1. Slamming into a fence. Or a bush. Or someone’s beloved potted plant.
Whether you’re dodging your ’69 Vespa Sprint through Smart Cars in Italy or weaving your Honda Cub through stand-still traffic in Hanoi, it’s going to happen at some point, so it’s best to get it over with. Go practice in an alley or on some side road at 2 AM, and once you’ve been bested by some rogue fence or a potted plant, know that you’re most of the way there. But if it’s a potted plant, you’re going to have to get back up on that horse right away and get outta there. Remember: brake right, clutch left, and don’t look back at whatever woman in her nightie is yelling at you.
2. The gentle, friendly rear-tire tap.
Ahh, you’ve leveled up. Fences and bushes no longer are your adversaries, but those catchy little brakes of yours are sometimes an issue. And with throngs of 50 or 60 motorbikes around, it’s hard to always have 25 feet of notice to make sure everything goes according to plan. There will come a point when you see those red lights shine in front of you and for a few seconds you’re thinking, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” and then…poke. You just managed to tap their rear tire with the front of your bike. Phew. You wave, tell them that you really like their hair, and they wind up asking you for English lessons. It was all in your plan, really.
3. Those damn potholes lined with gravel.
Back home, you laughed at potholes. You bested them with your 4-wheel drive. Your shocks were all, “WE GOT THIS.” After just two or three, you started wondering where all your tax money was going to. But now you’re in Southeast Asia and it’s not a paved road with potholes, it’s a road paved with potholes. A gravel road, at that. Go slow, but not too slow, and use your feet if you have to stay up. You’re wearing a helmet that fits properly, right? No? Hmm. You’ve got Band-Aids and antiseptic on you, yes? Whoops, you’re just going to have to take your bloody knees to the nearest giant green cross sign you can find – and hope it’s nearby.
4. The run-in with the law-abiding taxi driver.
Alright, so you know you’re not technically supposed to be in the taxi lane. But everyone else just drives so…slowly. And you’ll only be there briefly, so what could go wrong? Until that stoplight turns yellow and the taxi driver actually screeches to a halt. Jeez. He’s the first taxi driver in the world who didn’t have somewhere to go, how could you have known? You ram into the back of his Peugeot 406, leaving nothing but a streak of red paint on the bumper, while your sad Honda Wave practically crumples itself up in the middle of the road. The taxi driver blasts out of his driver’s seat to yell at you, demanding money and your keys. Luckily he’s 5’5”, aging, and 110 pounds sopping wet, so even with your bloody knees, you could still take him. Just yell at him back until 50 or so passersby stop to gawk and he’ll eventually leave. Then turn to them and bow, thanking them for attending the show.
5. The guy with James Dean attitude and somewhere to be.
Picture it: the stoplight is counting down 3…2…1 and the throng is still coming. As the green light starts ticking down and the stragglers come to end – wait. Nope. There’s that one smartass who thinks he can run the green light 5 seconds after it starts its trek to yellow, and you almost take pride in snipping his back wheel. “IT’S NOT YOUR TURN,” you yell at him, and you know you really showed him one. Sigh. Glance at the other drivers around you and commiserate with silent head nods. Kids these days.
6. The woman who’s not paying attention.
Every street has one. Some woman decides to stop in the center of the road to adjust her face mask or call her boyfriend, not realizing she’s asking for it. In her defense, there’s a sea of motorbikes surrounding her, so where would she go for this super urgent phone call? Right, right. And as you’re driving along, that sea of bikes doesn’t part until it’s too late, you’re humming “God Bless America” to yourself, getting lost in taking it up an octave toward the end, and BAM. Motorbike pancake. She didn’t even see it coming, so it’s all your fault. You try to explain to her that roads are not parking lots, despite the percentage of time you spend waiting for lights to turn red, when you realize that’s not helping your argument and fighting the good fight just isn’t worth it anymore.
7. The one where it’s actually not your fault.
Finally. You haven’t had a scrape for months. You’re getting this thing down to an art, and you’re only violating the occasional travel rule because you have to. You’re flying down the boulevard taking joy in your right of way, when you see him. The teenager. He wants to take a left turn. He’s itching, you can tell. And then he goes for it. He goes for it? He’s going for it. You’re still cruising along, disbelieving, and he’s actually going for it. Brake, brake, brake – and his front wheel grazes your right shin. That’s gonna leave a nice friction burn. But hey, your conscience is 100% in the clear!
8. Your last one.
Relish it. Eventually you’ll be driving a mini-van.