39 responses to “Riding a motorcycle in the Philippines”

  1. Hi DP

    Excellent observations! Yes got a good laugh out of that circus act. Just amazing how many locals can fit on one bike! I have never seen that many before. Great picture and I admire your determination to get it.

    I can add some comment of my own.

    1. Ferry ramps. The frictional coefficient of wet (or oily) steel on rubber is only slightly higher than ice on rubber. For this reason in the rain some steel plate covered Philippine bridges can be absolute deathtraps.

    2. I agree with the Darwinian dog theory. Many foreigners have come to grief off their rented motorcycles because of dogs. My only comment here is when attacked by the dog, get up on the pegs and open the throttle.

    3. There is another Darwinian element here. Ordinary safety conscious foreigners that would never dream of not wearing a crash helmet at home, wildly take leave of their senses and rip about the Philippine countryside on rented bikes (of sometimes dubious integrity) without one! We have seen a number on non-hat wearing foreigners run afoul of dogs and sustain head injuries. Philippine roads are just as hard as the roads back home.

    4. Horns. Some areas locals sound off the horn as a polite warning to pedestrians. Particularly I notice that in Siquijor and a lot of Negros. I think it is a good policy and I do it everywhere. Motorcycle horns usually make a high-pitched “beeep” I replaced the horn on my bike with an automotive horn that has a good loud “parp” Sounds like a car. This has the effect of making dogs and pedestrians STOP and look for a car that they can’t see…. Would have liked to fit a jeepney horn but too big.

    5. I agree. If a bus, truck or V-hire is coming up behind, stop and let it through. The drivers are near-homicidal and in the Philippines there is only one road rule: Size matters.

    6. Overtaking a truck. In my experience this can be one of the most dangerous things to do. The driver and his two “assistants” are much more likely to be sipping on a refreshing Tanduay than bus or V-hire drivers. A couple of times I have almost been wiped out deliberately when overtaking a slow truck. If you really need to overtake, my advice is to sneak up behind in the blind spot (often they have no or only one external mirror) When the coast is clear, select the gear appropriate for max acceleration and go for it with as wide a berth as possible. Watch the truck’s left front wheel, if you see it move get on the brakes and drop back. Don’t try again.

    7. I have had several near-misses with older people just walking out without looking. I think because they don’t hear anything coming (deaf no doubt due to years of over-amplified karaoke) they just think there is no need to look.

    8. Early morning/late afternoon when the sun is low and at your back, pedestrians will not easily see you. Ride with the headlight on high beam and sound the horn. I avoid riding at night unless absolutely essential.

    9. Lastly, Caribou turds. Rounding a nice bend at a good clip and hitting a freshly laid Caribou turd is likely to put you on the deck. Watch out, where you see Caribous there are likely to be the associated turds.



  2. Hey Rick,
    Remember Mote( Marty from the Montlake Terrace house) hadn’t seen him since ’95. He came thru Seattle today and got to talking about shit and we thought we would see if we could contact you. He wanted to see your website please send…

  3. Hi Dp

    Yes noticed that grabby brake thing a few times, seems to be associated with brake pad type. Always pays to do a couple of test applications first thing before hitting the road.

    I’m in Dumaguete recovering from a dose of LBM. Gotta be right for tonight, Juvee’s folks are doing the big lechon baboy thing and I have a few SMBs lurking in the ref.

    Interesting flight into Cebu. The autoland system tried to land the plane 500ft in the air…. pilot took over and did a go-around with manual landing. Amazing thing technology….



  4. Hey dp,
    …gotta tell u about this one. I was living in Tabango north of Villiba some years ago. Its a very small village on the coast with a very small community. I ended up there when i split form my gf. I was virtually pennyless and this place was the best option. Anyways i had to go in to Ormoc when ever i could to withdraw my pension as there was no atm within an hours drive.Anyways i borrowed my friends bike the day before so i could make an early start. It was Holy friday the day of my trip so there would be little traffic as the Philippino dont like to travel that day as its supposed to be bad luck..I left around 7 am on the Friday and was making great headway until i hit a dog laying in the road. I was going at a fair rate and the dog didn’t move fast enough. I hit it chocker in the ribs and it yelped and ran off somehere. I parted with the bike after riding it horizontally for a while and then proceeded to slide across the road. I had no helmet as that was in my backpack ( eheheheh) and no jacket. The straps on my sandles wore through and so did my shoulder, elbow, forarm and knuckels also made a mess of my right knee. I cut my head a little but nothing that was anything. Well i picked myself up and stood there wondering where that dog had buggered off to as i wanted to give it a kicking but knew if i had tried i would have fell over in the process. A crowd gathered and asked me what had happened as people here are very very helpfull in situations like this. I cannot say enough about Philippinos and there concern. I told them a dog had been in the road and at this one of the guys kicked the nearest dog and shouted at it. I told him that it was not that dog but he still kicked it anyways. We picked up the bike and i got it started. I thanked all 30 of those wonderfull people and rode off into the sunrise with my left leg sticking out at right angles as it was the most comfortable position. I was dripping blood all the way to Ormoc which was still another 40 minutes to go. Arriving at Ormoc i went to my friends house ( Dr Syed or Sid as we call him ) and explained what had happened. The District hospital is on the opposite side of the road to Sids house but he drove me there. Bless him. They wiped the old brown antiseptic over all the places that had no skin on and my good friend Bebe organised a lift back to Tabango and for someone to take the bike back also. I was laid up for around 2 weeks with a badly swollen knees and knuckles . THEY SAY ITS BAD LUCK TO TRAVEL ON HOLY FRIDAY, hahahah rubbish.u gotta love the Philippines ahahah

