FAQ For The Extreme Rally Raid
1. What do I need to bring?
If you don’t have the following things, you won’t be riding with us, as you’ll be compromising your own safety:
- CamelBak or dehydration pack of some sort – check out camelbak.com – and it is NOT to be attached to your bike under any circumstances!
- real motorcycle boots, preferably stiff motocross boots. Army or work boots are not acceptable.
- a cheap watch at the least
- pocket knife/tool (leather-man style)
- copy of your travel insurance details
- personal medicines
- photocopy of your passport and current visa.
- waterproof bags for protecting valuables and important documents, eg wallet, papers, etc
- sunburn cream
- torch or headlamp
- mosquito repellent
- several pairs of thick woollen socks, nylon are unsuitable and usually cause blisters
- emergency space blanket (of the compact plastic foil type)
- a medium to large back pack, to be worn on your back, carrying one-days worth of clothes and toiletries (he who travels lightest, travel furthest) allowing space to carry two extra water bottles we will buy in villages along the way on certain sections of the rally as well as two spare tubes
2. What do I wear?
Most riders usually wear a motocross jersey or the rally jersey supplied by us , knee pads, riding pants, and obviously the required boots, helmets and gloves. We can provide you with helmets (limited availability) and gloves upon request, but you’ll need to let me know in advance what size you need. However, we strongly recommend you bring your own. The local helmets are made in Asia, and while these are good for protecting your head from insects, branches and the sun, I’m not sure they would pass the standards test back home ( they are glued together in the middle ) . Plus if you have a rather large head, you’ll definitely need to bring your own as sizes are smaller here.
If you arrange it with us, you could buy a pair of second-hand motocross boots on eBay (there are many around $100-$200 USD) and we will be happy to buy them off you at the end of the rally.
If you want to wear body armour and elbow pads that’s up to you, although it does get hot riding during the day. Please do NOT bring one of those mesh jackets with built-in body armour because you will die of heat exhaustion. Nobody has ever lasted more than two days on one of my rallys wearing a mesh body armour suit as they are too hot.
If you must wear body armour, get the plastic-roost deflectors as they have good air flow and don’t trap the heat in.
3. Are there any rules?
Yes, we do have some rules, mostly for safety reasons:
- Unless directly told otherwise, stay behind the leader. This is NOT negotiable. In certain sections of the rally we travel in areas where there are hundreds of walking trails and ox-cart tracks and as there are no signs or people, and obviously no petrol or water available (dry season), we don’t have the time or resources to go tracking down riders who decide to lead the pack then lose their way.
- Always ride with your headlight on when you’re not in a town. While it’s illegal to have your headlights on during the daytime, having your headlights on is a great way to be seen by other vehicles and we’ll be able to keep track of riders in the distance.
- Use the horn – a lot. And I do mean a lot, when riding through towns.
- If, after 15 minutes, you don’t see any other fellow riders, stop and wait. For this reason, it’s important to bring a cheap watch to keep track of time. And make sure you and your bike are in an obvious place where you can be seen (not off the road, or in a shop, or under a tree) and stay with your bike and listen out for us. We will come and find you.
- Let the rally leader know when your drinking water is running low (preferably before we leave a major town or village).
- Bring a sense of humour.
4. I’m currently not sure whether I want to do the full rally or just the first section. When do you need to know and can I still book a place on the rally without really knowing?
This is not a problem. You can make your decision later on, even during the course of the rally.
5. What bikes are used and what do they cost to hire?
These are your options:
XR 400 @ $50 USD a day if renting for more than 11 days (limited numbers available).
Old XR 250 @ $25 USD a day if renting for more than 11 days (more than 20 bikes available).
The bikes we regularly use are Late and early model Honda 250 XR, XLR and Baja.
Sure, they’re not exactly weapons, but as you would know, disc brakes back and front and single shocks are better than an Indian bullet or a 1960s design Russian Minsk, which would be your mode of transport if you were to take a bike tour in India or Vietnam.
