Lawless Jakarta & Some Thoughts About Southeast Asia

01/10/2012 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Here’s a random factoid delivered in the form of a question for you: when looking at the metrics for the A&R website, A&R Twitter account, and A&R Facebook page, which city do you think is responsible for the most readers? We are an American-based website after all, so your top picks might be New York, Los Angeles, or maybe San Francisco, right? Nope. Half our traffic does come from abroad though, so maybe London? Paris? Rome? Barcelona? Wrong again dear readers, because when it comes to a single city consuming the moto-goodness that we publish on a daily basis, none of them have anything on Jakarta, Indonesia (yes, the title of article gave that one away, huh?).

I recently talked about this phenomenon with another online motojournalist, who was experiencing the same trend, and he concluded that it must be employees using proxy servers so they can read blog while at work. I disagreed however, and when looking at where the industry as a whole is currently headed, I think there is something much more basic at play here. Developing countries are the future of motorcycling, and right now Southeast Asia is a hot bed of growth for motorcycle sales. With a less developed infrastructure, and still a need to get from Point A to Point B, motorcycles provide a cheap and effective means of transportation in countries like Indonesia, and for many, motorcycles have become a way of life.

Any motorcycle company worth its salt is trying to position itself for a future in countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc, because for the OEMs, the next decade of growth is going to be in those markets. Taking a look at MotoGP, another barometer on where OEMs spend their money, and we see the series headed to India soon, and the factory Yamaha squad spending an enormous amount of time promoting in the Southeast Asian region.

A quick look at the Twitter accounts of Jorge Lorenzo & Valentino Rossi, the two accounts with the most followers from the MotoGP paddock, and the same trend continues. So this must mean that not only do residents of Jakarta and other Southeast Asian cities buy motorcycles in volume, but they are enthusiasts about the sport as well (I will match you dollars to doughnuts that every time I mention Rossi on Twitter, I get two retweets from a young Asian girl for every one retweet from an old white dude).

So, it doesn’t surprise me then that when a well-shot lifestyle video of bikers graces my inbox, it could happen to feature riders from Jakarta. We have this preconceived notion that motorcycling as a lifestyle is directly related to expensive and exclusive machines. Take a look closer at the video after the jump — these are not Ducatis, Triumphs, KTMs, or BMWs. Engaging motorcyclists well beyond the date of purchase is not something that occurs solely in the “first world”, nor does it have to be invariably linked to a price tag or a European brand, but it does involve wrapping one’s head around a tougher concept on how to connect with motorcycle buyers.

I got some nice push-back the other week when I laid into Honda for failing to engage motorcycle consumers on any sort of emotional level (read: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword). Well, watch this video, and tell me it can’t be done — at any price point…in any market segment. Thanks for the tip Dom!

Video: Vimeo

  • John Magnum

    ah good on em! great video, make sure ya keep tabs on them Jensen.

  • mxs

    Neat video and proof that you don’t need large cc, TC gizmo equipped bike to have fun.

    Having said that, I fail to see how does it explain the traffic from these parts of the world on your web site. I will go with your buddy’s reasoning … for now, until you throw another theory or evidence at us … :-)

    I am asking myself why would people in Jakarta be interested into a web site focused on bikes either made or sold here. The number of bikes offered in both regions must be very low, therefore not much overlap (for example I like reading UK moto blogs, because it gives me hope that one day the cool bike I read about will make it here; yes unfortunately it’s a stretch many times, but the hope is there). These two markets are totally different though, one where a bike is not a hobby and a toy, the other where it becomes a vehicle of daily necessity. One where 350cc means large, the other where 350 doesn’t even make it here …..

    But you know what, maybe that’s why they like at least reading about it. I cannot buy it, at least I will read about it. Maybe you are on to something.

  • Westward

    I was under the impression many, if not all developing countries were mostly made up of motorbike and bicycle traffic. As the economy grows more and more global, those countries are seeing an increase of cars, but bikes still rule the roadways…

  • Bonus points for use of the ISO Creep Index (Young Asian Girl : Old White Dude ratio). The YAG:OWD is normally only used by rating agencies specializing in sex tourism and/or low grade porn.

