Chiang Mai  
Bike rentals  

Last update: Feb 21, 2023

Bicycle rentals.

There are very few bicycle rental places with decent bicycles in Chiang Mai. Most hotels and small rental shops rent out cheap crappy city bikes. There are only a few decent bike shops, which have larger, sturdy mountain / road bikes.

One such shop is Sahamitr bike shop, located on Ratchadamnoen Road at the first crossing with Ratchapakhinai Road. They have road / mountain bicycles available for rent for 200 to 300 baht per day.

Another option is Chiang Mai Bicycle, a new shop on Loi Kroh Road, between the moat and Kamphaeng Din Road. They offer new high-end Trek bicycles for 200 to 500 baht a day, with both MTB/mountain and road bikes available. Remember, you get what you pay for. chiangmaibicycle.com

NK Bike Rentals, just south of the old town, also offers city bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes. Their road bikes cost about 250 to 300 baht per day.

Be aware that in the old town biking is quite safe, but outside the moat it can be tricky. There are no speed limits enforced, and there is a lot of traffic. It's also worth mentioning that a decent, sturdy mountain bike will give you twice the speed and endurance compared to an undersized city bike from your hotel.

 

Scooter rentals.

There are many scooter rental places in Chiang Mai, located all over town. Most are small shops, such as those found on Moonmuang Road, the street along the moat north of Taphae Gate. Common scooters for rent include the Honda Click, Honda Scoopy, and Yamaha Fino. The cost can vary widely, but most rentals fall in the range of 150 to 250 baht per day. The more powerful 125CC scooters will be over 200 baht a day.

Bamboo Bike Rentals has also good ratings; it is located on Chaiyapoom Road; the eastern moat road, opposite Somphet market (across the walking bridge). They rent the cheapest scooters starting at around 120 baht a day, but these are not the newest or best scooters. Next to Bamboo Bike are a Pop rental store, and Ann's Rental, which have newer rental scooters. Happy Days Shop is a bit further north on Chaiyapoom Road, they rent only scooters and get good reviews.

Some of the popular automatic scooters available in Chiang Mai:

  • Honda ZoomerX 110
    • Great for beginners: Low seat height, low centre of gravity and large tyres.
  • Honda Scoopy 110
    • Easy handling for beginners, a 110 cc engine.
  • Honda Moove 110
    • A regular scooter, not as fast as the Click.
  • Honda Click 125
    • A great option if you want to do longer trips. Clicks can handle the long trip to Pai better than the 110 CC scooters.

Yamaha

  • Yamaha Fino 115
      A scooter meant for city use, but they can be used on highways too.
  • Yamaha Mio 125 / 110
    • A zippy scooter, it has the same 125 cc engine as the Yamaha GT.
  • Yamaha GT 125
    • With a low seat height and low overall weight, it's a great beginner bike.
  • Yamaha Aerox 155
    • A crossover between motorcycle and scooter. The most powerful scooter to rent; much faster than the normal scooters.

 

Motorbike rent.

Most motorbike and scooter rental places in Chiang Mai are close to Thapae gate, for example Mr. Mechanic, Pop Big Bike rent, and Dang Bike Hire on Kotchasarn Road. Mr. Mechanic motorcycle has a few shops around town. Pop is the largest shop, at their main store on Kotchasarn Road there are dozens of big bikes on display.

These shops have trail bikes available like the Honda CRF300 Rally, and big bikes like the Honda CB500F, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 or the Kawasaki Versys. For mountain and dirt roads the Honda CRF300 Rally is the best and cheapest choice.

Walk a bit away from Tha Phae gate to find a cheaper rental shops; with a bit of shopping around, motorcycles like the Kawasaki Versys or Honda CRF300 can be rented cheaper. I can recommend Ann's Rental, which is right next to Bamboo bikes on Chaiyapoom Road.

C&P Big Bike is a bit out of the way on the east side of the river, but gets very good reviews.

 Pop Motorcycle  main store.
Pop Motorcycle main store, Kotchasarn Road Chiang Mai.

Bike shops like to keep your passport as safeguard; but most motorcycle rental shops also accept a deposit of 2000 to 3000 baht for a scooter and 5000 baht for a motorcycle. An international drivers license is also a requirement but is not checked when renting a bike.

The longer you rent a bike, the cheaper the daily rate can be, so it's worth negotiating. For example, a 300CC trail bike like the Honda CRF300 Rally rents for 1000 baht per day, but for 5 days or more, the rate drops to 900 baht per day. Outside the high season a determined haggle can bring rental fees down; during high season this may be more difficult.

Comparison of Big Bike motorcycle rental shops - 2023
Motorcyle MrMechanic POP Big BikeC&P Big Bike Ann's RentalChiang Rai
Big Bike
Yamaha Aerox 155 600 baht 600 baht
Honda CRF300 Rally 1000 baht 1100 baht 1000 baht 1000 baht 1000 baht
Honda CB500x 1300 baht 1200 baht 1300 baht 1500 baht
Kawasaki 650 Versys - 1800 1800 baht 1700 baht
Suzuki V-Strom 650cc 1600 baht 1800 baht 1800 baht
Data: websites of rental shops.

