ADV riding weekend ruined by bad fuel, or so I thought

Our country offers some of the best in the world when it comes to riding destinations. The best part: most of these destinations are just a few hours away from the metro. A few months ago, our group, The Long Riders, organized an adventure ride in Botolan, Zambales.

The day my ride got filled with water image

To make the most out of our adventure, TLR – as we call ourselves – has managed to do a dental mission and gift-giving to our indigenous brothers and sisters. This dental and gift-giving mission was made possible through the generosity of TLR members and The Lions Club.

The day my ride got filled with water image

Anyway, after the dental and gift-giving, we set off to the nearby trailhead to explore the mountains near Sitio Alao, Botolan. Everyone was happy and merry and the craving for off-road action has been satisfied. We set camp at the nearby Camp Kainomayan for the night.

The day my ride got filled with water image

Our camp for the night


The next morning, Sunday, we were all set to return to Manila. It was more or less 5 hours cruising back home. With my fuel running low due to the previous day’s adventure, I decided to fill up my ride’s fuel tank at the next gas station that I chanced upon. Nothing out of the ordinary here. I just waited for my turn at the pump that serves premium gasoline and once topped up, I was back on my merry way on the road.

The day my ride got filled with water image

Running on fumes: this will not reach Subic


Unfortunately, not too far from the gas station, my ride – a Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Pro – stalled and wouldn’t start. Being an experienced rider myself, I am quite familiar with the basics and know what to check. After checking for all the possible reasons why the bike didn’t start, I suspected that it might be an issue with the fuel.

My riding buddy at the time, Mark Odulio, helped me push the bike a few hundred meters back to the gasoline station. After convincing the person in charge of the gasoline station to drain the bike’s fuel tank via siphoning, we found out that at least half of the 20-or-so liters that were filled on my ride was water. Yes, their gasoline had water in it. Gasoline + water = no ignition.

The day my ride got filled with water image

We attempted many times to drain the water off the fuel tank but to no avail


We tried our best to drain all the water from the fuel tank. We also tried emptying and topping it again with lots of fresh fuel (no water) in the hopes of saturating the remaining water just enough to get the engine firing again but to no avail. It’s been 3 hours already since the engine stalled.

With only the basic tools in our possession at the time, we called Triumph Motorcycles Philippines for help. Moe Ordona, who’s in charge of Triumph’s aftersales, assured us that help is on the way – even if it’s a Sunday afternoon and more than 200 kilometers away from Ortigas.

Being active in the community sometimes has its perks. While in this sleepy town, a friend happen to be an owner of a private resort nearby. His driver brought us the resort and dinner was already waiting for me and Mark. Showered and with a full tummy, we bade goodbye to my friend’s son who welcomed us as Triumph Motorcycle’s van fetched us from the resort. I was so glad to see Moe’s face, because home is just a few more hours away.

The day my ride got filled with water image

Our friend Restie Renia of The Long Riders


We went back to the gas station, loaded my ride and Mark’s bike onto Triumph’s van and the next thing I know we’re back in Manila.

After a few days, I called Moe to check on the bike. He said that even if we were able to drain all the water during our ordeal at the gas station, the engine still wouldn’t fire up because the water on the gasoline already fouled the spark plugs. Moe’s team also did a full flush on the Tiger 1200’s fuel system with the use of special tools and machines. Like a patient in the ER, the Tiger 1200 made a full recovery after the new spark plugs were installed.

The day my ride got filled with water image

Our new friend Raffy Pastor (Mark Odulio in grey shirt)


While a simple water in the gasoline effectively ruined what was supposed to be a very enjoyable weekend adventure ride, the events still turned out to be a blessing. First, Mark was a true friend who didn’t leave me when the bike was a goner. With his bike running perfectly, he could’ve gone ahead back to his family knowing that rescue is on the way from Triumph.

Second, we found a new friend in the area. His name is Raffy Pastor. He’s also a motorcycle enthusiast who, when he saw us trying to revive the bike on the side of the road, did not hesitate to help and even offered his home for the night. Classic Pinoy hospitality at its finest.

Third, my good friend who hosted and fed us at his private resort while we waited for rescue. Then lastly, Moe Ordona and his team from Triumph Motorcycles Philippines, who, even on a Sunday family day and could’ve just given a valid excuse for NOT rescuing us that night, chose to travel more than 500 kilometers (2-way) to pick us up. Now that’s customer service!

Pro tip

The day my ride got filled with water image

There's more water in the gasoline as we reached the bottom of the bike's fuel tank


Water is the worst enemy for your motorcycle’s fuel system and engine as a whole. The only time water is a friend of your motorcycle is when it is contained in the cooling system. To avoid a similar experience that I had, I suggest that you top up on big and busy gas stations in towns or cities in the provinces during long rides.

As much as possible, avoid gas stations that are not part of the “Big 3” (Shell, Caltex and Petron) especially those located in sleepy towns.

Big and busy gas stations (like the Big 3) are most likely to retail fresh fuel because they serve a lot of customers and may replenish their stocks more frequently. Small and not-so-busy gas stations, on the other hand, may take longer time to deplete their stocks. This may then result in stale fuel being sold to you. Worse, they may top up your motorcycle with fuel that has a high concentration of water in it.

I know this already, but chose to ignore my instincts by filling up my ride in THAT gasoline station and my weekend was almost ruined. But no, thanks to the people who stood by me and helped me, that weekend turned out to be a blessing.