Practicalities for a Long Bike Trip
Cheaper to buy and run than a car, the motorbike is the vehicle of choice for many Indonesians. Bikes have the added advantage of maneuverability in the country’s notorious traffic: in Jakarta an ojek (motorbike taxi) can often get you to your destination in half the time of a four-wheeled taxi.
Motorbikes are also an ideal way to explore Indonesia. Speeding between rice fields, temples and villages on two wheels is for many people the best way to see the country as an article in the Jakarta Post explains.
The standard Indonesian bike is the semi-automatic 100cc scooter. These cost from around Rp 10 million new and can be rented in tourist centers throughout the country. Bigger bikes are available too.
Many people make short explorations around the tourist attractions of Bali or Yogyakarta by motorbike, but longer trips are also possible, even on a rented bike.
Shipping a bike by train in Java and Sumatra is a good idea to avoid backtracking and easy to arrange, costing about the same as an executive-class passenger ticket on the same route.
Traffic in urban centers and on main highways can be daunting, and even major roads are often poorly maintained; it’s probably not a good idea to head out on a long road trip if you are not an experienced rider.
Indonesian mechanics are a talented lot, usually capable of getting a bike that would need expensive spare parts and days in the workshop in other countries back on the road in minutes.
There are mechanic’s shops and tire repair stalls everywhere.
Navigating Indonesia’s complex network of roads can be tricky.
Province maps available from most bookshops are just about good enough for planning journeys, but when faced with an unmarked junction it’s worth remembering the Indonesian proverb — Malu bertanya sesat di jalan (if you’re too shy to ask for directions, you’ll get lost along the way).