I am a solo traveler with no previous riding experience, but am extremely interested in completing the Mae Hong Son loop during July over 7 days or so. Is this a terrible idea for a completely inexperienced rider? Terrible time due to the rainy season? I have read every blog recount I can find on the trip, but am still very apprehensive. I do have around a week before I was planning on going that I could use to get familiar with riding. Any advice would be sincerely appreciated.
No previous riding experience at all? As in riding a motorbike?
Riding Thai roads is a bit different as lets say in Europe or Australia. Roads are less good and chickens, dogs, drunk people, trucks and whatever are also on the road.
But have a look at Golden Triangle Riders web-site (www.GT-Rider.com) I am sure that you will find the info you will need.
There are plenty of motorbikes for rent in Chiang Mai, some even also rent riding-gear like good helmets.
If I was you I would not even think of it ..... or learn to ride first.
Although July is mid-rainy season you won't know what the weather will be until the time comes, impossible to predict so far in advance. You should count on at least some quickie thundershowers and have some appropriate gear. Definitely rent a small bike/scooter and get some practice riding and understanding the chaos of Thai driving practices and wear a good helmet. Drive very conservatively and wear a decent helmet. There are numerous bike crashes every day in Chiang Mai usually caused by young Thai guys driving way too fast.
The shorter Mae Hong Son loop via Khun Yuam and Mae Chaem is 550km. The slightly longer loop via Mae Sariang is about 620km.
If you take it easy and ride a small 125cc bike expect to average around 30-40kph due to all the twisty turns and hills. So do the math, you're looking at about 15-22 hours of riding, divided over 7 days you're riding just 2-3 hours per day with plenty of time for stops along the way. Most riders do the loop quicker as in 3-5 days but taking it slow is a good idea when you have little experience.
Terrible idea for a non rider.
#4 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Learning to ride on the highways of Thailand is probably not a good idea.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I would say not a good idea. If you want a loop then the Samoeng loop might be an idea but you should do it with someone. However, like the previosu posrts sday, Thai roads are ptetty crazy to an in experienced rider. If your in Chiang Mai, hit me up and we can do a short easy loop together if you want. Just a small loop over a day but Ill be there to teach
I haven't done the loop, but I do understand the desire to jump on a motorbike to do it. I was a non-rider until a trip to SEA a couple of years ago. Back then I hired a scooter for a couple of random days (in quiet remote areas), and rode on the back of one for more than a week in Vietnam. On another trip, I hired a motorcycle and rode around the Bolaven Plateau for a week and loved it.
If you are seriously contemplating this, my suggestion would be to get as much practice in before you leave home. Do a motorbike handling skills, and maybe even get a licence (to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage if the worst happens). I got a few invaluable bike handling tips by doing a 2-hour course - things that I wouldn't have picked up if I just jumped on a bike without knowing what I was doing.
Not sure about other countries, but in here in NZ you can legally drive a scooter that is less than 100cc without a licence. So I hired one once on one of our small off-shore islands and spent the day blatting around just to get the confidence up without having to worry to much about heavy traffic.
I always take a cautious approach on the bike. I go at a speed that I feel comfortable with, always wear a helmet and closed shoes. But once in Asia, other protective measures go out the window - ie protective clothing. But that risk is partially mitigated by the fact that I stick to slower speeds.
This is good advice from Liz.
I learned out here, but I learned in a village with little traffic and some open roadways with less. For the first two months I broke in riding in a low risk environment.
Once you hit larger population centers who high speed motorways, you really have to be able to control the bike well. That is not difficult, but it does take a little time to master.
If you can ride a car with a clutch, get a bike with one. Just like with cars, you have more control if you can take the bike out of gear whenever you want.
Be safe - or as much as that's possible here. Have a good trip.
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Scooters are fine for 30km trips but if you want to do a 400-500km trip you need a bigger bike and good experience.
#9 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
"Scooters are fine for 30km trips but if you want to do a 400-500km trip you need a bigger bike and good experience."