  • Westward

    The imagine of america still sells well, and bikes are the culture in most places on the globe especially there. Notice the style and the music chosen for the video. I agree with JBee…

  • Westward

    Hey Marc F,

    LoL, are you trying to share something with us about your online habits?

  • Mike L.

    What about old white dudes with Asian girl avatars? This could be a growing market for you, Jensen.

  • Westward, who said anything about “online?”

    Ferrealz though, JB is onto something here. In the US, we get so fixated on the motorcycles that Americans buy that we forget the rest of the world buys 49M of the 50M motos sold each year. When we DO think about the rest of the world, we have a nasty tendency to dismiss every market outside of Western Europe, Japan, and Australia as only caring about the cheapest, most utilitarian forms of transport. That just isn’t the reality – there’s an incredible rising middle class numbering in the 10s (or 100s?) of millions and stretching from East Asia to South Asia, not to mention South America, with the means and the aspiration to own some badass machinery coupled with an infrastructure and culture that points to two-wheeled transport. These are the folks that will be guiding motorcycle options in the 21st century.

  • If you want the facts about Asia and how its influencing the motorcycle industry, check out

  • How many facebook followers do you think Yamaha has?



    That’s almost 10 times more!

    Check out

  • Random

    Hey, don’t forget your South American readers and the new Argentina MotoGP stop! :)

    At least here in Brazil bikes are also seen as alternatives to facing literally hours of traffic on cages. If you ever drop here and have to go somewhere in the rush hour, double check the A/C.

  • AndVari

    hello Jensen. I too one of regular readers of A&R and I come from Indonesia too :D

    you have the name of our city by wrong names, it’s JAKARTA not JAKARATA hehe

    in here motorcycle already being part of everyday peoples life and as a matter of fact The Sales OF Yamaha motorcycles in Indonesia is the highest one in the world that Yamaha Indonesia also put sponsor in MotoGP too. You can see Tagline ” Semakin di depan” on Lorenzo racing suit, it means “moving forward” or something.

    as for Honda, Indonesia is also one of their highest sales market of motorcycle and they also sponsored in MotoGP repsol team where you can see their Tagline “satu hati” which means “one heart”

    you can also check the data from another source about this both brand sales in Indonesia. in Indonesia people loves to watch MOTOGP more than Formula 1 I think. with 240 million people now I think Indonesia is still a very good market for motorbike manufacturer

    Big bike in Indonesia only related to hobbies since all MOTORCYCLES are BANNED to enter HIGHWAY in INDONESIA :D regardless of their displacement size and here we don’t have tiered driving license for big bikes as in another country. Usually 250 cc bikes already considered big ones in Indonesia ( Ninja 250 or CBR 250)

    we also have kawasaki sells ZX6R & ER6n/f officially, and then we have large group of Harley davidson owner, and also numerous importer for big bikes such as literbike or touring bike too.
    In Indonesia Motorcycle Tax is very big that we have to bought the same bike with twice the price you have there in US and 3 times for the literbike and upward. this no wonder makes hobbies of big bikes is very expensive in Indonesia. not counting also that traffics is very heavy which makes big bikes are no option for daily use in JAKARTA:D

    moreover lots of people here still have passion and love for MOTORCYCLE :)

  • I am from the Philippines. I view this site nearly every day.

    Marc F is absolutely right. If you visit Manila, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh, Chennai,… and all these other cities in Asia, you will notice that there are hundreds more motorcycles than on any road in the US.

  • Mickey

    This is an excellent video. I think the Jakarta tourism board needs to get ahold of it. It makes me want to go there and cruise around on a mini bobber, drink beer, and chill out. Those mini bikes can’t be too comfortable to ride so you have to stop often, grab a tall can from the local Circle K, and just chill. I could do that for a week and not get bored.

  • kingo bongo another rider from SEA (south East Asia)…Borneo to be precise..

    Generally in Asia…High tax for bigger capacity bikes, cheaper tax/insurance for smaller capacity bikes, traffic congestion (smaller bikes easily slip inbetween traffic compared to say, a Harley or even a Kawasaki er6n/f), cheaper and easily sourced parts/spares for 250’s and below,…basically less hassle, yet still fun on two wheels!

    and besides losing a US$200 bike isn’t as painful as losing a US$6000 bike; more reason to start a new project, right?!

