Tips to doing a motorbike trip

In 2015 I rode a motorcycle from North to South Vietnam on a 110 CC Honda win over the course of 5 weeks. Covering thousands of kilometres, the motorbike I purchased for $200USD was good to me until the bitter end. This trip was in ways, life changing. It charted a new course for the way I travelled and it re-defined my levels of self-confidence. I met friends I still talk to today, and it opened my eyes up to the world of travel.

Doing a motorbike across country is an extremely interesting way to be able to explore a new place. You have the freedom to move around as you wish, you have the exhilaration and sensation of riding, and you have the flexibility to change locations as you please. Not to mention you will get to have unique travel memories, the chance to go off the beaten track and also the ability to see beautiful landscapes, indulge in a new culture and really step outside your comfort zone.

Motorbike trips are not reserved only for the super adventurous, I believe everyone has the courage deep down to give a cross country motorbike trip a go.

*This blog is predominantly about buying and riding a motorbike in South East Asia.

Always remember safety first. Here’s some tips to get you started:

Buying a bike

  1. Test drive: Always test drive a bike before buying. See if it has any quirks. Do all the lights work, indicators, and do both breaks work? Does it change gears and accelerate smoothly? Does it make any strange noises or rattling? Does it smell funny or burn smoke? Does the engine rev high while idling? What is the tire tread like?
  2. Is the dealer reputable?:  Has this motorbike dealer been recommended to you by someone you trust or another backpacker with a working motorbike? Does this dealer sell motorbikes often? Are there any reviews or testimonies from this dealer? If buying a motorbike from another backpacker use your judgment to guage the situation. At the end of the day your always going to have to just place some trust in whoever your buying it off
  3. Am I licensed?: It is always advisable and preferable to be licensed before engaging on a motorbike trip. However in reality a lot of back packers do not adhere to this rule.
  4. Haggling / bartering: It’s common to haggle on price when buying a motorbike from someone that is not an actual store. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, but also be polite and be respectful and know that ‘low-balling’ is not appropriate.
  5. Paying: Its best not to give them the money while you are not actually on the motorbike. Before you pay in full, make sure you get the keys. When paying try to do so in a public area where there are others around if something goes wrong.
  6. Licensing: Motorbikes usually have an engine VIN number which is recorded on a laminated card or form of ID. This is essentially like the deeds to a house. When you buy a motorbike, make sure you get the paperwork to prove you actually own it.

Driving / Riding a bike

  1. Insurance: It is worth mentioning early on, that if you are un-licensed and riding a motorbike overseas that most insurers will not cover you in case of an accident. Have a read up on your travel insurance policy and see what you are covered for.
  2. Have a practice day: What’s the rush? If you are not on a strict time schedule, have a practice day riding your shiny new (yeah-right) motorbike. Take it for a ride up to the countryside or a hillside, a beach or down some quiet winding roads away from traffic and trucks and cars. Practice changing gears, indicating, turning and using your breaks correctly.
  3. Daylight is preferable: If you are on a small motorbike usually the head-lights are quite weak. Not only that but at night in foreign countries roads become some-what chaotic with truck drivers speeding madly. Also, at night it is far harder to see the condition of the road you are driving and hitting a pot-hole while going fast on a motorbike is dangerous.
  4. Buddy-up: Riding with friends is preferable and more enjoyable. Have someone to share the highs and lows, laughter and memories with.
  5. Give way: The bigger the vehicle the more respect that it demands. Try to stay on the side of the lane you are driving in to give cars more room.
  6. Download offline maps: Map me app or offline google maps are very useful. It’s great to punch in co-ordinates and have a set route. It’s also great to roam freely. Up to you.
  7. Have a plan: It’s good to have a rough idea of what time you expect to be places, that way you’ll know if you are going to end up near lodging for the night or not.
  8. Take breaks: Riding can be tiring. Taking a break can make all the difference between staying alert and focused on the road and driving properly or driving badly.
  9. Maintenance: Check your motorbike regularly to see if everything is in good condition. Don’t let problems go unchecked or unattended. Remember this motorbike is responsible for your life while you are on it.
  10. Know how to ask for repairs: Goes with the point above. If you do need repairs, try your best to adequately know where to go for help and how to explain a problem
  11. Clothing: If I crashed would I get badly grazed up? If I tilted the bike or crashed would the muffler (exhaust) burn me? This is an all to common injury in Asia.
  12. Know how far between gas stations: This one is self-explanatory.
  13. Baggage: Strap your baggage down tightly and make sure it is equally weighted and centred.
  14. Know the road rules and laws: Have you driven on the opposite side of the road before? Do you vaguely understand road-signs, roundabouts, traffic lights and everything else you will face? If you are pulled over by police have you been abiding the law?
  15. Budget: More of a general back-packing trip, but make sure you have enough money to get yourself through the trip.

Afternote:

Would I recommend a motorbike trip across a country? Or even a shorter motorbike trip?

Absolutely.

Honestly you can read about motorbike trips all you like, but the only way to ever find out is to give it a go. You will never truly know if its something you will enjoy or something you are comfortable doing until you give yourself a chance.

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