We choose to ride these in Cambodia because they’re indestructible, available, sensibly priced and spare parts are easy to find even in remote arears . Not to mention, in the past we’ve used bigger bikes but this only really resulted in bigger crashes and bigger injuries. After all, we prefer people crashing at 70km/h and not 120km/h or more. Also the hospitals here are only good at cutting stuff off, not putting things back on, and as we do on most of our travelling far off the beaten track with no vehicle access at certain parts of the rally, we could be a day or two away from help. And that’s why 250s it is!
6. How many people usually go on the rally?
We’ve been averaging around 20 riders on each rally for the past three years. Each year, we’ve been travelling much deeper into the countryside to where water and petrol are scarce and it’s quite easy to buy a village out of supplies in one hit. So having a small group avoids the problem of not finding enough petrol for all.
7. Is it necessary to have a driving licence?
By Cambodian law you must have a International Drivers Licence or a Cambodian Drivers Licence. However, like most laws in Cambodia, it really doesn’t mean much so we don’t require you to hold one.
8. Does the price include insurance?
No, however Motorbike Insurance is currently available at time of hiring your bike , however it covers theft,3rd party and damage to the bike only .Priced from as little as $5-10 per day.
9. What happens if the bikes get damaged?
Firstly let me state we have never ever had a customer’s bike die on us (correction, one bike in 2005). Sure we’ve had a few electrical problems and the occasional minor mechanical problem, but at the time nothing that we couldn’t fix or work out a solution for so that the rider could continue the ride.
However, you will be fully responsible for the hiring and repairing of any damage to the motorcycle including engine failure should it occur. In the event of major mechanical failure, you will also be responsible for the costs of returning the bike to Phnom Penh and then the necessary repairs in addition to the daily rental fee. I know this sounds unfair, but if you’ve ever been to Asia you’ll know this is standard policy for the region.
But please don’t be too concerned. We’ve hosted hundreds of customers over the years and never had any major problems that we couldn’t fix ourselves – not one.
Thank God for HONDAS, eh?
If you do happen to trash the bike (try not to) they will rebuild it for cost using second hand parts. As a rough guide, here are the rough costs to replace parts on a Honda XR/XLR 250: (USD) blinkers $5, clutch lever $3-5 brake lever $ 5-7, tank $25-50, forks $70-80, piston $50. Try to avoid breaking the digital speedo as it’s worth over $400, but most of the bikes don’t have these anyway.
We’ll be carrying spare parts with us (each rider will carry something) including: brake levers, clutch levers, cables, tubes and repair kit, CDI for the older XRs, front & rear brake pads, spare front sprocket, spare links, pump, tools and other bits and pieces.
10. Do we need a tent?
Nope, we sleep under the stars, but if you want to carry a tent, it’s your choice (nobody ever does).
11. Do we need to get a Visa before leaving our home country?
It’s up to you. You can get a Visa in Phnom Penh on arrival. It costs $20 USD and takes about 20 min, but you will need to remember to bring three passport photos.
Plus USD for payment
Alternativley you can get a visa online by visiting http://www.cambodiaonarrival.com/
12. Do we need special injections to travel in Cambodia?
No, but please visit a travel clinic in your home country and see what they recommend.
You’ll also have to make up your own mind whether or not to take Malaria tablets. Although we’ll be travelling to areas where Malaria is present, we are travelling in the dry season ( no water = no mosquitos ) where there are less mosquitoes. Plus, at the end of the day Malaria-carrying mosquitos are most active at sunset and sundown. So make sure you wear long cotton pants and shirts at that time of the day, and maybe a little mosquito repellent, and you should be alright.
Over the last 7 years no rider has taken malaria tablets.
13. What currency is used by tourists?
US dollars. If you carry $100 bills, make sure they’re the new ones with the big heads and make sure they’re also in perfect condition. For tourist shopping just bring lots of $20 notes. In Siem Reap and Phnom Penh you can change $100 bills everywhere as long as they’re unmarked.
Also, carrying some of the local currency is handy for buying cigarettes, chewing gum or helping the occasional beggar or street kid. Currently 4200 Riel = $1 USD
14. What are the best months to tour?
November through to February. In our experience, these months have the lowest rainfall of the year and the temperature is usually around 26-28 centigrade and cool at night.
15. Do you have special packing suggestions?
Depending on how you plan to carry your luggage on the bike, I suggest you bring: at least four bags: a bum bag (if you use them), a large day pack or full size back pack, a CamelBak or similar hydration system, another bag to hold all your gear that will stay in Phnom Penh during your tour, or sent onwards to Siem Reap should you choose to finish your ride there.
