Posted on April 18, 2017
Throughout my travels in Cambodia I have come across all sorts of motorcycles and motorbikes. From top of the line new Harleys to the most decrepit of bikes that makes one wonder how they are held together. Bikes that look like they crawled out from the bottom of a junk pile. These are the jungle bikes of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri.
It takes very little to get from Point A to Point B in these parts. These jungle bikes have been created from a simple frame that had parts added to it or a new bike that over the years had bits and pieces fall off. Yet it is hard to tell which was the progression of these jungle bikes. No gas tank? No problem. A plastic jug will work. You can find larger racks welded on that can accommodate just about anything – pigs, families, huge logs or any number of cases of Angkor beer.
In the Cambodian provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri these bikes can be seen everywhere. Their distinctive sound can be heard throughout the jungle as they transport anything and anyone throughout the area. Extreme loads are no problems for these guys yet nothing seems to knock them off balance. No number of people riding on a single bike seems to slow them down. A steep hill? No problem. Livestock? Easy as pie.
Most often these bikes can be seen propped up by a stick or a machete waiting for their owner to and take them on their next adventure. Ultimately held together by rope, cable, chains or zip ties. Nothing gets in their way of jungle travel.
As you drill down into Google maps you can see a criss cross of lines throughout the region. While these ‘roads’ are probably little more than a path between remote villages unless you are there they are hard to distinguish from real roads. Between these lines lie an even more intricate network of narrow dirt paths that the locals know like the back of their hands. Huge logs or crops are moved up and down the hills and across the patchwork of tire-width dirt lines using these minimalistic workhorses.
You don’t have to wait long in any village before you see one of these bikes pass by. At one time they started out new and shiny but the years have not been good to them. They look emaciated. And dirty. But damn they go fast! The local kids seem impervious to disaster as these jungle bikes scream through the village kicking up dust in their wake.
For me I prefer finding comfort when I look at my bike and see a motorcycle with all the parts attached. Attached in the proper places. But seeing these jungle bikes perform has taught me that everything is not about looks. Down and dirty gets it done every time.
Although these bikes are in varying stages of their lives many still hold their original form and can be readily identified. These are waiting for the life changes that lie ahead. Others have no discernible identity. They may have been altered from similar bikes or mutated from a different mechanical species altogether.