Choosing a Motorcycle Tour Operator is difficult enough. Let´s look at MotoDreamer’s helpful advice on this matter.
Why it Pays to Research when choosing a Motorcycle Tour Operator Carefully
|Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes|
This readable article is for those who are thinking of touring the world on their motorcycle.
It’s like a one-stop A – Z of choosing an Adventure Motorcycle Touring Operator guide from MotoDreamer.
1. Why it pays to research when choosing a Motorcycle Touring Operator carefully.
2. Why do prices vary significantly between different motorcycle Tour operators?
3. What should you look for in a guided tour?
4. A checklist of things you should ask all motorcycle Tour operators before choosing one.Before you embark on your adventure.
5. Handing the bike back to the Motorcycle Tour operator.
6. A final note on the costs of any Motorcycle Tour operator.
This advice applies to both operators who run guided group and private motorcycle tours and rental companies who hire their motorcycles for tourism purposes. Some companies, like MotoDreamer, do both.
It applies whether you’re dealing with companies in developing nations or countries where motorcycle touring is still a new industry. And in developed countries where slickly branded motorcycle rental chains dominate the motorcycle tourism industry.
It may seem obvious, but a motorbike is a piece of life support equipment. If it fails, bad things can happen.
Remember – Carefree motorcycle travel is unsafe motorcycle travel.
As a “professional pillion rider” and trip planner for my rider boyfriend for many years, we’ve rented all kinds of motorbikes on our travels. Back when we were young and naïve, we’d stumble across some ragtag mechanic working out of a roadside shack and convince him to rent us a bike.
We didn’t see the bike until it was delivered to the front door of our hostel the day after we agreed to a “blind” rental.
At first glance, the bike had noticeably square tires, a broken speedo, and tattered helmets. He’d promised they would be “our sizes” were so ill-fitting they were essentially useless.
The random mechanic guy barely charged us. The entire exchange was almost undoubtedly unlawful, and we were presented with exactly what we’d expected from an illegal transaction in a nation known for its relaxed stance on safety regulations.
Long story short, we and the bike survived. But had we chosen to tackle a more remote and challenging route, things could have been quite different.
Arguably, this may have been the only way to secure a rental motorbike in a developing country 15 years ago.
But times have changed. Motorcycle touring is becoming a more popular way to see the world. Now it’s riding alongside the locals instead of peering down on them from an oversized tour bus.
Many popular tourist destinations now offer motorcycle tours and rentals. You now have to find yourself choosing between several competitors offering various price points and inclusions. Believe it or not, it has also become simpler when choosing a Motorcycle Tour Operator because of all the easily available reviews and information on the internet.
Why do prices vary significantly between different Motorcycle Tour Operators?
Even though motorcycle travel is gaining in popularity, it’s still very much a niche business. Operators compete over a limited pool of customers, sometimes in countries that still trail behind overall tourist numbers.
Never choose a motorcycle tour operator or rental company solely on price. As new companies crop up, low prices start one way to lure customers away from more established businesses.
But, to make these prices viable, some companies may resort to using older, cheaper bike models. I do not forget less regular servicing, less experienced bike technicians, and poorly trained tour guides; I do not forget the more significant numbers of guests per tour.
Tour prices are influenced by the quality of accommodation and include side activities on offer.
Many highly reputable companies offer lower-priced trips that cut down on the creature comforts without compromising on bike quality and safety.
Narrow Down the Choices of Motorcycle Tour Operators Before you Leave Home.
Start by researching online all the companies based at your intended starting point. Look out for reviews and testimonials, particularly from dedicated moto touring communities like Adventure Rider.
A good website will have to-date-specs, images, and approximate ages of the bikes in their rental fleet. Ideally, you wouldn’t want anything much older than two years.
Why? Simply because rentals take far more punishment than regular weekend playthings. Look for bikes with lower mileage. But remember, these bikes are made to go long distances daily, and their odometers will reflect that.
What should you look for in a guided tour?
Suppose you’re looking to book a guided tour. In that case, the website should have detailed information on itineraries, local roads, and weather conditions. It should also include how much of the tour will be on sealed vs. unsealed roads. What level of riding experience is necessary, and a complete list of inclusions.
Some higher-end tours (such as many of MotoDreamer’s “luxury” group tours) might promise three stars or higher accommodation, coverage of all fuel and road tolls, and entry fees for group activities and side excursions.
The tour price should at least cover any mandatory 3rd party insurance for the countries you’ll be visiting.
