as I have by far received my money back already. It is more based on do I want to take the risk of getting stuck somewhere when she does go.

So that is my dilemma that I am stuck fretting about. I hate traveling by public transport. It sucks ass. I don’t know. I guess the real test is to see how she handles the ride back to Surat Thani.


Since I have written this I have come up with a long shot reason. Perhaps the fuel I got at the last stop was gasohol (alcohol/petrol mix) and Sasha can’t run it. I remember when I was just starting to drive and I put diesel fuel in my car. My dad had to prime the carbuerator with regular fuel to get it started then haul ass to the gas station to fill it up with regular gas to dissipate the diesel. I got a full tank out of that one. Maybe it’s bad fuel that is causing the knocking and when I put in regular gas it will run fine. I know it won’t but just go along with it as I am kind of bummered. What are those five stages of death? Scrubs had a show about that one. Damn, I miss that show.

60 kms to Chmphon (small station)
180 kms to sri racha
85 kms to Don hak
20 kms to Lamai

200b @ 35b = 5.71L
35b @ 35b = 1.0L
250b @ 30b = 8.33L
15 litres

750 ml oil required – 700 ml oil used = 4.6% oil mix vs 5% recommended

Man, I wasn’t that far off on the oil. No high revs, not a really hot day, just cruising. Maybe I didn’t kill her. I need House to figure it out for me.

Nope, I did kill her. The good news is that I made it back from Koh Samui and all the way back to Surit Thani. She is still 80% rattling, 10% pinging, and 10% knocking. On a positive note, that has not changed so it isn’t getting better, but it isn’t getting worse. The reason why I now know I started her demise was that I stopped by the gas station once I got back to the mainland and when I poured the quarter of a litre into my mixing container I could see that when I filled up before Chumphon I was about half of what I should have. I was running under to begin with, non-stop on the freeway, and then ran the tank dry. The problem with the oil mix is that the oil is heavier so it will sink and get used faster. As the fuel level lowers, the percentage of oil drops. By the time you get to the end you might not have any oil left. By running her to the end like that it must have burned up some bearing or wore down the piston rings. Damn it.

Tomorrow I need to head across to the Andaman Ocean side to Ranong because my Visa is expiring. There I will hop over to Burma for a day and then I will have to decide whether to stick with my plan and keep heading south to Malaysia or cut off the south and make my way back as far to the east as possible which might include heading to Saigon (Vietnam) or Laos (Plain of Jars) where I might salvage her. What to do?

Russian Minsk Motorcycle (Sasha) repair/parts history.

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Purchased in Bangok November 03, 2008. ($300US)
Thailand Baht- $1US=35B
Cambodian Rial- $1US=4000R

Bangkok, Thailand
All tools- 639B
New helmet- 850B
Puncture repair kit- 35B
Mirror set- 140B
Spare bulbs (3)- 30B
Tire levers (2)- 120B
Signal lights (back)- 120B
Signal lights (front)- 60B
Wiring pieces- 60B
Mirror bracket (2)- 90B
Air pump- 280B

Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Front brake lever and bracket $7US
Halogen headlight $3US

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) – Tran Hoa
$1US = 16,000D

Generator casing – 250,000
Signal lights (4) – 120,000
Foot pegs (2) – 40,000
Sprockets – 95,000
Front brakes – 50,000
Clutch cable wire – 18,000
Clutch lever and bracket – 75,000
Front brake lever and bracket – 45,000
Tire – 205,000
Tube – 60,000
Spare clutch lever and bracket – 75,000
Labor – 145,000 Above and adjust chain, replace front shock seals, adjust gear box, replace fuel tank bolts/washers, rear brakes, and tighten exhaust.
Welding – 50,000 (front/right foot peg, rear brake rod)

Mechanic: Tran Hoa
Address: 223/2H Pham Viet Chanh
Directions: From Pham Ngu Lao Area (Backpacker/cheap hotel/tourist area)
Head west on Pham Ngu Lao to the main round about. On the far side of the roundabout take Cong Quynh road west. The first left is Pham Viet Chanh. The street is lined with moto repair shops. Tran’s shop is half way down on the right.

Phuoc Son
Spares: Front brake lever and bracket, throttle cable, front brake cable – 100,000

Khe Sahn
Clutch cable wire – 30,000

Hanoi – Cuong Motorbike Adventure
Sprocket – 100,000
Generator coil (spare) – 60,000
Chain – 150,000
Spark plug (spare) – 30,000
Kick start/shifter lever shaft – 100,000
Front light bulb (spare) – 30,000
Swing arm bolt – 80,000
Clutch pack (spare) – 50,000
Labor (above and general repairs ie exhaust, gear box, front suspension) – 200,000

CMA Cuong Motorbike Adventure
No. 1 Luong Ngoc Quyen str
(04) 9261534 or 0913 518 772

Luang Prabang, Laos – Rev’s N More
Repair bad cogs 1st and 2nd gears (weld) temporary fix – 100,000K
$1US = 8500Kip

Rev’s N More (Andy)
Ban PhanLuang
Luang Prabang, Laos
020 777 5632

From main road cross over bamboo bridge, walk straight and you will see bikes on the corner. The shop is two doors down to the right.
From pedestrian and motorcycle only bridge, cross and take first dirt road on left. Follow it until it makes a turn. Shop is on the right or you will come to the corner with the bikes on display in front of bar.

Local Repair Shop
Phonsovan, Laos
Replace 1st and 2nd gears/cogs – 125,000K
Replace gear oil – 35,000K
To get to the shop, follow the main road as it passes through town (coming from Luang Prabang). At the end of town the main road veers to the left, stay on this road. It starts to go down the hill passing a petrol station on the left. A little farther down you will pass another petrol station on the right. Two building down on the left side is the repair place. It has three of four Minsks parked out in front. The guy speaks no English but understands the Minsk.

Motorcycle shop
Phonsovan, Laos
Clutch wire – 10,000K

Motorcycle shop
Phonsovan, Laos
Spare clutch wire – 5000K

Local Repair shop
Phu Khoun, Laos – 130,000K
Liquid weld clutch cover
Weld clutch chain
Weld clutch chain cog
1 litre oil
Shop is located right on T-junction (Luang Prabang road side)

Local Minsk Repair Shop
Phonsovan, Laos – 350,000K
Replace clutch cover
Replace clutch chain
Replace clutch chain cog
I drove back 135kms because I was sure this mechanic could repair and would have the parts that I needed.