Insurance or Not?

After test-driving your motorbike, you will need to sign a rental agreement with the rental company. The rental agreement will outline the terms and conditions of the rental, including the rental period, and rental fees.

It is important to read the rental agreement carefully before signing it and to ask questions if you have any doubts. Check the brakes, tires, and lights to ensure that they are in good condition; and make photos if there are existing scratches or damage on the bike.

Note that there is usually no insurance coverage offered for motorcycles and scooters. In Thailand all motor vehicles and scooters have third party insurance by default, with a maximum of 80.000 Thai baht. This Compulsory Third Party Insurance (CTPL) is already in place when you rent a motorbike. The Thai name is Por Ror Bor insurance; it covers limited personal injury of up to 80.000 baht. However, it does NOT cover any material damage. insurance Mr Mechanic.

 

In conclusion, the motorcycle shops do not offer insurance coverage for material damage. The only insurance provided is the default Compulsory Third Party Insurance (CTPL) which covers limited personal injury.

Mr. Mechanic is the only shop that offers damage insurance when renting a bike. This insurance covers material damage and costs around 100 to 250 baht per day. This insurance comes with an "excess" component; the "excess" refers to the amount you would need to pay the rental company if your hired motor vehicle gets damaged.

If you have an accident on a scooter, your travel insurance may not cover the damage, as scooter and bike riding are often excluded. On average, a new scooter in Thailand can cost between 30000 to 50000 Thai baht, which is approximately 950 to 1600 USD. Larger bikes, like the Honda CB500x or above, can have a new price of 10,000 USD or more. For inexperienced drivers, it is advisable to consider additional insurance.

Motorcycle helmets

Scooter rental is very easy and scooters and motorbikes can be rented at almost every corner; helmets however are a problem. Motorcycle helmets are usually free with a motorcycle rental; but most of them are low quality helmets and may not fit very well. Many drivers in Thailand wear horribly bad helmets which are almost useless. Take your time to find a good one. Wearing a helmet is compulsory and carries a fine of 500 baht.

police checkpoint Chiang Mai.
One of the police checkpoints in Chiang Mai.
Notice the old blue "Half helmet".
Open face 3/4 helmets (left) are better than these Half helmets.

 


On The Road: Checkpoints and IDP driver's license.

"We have never ridden scooters before, and if needed will do some basic motorbike training before we come."

That idea often ends with a surprising takeoff speed on the scooter, and 1 or 2 seconds later a crash against an obstacle. Scooters in Thailand start with 100CC and up, with a top speed of 90km/hour.

Learning scooter driving in a foreign country with different rules is usually not a good idea. These novice drivers don't blog about their beginner's mistake, but pay for the damages and walk away, hopefully without too many scratches except to their ego.

The rental company will not check your license or experience; that is not their business. However, the police is very interested in your license, and will check if it is a proper motorcycle licence. A car licence won't do.

 

Since 2017 the Thai police have set up checkpoints in Chiang Mai, where driver's licenses are checked. All foreign motorcycle and scooter drivers need to show an International Driving Permit which should include a motorcycle endorsement - just a car driver's licence is not adequate. They will also fine you if you don't wear a helmet.

In many European countries one does not need a motorcycle license for mopeds: small bikes of 50CC. However, this is not the case in Thailand, where scooters are more powerful. The only scooters for rent in Thailand are 100 to 125CC; there are no 50CC scooters in Thailand at all. Therefore, all scooter drivers need a valid Motorcycle license and an International Driving Permit.

For Thailand you will need to show an IDP of the 1949 Convention.

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit or International Drivers License is required for motorcycle driving in Thailand, but this is often not checked when you are renting a bike. The International Driving Permit (IDP) can be obtained in your home country; for example, at the AAA office (American Automobile Association, USA), at the post office in the UK, or at the Automobile Association of your home country. You have to get one before you leave on holiday.

At the Thai police checkpoints the police will ask for your IDP which should show the motorcycle endorsement if you drive a scooter. If you don't have a motorbike license then your international permit won't cover scooter driving!

In Chiang Mai, the fine for not having an International Drivers License is 500 Baht. The maximum fine for not having an IDP in Thailand is 1000 Baht; the usual fine is 500 Baht.

IDP.
IDP - International Driving Permit of the 1949 Convention.

Issued by the Dutch Automobile Association (ANWB), since 2022 valid for 3 years.

 

 

Fines: "Police extortion!"

Many scooter drivers who are stopped at Police checkpoints complain of extortion. They seem to believe that since they are valued foreign tourists they don't have to obey any road rules and can get away with anything.

