How to get on a bike in Bali: a “base” for a beginner

A scooter in Bali can become your faithful companion and helper, or it can seriously spoil your impressions of the island for a long time, or even permanently. For those who have decided to ride a bike for the first time, we have gathered some basic motorbike rules. We hope they will help you enjoy riding and have only positive emotions.
How to approach him?
So, you've chosen a bike, signed the rental agreement, and strapped on your helmet. Where to begin?
First, simply sit on the bike, retract the kickstand, and try to lean it in different directions to feel the scooter's weight and understand at what angle you can keep it balanced.
Make it a rule to always have your hands on both brakes (usually two or three fingers)! On the right side is the front brake, which is the primary one. On the left is the rear brake. Most experts agree that around 70% of the braking force should be on the front wheel and 30% on the rear wheel. You should feel the balance between them.
Start the bike. Place it on the center stand. Initially, you can gently twist the throttle to understand how "smooth or stiff" it is, then try to move slowly. Always accelerate smoothly on the bike.
Try not to use your feet for braking and avoid sticking them out during movement! It's a very bad habit.
Also, remember not to let go of the handlebars in case of an emergency but always be ready to release the throttle. Often, beginners accidentally apply too much throttle, and when the bike jerks forward, they instinctively grab the handlebars, turning the throttle even more. This can be very dangerous!
Initially, ride slowly to learn how to maintain balance and get a feel for the bike. Brake, accelerate, and navigate through turns. It's advisable to do all this in quiet alleys with good pavement.
Try an exercise like a sudden stop: accelerate a bit and then brake abruptly. Attempt to slightly reduce speed and then come to a complete stop. Feel how much time and effort it takes to do this by pressing the levers.
IMPORTANT: When braking on wet surfaces, sand, or gravel, using the front brake is very dangerous. The bike may skid, leading to an inevitable fall.
You can also try an exercise for reaction speed and abrupt braking. Here, you'll need a helper: just ride around, and another person can shout "STOP" at any moment. You should quickly stop correctly in response.
Once you get comfortable on straight paths, start adding turns and maneuvers. You can create something like a "snake" pattern: set up various objects and weave through them. Begin using turn signals. Don't forget to turn them off. Learn to use mirrors, always check them before your ride.
For the first time, it's best to venture onto a calm and less crowded road. Calm down, gather your courage, and hit the road. Try to stay closer to the left edge of the road, moving smoothly and without rushing. Focus on your actions. Don't get distracted, and don't gaze around (yes, it's challenging in Bali, but in the second you looked at a cool cafe or a rice terrace, a lot has changed on the road). You are behind the wheel!
Always signal your turns in advance and avoid abrupt, unexpected lane changes. Your movement should be predictable for other road users! Always reduce your speed before making a turn!
Don't get complacent.
As they say, all drivers can be divided into those who have fallen and those who are yet to fall. Usually, when you become more comfortable and confident on the road, that dangerous feeling of "I can do it!" kicks in. That's when accidents happen, typically in the form of sand on the asphalt during a turn or a local Balinese unexpectedly crossing the road without looking. Often, this results in scraped skin and bruises, but sometimes it leads to more serious consequences. So, even if you've been riding around the island for six months, know every pothole on Sunset Road, don't replace self-assurance with arrogance and inflated self-esteem.
Oh, and about alcohol. That's something to be wary of behind the wheel. Bali is no exception. Yes, there are no strict traffic police with breathalyzers here, and many "experienced bikers" indeed ride after two or even five Bintangs. But it's all a matter of time. The slowed reaction after alcohol consumption is still a significant risk on the island. And if an accident happens, especially involving a local, the police will definitely notice your condition and include it in the protocol. Proving your innocence after that, even if you're not at fault in the accident, is almost impossible.
Are we breaking the rules? Balinese traffic police
There's no need to fear Balinese police. If you haven't violated any rules and a local traffic officer stops you, they will likely just check your international driver's license with category A or local license with category C and let you go. If you don't have the required documents, they may issue a fine and invite you to court in 20 days. Your bike will be taken to the impound lot until the court date, causing issues with the rental provider.
Negotiating on the spot is possible; the key is not to argue. They might show you a fine chart, where driving without a license costs 1 million rupiahs, and helmet violation is 350k. You can offer 100-200k, and they might release you (just be discreet about the amount you have in your wallet).
You can obtain official local licenses through the LegalIndonesia agency. And friends, it's better to wear a helmet—not just because of the police.
In Ubud, they might sometimes ask for up to 1 million rupiahs, although the actual fine usually doesn't exceed 250k. During a police raid, when an officer is nearby, bribing won't work, as they have a plan for fines. It's best not to ride without a helmet, run a red light, or cross the stop line. These actions give them a reason to stop you and test your nerves. The more violations you accumulate at once, the more you'll have to pay on the spot.
"Be like water, my friend"
In Balinese traffic, much happens on an intuitive level. Don't try to assert yourself aggressively or honk furiously at someone who doesn't intend to let you pass. Also, don't speed without looking around, even if you have a green light. The driving style and understanding of traffic rules among local drivers, especially those on bikes, are unique. If you can integrate into this "collective unconscious," stop getting annoyed with participants in this seemingly chaotic movement, you'll find it easy and straightforward. You'll see that there's generally no aggression on the island's roads.
Life hack: Even if you didn't manage to get into the far-left lane for a turn, you can simply raise your hand. If you do it smoothly, without abrupt movements, you'll definitely be let through. No one will honk frantically, wave their hands, or shower you with curses. But, in turn, you should be ready to yield next time. That's how it works.
Well, and perhaps the most important thing, friends: don't neglect training. Reading about the nuances of riding a bike, watching videos on YouTube – that's all great. However, even 1-2 sessions with an experienced instructor will give you a colossal advantage and confidence.
From whom to learn - read our article.
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