Riding a motorbike solo can be a bit daunting. Riding solo for 130km on a road that has 762 turns is terrifying.
But fear not! I recently took a motorbike for spin from Chiang Mai to Pai and despite the fact that after the trip my hair resembled a Persian cat that had been involuntarily chucked out of a plane, I made it there in one piece!
Here are tips I am going to share so you can do the same with ample confidence and swag ?
1.Get a solid motorbike
First things first. Pick a decent motorbike that’s functional. I went for the Honda Click which was 125cc. I could have gone for something cheaper but it would have been much slower. And trust me, when you are riding a long distance to Pai, you don’t want to feel like your motorbike is constipated. This motorbike also had ample space under the seat to store my handbag and pockets at the front to have phone handy (to help with navigation and #selfies ?)
I also went for the one-way rental option from Aya Service in Chiang Mai. It cost me 500 Baht (USD15) to opt for this type of service, which costs much more than just renting a normal motorbike BUT they allow you to ride the motorbike one way and drop it off at their branch in Pai. This is useful if you aren’t sure what your travel plans are or may want to take the bus back to Chiang Mai later instead.
They also offer to transport your heavy backpack to Pai in their bus for free! So, you can zoom zoom on your motorbike like a ninja round the bends without having to worry about your back pack getting over excited on the trip and hauling you over the handlebars.
I opted for their travel insurance which cost 79 baht (around USD2.4). They will also ask for a deposit of 2000 baht (USD 60) for the motorbike which they return to you as soon as you hand in the motorbike in Pai.
Contact information for Aya (use +66 and drop the leading “0” if dialing from outside Thailand):
- Aya in Chiang Mai: 053-231-815 or 053-231-816
- Aya in Pai: 053-699888 or 053-698299
2.Take pictures of the motorbike
Imagine this scenario in your head. You cruise in to Pai without a hitch. You rode like a motorbike whizz, you were careful not to overtake any lunatic van drivers AND you made sure you pulled the motorbike over to a safe spot when you took pictures. All to make sure you and the motorbike made it safe in one piece to Pai.
You strut into the motorbike shop to get your deposit back and they inspect the motorbike only to discover a dent in the front and a scratch on the side and advise it will have to be taken out of your deposit.” It wasn’t me!” you bleat indignantly. But where is the proof that it wasn’t you??
So, make sure you take ample pictures of the motorbike BEFORE you ride out the motorbike shop. I’m talking side profile, rear end, sexy front shot, go wild! Take ample shots of that badboy motorbike so you have evidence to refute any motorbike damage related claim.
3.Police on the way to Pai
This was a genuine concern of mine. I had been stopped before by the police in Pattaya and they didn’t accept my NZ motorbike license or the motorbike paperwork. So, I had to pay a huge fine which was actually a bribe. I heard of similar occurrences happening on the way to Pai.
So, I made sure I asked for the motorbike paper work when I rented it and checked that it hadn’t expired and I stored cash in separate places. This ensured that if I got stopped by the police on the way to Pai I could give them a wide eyed pathetic look (like Puss in Boots in Shrek) and wave the ‘only’ money I had available under their noses. I stored the rest of my money safely in my bra.
Also, if you do get stopped and ‘fined’ on the way to Pai, make sure you ask for a receipt or ticket so if you get stopped again you can show them evidence that you have already been penalized.
4.Go early to avoid traffic
I set off early because I wanted to avoid traffic and then promptly proceeded to get horribly lost! However, getting lost is the story of my life and I’m getting used to the fact that I lose my bearings if I turn around in circle. ☹
So I got stuck having to navigate my motorbike in rush hour traffic which is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was so stressed I started sweating in places I didn’t know was possible to sweat! In hindsight, I should have left earlier giving myself ample time to get lost, find my way AND avoid rush hour traffic.
Zooming down highways and dangerous turns and taking magnificent selfies takes up more energy than you realise. Also, the journey to Pai can take quite a while. Have a stash of snacks you can nibble on when you are admiring the views (there are many breathtaking ones on the way) or your ‘candid’ shots, which of course you happened to take by yourself but no one needs to know that minor detail!