If you were at home and the police wrote you a ticket because you did not have a motorcycle license, would that be extortion? If you do not have a motorcycle license at home, you shouldn't be driving a motorcycle in Thailand, period. Many scooter drivers are under the impression that they can do whatever they want because they are on holiday. They get annoyed at police checkpoints and fines; however the police are simply enforcing the law.

International Driving Permits (IDPs) are essentially just a translation of your driver is license. If you have a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license, you will have a motorcycle endorsement on your IDP. In a European license that is the A1 or A2 category; in the USA a motorcycle license is class M. If you do not have that endorsement, then you are not legally permitted to drive a motorcycle or a scooter, so the police can give you a fine.

The times when a tourist could drive whatever they liked in Thailand are well in the past. And that may be a good thing, for road safety in general and for your health in particular. One positive point: your fine will give you an exemption for new fines for three days. If you can show your ticket you won't get another fine.


Travel insurance companies have in the fine print that you must have a motorcycle license and an International Driving Permit in the event of a claim for accident damages or medical costs. You are not covered for any medical cost if you rent a scooter without a proper license.

 

 

A bit of Road Rash.

In december 2019 I did a quick return trip to Pai and Mae Hong Son on a Honda CRF300 off-road bike. Somewhere on the twisty part of the road to Pai, I noticed 3 young people standing by the roadside, their scooters stopped. They looked forlorn. Something had happened, I decided to stop and walked back towards them.

Two young men and a young woman were standing there; two scooters were parked, and one lay on its side in the ditch. Hello, I said to the woman, "Did you slide off the road here?" She just stood there; her arms and legs covered with small cuts.

"Yes", she replied.
"Are you OK? Do you want me to apply some bandages?" I asked.
"Yes please."

It was obvious what had happened. The road to Pai is busy, and most Thai drivers go quite fast around the tight bends. She had little experience on mountain roads, and had driven more slowly, and neatly steered into the corners. There is often gravel or sand in corners, and she had hit some gravel and skidded off the road.

A typical beginner's mistake: the small round gravel stones will inevitably make you slide into the ditch. If you can drive fast enough to keep up with the other traffic it is better to stay in the middle of the road. Wearing shorts is also no good, long jeans and a good jacket will protect you much better.

The woman seemed to be about 24; all of her limbs were covered in small cuts, caused by the sharp gravel stones. Although the cuts weren't very deep, it didn't look good. I got my band-aids from my motorbike and started plastering the cuts one by one.

"You should go to the hospital in Pai and get treated." I suggested.
"Yes." she replied, still in shock and trembling all over her body.
"You're shaking all over. Why don't you sit down?"
She refused.

"Will I need stitches?" she inquired anxiously.
"No, I don't think so. They are all superficial wounds. You'll be OK" I reassured her. She was still in shock, and it was clear that she doubted my words. But the cuts were not deep and none of them very bloody.

I finished plastering the smaller cuts; but a few of them were so large that I didn't have large enough band-aids to cover them. Luckily, a short time later a pickup truck stopped with two Thai men inside.

The two young guys walked up to the truck and asked for a ride to Pai hospital. The Thai men looked at the girl, and the scooter in the ditch, and nodded. With a few hands, we lifted the scooter into the truck bed and tied it down. The girl got into the cabin, and they set off towards Pai.

That was that. I said goodbye to the two young men, who thanked me, and then went off on the last stetch of that winding mountain road to Pai. I never saw any of them again.

 

trail around Chiang Mai.
Remote trail through the villages in Si Lanna NP.

 

Road Safety statistics.

Chiang Mai News reports on road safety 2018:

        In Chiang Mai province from January to November 2018 there have been 13.051 accidents resulting in 246 deaths and 14.465 injuries. Of these, 25 deaths were foreigners and 1.100 of the injured were foreigners. Ten percent of the people that die on Chiang Maiís roads are foreigners.

The statistics also reveal that the overwhelming majority of deaths and injury were on motorcycles. Most deaths were young people, 16 to 25 year olds. So it is best to drive safe, get your International Driving Permit and try not to end up in hospital. It could spoil your holiday somewhat.

Thailand is on the fifth highest spot on the list of countries by traffic-related death rate, after four African countries.

Thailand traffic deaths.
Thailand: traffic deaths per 100.000 inhabitants (chart).

Source on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org

One of the reasons for the many accidents is that highways have a U-turn possibility every mile or so; with drivers waiting to make a turn and watching the traffic coming at high speed at them. Another reason is that there are speed limits, but no speed traps or cameras. The speed limit in towns is 60 km/hour, outside built-up areas 90 km/hour, and on highways 120 km/hour (since 2020), but many people drive as fast as they like. Some drivers go at speeds of 120 to 140 km/hour, passing slow traffic and very slow bikes and scooters.

Fortunately, most drivers slow down when passing markets or busy places. But even on a highway outside of town, there can be pedestrians crossing the road, people pushing carts or scooters going the wrong way on the verge. Anything is possible and everything should be expected.


A one-sided mishap on the 107 highway. Mind the curb!

 


Motorcycle rental links.

Links on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage

 


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