I can’t recall when I first developed the aspiration to ride a scooter or a motorbike. Back in Primary School, my brother owned a motorbike, and my mother convinced me that I was too small to handle one—though I suspect her concern was more about its inherent danger compared to driving a car.
Later, I noticed how almost everyone rides one in Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand. In Taiwan especially, scooters are a popular mode of transportation. An acquaintance once mentioned that if I knew how to ride a bicycle, riding a scooter would come naturally to me.
Riding a scooter was intimidating for a couple of reasons. I questioned whether I possessed the strength to keep the vehicle upright and whether I had the courage to ride at higher speeds than on a bicycle. I had my fair share of accidents on the latter, including one that caused injuries in multiple places. Given the increased speed of a scooter and the reckless behaviour of other drivers on the road, I believe my fear was justified.
However, after riding as a passenger several times and experiencing the convenience it offered during travels, I resolved to embrace the challenge.
Finding someone to ride pillion with was also a challenge, especially since I knew almost no one who rode a motorcycle in Singapore, where I’m usually based. Therefore, to prepare myself for the impending ride, I booked a scooter tour on my first day in Bali. Not only did I get to experience spectacular views, but I was also easily convinced that I had made the right decision to give riding a go.
Taking a lesson
Instead of relying on a friend to teach me, I opted to take a lesson with Kadek Local Bali Tours. I find that investing in a two-hour session with a qualified and experienced instructor before venturing onto the roads was worth the money.
The instructor, Kadek himself, is a natural teacher! When I met him in an empty parking lot in Canggu, he patiently explained the basic controls and safety measures of his Scoopy, which is the lightest scooter available. For the entire two-hour session, we focused solely on practicing in the parking lot—which was just fine for me, as it was no small feat. I was sweating with every turn, trying to reassure myself that I wouldn’t fall.
Kadek mentioned that some individuals require a week’s worth of lessons to become proficient, so I was actually learning quickly. By the end of the two hours, I had mastered at least the basics and felt more confident with riding.
On the road
The following day in Legian, I rented a Scoopy and immediately set out on the road to Ubud, which was over an hour away. The terrain was somewhat hilly and winding, though not as challenging as the stretch I later rode on Java from Banyuwangi to Licin.
Nevertheless, I took my time to acclimate to the heavy traffic and average road conditions. As I continued my journey towards Gilimanuk and back, I encountered potholes and slow-moving trucks, requiring careful navigation to reach my destination. My previous experience navigating busy Taiwanese city traffic on a bicycle certainly came in handy!
The torrential September rain proved to be the most challenging aspect of my journey. I encountered rain twice: once on my trip back from Ubud to Seminyak after dark, and the other on my way from Gilimanuk to Ubud. Both experiences were equally treacherous, from the slippery roads that caused me to skid once (thankfully without crashing) to the floods in Denpasar.
If possible, I would never want to ride in heavy rain again.
Despite the challenges of navigating the lawless roads of Indonesia, I often found myself later missing the convenience of traveling on two wheels. Undoubtedly, it’s the most efficient way to get around, even if it sometimes requires lengthy rides.
To be fair, I already had experience riding a bicycle on busy roads, so my balancing skills were already developed. However, Kadek’s guidance remained invaluable for everything else with the motorbike throughout the remainder of my trip and for any subsequent trips with opportunities to ride, such as the Mae Hong Son loop ride. It’s definitely worth seeking the safety advice of a local expert!