While this loop can certainly be done by a bicycle, it is not for the faint hearted. 700km through some very serious mountain climbs mean it can be a really tough ride. No wonder one Swedish cyclist called this ride The Wall. We did half of it in Feb 2014, and lived to tell the tale. However, these roads of the Mae Hong Son loop are truly a motorcyclist's dream. Amazing scenery, quiet roads, lots of curves and hairpins and cool weather from Nov to Feb. The steep hills are not a problem for modern scooters, even 125 cc ones provided one is not in a hurry. For us, we took it easy and aimed for 150km per day and that means being on the saddle for only about 3-4 hrs, cruising at an easy 50km/h or less.
The Yamaha Filano 125 scooters were amazing in fuel economy, averaging unbelievable 60km per litre. The Yamaha Tricitys due to its 3 wheel configuration and weight, also 125cc still managed a respectable 40km per litre. The Roscoes' Suzuki Burgman with 2 people averaged 32-34 km per litre. So it was a big pleasant surprise that the Filanos consumed only $20 worth of fuel over 900km.
There are numerous rental companies in Chiang Mai but we went with Pop Rental as they had a good variety of motorcycles including big ones - 500cc all the way to 1000cc. But truly, a small 125 cc should suffice as its hard to go faster than 70km/h on these country roads and pointless too. If you plan on a pillion, then a bigger 200cc makes sense.
Make sure safety gear is always worn. This means a good helmet (not the ones that come with the rental bikes) with full wind visor, gloves, jacket, long pants, shoes are the minimum. Of course if you can look good, why not? Flowers optional though.
A minor spill confirmed for us the importance of getting insurance, which meant peace of mind. Our friend walked away relatively uninjured thanks to the safety gear. All these plastic panelling of these new scooters are not cheap to repair. Insurance only adds about $2 per day so do check with your rental company if they have insurance. Of course, the key is to ride slowly, attentively and carefully especially around the bends. Traffic in the city can also be challenging, so please be aware.
One more thing, there is no need for license here in Thailand apparently. Just leave your passport as a deposit and that is good enough for them. But this means the onus of riding safe falls upon you and it helps to practice and skill up before embarking on such a journey.
Papa trying out the Yamaha Tricity for the very first time!
Anyway, here is a video I took while on the move. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my one hand riding! Trust you can feel the freedom, the fun, the wind and the unforgettable joy of scootering through one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Motorcycle rental shops in Chiang Mai and more useful information. Click here.
Photo credit - KC