Renting Big Bikes in Chiang Mai
A guide to renting big bikes in Chiang Mai
On the Honda CBR 500 Parallel Twin - Renting Big Bikes in Chiang Mai
Before I got into cars, motorbikes were my thing. In the UK you can ride a 50cc motorcycle at the age of 16, but driving is not permitted until 17. So naturally as soon as I came of age I bought the most powerful 50cc bike in the country at the time. The mighty Aprilia RS50.
Imagine your 16 year old son on one of these
When we moved to Chiang Mai I wasn’t sure how the law worked regarding licensing for vehicles so the first few bikes that we rented were scooters and step through geared bikes. Just to get us around town. I’d noticed that a few of the rental companies were offering big bikes for rent but I never asked any questions until my brother told me he was coming to Thailand and wanted to do something adventurous.
After doing some extensive research on the web and forums, I contacted a few companies in the old city to get a feel for which business would be best for our needs. I have never owned a full motorcycle license even though I rode geared bikes in the UK for over 3 years and my brother and his friends had never ridden bikes with a clutch and gears before. I told them to get a little practice in before they arrived, but that was pretty much our situation.
It turns out that all the companies I contacted don’t require a full bike licence to ride big bikes out here in Thailand. As long as they keep one passport from your group of renters in their possession, you can pretty much take whatever bike you want.
Us outside Pop Cafe - Attached to Pop motorbike rental
We contacted Tonys Big Bikes, Mr Mechanic and Pop Motorbike before heading out to get the vehicles. Out of the 3 mentioned, the best choice was definitely Mr Mechanic. They have a huge selection of Bikes and are the only shop to offer some form of privately arranged insurance if you damage the bikes beyond repair. I’d heard some bad stories about Tonys in the forums and found one of the owners a little rude with his email responses and Pop was completely unresponsive. So we chose Mr Mechanic.
However, unfortunately due to some logistical problems we couldn’t get to Mr Mechanic before they closed on the evening that we needed them. So we ended up having dinner at Pop Cafe which was right next to the Pop bike rental shop and took the risk of renting the big bikes without insurance. (Risky I know)
Sam outside Pop Cafe on the Honda CRF 250cc 4 Stroke (Road Tyres)
That night it rained heavily for the first time in months and Sam had a little slip at a junction. He dropped the CRF on its side snapping the Front Brake lever off. Fortunately Pop only charged us 600 B to replace it. However had it been a bigger accident we have no idea how much it could have cost to cover the repairs. You are at the mercy of the shop because they hold one of your passports. So beware.
We found the bikes to be averagely maintained, one of the CRF’s had a very worn tyre on the rear. But the newer bikes seemed to be ok, as you would expect.
The Big Bikes at Mae Kuang Dam on the way up the highway 118
All in all our experience of renting big bikes in Chiang Mai was a successful one. We spent 2 days cruising around the sunny scenes of North Thailand. Visited the famous Wat Chedi Luang & Wat Phra Singh temples and rode up the highest mountain in the country. Chilled by the beautiful Mae Ya waterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park and whizzed over the 118 mountain pass to coffee view cafe for a sunset dinner. The guys loved the feeling of accomplishment they got from taking the chance to straddle those 2 wheels and explore Chiang Mai in style.
Watch the Epic 2 Day Adventure
The day after my brother left, my father in Law arrived and was also hoping to get a taste of 2 wheeled freedom. So with no time for additional research we went back to Pop to get some bikes. This time I went with the Kawasaki ER6-N 650cc and Rob my father in law went for the biggest automatic in the shop. The Honda Forza 300 cc.
Rob & I on the Black Bikes
Sacha slowly testing out the Honda Forza Scooter on an empty road
Me at Huay Tung Thao Lake with the ER6-N
Sacha & her dad on the Kawasaki ER6-N 650 cc
We kept it local and used the bikes for inner city activities this time. However we came across a little trouble when we returned the Forza scooter. The bike was brand new, so the staff member that let the bike out didn’t take a check sheet of the scratches or damages before we left the shop. When we returned the bike he pointed out a small scratch on the side and immediately called the boss who then proceeded to ask for a sum of 1000 B to be paid before they would give my passport back. Unsure if we actually caused the damage or not and with no paperwork to say otherwise a heated argument ensued before we realized there was no way I would get my passport unless we paid up. So we paid and then decided not to use Pop Motorbike rent anymore.
Omar enjoying the sun on his face after an exhilarating trip
After surviving 3 days on big bikes with family and friends. We learnt a few things about motorcycle rental in Thailand.
- Basically a lot of companies don’t care if you are experienced or licensed. If you can leave your passport (one per group), pay for the bike and the damages you may cause, you can take the bike and go.
- At the time the Honda CBR 500 was brand new so they were charging 1300B per day or 1200B for 2 or more days. The CRF 250s were all 800B per day for one day and 700B for 2 or more. The Honda Forza was also new so the price for that was 1300B for one day but the ER6-N 650cc was a little scratched up so that was just 1200B per day.
- Bike maintenance and management attitude will vary wildly between stores and staff members. You may rent a bike from the friendliest guy you’ve ever met and return it to Adolf Hitlers mentor. Make sure you get the paper signed off for scratches and dents whether the bike is new or old. You’ll regret it otherwise.
- Always ask how much the bike is worth. Especially if the company doesn’t offer insurance like Pop. The Honda CBR 500 costs 200,000 B to buy, so if you total it, you have to buy it.
- Always photograph or sometimes take a lo res video walk around of the vehicle if the company/renter looks extra dodgy.
- Some of the better companies like Mr Mechanic and the locals recommendation of CP Service near Tha Pae Gate will offer well maintained bikes with special protective clothing. Gloves, armour and jackets are available to rent along with the bikes. Also I’ve been told that if you want to do proper off roading on dirt bikes, CP Service specializes in this with derestricted Kawasaki KLX 250 cc dirt bikes and can provide the best vehicles for the purpose.
The next time we rent bikes we plan to go off road and will try out CP Service for our self. Which should be great fun. But maybe not for a little while since we have now bought our own bike.
Renting Big Bikes in Chiang Mai can be a lot of fun. But always remember how dangerous it can be to ride without a helmet. Especially if you are not an experienced rider.
Be careful out there.
Jmayel El-haj - 8 miles from home