Are You an Adventure Rider?
“Get yer motor runnin’ head out on the highway,
Lookin’ for ADVENTURE an’ whatever comes my way…..”
So began the ancient motorcyclists’ song of half a century ago, the quaintly titled “Born to Be Wild.” Proof that motorbikes and their riders have always been linked with a quest for adventure. From the very earliest days there has always been a need to explore exotic places on untravelled roads—or more likely tracks—to see sights that few have ever seen, to meet new people and to do it sat astride a powerful engine precariously balanced on two wheels.
There is no other way of seeing so much and, at the same time, feeling you are one with the landscape and towns you are immersed in. Walking, cycling or horseback are too slow to cover much ground, in a car you are sealed in from the texture of the surroundings, and in a ‘plane, you obviously get a distanced viewpoint while passing over everything too quickly.
The very act of riding a motorbike itself leads to the production of extra amounts of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin which results in heightened awareness and a pleasant sense of well-being.
However, the term “Adventure Riders” is a label as over-loaded with extra baggage; as indeed are many adventure ‘bikes; some people squirm at it while others are only too happy to rejoice in it. Many years ago, adventure riders didn’t exist—not because people didn’t have adventures on their ‘bikes, but because the concept of Adventure Bikes hadn’t been thought of by a clever marketing agency.
Let’s face it, going across a continent, or even around the world on a standard machine in the early part of the twentieth century, with mainly unmade roads, no mechanical support and the odd local population who had never seen a powered vehicle before, must have been one hell of an adventure. At the other end of the scale, the daily commute through the big city urban rush hour on a small ‘bike can be a heart-stopping adventure—but not the sort anyone would want out of choice.
Before the factories started to churn out purpose-built ‘Adventure’ ‘bikes people usually took their own road-going machine and modified it based on where they intended travelling to and their past experience. This obviously required a significant amount of knowledge and skill, as well as the time to modify the ‘bike and to ride the long distance to your destination. It also meant you needed a fair amount of financial independence due to the length of time you would be away and, therefore not working, together with the high cost of the trip. Consequently, those who possessed all four requisites tended to be relatively few and far between.
Blame BMW, Charlie, and Ewan
All this was to change in the mid 1980s when BMW introduced the concept of the on road/off road dual sport motorbike, the G.S. At first interest was limited to those brave souls who already had some experience of “looking for adventure” but, just after the millennium, Charlie Boorman and Ewan MacGregor stunned the ‘biking world with their “Long Way Round” T.V. series which saw them circumnavigate the globe on a pair of BMW GS ‘bikes.
A few years later Charley was back on the road, this time in Vietnam for episode 5. Suddenly, everyone wanted an “Adventure ‘Bike” and the factories willingly obliged; churning them out in an enormous variety of sizes. You no longer needed technical knowledge, skill and time to have a motorcycle adventure—just pop along and buy or hire the bike most suited to your needs.
Don’t waste months travelling through identical developed world countries in order to reach a remote location, just hop on a cheap flight and arrive the next morning. Don’t worry about shipping your bike over and waiting for it to arrive undamaged and free from customs or import tax, just scour the internet for a reputable company and hire a ‘bike, together with suitable clothing, for the length of your stay.
If you’ve never done this sort of thing before and are worried about doing it on your own, find a company who are experts in organising tours for both novice adventurers and, for more experienced riders, a good legal, licensed tour company will tailor your trip for the exact level of riding challenge you desire.
But What About Me?
“That’s all very well,” I hear you say, “but I’m short, can’t manage a massive dreadnought of a bike like the BMW, am scared that if it falls on me the huge panniers will pin me down, and I don’t want to dress up like an Imperial Stormtrooper in the tropical heat. I only speak my native language, can’t use a map or sat-nav, know nothing about foreign cultures or history and, to be frank, am a little anxious about travelling on my own. On the other hand, I love the idea of exploring a variety of new exotic places, riding without seeing mile after mile of urban sprawl and having a holiday to remember.”
Relax! You are not alone: modern adventure riders are as varied as the bikes they ride on at home and most of them, however, experienced, have some anxiety about going somewhere new. Old, young, big small, male, female, sports biker, custom biker, offroader, commuter biker, or weekend warrior there is a place where all your biking adventures can come true – Vietnam!
