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Travelling around SE Asia has been wonderful and an eye opener. I used to think make yourself more visible and ride defensive to be safe and wrote a lengthy article some years ago on all things to be more visible and their effectiveness measured in studies. I just can’t believe in it anymore.

Motorcycles in SE Asia weave through traffic jams and get across town in half the time of cars. But you learn very fast when moving cars have right of way over motorcycles regardless of situation. The car has size and strength on it’s side and is usually owned by someone of a higher social status thus drivers think themselves superior to riders. (a variation of this attitude I believe exists in drivers everywhere) Wearing hi-vis would be as effective as chewing gum to make the car driver care about you. If you fail to yield or take evasive action the car will literally nudge you out of the way or plow into you.

And that is why perhaps the ‘ride safe’ message is flawed. Wear fluro, be a good boy and trust the cars not to kill me… But would I put a yellow vest on in Sri Lanka and think that will make any difference – hell no, I’d be dead in five minutes. Why tell me it will work in Australia, or anywhere else. Surely it is a safety bubble dream.

The way I ride in SE Asia is to assume every driver has had no formal training and is messaging on Facebook in uninsured vehicle and will have no qualms to hit me and drive off. I ride on the offence with total focus on everything around me. I ride anyhow to positon myself clear of dangers, bending road rules as I see fit yet my riding there is also my best, using all my skills and concentration. Honestly I couldn’t care less what other riders wear, ride or vote for. I am just thinking maybe wearing fluro makes them less attentive than a rider who assumes nobody can see them and the ride safe message is wrong. Assume the worst and break any road rule needed to stay alive is my view now when someone says ‘ride safe’.


  1. They have a campaign over here at the moment with the catch-cry "It doesn't hurt any less when it's not your fault". The campaign is focusing on exactly what you say.

    Be 110% in the moment.

    For the record I'm with you. Hi-Vis will do nothing for the dopey bugger chucking a U-turn across 4 lanes. He, or she, will do it regardless.

    Being present in the moment and driver adjustment on attitudes and habits (read distractions) is the only way to go.


    • Oh that is nice to hear, actually I think a few of the State government motorcycle road safety advertisements have been good over the years.

      I am not suggesting that riding like a lunatic is the answer nor questioning the empirical evidence that show things like a white helmet can be seen much sooner than a black one and being visible in general is important.

      Just the idea that wearing fluro makes us more safe leads to riders less attentive and places them at higher risk compared to a rider that knows they are barely noticeable to other vehicles and rides accordingly.

  2. Greetings form Malaysia. I agree with you on bending road rules to stay safe and alive. I usually ride leisurely but when a car comes out from a junction in front of me knowing full well I am approaching, I usually will blare my horn and speed up to stay clear.

    Also we have drivers and bikers doing u-turns anywhere they are whenever they feel like it. The only advantage for wearing hi vis is at night in a dark stretch of road but I feel a reflective sticker will be more effective.

    • Hi Kaboku,

      One thing I do agree with the safety folk on is how motorbikes are hard to see in the dark on side of road when parked at slight angle and also in multi lane highway tunnels we seem to disappear.

    • P.S. I love riding in Malaysia 🙂

    • Malaysia has great back roads which I am planning to do a round Peninsular trip but Penang island is congested. Can't get the bike above 3rd gear before slowing down at another traffic light

    • Japan can be like that, yesterday riding roads around Mt Fuji never got out of 2nd, horrible. But once out of the reach of Tokyo drivers it gets very good.

      Would love to ride more in Malaysia, base myself in Gentling highlands, but cannot find any rentals now, will look at it in the future.

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