South East Sumatra. 

Here is your basic idea. Take everything functional about a motorcycle and throw it out the window. There you go. Thats your basic idea of a rigid chopper.
— anonymous
  • Islands visited: 7
  • Other people’s bikes ridden: 12
  • Other people’s bikes crashed: 0 

I jumped onto a ferry from Java to Sumatra.  It would be my last Indonesian ferry to my last Island and after the craziness of Java I was looking forward to some long stretches of less crowded areas. As I was riding off the ferry I ignored the usual hawkers trying to sell me things.  It was dark as I pulled out past one rather aggressive seller who just about jumped in front of the bike.  Giving credit where its due, the dude knew how to push a sale. 


After this encounter I rode a bit further.  It was dark but I was meant to be riding another 150kms to a small town where my good friend Teddy was staying currently.  I usually try to avoid riding at night because my light drains the battery and takes away from the strength of the spark. Also my light sucks - it’s basically as bright as the zippo in my pocket. However, the wiring that the Royal Enfield Indonesian guys had completed gave the light a new strength so I took off, but not before the guy who had jumped in front of the bike at the port pulled up next to me on a bike. It was then I picked up on his biker vest. 

“Jon! I found you, you are late” 

Yeah the story of my trip so far I thought. 

My new escort rode me to his house where I loaded up on coffee and hit the road to find Teddy still another 2 hours away. 

 Teddy rocking out in another sidecar

Teddy rocking out in another sidecar

Finally after some confusion I met up with Teddy who was putting me up at his parents’ house.  It was a lovely house that doubled as a school and Batik factory. I know I have said this before but the kindness and generosity of Teddy caused him to become one of my closest friends in Indonesia. I felt a familiar pang of sadness that this would be one of the last times that I would get to hang out with him.  Before we would part ways though, there would of course be a big send off - beers at a local garage that was famous for producing something only made in Lampung - Custom bobbers that use a 700cc V-twin Mazda engine. 

To explain why these bikes exist is a fair description of how things work in Indonesia. When you have such a huge workforce of skilled fabricators, but a currency that makes foreign purchase tough - you learn to just make do. 

These bikes are reflective of that. They loved the big V-twin engines found in the American bikes but to get them in Sumatra was tough. So instead they pull the car engine from a small 1970’s Mazda, fabricate a connector to an old motorcycle gear box, weld together a frame, attach a car rear tyre and weld on a front end.  Bam! A rather reliable custom bobber which sets you back a fraction of the cost. 

 Sorry for the quality of this photo. It was a late night and like a bunch of workshops... Dark. 

Sorry for the quality of this photo. It was a late night and like a bunch of workshops... Dark. 

After the usual issues of trying to kick start someone else bike, it fired off(ignition was connecting two wires together). I sat down on the bike and due to the loose tolerances jumped the bike into gear.  The bike lurched from under me so I was sprawled out, legs dragging behind before it stalled.  Through some miracle I kept the bike upright, with much laughter from everyone. 

A few angry kicks later and the bike was running. Teddy jumped on his friend’s bobber and we both took off. 

 This workshop pumps out many handmade ridged bikes a year. 

This workshop pumps out many handmade ridged bikes a year. 

 From here I headed North. 

From here I headed North. 

"Sweet-Jesus!" I thought as bike shot off. Rigid, unbalanced and a front end that had no place on anything with a motor, let alone something as strong as this, the bike was beyond violent. Shaking in all of the wrong directions and with a stupidly large pull, the rigid tire would bounce around on the smallest bumps sending a jolt up my back before spinning and re-gaining traction.  I gripped the ape bars hard and opened the throttle trying to catch Teddy as he made the next turn. The turn was coming up fast. Turn, how *do* I turn this thing? This stupid, stupid motorcycle. I jammed on the rear brake (the bike has no front brake of course) and the bike started to skid.  I pushed the bike hard right, with the ape hangers I felt like a rag doll as the bike half skidded and tried to turn. I held on through some miracle. Due to my earlier blasphemous curse, I assume it was a Hindu god looking after me.  I pulled back into the workshop with Teddy and I stalled it of course. Everyone laughed and someone passed a beer. I lifted the shaking bottle for a sip, unsure if the wobbling beer was from nerves or from the vibrations still running through my body.  I have ridden many, many bikes and to this day that has been the bike that I felt wanted to kill me the most. 

 

You can see my route on motortourer here. 

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