For Adventure, Ride Vietnam
As so many bikers have found out, Vietnam is the perfect place for a motorbike adventure. The country couldn’t function without motorbikes! They are the heart of the economy and culture.
Don’t be put off by tales of horrendous city traffic though—it is rare for it to go much beyond 20mph. It won’t take you long to get the feel of just flowing with the stream of other vehicles and, after a few minutes, you’ll suddenly find you’ve relaxed, all the tension and anxiety you may have had will be gone.
The people you see are happy, the little kids smile, wave and want to give you a high-five. You start noticing things like the old lady selling Banh Mi from a stall, the lantern maker with his exotic creations weaving their complex frameworks on the pavement, the local delivery guy with an eight-foot freezer on the back of his scooter, or even a woman bringing her live chickens to market on the back of her bike, or a whole family of five!
Then you’ll see an amazing temple or a huge commemorative memorial and quite suddenly you are out of the town into the countryside. This is where a ‘bike comes into its own. Virtually deserted roads, mile after mile of long sweeping bends, lush tropical jungle, steeply banked rice paddies that you can ride through and water buffalo, cows, goats and even more exotic animals munching the foliage along the roadside.
If you are in the mountains and happen to look up at the right moment, you may just see an eagle swoop overhead! Stop at a mist-shrouded waterfall, a historic monument, an ancient citadel, and then have the most delicious locally grown coffee you have ever tasted before getting back on your ‘bike again to round the next bend and be totally overawed by the sight of what is yet to come. This is ‘biking as it is meant to be!
The Ideal ‘Bike’ for Adventure Riders
Obviously, there’s no such thing—all riders and all riding situations are different, but there are sensible choices. In Vietnam, you don’t need a monster of a ‘bike with muscles like the Hulk that will be too heavy and difficult to control at low speed. Conversely, unless you plan to spend all your time in a city a ‘bike that’s too small will make hard work of long distances, hills, and the occasional track.
The ideal machine is something that is between the two. An engine that’s flexible enough to keep up with (and overtake) normal traffic while being powerful enough to effortlessly carry you and your luggage over trails and even the odd shallow river. For taller and average-sized riders Onyabike Adventures recommends the 400cc Royal Enfield Himalayan as the ideal mount or, if you are a bit smaller, the Braaap 250cc is a great all-rounder. Both are comfortable for long spells in the saddle and are well able to cope with any type of terrain.
A Normal Tour?
Is there such a thing? The whole idea of an adventure is that it is definitely not an everyday experience. At Onyabike Adventures, we give you the choice of how many days, how many miles and how many different experiences you want on your adventure. We will design it to suit your taste and experience. If you want a ride through empty highways and spectacular scenery that finishes on a tropical paradise beach, consider it done. If you want a day standing on the footpegs riding jungle trails, mountain tracks, and river crossings, but finishing in a well-appointed hotel, consider it done. If you want to see as much culture and history as possible but are a relatively inexperienced rider, we will plan out an easy route with lots of stops where your guide will show you things that the guide books don’t know about, just consider it done. Just about the only thing we can’t organise for you in advance is the weather. Although even then we can usually be fairly accurate in our predictions and make adequate preparation to provide suitable riding gear and use suitable routes.
Can I Bring My…?
Wife, husband, mate, boyfriend, girlfriend? Yes, no problem. In fact, never mind bringing your wife or girlfriend, Vietnam is full of women of all ages riding ‘bikes: why not let your significant other ride while you sit on the back and watch the world go by?
Pets? Sorry, no, but teddy bears are welcome if they are not too big and are willing to travel in your luggage!
So, Just Who Are These Adventure Riders?
If you haven’t realised by now, we here at Onyabike Adventures recognise that all ‘bikers want their holiday to be an adventure they will never forget, full of remarkable memories of amazing rides through stunning scenery, cultural experiences that you can’t find anywhere else, the most amazing food you’ve ever tasted, beaches beyond any travel brochures re-touched pictures and, above all, lots of fun. At the end of your tour you will no longer wonder who are all the adventure riders you’ve heard so much about, because, whenever you look in the mirror there will be an Adventure Rider staring back at you! We hope to meet you very soon.