Moving to Laos - need bike advice
I'll soon be moving to Vientiane (Laos) for work. From my research it looks like dealerships and official servicing garages are non-existent.
I'd like to hear your thoughts/experience on what kind of current production bike I'd be better off bringing with me, knowing that:
- I'd still want to have some fun
- it needs to be able to take on some off roading, or at least potholed roads
- it needs to be fixable by local mechanics or even me, so nothing too fancy
- ideally, servicing intervals would be generous
- reliable, bulletproof engine and well-put together bike
If I'm honest with myself, I know I'd like the 990 Adventure by KTM, but I'm not sure it fulfills all the prerequisite...
For those who have been to Laos on a bike, what are the roads like? When I went I didn't pay attention at all, and anyway flew from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. I've checked forums and seen pix, and the general impression I got was that the road from Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang was more windy than in a dreadful condition. But is that a correct impression? Does that road require a trailie/off-road biased bike?
Thanks for any advice.
I am in Vientiane now-- I will give you a better run down of the local situation and some links to local websites to look at when I have more time- but I will tell you that in the four months I have been here I have seen exactly 1 KTM in this country. Honda Baja 225 is by far the most popular dirt bike (maybe 90% of dirt bikes). Also, a 990 cc bike is huge here. I would guess that a bike that big would be a magnet for bribe seeking officials.
Spent a few days riding around Laos on a rented Transalp 400 (see sig line). It was by far the biggest bike I saw on the road and we got looks everywhere we went. Speaking of roads, the road from Vientiane up to Luang Prabang was fine. A bit rough in spots but it was all paved. If you want to fit in with the locals and get service\ parts and have no one look twice, pick up a small cheap honda. If not, (and you are ready to live with the consequences,) then get what you want and enjoy the ride. For me, I had a 2008 DR 650 in Thailand for 3 years and I could not have asked for a better bike. If I was going to Laos, I would bring my DR.
Like Canoli said, you should get the bike you want, but be prepared for the extra cost and hassle if you get an "unusual" bike for Lao. For parts or any kind of work on a KTM you are going to have to go to Thailand. You should probably also do some serious research on the process for importing a vehicle here. I doubt very much that it will be simple, and it will most likely be very expensive.
For the size of the bike I would highly recommend that you downsize. I don't know if you have visited here or not, but the roads are such shit no one is really going fast at all... I currently have a honda Win 100 which passes 90% of the bikes and cars on the road. You would never actually be able to use all 1000 ccs, and remember that the roads are very muddy, which means that a heavy bike is going to be all that much more difficult to control. There is a shop here "Fuark's" (or something) that can work on Honda dual sports at a reasonable price and good quality. He sells old Honda Bajas for about $2-3k, which is about the going rate for an off road bike here.
I would also recommend that you buy your riding gear somewhere other than Asia. Quality control here is a joke- which is fine for cheap electronics (kinda) but for your helmet, not so much.
When you get to town send me a message and we can grab a beer or cup of coffee- I should be getting a "proper" dirtbike soon so we could do some exploring if you would like.
Here's a website you should check out.
Get a Honda Baja 250 from Fuark in Vientiane.
thanks a lot for your comments, which are all fair points.
I'm slowly coming round to the idea of downsizing (when in Rome...), even though I'm now wondering whether to bring my BMW R1200R along - mainly because it pains me to part with it, but also because it could maybe come in handy if I decide to tour Asia (Thailand, Malaysia etc). I know it's a stupid idea, and that I couldn't use it much in Laos, but in addition to keeping it I could also buy a Baja for off/Laos-roading. What do you guys think?
Eesh, I'll buy you a drink with pleasure when I'm over. It should be around January 2013. I'll keep you posted.
Best regards, and safe riding guys,
Go see Fuark n Vientiane, he's the best in Laos, speaks English too.
In my experience in Cambodia and Thailand (and I would fully expect Laos to be the same), a Honda XR250 is about the best bike you can get. You can't kill it, and parts are available in Thailand if you ever do anything incredible to it.
Forget the KTM. I hate to say it, but forget it. Oh, and forget your BMW 1200R too. Man, I'd be pissed to have my GS in Cambodia unless I was just "riding through." ALL of the backroads are dirt, which is fine, but there are so many potholes it is like craters of the moon. A WR250 (not the R like I have, but a real one) would be even better.
Enough power to lift the front when you are jumping potholes.
Good source of knobbies
If it's that, you can do all sorts of hellacious riding.
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