16. Can we strap our bags onto the bike?
No. All gear must be carried on your back, except for t-shirts and jeans in the bags provide we provide with straps we provide. No exceptions will be made to this rule. T-shirts and jeans must not exceed 1.5kg and all luggage will be weighed. So keep this in mind when planning on how and what to pack for the ride, and what backpack to use on the ride.
Did I mention that there were no exceptions to this rule? Seriously, don’t even think about it! Really – there have been too many broken sub frames in remote areas!
On certain sections of the rally you’ll also have to carry extra water. As mentioned previously, everybody is to have a CamelBak or similar device, and must be prepared to carry two additional bottles of water. So add to these your clothes, toiletries and medicines and you can see why it’s simply more convenient to use the large backpack, rather than try to cram everything into a day pack strapped onto your bike.
Anyway these are my suggestions, should you want to try to cram everything into a day pack (allowing space for two bottles of water) and strap your night clothes onto the bike (because these sit flat, they don’t fall off like a bike does) then that’s fine as well.
17. Do we need a sleeping bag?
No. In total, we’ll be sleeping 3 or 4 nights outdoors. And if all goes to plan, we’ll get a few nights in at real hotels in between each camp out.
In all my years of riding around Cambodia I have never used a sleeping bag and only 3 or 4 times have I felt the cold. Also if you were to bring a sleeping bag you would have to carry it on the bike, which is not allowed, unless you carry your 2kg allowance on your back instead.
18. How do you pack?
I like carrying the least amount of things possible. So apart from spare parts, a first aid kit, etc, that I will be carrying for every one, packing light is the way to go.
Here is how I usually pack:
I carry a set of riding clothes that I use for the whole of the trip and I carry a set of night time clothes: basically this means a pair of jeans, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt and plenty of socks.
When we camp out I usually, after making a big fire, change into my night clothes (jeans, clean t-shirt and long sleeve shirt), put on a clean pair of socks, spread out my ground sheet/poncho (which we provide) and that’s it! I usually carry a smaller bag and fill it with other clothes to make my pillow, or I just use my back pack.
However, if you’re prone to feeling the cold, I do recommend you bring a emergency space blanket (one of those tiny plastic foil ones), which is good for at least four nights.
As you can see, I simply sleep on the ground (we usually stop in a good sandy section). However if that doesn’t sound too appealing, then let me know in advance and I will provide you with a hammock. I personally find it uncomfortable to sleep in a hammock.
Alternatively, you’re welcome to bring along a foam sleeping mat (or a thermal-rest). They’re quite bulky, but at least the foam ones are cheap enough to throw away should they be a pain to carry.
If you do as I suggest which is to carry a large backpack and simply half fill it, wearing it loosely and letting it sit on the back seat so you’re not carrying any of the weight, then carrying a foam sleeping mat should be no hassle.
19. What is the difference between a rally and a tour?
On a rally:
- if you ride for more than seven days, then it works out to be a lot cheaper.
- you carry all your own gear, there is no support truck (certain tours run with a support truck)
- after day five, you’ll be paying for food, accommodation and petrol out of your own pocket.
20. I am a good-enough rider but what is riding in sandy trails like?
You don’t have to be a master on sand, but must be a little familiar with riding sandy trails. But think about what sort of rider you are – do you just tend to cruise along, or do you occasionally give the bike a handful of gas when you see a fun section of road? The main difference between an average rider and a better one is the ability to ride on a sandy track. And riding sand is about your attitude and controlling your fear.
For example, if you’re a confident rider who occasionally gets on the gas when conditions allow it (road or dirt) and not a putter-along sort of rider, then even with little or no sand experience you would be able to complete an intermediate rally. The thing with riding in sand is that you must travel in at least 2nd gear at high revs (or 3rd gear), otherwise you’ll always be falling off your bike – it’s just the way you have to ride in sand. The other thing about riding in sand is that you constantly feel like you’re going to fall off, no matter how fast you ride it! And the only difference between riding in 1st and 3rd gear on sand is that if you ride in 1st gear, you will fall off, whereas in 3rd gear you feel like you’re going to fall off, but rarely do due to the physics of it, ie momentum (speed), friction and power (must always be at mid to high revs with no idling along in 2nd or 3rd gear).
