Zen and the Art of Motorcycle-Cabing


[column]Everything I have learned in life can be summed up in the knowledge needed to get around on the back of an underpowered cycle in the developing world. It is the BEST way to get to know a Country; you need to do it the next time you get a chance.

1) Negotiate.  Always negotiate the price before you get on the bike. Don’t wait until you get to your destination to figure out the price.  You’re not being polite, in fact you’re being rude by making the driver commit before figuring out what you where comfortable paying. It’s not about being a jerk, or trying to one up someone.  It’s about everyone being honest about what is going on from the beginning of the relationship: you have money and need to get somewhere; they have a bike and need the fare.  Don’t feel put off when they start high, don’t feel bad for countering that with something that’s lower than fair, just have it in your mind that you will pay an honest price, and things will go well with you.

2) Watch your feet.  You are on the back of a bike, so you’re by all the fast moving and/or hot stuff–like the exhaust and the rear wheel.  You might be in sandals, you might be in hard rubber boots, but it doesn’t matter, that exhaust will reap smelly, melty havoc on your footwear if you’re not careful.  Check to see where your set of pegs–or what ever the local metal shop has come up with–are before you get on the bike.  You can’t always see them once on.[/column]

[column]3) Trust your driver.  Put your feet up on the pegs and get settled right away. Don’t stand there with your feet on the ground tell the driver takes off: that just makes things more complicated for him. He'll have to negotiate your shifting weight while pull your lumbering legs up and scramble to find the pegs near the wheel–which is now moving–while avoiding the rear drive train as it bounces over the rocks and loose dirt on the side of the road. All this on a bike with two people that is often grossly underpowered any way.  Get on, let go of control and let him do his thing.

4) Lean in on the turns.  You think that staying upright when your driver turns hard enough to lean is a good thing, but it’s not, it’s a good way to put the bike down.  Ask any Cyclist (even a Bicyclist) what they think about putting the bike down.  It sucks.  This might scare some people (it did me at first) but once you get used to it, you will enjoy a safer ride.

5) Develop relationships.  Spend your time getting to know your driver.  Always ask his name, always tell him yours, ask about his kids, tell him about yours–if you have them.  Was he a good driver, was he willing to agree to a fair price?  Honor these gestures by getting his number if you’re going to be in town for a few days and will need a bike.  He knows this town in a way that you never will.  He knows things about his country you would never know if you don’t develop that relationship.[/column][/col-sect]