My plans to go for calm, safe motorbike driving lessons with Oli have been dashed.

A few days ago I attempted to have security call a mechanic to come and either fix or take away Oli’s bike. Instead, security called a xe om driver who promptly told me to get on the bike. I assumed the mechanic was nearby so he was going to push me or something.. bit odd when he could just push the bike without me on it.

Not quite the case. After coaxing me onto Oli’s bike, the xe om driver hopped on his and started driving and pushing me from behind; one foot on Oli’s bike and the other on his own bike. All I could think was that my helmet was 12 floors above me, this will be quick, I’m already on the bike, the mechanic’s must be just round the corner, out of the way of traffic, how do I keep it straight? How is he pushing me? Will the breaks work if it’s not turned on???

This quickly became a lesson in avoiding cars, bikes and people while trying to understand his directions in Vietnamese.

We got to the mechanic’s after two stops for directions and a number of blaring horns at intersections, and what do you know – the bike starts right away. Why didn’t I think to try to start it before calling the mechanic/xe om. Oi. Vei.

Anyway, instead of an electronic element needing replacing as was previously mentioned, all it needed was a small plastic L-shaped tube. Thankfully cheap.

Bike fixed, money paid, the xe om driver then motions me to get on the bike, and of course I try to tell, gesture, display the fact that I have no idea how to ride a bike – and a bike with gears at that. He says something, smiles and gestures in a way that suggests he understands and will drive me back. Instead, he pats the seat and says some monosyllabic Vietnamese sentence.

I get on and point to my foot, lifting it and raising my arms questioningly to illustrate, again, that I have no idea what to do with the gears. This seems to make him think I don’t know the directions to get back home, so he starts pointing and telling me where to go (I presume).

There was nothing more to do. So, helmet sitting quietly at home, I put it into first gear, twisted the handle and proceeded on a very jerky drive home – half of the way in a rough first gear and half of the way in a slightly better second gear.

This little detour from my normal routine ended with a slight burn on my leg from trying to prop up the bike while finding the parking card.

Humiliating, slightly scary and vaguely liberating. Maybe now it will be easier for me to finally get on the bike and practise.. ugh.


(Update: the bike broke down again the next day and Oli had to get a whole lot more replaced than a silly L-shaped tube. My entire trip was clearly a waste.)