As a motorcyclist in Australia, I am going to be on a motorbike or scooter at various times through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
In Australia, when I ride I nearly always wear protective gear - kevlars, jacket, helmet, boots and gloves. Indeed, I have had an accident in which I went sliding on the road and it saved my skin.
I'm just wondering about the attitudes toward motorbiking safety for western travellers through Asia. In blogs and pics about motorcycling through Asia it seems as though not many people actually wear proper, protective gear.
It seems to me that if you're riding between villages, whether its sealed or dirt roads, you should have some semblence of safety gear. In Australia, I wouldn't dream of going on say a 50km journey on a sealed road without wearing all my gear.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to wear normal clothes if it's just around town. But for longer journeys it seems a bit silly to put your skin and bones at risk. I know it's hot but it seems like a small price to pay.
What do members of the travelfish community do to ensure they are mitigating the risk of getting injured?
#1 lucasdg has been a member since 29/7/2011. Posts: 20
You are quite right, but no one does it - stupidly. Me included. The first time I got bitten by the motorbike bug was as a passenger for 9 days in Vietnam - and as much as I loved the experience, I had terrible the visions the whole time of my body parts being splattered along the road! It was unnerving, but exhilarating.
Later I rode my own bike in parts of Laos and in Lembongan (near Bali) - in quiet remote-ish areas only. My rule for myself was to ALWAYS wear a helmet and to wear protective shoes. I wore semi-open shoes (Teva Dozers) that allowed airflow, but protected my feet. (They are also good for hiking, etc). But other than that.. no sensible protection. And you are right, hardly anyone does. That doesn't make it OK though. Why don't they? Cost, heat, impracticality of carrying stuff around ...who knows?
You need to do what's right for you.
Personally i have set a minimum to helmet, gloves and boots (i use a pair of light hiking boots) even for a round town. When touring i use kevlar pants, a pair of sturdy Thor knee-guards and a armoured mesh-jacket in addition.
Have a look at gt-rider.com if you haven't already, it's a really good source for anything concerning biking in the region, lots of friendly and helpful people there too.
hope you have goode ride, and stay safe..
#3 Sampan has been a member since 3/9/2009. Posts: 110
Thanks for the advice guys.
With the distance I'll be travelling, and the quality of the roads and traffic, plus it being a new area to me, I can't see why I wouldn't wear protective gear (besides the stinking hot weather perhaps; I'm heading there in April and May!)
I'm glad there are some like-minded people around; Last time in Thialand I saw too many expats/tourists not even wearing helmets; not to speak of the locals' idea of safety!!
As a follow up question, what is the general availability and price of motorcycle equipment; especially kevlar jeans/cargos and helmet? General prices in the countries would be great - don't need links to stores. I'm just wondering if it's better to buy here or wait til I'm over there and buy from a local shopfront.
#4 lucasdg has been a member since 29/7/2011. Posts: 20
When I did an Easy Rider tour in Vietnam (as passenger) they gave out good quality helmets (or so it appeared.. I'm not an expert!). But the ones that came with the motorbikes that I hired were less than desirable. Because I rarely traveled over 40km/hr and spent the time on remote roads with little traffic, I accepted the risk.
Sorry - can't help with clothing questions. I know you can buy jeans (assuming you are of an average build) but not sure about kevlar, etc. Hopefully some of the more serious bikers will jump on and help you out. But if are really taking it seriously, I can't help but think you are best to bring your own gear to ensure you are getting the quality that you trust. '
Madmac - where are you? You probably have some useful info to provide here!
Local idea of safety? I don't think there is such a concept!? You will see families of 5 stacked on a bike - maybe the driver will wear a helmet, but not the wife and kids. It's incredible really.
Finding anything bike-related in Laos will be hard, if not impossible. Vietnam might be a bit easier but you will most likely find really poor quality Chinese or Vietnamese knock-offs. Same goes for Thailand. There are a few stores dotted around Bangkok, and one or two in Chiang Mai , that i know of that sells quality gear. Don't expect to find a lot to choose from though, especially big sizes, and prices for brand-names are generally (a lot) higher, although you might get lucky and find overstock (sometimes outdated) items for a bargain.
I would recommend bringing anything you know you're comfortable wearing unless you have a lot of time to shop around..
#6 Sampan has been a member since 3/9/2009. Posts: 110
I think it comes down to personal preference and comfort level of riding abilities. I've been riding since I was 12 and traveled 100Ks of miles in many countries with nothing but a helmet and sunglasses. 99% of riders in the US only wear a helmet or leather jacket at most. If its a scorching day I'll wear gloves. In fact the only time I've ever put on any type of padding or Kevlar is when I'm going seriously off road or jumping. So far in this region I've ridden Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with just a helmet, getting ready to head into Laos. I personally laugh when I see these guys get off their bike here dressed like they've just come off the Dakar Rally. It's wayyy to hot here for even a shirt some days. I just rode from PP to Sihanoukville in cargo shorts and sandals. If you're set in wearing armor, bring it from home, it's expensive here, old and worn out or cheap ****. Have a great trip and safe travels!
Doing a 2 month ride through Vietnam and Loas at the moment. Also coming from aus I had the same reservations. I have been riding in 35 degree heat in a full faced helmet, jeans, blundstones, gloves and jacket. The jacket is a summer jacket with thick mesh sections and armor sewn into all the critical areas. When your moving it's not that hot, and I think it is a very wise move. Riding with that little bit of assurance makes all the difference. A very good way to end a holiday loosing a bunch of skin on the road. Kit up and enjoy I say.
#8 avanmaanen has been a member since 20/5/2012. Posts: 2