Readers' Questions

First Time Renting and Riding a Motorcycle in India Advice

Hi Karl, Amazing site and thank you very much.

I am going to be the assuming jerk here and tell you I am shotgunning a much-needed trip. I live outside Chicago, USA and fly balloons for a living.

I have ridden British bikes all my life and owned a bullet. They are unreliable but fun. I saw your advice on Enfield models. Makes perfects sense.

I am looking at tickets for India, leaving in the next couple of weeks.I took the winter off because I was almost killed in the fall by a texting teenager who rear-ended me. I lived an recovered but need time to myself. India has had a special place in my heart, and I fear I may not have the time or lack of responsibilities to be able to ride a bike in India ever again.

I am looking at your checklist. Outside were to get permits it all seems straightforward. I need your advice as to what contacts, if any do you have for me to rent a bike. I don’t want to get there and mess up securing the most important part.

From the looks of it, the price range for renting and buying a used bullet is in my range (for a once in a lifetime trip only) but am sure an explorer would most likely be a rental. Insurance? Is there a way to pay a bit more so that you don’t end up paying for every knick or problem, just walk away?

Sorry to hear about your fall! That’s good you’re taking time for yourself, that’s what life is about.

Where to rent a bike?

Your best bet is to rent online before you arrive. I went to the motorcycle market in New Delhi and rented, but I wouldn’t recommend that if you haven’t been to India before. Last time I looked Let’s Ryde was the cheapest. Do a search for “Delhi Motorcycle Hire” and price compare.

Do you want to do it alone though? I’d recommend going with a tour group. When you go with a group, besides making friends, they include the bike rental, accommodation, some food, and they have a van that carries your bags and a mechanic with spare parts. Again, Google and you’ll find the options available.

Do you need insurance?

The rental companies ensure their bikes so no need to buy it. But if you do cause damage then they’ll take it out of the deposit you’ll pay them on top of the rental amount.

Last time I had to pay ₹10,000 deposit. I lost all ₹10,000 too because I buckled the tire, the sari guard fell off, 3 of 4 indicators smashed, and the handlebar bent (LOL oops). But that was an offroading trip through the most difficult roads in India. If you’re not offroading, then you won’t have any major issues as I did.

I’ll be buying your guide if I go and right now I have a few websites that suggest bullet rental shops with a good reputation but now after reading your site and my previous knowledge of not even being able to tide it 500 km without a major repair, or the brakes always on and opps, no pad! Or, better yet, no oil! Surprise.

I shudder the thought of being in a place where there are no friendly locals with a truck and a cousin who is a mechanic, plus the cool roads you are on I could ride a bullet but wouldn’t want to risk it breaking down so remotely.

Rental companies keep their bikes in good shape, they care about protecting their investment and want to get max miles out of it. Most will tell you how old the bikes are so you can make sure you’re not getting a bike at the end of its life. All the Royal Enfield Himalayans (which I recommend to people) are only a few years old anyway as it was just launched in 2016.

Our rented Royal Enfield Himalayans on the Road in Himachal Pradesh. Photo © Gaurav Malik, all rights reserved.
Our rented Royal Enfield Himalayans on the Road in Himachal Pradesh. Photo © Gaurav Malik, all rights reserved.

The good thing about India is that there are mechanics in every town. I got stuck in a remote village once with a flat tire, but even there, there was a local guy with a patch kit who fixed it for free. On all the main routes there are plenty of trucks, some of them empty, so with the help of a local, you’ll be able to transport your bike to the nearest town.

Either way, if you get in trouble alone, some English speaking local will be happy to help a guest in India (as they say in India, “Guest in equivalent to God.”)

All Royal Enfields since the late 1990s have the gear shift on the right side of the bike as per overseas.

Renting foreign motorcycles in India

If you decide to take a bike that’s not made in India, mechanics, service centres, and parts are few and far between. The market for imported bikes is tiny here. Royal Enfield and other Indian brands dominate and therefore are easily serviceable India wide.

If you had 2 -3 weeks just appear out of nowhere, what would you suggest as a route as well?

Part of the Jodhpur Fort, Rajasthan. Photo © Karl Rock.
Part of the Jodhpur Fort, Rajasthan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Go to the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan. Ride Delhi > to Agra (Taj Mahal) > Jaipur > Jodhpur (stay at Bishnoi Camp) > Jaisalmer (camp under the stars in the desert). Then back to Delhi from Jaisalmer.You’ll need to break up the ride back over a few days, it’s long.

And remember the travel times look short on Google Maps but because of the roads, I conservatively calculate travel time as 1 hour per 50 km (31 miles)

Rajasthani Thali. Photo © Karl Rock.
Rajasthani Thali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Make sure you take the riding and trip slowly and spend lots of time off the bike exploring!

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

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