Travel Tip 4 – Get the right bike and the right deal
Unlike people, all bikes are not created equal. Nor are they treated equally. As we stood on a little island in the middle of the road watching folks swarming past us, farangs and locals alike, you can’t help but notice that some of these vehicles are quite simply buggered. Fairings to fume hole rubbished by neglect or just by the simple sands of time.
At this point we’re in Chiang Mai. A truly charming place with all the joys of a small city and seemingly none of the drawbacks.
The guide books we’ve been battering have all urged us to mount motorised steeds and behold our surroundings for ourselves. From the loop road and moat defence walls to the temples high upon the hills with a giant golden Budda, where does one start?
I’ll tell you where, it starts with the right bike and that bike starts with the right vendor and the right insurance deal for you.
There’s vendors a plenty in Southeast Asia generally and many genuine set ups can be found in Chiang Mai but unlike the southern region of Thailand there’s not much in the way of insurance up here in Chiang Mai.
In fact the market seemed dominated by what I vaguely recall being called POP Rentals?!? I must say they seemed to have many outlets for hiring bikes and we entered each one, me with glee slapped across my face as these bikes looked extremely well maintained and my girlfriend (the head of health and safety the world over) not so easily impressed.
POP offer lovely bikes at prices that we thought just took the p*ss. Even with that said I still would of put my signature on anything they waved in front of me and rolled off into the sunset. But while I stood dribbling, health and safety was discovering things that would ultimately lead to the two of us meandering in the blazing heat trying to find alternative rental solutions.
It seemed to be that on top of the high rental charge there was no real insurance against damage or theft, no fee that could be paid to save you essentially buying the bike should it be chiefed by some scumbag or wrecked in an innocent or reckless accident alike. Off we go then…
I’ll cut a long sweaty story a little shorter by saying that through a lot googling and walking in the heat we found ourselves standing in the cool shade of Tonys Big Bikes even though we were looking for scooters.
Got chatting to Jeff who turns out to be one of the owners and a true professional in this game. A man so very helpful and up front but we were too late. They only had one automatic scooter left and we needed two! No worries, ‘just come back in the morning when there’s another due back’.
As per i’m ready to sign my name across a heart just to feel the breeze on my face and cool down in this heat. Health and safety says… YES! Get in!
Not quite the deal of the southern islands of Thailand but a deal good enough for us! We break it or loose it… we pay an agreeable and understandable amount and their insurers cover the rest! Plus, it’s a damn sight cheaper than POP! Jeff’s a right trove of local knowledge it turns out. He tells us of the Mae Hong Son loop road that goes out past Pai and we decide that even though Pai is a long winding 120kms of riding, it shall be done.
We sign for one black Honda Click and agree to pick up another the following morning. Shake hands, grin wildly and head for the hills.
When the morning comes we’ll be on the road to Pai but for now it’s all about heading up to the hills and giving this Click a little test. Things to look out for are smoothness of acceleration and deceleration, tyre pressure, tyre tread, do your lights, meters and your BRAKES work? Not the checklist of the century but this is novice stuff that even a novice can check and the Click we took to high heights passed the test.
We got the right bike thanks to Jeff. Cheers