MotorBike Riding in Bali: 2012
Updated: Jan 4
“Your karma just ran over my dogma.”
So you wanna explore the local sights, roam the terrain, get far away from the madding crowds? The easiest way to move about the Ubud district or Bali in general is by renting a scooter or motorcycle. There are no shortage of places that will facilitate this for you; motorbike rental companies seem to be on every corner…
In fact two-wheeled vehicles are the preferred mode of travel for most locals, given the high cost of automobiles in this part of the world- and also the most economical. Gas is crazy cheap here, as Indonesia is a major producer and exporter of oil. It is nonetheless surprising to witness the variety of motor vehicles on the roadways, including everything from smart cars and similar compacts to monster size SUVs and Hummers.
To drive herein these parts, one must understand the new normal. Local rules of the road are completely foreign to those of us accustomed to western driving. In fact getting on a scooter or motorbike here is akin to learning a new language, and many a traveler has paid a heavy price for thinking it is a good call to rent a moped or scooter and head off into the rice paddies to take in the scenery.
All too common are stories of serious injury- and even death- due to all the hazards that await on Bali’s roads.
Normally in the west, we think of a road as having two lanes with a dividing line down the middle. Drivers know to keep to their side of the road – at their peril. That type of thinking is thrown out the window here.
Take a normal road and divide it into at least five lanes, as follows (Balinese adhere to the British system of right side steering – which is rather odd considering the country was colonized by the Dutch- go figure!)
Two Normal Traffic Lane: These are loosely defined as the left and right traffic routes, but actually have little bearing on how things flow
Middle Lane: This is used for passing and weaving into and out of on-coming traffic, getting as close as possible to vehicles approaching from the opposite direction as your nerves will allow
Shoulder Lanes: Best used for merging into the normal traffic lanes, also used for passing, the storage of building materials, including dirt, sand, rocks, may feature giant holes without warning, trucks and cars parked into the roadway without regard for driver safety, pedestrians walking, bicycle riders laden with all manner of agricultural products, dogs squatting, chickens and chicks scrambling. Load the bike with as many people as will sit (the Asian station wagon).
road hazard- stick serves as marker
Take a picture traffic moving in both directions. Young turks on fast motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic at mind-bending speed requiring perfect timing less they be consigned to the “donor-cycle”; giant buses negotiating lanes ill-suited for their size; scooter riders texting while steering with one hand! Turning left and right at seemingly impossible moments as traffic lunges toward you.
Throw in the constant downpours we’ve had while I have been here, the instant donning on rain parkas and the inability to see through the helmet visor. Landslides, mudholes, giant puddles or small ponds in the middle of the road.
Now drive as fast as you can.
In the morning, set out early, the scooter will definitely clear the cobwebs from your sleepy head.
You will be wide awake as soon as you enter the merging lane, better than a cup of super strong local coffee, and after a couple of bumps jar your tailbone into your belly button, you’ll know exactly what they mean when they say that there are no atheists on SE Asian roads.