A friend of mine left some sweets in my bag and I was adamant I was going to be healthy and not eat them but I caved in 1 hour later and boy did I need that sugar boost! I noticed the difference in my riding, I was far more focused and awake. Something you need to be when you are hurtling round corners sharing the roads with van drivers making their way to Pai whose definition of safety is to drive on the wrong side of the road at full speed blaring the horn full blast, whilst also on the phone. -_-
6.Warm clothes and layers
I always bring a scarf and my trusty denim button up top in my backpack wherever I go. I didn’t regret doing it on this motorbike trip to Pai either. The first hour of the trip was hot and sunny and I noticed people coming the opposite direction wearing jumpers and I thought to myself it was a bit of an overkill.
And then I gradually rode higher up into the mountains and threw on my scarf and shirt on with great gusto. Half an hour later it rained and I was convinced I would get pneumonia. I wished I had a warm jumper or windbreaker to protect me from the cold wet wind which beat down on my goosebumps as if to say, ‘where’s your jumper suckerrrrr?!’ Which leads me my next tip, waterproofs.
Always bring waterproofs. Yes, I know you are in Asia. Yes, it’s warm and sunny but when the heavens decides to throw a tantrum and pour all her wet anguish over your head you will wish you had something to protect your skin and clothes.
Riding on a motorbike to Pai with wet clothes for long periods of time in the cold will make you feel miserable and angry and you will resemble a drowned cold rat who wants to end its life. All things which would be really great to avoid! I have an excellent waterproof poncho which goes over my knees.
I recommend the Tsonmall Rain Poncho, it has ample space to cover you and a big backpack (very important) and can also be used as a tent shelter or camping mat.
Generally, I am quite happy to be left alone to ponder my life choices and things such whether my eyebrows are growing too close together they look like United Nation of Brows etc. But there is only so much time I can listen to my own thoughts without wanting to strangle myself. I think I find my own accent irritating ☹
I wished I’d had my iPod handy so I could zoom zoom on my motorbike to Pai listening to Beyonce pretending I was off to run the world. If you like music, bring it. It will significantly enhance your solo motorbike experience and keep you company!
DISCLAMER. Please be careful when listening to music and when you are envisioning yourself doing a sleek two-step to Drake and having his babies don’t lose track of the fact that you are riding on a dangerous road. I always leave one earphone out so I can keep an ear out for the dodgy van drivers.
9.Full face helmet, helmet with a visor or sunglasses
Try and get a helmet that has face protection or make sure you bring sunglasses. This will help in both sunny and rainy weather conditions on the motorbike. There will be all sorts of elements that will fly your way when you are riding to Pai, add that to fast speeds and it’s a recipe for serious pain!
But there is a difference between having an annoying pain on your face which you can stick two fingers at when no one is looking and going blind, so always wear eye protection. I couldn’t get a helmet with eye protection but the sunglasses allowed me to see when it started raining (try riding without eye protection in the rain- it’s so painful your eyeballs will go on strike and curse your entire family).
Look, we all know some of us have sexy pedicured toes. Or manly ones that love breathing freely. But if you want to keep your toes the way they are, then for goodness sake DO NOT WEAR FLIP FLOPS ON YOUR MOTORBIKE.
I always wear shoes on a motorbike as it allows me to grip the ground if I need to balance or stop suddenly. You don’t even need to wear bulky shoes, just something that covers your toes, is solid and allows you to grip the ground.
I wore my TOMS on my ride to Pai, they are simple and easy to slip on but they don’t open my feet up to the elements should there be an accident. You want to continue looking TOE-tastic after your ride to Pai!
So, there we have it. 10 tips to help you ride solo on your motorbike like a ninja to Pai.
Having said that, these tips are applicable for any motorbike ride, so if you can think of any I’ve missed or found these tips useful please comment below! I would love to hear from you ?