Ask any rider who rides in sand if they get scared, and the answer is always yes! In deep sand I can do 120km/h, but it constantly feels like I’m going to fall off. If you can imagine a bike in mid air doing 120km/h or even 60km/h, and you tried to push it over sideways, it would be quite hard to do due to the gyroscopic effect. However, if the wheels were turning at 10kmh, obviously it wouldn’t take much to push it over. So the reality is the faster you go in sand and mud, the more likely you are to stay on your bike, unless you come upon a bend in the road, a rock or some other big obstacle… but I guess you understand by now what I`m getting at?
A few years ago with a group of friends we tried to reach a remote temple. Several of the riders had no previous sand experience. Within the first 3km they had all picked up the tactics of riding in sand (obviously after falling off 4 or 5 times), except for one guy who could not overcome his fear of falling off. In the first 3km this guy had fallen off his bike at least 10 times (it’s only soft sand, so it doesn’t hurt). No matter how much we explained to him what he was doing wrong, he wouldn’t use high revs or try riding in 2nd or 3rd gear. What took him two hours to achieve because of two new clutch levers and about 10 slow get offs, took every one else about five minutes! Plus he was totally worn out and could go no further. An exceptional case, I know, but it highlights my point. Plus this guy was decked out in every piece of protective gear known to man, not a bad thing, but it’s there to protect you and this should give you the confidence to ride faster. So from this example, you should be able to see that it really wasn’t this guy’s level of skill that was the problem, it was more about his attitude and not being able to control his fear (too scared to twist the throttle, he never had the engine going over 2,000rpm).
I have to say it though – this guy was certainly the worst rider I had ever seen. I’ve had complete novices ride with more confidence and ability than this guy, and this guy had a bike licence!
21. What happens if I’m injured on a rally?
Should you be injured in a non-critical accident, you’ll be expected to travel back to Phnom Penh on your own. Obviously this will depend on the type of injury and where it occurs, and we certainly won’t leave anyone behind in the middle of nowhere, but should someone break a rib or a big toe we’ll transport them to the nearest major road or village and organise transport for them and their bike back to Phnom Penh or Siam Reap. We’ll have someone meet them at the other side to get medical attention if required.
In the unlikely event that someone is in a very bad way we will arrange for a helicopter extraction. This is a very costly exercise so make sure the person you nominate as someone to contact in case of emergency on our registration form is prepared to send a few thousand dollars your way – or check that your insurance policy covers this and make sure they have a 24-hour world-wide contact number and give us the details!
Out of the hundreds of riders there has only been one incident where we went through this whole drama and it wasn’t a critical situation, the guy in question simply had enough, wasn’t meant to be in Cambodia in the first place and had plenty of cash to cover the cost of the helicopter.
Remember this is a non-competitive rally so unless you’re doing 110km/h flying-in and out of the trees through the jungle there should be no major problems.
If after reading any of this, you still have any doubts or concerns, please let me know and I’ll do my best to address them.
22. What other things can I do in Cambodia?
Heaps! You can get a relaxing massage, prescription glasses for next to nothing, DVDs, CDs, computer software, iPod tunes for next to nothing, custom jewellery, Levis, Diesel jeans, Rolex watches for $12 and heaps of partying!
Important facts for the Extreme Riders’ Group
We do sometimes ride more than 12-16 hours a day, when required to meet our schedule. Of course we take breaks (for fuel, water, food, rest, repairs, etc) and we certainly don’t ride this long every day. Some days we’ll only ride for 4 hrs, while other days we won’t ride at all.
You must agree to riding at night (expect up to 4 or 5 nights in total). However, night riding is mostly in 1st and 2nd gear.
It is possible that someone might suffer an injury. Not every year has resulted in injuries. However, with 15-30 riders travelling 2,000kms of dirt and sandy trails, the chances of an injury are high. All past accidents have been minor (broken bones at worst, mostly broken collar bones and never more than one per rally) and have occurred while travelling at low speed. I also must point out that we’ve had lots of rallies without any injuries.