Traveler’s Guide to Motorcycle Rental

Traveler’s Guide to Motorcycle Rental

See amazing sights at your own pace as your own motorcycle tour guide. Stop for photos, food and sunsets where you want.

In much of the world, the best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle.  When you rent a bike you can travel on your schedule, stop and take photos anywhere and save money. If you are tired of eating at bus companies’ overpriced rest stops, passing a country’s best scenery without time to enjoy, or want to choose your travel times, then a motorcycle is for you.  If that’s not enough, driving yourself to places 10KM or more away will usually save you money.  With all the positives to renting a motorcycle, what’s the downside?  Death and serious injury.  Even after riding thousands of miles on every form of motorcycle, I still realize it’s a dangerous activity.  Before heading out on a ride of your own, remember these few things and you’ll be much safer.

MOTORCYCLE DANGERS (in no particular order):

  • YOU: Many motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcycle/rider, not another vehicle.  According to online data, most of these accidents involve taking corners too quickly.  Whether the person was injured or not is often due to two decisions they made prior to getting on the bike: wearing a helmet and other safety equipment.  While on the bike, never drive faster than you feel comfortable, over confidence or out-driving your ability are  dangerous choices.

Watch out for road changes. What a car may roll right over may cause a bike to crash or slow to a halt.

  • ROAD CONDITIONS: Especially in the developing world, road conditions change more often than the weather.  Keep you eye on the color of the road in front of you, if it changes it means there is a patch, bump or hole.  You want to slow down before you hit one of these.  If the pavement is completely out, with a section of rock or sand, you will want to come to a complete stop before hitting these, there is no shame in walking your bike over sand, if you’ve ever tried taking a bicycle through sand, a motorcycle is about 10x more difficult.  TIP: Be wary of weather, wet roads and pavement changes.  Slow down before you get there.

The rule of the road, the bigger you are, the more you are in charge. Note how the motorcycle is way off to the right. When someone is passing you, get as far to the side as possible and slow down so they can pass you more quickly.

  • LEXUS DRIVERS: I have numerous ideas on why this is a problem, but my best guess is that people driving Lexuses in the developing world live by a different set of laws than everyone else.  There are few people in the third world that earned their Lexus through honest means.  They got them through their connections, living above the law, and have rights beyond the proletariat.  Due to this they tend to drive with entitlement and feel it is everyone’s duty to get off the road.  If you are in an oncoming lane and you see one flash their lights, that’s your notice, they are taking your lane.  Beyond Lexuses, the rule of the road in most countries is: the bigger, the more rights they have.  Don’t expect people to give way, avoid you or even notice you on your motorcycle.  As much as you may feel your human dignity is denied, playing chicken on a motorcycle is a no-win situation.
  • STATIONARY OBJECTS: While driving, have you ever been in a turn lane, then decide you don’t want to turn and pull out?  Was there ever a car that had to swerve to avoid you?  This happens, if you are on a motorcycle and someone does this in front of you, death is a serious result.  Contrary to what Einstein may have said, objects that are stopped such as cars, trucks and cows can and will move.  Smacking into one of these is bad news for a biker.  Be careful whenever passing parked cars, stopped buses and animals.  Deer kill riders where I’m from, I can’t imagine what a water buffalo would do to you.


  • LOW SPEED: The hardest thing to do on a motorcycle, especially with a passenger, is low speed maneuvering.  Just like riding a bike, how often do you see someone cruising along fall down?  How often do you see someone fall or stumble while getting on, doing a u-turn, or at a stoplight?  Never fear putting your feet down.  Be especially careful in dirt and mud, a low speed u-turn on mud is an invitation to fall over.  The biggest issue with low speed difficulties is that city driving is predominately low speed maneuvers, if you fall over in the city, it might be in front of a moving car.

Start slowing down when you see the turn sign. By the time you are entering the corner you should be FINISHED braking.

  • BRAKING BEFORE A TURN: By the time you enter a turn you should be DONE braking.  While in the turn you should speed up, this will push you through the corner.  Braking hard in the corner will cause you to start going straight, since the road is turning, you could easily end up in a ditch.  TIP: As you reach the end of the corner, give it gas, this will actually cause you to go in a straight line and sit up straighter. (click here for a full cornering guide)

As soon as you see a warning or a change in the pavement, begin slowing down. Road conditions, especially in the developing world, change quickly and often.

  • PAVEMENT CHANGES: As stated in “dangers” while cruising along any road, anywhere, there are patches, road construction, fallen items, wet spots or simply missing sections of the road.  While uncomfortable hitting these things too fast in a car, on a motorcycle they can seriously throw you off course.  Watch for changes in colors and items on the road carefully.  Second to watching traffic, this is a priority before taking in the scenery.
  • OUT-BRAKING CARS: While paying attention to things in front of you is important, you also need to know what’s behind you because you can stop much shorter than a car.  You know what happens if you come to a complete stop before a car behind you?  You’re going to get rear-ended…and it’s going to hurt.  If someone is following you closely pull towards the side and motion for them to pass.  Don’t let anyone tailgate you as Medivacs are hard to come by in most places.


  • CHECK LIGHTS, SIGNALS AND HORN: Make sure your rental has working lights, turn signals and a horn.  In many countries a horn is more important than brakes, so test it out before you leave the shop.
  • TEST DRIVE: Take your bike around the block, test out the throttle and brakes.  Give it a hard brake test and make sure it comes to a stop without stuttering, fading or making horrendous noises.  If applicable test clutch and gears.
  • WEAR A HELMET: Safe riding is wearing pants and boots, but this isn’t always possible.
  • THROTTLE IS AS IMPORTANT AS BRAKES: There are times that you can’t stop soon enough to avoid an accident, you may have to actually hit the gas and steer around it to stay safe.
  • LEAN, DON’T TURN THE WHEEL: At speed, to corner properly, you don’t actually turn the wheel, you lean in the direction.  It’s just like riding a bike, other than you need to give it gas as you are exiting.


These are just the basics, by no means will these tips alone keep you safe, but they will take you a long way.  There are many great guides and videos on the internet for more riding information.  If you decide to take off on a multi-day trip without prior experience, take a few hours to study up online first.  Here are some good sites I found.  If you have other tips or sites, please leave them in the comments!

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» Bka :
Nov 6, 2011

Of all your adventures, your scooter riding is #1 on my hold my breath list… you know, I have ridden for 40 years and the challenge of riding 2 up in s.e. Asia is WAY out of my comfort zone……you failed to mention riding 20 abreast with no road markers to follow or 5-8 on a scooter with 2-100# rice bags in tow or all signage is in heiroglific form……you are a man among men and or “stupid”…..for sake of my sanity, I am going with the 1st option……be careful out there…….peace……bka

thinkCHUA Reply:

Driving is pretty crazy, risky and sometimes downright stupid. You wouldn’t believe the driving in rural indonesia. I’ve ridden all around the world, but this is another level of crazy. The good thing though is that traffic moves around pretty slow, 20-40mph, so if something does happen it’s not like going down on I-94…

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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