Absolutely. My first real bike was a Honda Phantom. A touch underpowered at 200cc, but with a comfortable saddle and decent wheel base and enough power to keep up with the traffic. I think the CBR 250 would be ideal for a RELATIVELY inexperienced rider who wanted to do a trip like this. A lot of people think that smaller bikes are safer, but in fact that is not true, they are more dangerous because they are less stable. But some level of experience for highway driving is a must. Even then, sometimes a dog comes trotting out, and you'd better be able to deal with that (don't break, don't evade - let the dog get out of the way or hit it). At higher speeds, you've just got less room to play with in reaction times and the consequences of a mistake are more severe.
#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I rode my 115cc Yamaha Mio from the Malaysian border to Chiang Mai, 4000km with TGF and baggage, but I guess I'm mental.
"I rode my 115cc Yamaha Mio from the Malaysian border to Chiang Mai, 4000km with TGF and baggage, but I guess I'm mental."
Your ass must be tougher than mine.
But on another note, I would not recommend a long trip on a small bike for the reasons stated. Anyone who really rides will tell you that.
#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I did a loop from Chiang Mai to Sukothai with a girl a few years back on a 125 Honda and my butt wouldn't talk to me for 2 weeks.
To the original poster, if you're in the US all the big bike shops give rider safety courses now. Usually just a day and some furnish the bikes. Well worth it. I had a Harley in the US up until last year and it took me a year in Thailand before I ventured into this traffic on my own.
Madmac....don't brake , hit the dog? You're going down. We avoided squirrels back home. LOL
#13 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
I didn't, and I didn't go down. Sadly killed the dog. Went right over him. And I had a number of experienced riders tell me don't break and don't swerve. Most of the time, the dog will get out of the way. Hit the horn. If you break, and lose your gyro, you are going down.
#14 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Madmac....glad you had a good experience with it. I guess everyone has their opinion on how to handle a given situation but I don't know any biker that would recommend the procedure that you described. I can see where if you see an obstacle in the road and don't take any premptive measures before and have to brake at the last minute, then an inexperienced rider could have a balance problem. Luckly I have never hit a dog yet, so I don't know what it would feel like to go over one. I hope I never do and that's not because I a member of PETA or anything.
#15 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
@neosho: Exactly my thoughts. Never go over an obstacle like a bigger animal. ALWAYS break ! Never use the front brake on loose ground, or you might loose it. But you will certainly loose your gyro, while going over a dog or something similiar with a scooter (a dirt bike might put it away). But as it was said: Drive carefully and try to avoid things like that beforehand.
#16 3drazor has been a member since 13/10/2011. Posts: 16
It is definitely a bad situation. There aren't really good options. If I have lead time, I'll definitely take evasive action. But sometimes you just don't, and trying to makes it worse. I hate seeing animals suffer though. Bad Karma.
When riding the highways of Thailand, it's important to keep in mind that things can an do cross it often. Kids and dogs are the worst offenders. Motorcycle riders who see a highway as just another road to cross. Cows wandering on to it... you just have to keep your wits about you. Another friend of mine (though he's not a serius rider) drives in the motorcycle lane and drives very slowly. But first of all, I want to reach my destination this lifetime. And secondly I hate the motorcyle lane because now you really have little warning of moving obstacles. I prefer to move with the flow of traffic, which out here is generally around 100 kmh.
#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Pretty much the same for me when I get on the bike. Once you get off the main highway to our village, the asphalt is trash, everything imaginable is in the road, including beer and whiskey bottles. Back home we had the armadillos from Texas migrate up. That's like a concrete block laying in the road. Then we had the deer. You really had to watch for those. They could be in the middle of the road in a heartbeat.
What really gets me here is the way they just blast out into traffic from a sidestreet or road without seeming to look to see what's coming. Bike or car, I really watch for that.
#18 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
"What really gets me here is the way they just blast out into traffic from a sidestreet or road without seeming to look to see what's coming. Bike or car, I really watch for that."
It's not "seeming". They ARE blasting into traffic without looking. My wife, who is Thai, says "Thai people are stupid". I think that's a harsh judgement, but let's just say that their driving culture has some significant flaws in it.
#19 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957