Loosen four bolts and remove yourself from your comfort zone. Check the torque of your open mind bolts. Unlock and unplug your idea of what you think your dream destination would be like and discover what it actually is. Leave with as little as you can. Expect anything and everything.
I know can’t be the only person who has the reoccurring dream about riding their motorcycle to far off destinations around the world. With that dream comes the hard conversation yourself about feasibility and sustainability. Past the guided tours with a strict and predetermined schedule of specific points of interest and mileage there may be another option, if you’re game! Its a twisty road with an unseen adventures and loosely set destinations. Its a road you can take or leave, the options are all yours.
I’ve spent the last three months traveling around Asia searching out well maintained motorcycles to be my traveling companions and beasts of burden while touring the hidden destinations and the finest roads to no where. Highlights of the trip include Cambodia, Vietnam and Turkey. I personally believe there is no WRONG way to find or have an adventure as long as you respect the people and places you enjoy and leave with a smile. There’s a lot of info on what to watch out and for scams etc, so I’m not going to dwell on those. Here are a few Tips and Tricks that I’ve learned while making this idea of an adventure a reality. ADV ON!
What to Bring
International Drivers license? Your FAV Schuberth helmet? A healthy appetite? What to bring can be as easy or difficult as you like. Its been my philosophy to keep things as simple as I can and for that reason I’ve adopted the motto, “Keep it light, Keep it tight!” This is how I roll. What to bring is also as personal as where to go so I’ll leave it up to you on what you should take, I’d only suggest that you consider taking as little as possible. I’ll make an exception and recommend two must have items. These two have served me very well and will always have a spot reserved in my pack for any Destination Motorcycle Travel adventure. They will get you into and out of a lot of trouble
Map – The folding kind. My personal choice are the National Geographic Adventure maps. They are not paper so they are water resistance and fold easily in any way or shape. They make the perfect conversation starter with locals. Even with a language barrier you can still describe where you are going or ask for directions with a map. Often I will hand over a pen and people will circle hidden spots locals know. Often people write their phone numbers on the map as a Just In Case. even write words I should be familiar with. I’ve got a signature from Baja legend Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart on my Baja map!! Years later I’ve looked back at them and I’ve still been able to recreate the route I’ve taken or given advice to someone using the notes I make on my maps. I can’t stress this enough, bring a map!
Unlocked Smartphone – Ahhhh technology, its truly a gift and a curse. There are endless positives and negatives about the Smartphone but I bring one purely to have the internet at my disposal anywhere. With the internet my smartphone becomes everything from my travel agent to translator, and at least in Asia and Eastern Europe I have found sym cards and data as cheap as 5 USD for 5 gigs of data on a 3G network. Unlocked Smartphones are cheap and finding them is easy so if you don’t have one or would like to pick one up I would recommend looking into making the purchase at your destination.
News Flash…The best places on in the world are not on TripAdvisor! Local knowledge will take you off the grid and back again. Locals will help you with where to go and where NOT to. Which do you think is more important. How do you do this?? Just engage with the locals, don’t be afraid. Just keep in mind that you are an Ambassador for your country so act accordingly. In every country I’ve visited, I found locals to be the best in helping me navigate. Currently I’m in Turkey and lets face it, I don’t look local so its pretty often people approach me about where I’m heading or where I have been. I find this a perfect time to pull out the map show them where I’ve been and where I intend to go. There’s a certain confidence that only comes with heading to a destination knowing that a local recommended it. Be confident.
Know your Destination
By this I mean your fly in destination, not your motorcycling travel destination. Do a quick internet search for local motorcycle shops and position your accommodation so you can access them without expensive transportation costs. You are very likely to get more than a few hits but keep in mind the other smaller shops that and may not have a website or do not have it set up correctly. Just plan to visit these smaller shops after you talk to the bigger ones. Personally, I like to do business with the little guy because I feel like I get better service and negotiation goes quicker, but it all comes down to who has the best bike for the right price. It doesn’t hurt to let them know you are talking to more than one shop. I’ve found a good segway to do this is by asking the question, “I was just at XYZ shop, what do you offer that they don’t”?