    your neighbor Dave

  5. I have traveled fairly extensively thru-out the Philippine Islands by motorcycle. More than 18,000 KM. i am coming for a month starting about Dec 1. I would really like to explore the eastern side of Samar. I have been on Western side before. Where are you located?

    Let me know, maybe I would like to stop by and say Hi.


    David Popelka

  6. wayne sargent
    oct 28 2009

    hi dp
    what a small world,came accross your website and have been reading and enjoying the pics and stories
    [they are great]when i came accross section on alaska.
    i live in kodiak and have for 50 plus years,so i was real suprised to read you had fished there as that is
    what i still do, what a suprise.
    i have enjoyed your stories about samar as my
    wife is from there,i have been down there about 8 times
    last being nov 09 rented a car from subic and drove
    down.we had a great time spent most of it based in cabayog,be back nov 10 would be great to drive to ormac
    at see you.
    would be great to hear from you to see if we know the same people.thanks for great site.
    take care wayne

  7. David,

    I drive a daelim roadwin in Korea. It just doesn’t quite have the power I need. I am going to the PI. Will be there a while. What honda brand would you recommend that can do it well there both on and off road?
    By the way, I have been to the PI a few times and I noticed that a big danger is the pedestrians on the shoulder. If someone passes coming your way, ditching in and around the walkers could make for an ugly scenario.


  8. What ferries can I bring my cycle with, and what are names of the ports and were are they located. Thanks a lot.

  9. Hi David,

    I like your blog post. I’m from the motorcycle capital of the Philippines(Dumaguete City). I like driving a motorcycle going to office or any place in here dumaguete than a four wheeled vehicle.

    Your observations here in Dumaguete are all correct. There are also Drug races at night somewhere in Bacong. It is very dangerous since most of the racing bikes have no lights.

    I have been in Canlaon City twice. I had a great adventure in that place. I also love their food since it’s all fresh.


  10. David,

    Now you got a taste of what it is like riding a motorcycle in the Philippines. It’s kind of weird in our country but the experience you had will enrich your life even more.

    I admire your courage for coming over here and feel what’s in our streets and even beyond (where no tires dare to thread). We Filipinos can only dream to do the opposite of your endeavor.

    If you happen to pass by the city of Iloilo again in the near future, please contact me through my e-mail. I will be happy to introduce you to some friends who might help you get an even better experience with motorcycle driving towards more interesting places in the Island of Panay.

    Never look down your front wheel david. As we use to say, ‘just aim for the sun’.

    God bless you brother!

  11. Hello, great stuff, thanks for sharing ur adventures…. i too have traveled extensively in and around cebu and negros on my AsiaStar Dakkar 150. What fun especially riding negros. Your pix bring back memories, and i only just returned last week to usa. I expect i will go back permanently january 011 to live out restof my life, as it is so good for so many reasons, including low cost of living, and ample supply of friendly beautiful girls interestedin 4nrs.

  12. very good story, i will be there next year for hools with my wufe who is from Cotabato,and i will retire over there ti retire in 2021. i am looking for somewhere to buy perhaps outside of Davao. hope it will be cheapto buy a a home. Good luck to you. may see you some day.

  13. Great blog DP.

    I’ve been doing the rental thing in the Visayas for a few years now. I like the XR200, IMHO pretty decent bike for adventure touring, especially in the slower provinces.

    Usually I get an XRM125, they are OK, but I really don’t like the rotary clutchless gearbox

    One surprising bike I rented recently was the Yammie YBR125G. Not much more money than the XRM underbone, and even with 32,000 km on the clock it was still in very good operational order, even though it had obviously had a hard life. Suspension still had good damping, and even with 2 or 3 people on it did not bottom out easily. The 5 speed box and clutch and wide powerband compared to the XRM made climbing in the hills in low gear a lot easier than an XRM (which I sometimes thought would not get up some hills), and it cruised at 70 to 80 km/h much easier as well.
    The riding position was also a lot more friendly to my 6’2 body, and plenty of space for my feet, unlike the Loncin 125 I rented where i had to ride with my feet half off the pegs…
    Very light and easy, and the 18″ wheels with bigger tires also worked a lot better in the rough than the usual XRM that I can find.

    We did several rough roads and trails on it two-up , just had to take it slower because of the lower suspension travel compared to the XR200. However, the XR200s I have rented have all bottomed out a lot easier 2-up than this bike (IMHO very softly sprung), so at the end of the day it is a wash.

    Not as common as the TMX, but in some places I am starting to see a fair number, probably because they are half the price of the XR200.

    I’d also like to try the TMX some time, but never managed to find one to rent.

    The other interesting bikes I looked at were the Motostar 155 and 200 ‘adventure tourers’ (Zongshen in the rest of the world). The 155 (Zongshen Fly in other markets) looked pretty decent, very nice riding position for me, Showa suspension, watercooled, pretty well built from what I could see, especially for a Chinese bike.
    Just a bit nervous about parts and backup, and noticeably heavier than the YBR125.
    The 200 supposedly shares a lot with the Yamaha TW200 (and to a degree the XT225), so maybe less of a risk, but I did not like the riding position as much, feet too far forward to stand up easily.
    Very well priced though.

  14. great article. I enjoy reading your posts, and am going to be visiting there next february & march for 6-8 weeks or so. the plan is to rent a motorcycle in manila, then do 2 weeks going up the west coast, up to the northern tip, and back down through central luzon to manila.

    same for mindanao. 2 weeks starting probably in cdo, over to iligan city, then down to gensan, glan, davao, then meandering along the marshlands and east coast up to suirgao city, siargao island to do a little surfing, then back to cdo.

    your posts here are a great resource as to what kind of bike, etc. I know i’ll be @ the mercy of the bike rental shops as to what kind of bike I get. I am even considering purchasing a used one then leaving it there with friends for when I return, or selling it before leaving. if I buy one, i’ll probably follow your recommendation and get a honda 200cc or so. what used bike would you purchase?

    thanks again!


  15. hi duchpickle, can you recommend a motorbike rental in zamboanga? greetings emil

  16. Hi DP, Very nice articles…..& very informative…I have been in the Philippines 4 times and I enjoyed going around Camiguin on a rented Honda on my last trip. I love going there….My fiancee is from Northern Mindanao with family stretching from CDO to Butuan City.
    I have a Honda CRF 230 L here in Florida, and I also had a Yamaha TW200….both the kind of bikes that I like , but I usually don’t go off-road. My fiancee’s brother has a yamaha STX & I am able to use it….I get an international drivers license from AAA for a few dollars thats good for over 40 countries including the Philippines.
    I look forward to my trip there in Feb. Thanks again for all your input…safe riding, Tony

  17. These are all great posts. Does anyone know of any rental places in Luzon other than the Angeles City places, for big bikes (or bigger ones than the 125ccs)?


  18. hi
    what do you think of this itinerary? some dirt riding is OK for us. We’re thing next march, is that a good month for a bike tour?

    DAY 1 Leave Puerto Galera. Pass via Roxas to get ferry times to Panay for the next day.Ride on to San jose via dirt roads , rivers etc. if its dry there is a real hardcore trail which traverses the island, our group were the first to attempt it and succeed it!

    DAY 2, Roxas….may have to wait for the ‘right’ ferry xing…no problem as quite a few bars here!
    DAY3. Roxas to Caticlan on Panay.Take south route to Iloilo and cross to Bacolod on Negros.Great ‘entertaimnent’ here .

    DAY 4 Bacolod to Dumagete in south negros, nice stopover here.

    DAY 5. South Cebu to Moalboal Dive resort…

    DAY 6 MoalBoal,,, Diving the reefs…top dive site.

    DAY 7 Moalboal to Cebu city, Queen City of the south, great place!

    DAY8 Cebu, visit Mactan island, diving optional, great watersports playground here..

    DAY9 Cebu via mountains to the coast, crossover to Negros and take the Northern route of Negros to Bacolod.Stopover here.

    DAY10. Negros to Panay, again, Northern route to Kalibo, Panay’s big city, stopover here.
    DAY11 Panay back to Roxas.

    DAY12 Roxas back to Puerto.

  19. Does anyone know how the 400cc express way law is enforced?
    Can I stick 400 stickers on a 250 and get away with it?

  20. Very interesting im enjoyed reading your Blog.
    Hi guys,if you Planing to visit Puerto Princesa City Palawan,
    I recommended just to drive a motorbike by your self then u will have a lot of fun!
    I knew one beside of the airport,
    Check their website and Prices.

  21. Hi DP

    Is it possible to rent a bike in Iloilo for about a week, and if so do you know where?


  22. Enjoyed your info on motorcycles…very informative…I’ve lived in Cebu now for 5 years. We have family in Calbiga, Samar. I want to rent a motorcycle there if there is a rental place available. Do you know of any there?


    R Bell
    Formerly of Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA

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