I recently upgraded from a 200 cc scooter to a meatier properly geared 400 cc motorbike. It’s the kind I can’t really wear a skirt in, where I have to change into my “office shoes” once I arrive at work. It’s been a lifestyle change.
The first week or two I rode it like a granny. My muscles were sore from gripping the bike in an unconscious and unnecessary attempt to hold steady and suppress that initial fear associated with change.
My reasons for upgrading were both practical and logical. My license covers all motorbikes and I have rode motorbikes of this category, just not for a while and not in Singapore. I wasn’t upgrading in an attempt to gain more power or speed, it was because my scooter had one too many trips to Jalan Bukit Merah Lane 1 for repairs and husband was upgrading his motorbike. This left a spare bike in our driveway at the same time that I had a need for a new mode of transport. I also have visions of motorbiking trips to Malaysia and the likes, and am not quite sure how well a busted old scooter would fit into those holiday plans. So it’s time to get comfortable on a more powerful bike.
As a young looking 30 something blonde chick that bucks the general Singapore biking demographic, the bike tends to attract a lot of attention, and with this attention comes some frequently asked questions that range all the way from obnoxious to genuine. I’ve decided to highlight the most common ones here.
Not very useful motorbiking FAQs and frequent comments
Q: Is that your bike?
Q: Is that really your bike, as in you ride it everyday?
Q: Why do you ride a motorbike?
A: Because I need to get to my job where there is no adequate access to public transport as well as other places.
Q: Why don’t you buy a car?
A: Because they are prohibitively expensive in Singapore. Besides, motorbikes are fun.
Q: Wow, you must love all the attention you get on this bike.
A: No, actually I don’t. It makes me uncomfortable when people stare and ask silly questions or make rude comments.
Q: Does the blonde hair get you more attention on the bike?
A: No, I always wear a helmet which keeps me safe and ensures that no one sees what my head looks like.
Q: I would never ride a motorbike they are unsafe.
A: OK, you don’t have to.
Useful motorbiking FAQs:
Q: How much does a motorbike cost in Singapore?
A: The cost of the bike varies. My old scooter was purchased for 2000 SGD inclusive of 3 years left on the COE (certificate of entitlement). You can go on up from there. A new scooter costs around 10k. Insurance varies, but can run about $200 a year. Petrol for the scooter was $12-$15 a tank and would last me a week. Petrol for the 400cc bike runs about $20-$25 for a week.
Q: How does the COE work for a motorbike?
A: The COE for a motorbike is similar to a COE for a car. It’s a way for the Singapore government to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and it creates some revenue. With a car or motorbike, you basically end up paying for the vehicle twice because the COE costs about as much as the vehicle to begin with. COEs typically last ten years. At the end of your vehicle’s COE, you may renew it, but this is not usually done as it is not seen as cost effective to pay for a full COE on a ten year old vehicle. This is why most vehicles in Singapore are not older than ten years.
Q: How do you get a license to ride a motorbike in Singapore?
A: You may either convert an existing motorbike license or take the course while in Singapore. The official rules for converting a motorbike license are that you should have obtained the motorcycle endorsement a minimum of one year prior to it’s conversion. Also, you will be given a limited category of bike based on what you rode previously. You may be asked to show proof via past insurance documents, photos etc of your previous bikes. There are three locations where you can go to convert your license. You will have to take a written test to do the conversion. There’s a several month waiting list for spots to take the test so best not to delay.
If you did not have your license prior to your move to Singapore, there is a tiered and lengthy (not to mention expensive) process for obtaining one. You basically must enroll in a driving school. It will take a minimum of six months to complete all the assignments and tests required just to drive a scooter. If you wish to ride something with more horsepower, you must continue to train with a school to achieve a higher category endorsement.
I’m just going to throw this out there – in Singapore the process takes a minimum of six months to be legal on a scooter alone. In Europe or America, the process takes 2 days and there are no restrictions. Let me repeat- 2 days of training, no restrictions. So if you think you may ever move to Singapore and are interested in riding a motorbike, get your license a year before you think that move to Singapore will take place. Or heck, just get your license anyway. It’s a life skill, people.
Q: How/where do you park?
Depends where you are. Parking for bikes is much cheaper than for cars. (ERP fees are cheaper too.) Some parking garages do not allow motorbikes, but in some areas there are extra parking only available for bikes. I think that it’s size makes it easier to stash away, but as I said, it depends on your situation.
Q: I hate motorbikes, they are always zooming around my car and riding the white line. Do you do that?
A: No, and the motorbikes that zip around me scare the bejesus out of me too. I encourage safe driving from every vehicle on the road. I do indulge in the white line at stoplights and very slow traffic- one of the perks to being a small footprint!
Q: How do other drivers receive you on the road?
A: It’s a mixed bag. Some are very kind and some are pure assholes.
The best advice I was given was “drive like a car and they’ll treat you like a car.” If you are zooming around traffic or hugging the side of the lane, they’ll assume you don’t need much space and come into your lane. If you stand your ground and ride in the center of the lane, they’ll mostly respect your space. Notice the word mostly.
The other trick is to not let them intimidate you into riding in a way you don’t feel comfortable. I find many drivers in Singapore are impatient with an inclination toward the horn. That shouldn’t translate to modification of my behavior, despite what a rushed driver might feel.
While I’ve seen motorcyclist take unnecessary risks, I’ve also seen car drivers make moves that put motorcyclists in danger. Witnessing this behavior makes me even more firm in my decision to stand my ground. While an accident for a car might mean car repair, an accident to me could mean losing a limb or disfigurement. It’s fine if they don’t care about my life, but I do, and I won’t be bullied.
Q: Is riding a motorbike hard?
A: Any new skill is difficult at first. For instance, you didn’t wake up one day knowing how to drive a car or even how to walk. Scooters are actually quite simple as you don’t have to change gears as you ride and they are generally light weight, so they are a good place to start.
Q: What do you do when it rains?
A: I get wet.
But seriously, I have some rain gear to wear. If it’s not too rainy or I have my raingear, I only get a little wet. If I forget my rain gear, I get very wet!
Q: Do you like riding?
A: Yes! Now that I’m a rider, I wouldn’t give it up. I really do enjoy riding my bike!