Learning to Ride the Scooter in Bali

One of my life ambitions was to be able to ride the scooter, or a small motorbike. I had watched how literally everyone in Taiwan rides one, and subsequently in Indonesia and Thailand. An acquaintance told me that if I knew how to ride a bicycle, I would know how to ride a scooter. Later, I would find that this was very true.

It was daunting to start for a couple reasons: I felt that I wasn’t strong enough to hold up the motorbike, and I wasn’t sure if I dared to ride faster than with a bicycle. I had my fair share of accidents on the latter, including one where I was going fast enough to earn injuries in several places. With how much faster a scooter is and how reckless other riders could get on the road, I think the fear is valid.

That’s why, instead of having a friend to teach me, I opted to take a lesson with Kadek Local Bali Tours. For 2 hours to learn from a qualified teacher before hitting the roads, I say it was money very worth spent.

The instructor, Kadek himself, is a true teacher! I met him in an empty parking lot in Canggu, and he made sure I understood the basic controls and safety measures before putting me onto his Scoopy, the lightest scooter there is. We spent the entire 2 hours simply practising in the parking lot, which is a feat on its own – Kadek said that some people require an entire week of lessons to get the hang of it, so I was learning quickly!

To be fair again, I’ve had the experience of riding a bicycle as a transport on busy roads, so balancing skills are already prevalent in me. But for everything else with the motorbike, Kadek’s tips stayed with me for the rest of my trip and kept me very safe despite my first time doing it. I highly recommend going with him!

The next day in Legian, I rented a Scoopy, and was immediately on the road to Ubud, which was more than an hour away. The area is a little hilly and winding, but not as bad as when I was later riding on Java from Banyuwangi to Licin. Nevertheless, I took my time getting familiar with the heavy traffic and average road conditions. Eventually, on my long ride towards Gilimanuk and back, I would discover potholes and slow trucks that forced me to make use of my size to weave my way towards my destination. It really helped that I had experiences with Taiwanese city traffic on a bicycle!

The worst was perhaps the rain. I had encountered rain twice, once on the way back from Ubud after dark, and the other on the way to Ubud from Gilimanuk. Both were equally treacherous – from the slippery roads where I skidded once, to the flood in Denpasar. If I could help it, I would never ride in the Balinese rain.

Despite the difficulty of navigating the lawless roads of Indonesia, I found myself missing the convenience of going everywhere on a motorbike. It’s certainly the easiest to get around the island, even if it sometimes meant riding far and long. But I would for sure do it again to explore more of Bali and beyond, hopefully with improved skills then.

*All photos featured in this story are taken by the author.

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