The next step: talk to the Motorcycle Tour Operator in person. Book a Video Meet.
If a particular company’s website impresses you, it’s time to dig deeper. Could you e-mail them? Call them. Find out whether they’re knowledgeable, professional, and take the time to talk you through any concerns.
A checklist of things you should ask all Motorcycle Tour Operators before choosing one:
- Who does the servicing? It’s vitally essential that rental bikes are maintained to the highest possible standards. A place like MotoDreamer does its servicing in-house, with its own in-house team of mechanics who specialize in the European adventure bikes in their fleet.
- Other companies may not have their own fully-equipped garage. In that case, go with a shop whose bikes are maintained at an authorized dealer.
- What does the insurance cover? Third-party damage insurance is mandatory in many countries. Fire and theft cover is usually optional. For your peace of mind, we recommend shelling out at least for theft insurance.
- What happens if the bike breaks down? Provided your bike is relatively young and adequately serviced, breakdowns are rare. However, when they do occur, they can quickly turn fun into frustration. With minor problems, your guide should know how to do basic repairs. Or, if necessary, send for a trusted local to repair the issue quickly.
Suppose you are covering remote and challenging terrain. Is there a trailer capable of towing a broken-down bike to the nearest town if suited to the conditions?
In that case, you should strongly consider joining a tour that includes a support vehicle with tools and spare parts.
- How much will an accident cost? The operator should be upfront with you about these costs, which will vary depending on the insurance policy taken out. We strongly recommend a policy with maximum coverage, which will significantly lower your excess in the case of an accident.
- I’m taking a guided tour with the motorcycle tour operator. What are the guides like? Ask how familiar your guide is with the region you’ll be exploring. They are likely to lead you on side trips down cool backroads only the locals know about. And take you to little-known landmarks and attractions. Very helpful when crossing through regions where several languages are spoken. How well will your guide be able to communicate with the locals?
- One of the best parts of having a native tour guide is increased opportunities to interact with local people, whether they admire your ride or convince you to try their favorite regional delicacy.
- I’m riding independently. Are one-way rentals available? This often depends on the distance traveled. Moto rental businesses aren’t like Budget and Avis chains with offices all over the map. Remember, the rider will return the bike to the starting point or pay the cost of shipping the bike back home.
- Do you have riding gear available for rent? Helmets and jackets are bulky things to carry around in your luggage. So some riders prefer to rent their gear once they arrive. A well-equipped, well-established shop should have gear in various sizes for rent. But there’s always a chance your size is unavailable, or the equipment just doesn’t “feel right.” From a safety and comfort perspective, it’s better to bring your own gear if you can.
Before you embark on your adventure
Get your bike set up with the company’s mechanic. Before you get ahead of yourself and go riding off into the sunset, don’t forget every great adventure begins with paperwork!
Take plenty of time to inspect the bike together with the mechanic or the motorcycle Tour Operator shop owner and cross off the following checklist:
- Test all safety devices such as the horn, indicators, and lights
- Note the fuel level
- Check the front and rear brake for lever travel
- Inspect the chain tension
- Verify that the tires are in good condition and ask when the tire pressures were last checked
The rental company should ask you to mark down and/or photograph all pre-existing damages.
Familiarise yourself with the bike’s mechanisms and electronics while still on the shop floor and ask all the questions you like. Only sign the paperwork once you’re satisfied everything is in working order.
Handing the bike back to the motorcycle Tour Operator.
Once your adventure is over, it’s time to hand the motorcycle back. You’ll go through the same damage inspection procedure you did at the start. If the bike has taken some knocks, be honest about it. The staff will soon see through any cover-ups. Assuming you’ve bought insurance that covers at-fault accidents, you’ll then only be up for the excess.
A final note on the costs of any Motorcycle Tour Operator
A rental company that doesn’t adhere to all these fairly run-of-the-mill procedures may well be a sub-par operation.
You have had a laugh out of that story about renting a banged-up scooter from a random guy in Thailand one time. But when it comes to serious, long-distance motorcycle touring, safety is no laughing matter. So, before you decide on a rental company, remember, in a way, you’re entrusting them with your life.
You don’t necessarily have to go with the most expensive company with the fanciest bikes and the most luxurious extras. But at least go with the motorcycle tour operator you can be sure is serious about the safety and quality of its fleet.
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)
Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com
Now that you are here in the world of Adventure Motorcycle Touring, why not check out these next three articles.
Two of which give you the background of Mike and Diana and the history of their South American playground for all Motorcycle Adventure Warriors: