New Brakes, Belgrade BMW Bike Maintenance & Taxi Scam

The Iconic Hotel Moskva built in 1908 sits in the middle of on Terazije square in downtown Belgrade.

It’s a mild, breezy and sunny day in Belgrade. It takes a few minutes to find the security guard to unlock the door of the garage. I push the bike past several buckets of paint and drywall mud and ride the short distance down the sidewalk promenade and let my GPS guide me to the Radulovic one of a couple of BMW dealers in Belgrade.

Amazing! I find an English language newspaper in Belgrade.

Belgrade is bustling this morning. Cars and taxis whisk around while I follow the prompts from my iPhone. For a moment, I consider filming the ride through the city but think again. I’ve got gigabytes of footage shot all over Europe, and yet I’ve only previewed some. It’s great to capture the scene, but I use it as much as a note taking tool as I do for capturing cool rides.

The SENA Prism, unlike other action cams, connects to my SENA Bluetooth 20S communicator installed in my Schuberth helmet. So instead of picking up annoying wind noise, I can provide commentary as I ride, capturing thoughts, memories, and ideas. A great example is the footage and commentary from central Albania or the day I rode with Ales of Movia in Slovenia. The 20S also provides the Bluetooth connection to my iPhone, so I can hear the GPS prompts and don’t have to look at the phone. This is much safer and distraction-free riding—especially when I’m navigating city streets like Belgrade.

It takes less than twenty minutes to find the BMW dealer who promises to install the new swingarm parts and bearing before the end of the day. The service manager’s office is in a mobile building. Unlike the BMW dealers in Zagreb and Novi Sad, there’s no espresso machine, comfy chairs or sofas, or customer lounge with speedy wifi. So they tuck my jacket and helmet in a corner and arrange a taxi to take me back to my hotel.

I take advantage of the free time by taking a walk around the promenade and later working a couple of hours in my hotel room. Just after two o’clock, I hear from Ivan at BMW who tells me I must replace the rear brake pads on Doc. I give him the green light to install new pads, and he tells me I can pick up my bike after four o’clock.

I walk outside my hotel, down the promenade to the street and choose a taxi of the five or six waiting for fares on the street. I show him the address, but he relies on me and my GPS to guide him to the dealer. And when we arrive, he tries to drop me off at the bottom of the driveway, about 100 meters from the office. He seems hesitant but drives in.

When he tells me my fare cost is 1,200 dinar (about $12), I tell him “No way!” The taxi ride from BMW earlier this morning cost me just 400 dinars ($4). He tells me that was a “radio taxi” and he is a “hotel taxi.”

These very well worn swingarm parts were replaced in Belgrade by the excellent technicians at Radulolvic BMW.

“Bullshit!” I ask him where does it say he’s a hotel taxi. I get out of the car and walk around the yellow car. “I see nothing that says hotel.” He tells me that radio taxis get many fares and he might only get one per day. So he must make up for this difference with higher fares. This makes no sense to me. I refuse to pay. He offers a discount of 200 dinars. “No. You’re ripping me off!” I try to stay calm, but I’m livid. I should ask one of the BMW employees for help, but instead, I throw him 800 dinars and slam the door closed. Hard. “Get out of here!”
This is a classic tourist ripoff scheme, and I cannot believe I fell for it. I know better. There are no ride-sharing services in Belgrade, but I hope soon there will be. Ivan sympathizes with me and tells me to be careful.

He walks me into the business office where I settle the bill for brake pad parts and installation, and for the labor of installing my swingarm parts. The total bill is about $180 plus tax. Unlike the taxi driver, the people and business here at Radulovic BMW are very fair—and fast.

My SENA and iPhone guide me back to the hotel effortlessly. I’ll be ready for a glass of Prokupac so I can stop whining about the principle and the eight bucks.

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