Contact the Shop
Its been my experience that making contact with the shop is essential for planning what you will need. Some places require a cash deposit while other shops may want to keep your passport for the duration of the rental. Certain shops will accept credit cards but charge a 3-5 percent fee. I ask what the prices are for the bikes but I don not negotiate over email or on the phone. I do make it very clear what I’m planning to do with the motorcycle as much as I can. Here is the basic email I send.
“Hello fellow rider! I’m really looking forward to exploring your country on two wheels. What bikes do you currently offer? Do you offer third party insurance? If so, what does it cover? Will I be able to get a helmet, jacket…etc from you as well? How much are the bikes? What type of payment methods do you accept? I have an international motorcycle license but are there any license restrictions I should know about? I would like to have a bike that I can ride both on road and off. My schedule is xx-xx. I’m looking forward to hearing back, Thanks!”
Protip – Often you can exchange money into the local currency at the airport of your destination for little to no fee. Having cash with you, or getting rid of other currency you would no longer need may be a way to save by not paying a international exchange fee charged by most credit cards.
Visit the Shops
This is one of my favorite steps in the process! Hanging out with other motorcycle enthusiasts, talking about motorcycles, exchanging ride stories, how amazing is that!! There may be some language barrier but don’t let it stop you. Smile, and use your map to help describe your plan. Best of all, get input from the owner on great locations! I like to make a checklist of things to look at on the bike, it helps keep me from missing something with all of the distractions. This is by no means an all inclusive list, its just a few things to help you make your own list. Also, this is a perfect time to ask about any gear you may need and try it on. Does it meet your standards? Look around the shop. Is the shop well kept? Take a few minutes to look at the general condition of the bikes. Look at the tires, brakes, mirrors and lights. If you have identified a bike that you like talk to the owner about a test ride. Start the bike. How easily does it start? Before its warmed up look for exhaust smoke. Listen to the engine as it warms up. Do you hear any valve noise or anything out of the ordinary? Ride the bike, how does it feel? Do you fit on the bike? The biggest deal breaker for me is a motorcycle that leaks. I’m not going anywhere on that machine, and if the owner has a few leaky bikes I question whether I want to do business with them. Remember, when you leave the shop on their bike you may inherit the last renters damage so take your time and snoop around the bikes, its worth a few minutes!
This is not a “how-to” on negotiation its rather a, “don’t forget.” Last thing I want to do is show up back at the shop and get charged a huge fee for riding the bike on a gravel road, so with that I try to be as transparent with my route intentions as possible. I also try to view this from the standpoint of the owner, so asking for a bike with brand new tires and brakes may be a pipe dream but its still worth asking. Don’t plan to get everything you ask for but always start off at the top. If the price seems high and they are not willing to come down try to include things like transportation to and from the shop or helmet and jacket for free. If the bike is an older dirt bike have them include tubes for the front and rear tires as well as a throttle and clutch cable. Normally you can get these at no cost unless you use them. Any special instructions MUST to be written on the contract or invoice. For Example; “Deposit to be payed back in USD” or whatever special terms you negotiate…get it in writing! When you pic up the bike take photos of the motorcycle in front of the shop as a record of any existing scratches or damage.
Protip – If you do have a flat or need to use a spare part given to you by the shop, find a replacement on your own before you get back. The price will likely be cheaper than what the shop will charge you, and you will replenish your spares.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the upfront and friendly nature of most shops and owners worldwide. So far my experiences have been remarkable with everyone having kept their word every time and receiving quality machines with no surprises. When I rent a bike I take care of it like it was my own and I haven’t had any major problems yet. Be confident that if you do have a problem, someone will be there to help and it just may turn out to be the best story of the trip! ADV ON!
Special Thanks to the shops who have provided me with TOP QUALITY bikes so far!! Click HERE to see recommended shops.