    I do love my KTM 690r on longer trips and to buzz around town on regular occasions…but my custom honda hx135 2 stroke flat tracker still manages to grab attention whenever i head down to the shops for a cup of coffee on a beautiful sunny day in Borneo~! Peace & motor grease

  • I think it’s no different than when as a kid in the ’70’s, I read ROAD + TRACK magazine, getting an eyeful of pictures and stories about European racing and Mercedes and Ferraris, etc., : Quite a stretch to an entirely different world from the East Texas oil town I grew up in, and was living in as a kid. Imagination and curiosity aren’t bound by national boundaries or geography. So to all of you from Indonesia and elsewhere, HELLO !

    Here’s and article from Honda’s web page:

    This goes on to talk about their business in India, which they name ‘the worldwide center of two-wheeled development in the coming years’. It lists several models unique to India and two ‘international models’, one being the CB1000RR. While Honda has essentially become a collection of local businesses around the world (a model followed by all the Japanese manufacturers as the yen soars ever skyward), the ‘center of gravity’ of the business is certainly shifting away from the US and Europe.

    Myself, I hope some of these midsize bikes migrate into our market. I could care less about a 200 hp Personal Cruise Missle, or one more Harley clone, but that’s just me.

    I also hope that just as so many of us online find it really seems to be One World inside the web, that this ability to so easily talk and visit from one side of the planet to the other helps break down the old fears and divisions where possible.

  • Hello jensen,

    I’m a blogger from Indonesia

    can you imagine that more than 7,000,000 bikes sold in indonesia in the past year of 2011 :D
    the word ” semakin di depan” at M1, “satu hati” at RC212V, and “tantang” at suzuki is an indonesian languange

  • cyberoader

    Hi there (and hello Jensen), I’m from Indonesia too….

    IMHO, the video still does not represent the whole thing about motorcycle in Indonesia (it’s only a part of various motorcycle clubs, I think), because most of motorcycle riders in Indonesia are commuters, middle class/working class community (especially in Jakarta), using moped/underbone motorcycles.

    Many of us (internet users, of course), read almost everyday about motorcycle news from such the following websites:,, mcn, gpone, visordown, etc… and this site as well.

    (sorry for my poor English…) :)

  • Hello Jensen, I’m from yogyakarta (Indonesia)
    I love to see a video that you show, which was you show classic motor modifications Indonesia into your website like honda s90 honda CB100. The market share of Indonesia in particular to two wheels good enough, where the world famous motorcycle manufacturers such as Yamaha and Honda compete to attract consumers as much as possible. You can see the logo found on the MotoGP race bike in 2011, Yamaha Factory Racing Team with “Semakin Di depan” and the Repsol Honda Team with “One Heart” and it’s all that they are focusing their business for the Indonesian market. I personally think that the motorcycle is a vital necessity for everyday life

  • Damo

    Nice to see some much attention from our fellow riders across the sea! I am always in awe of how FEW people ride in North America.

    Up here in the Northeast US there are so many fair weather riders and people not committed to motorcycles as a form of transportation. Over years the mentality of the average North American has become that motorcycles are “recreational” vehicles and not a everyday form of transportation.

    It is January 11th in Massachusetts and I am still riding!

  • Dear Jensen, and A&R readers.

    As several Indonesians have already pointed out :

    Indonesia is the world’s THIRD largest motorcycle market, after China and India. It should come as no surprise then, that a substantial proportion of those people tune in to A&R. You might also be surprised to discover that countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Brazil are very close behind, each selling millions of motorcycles per year. Unlike in America, many millions of people in those countries speak several languages, of which English is often one, so it is natural that they would combine this with a love of high horsepower, expensive motorcycles and racing, then find blogs from America like A&R and HFL. I would be curious to know how many readers here are from India, where English is a national language, and motorcycles are a national pastime.

    The United States accounts for roughly 20% of all the revenue generated by the motorcycle industry, but less than 3% of the sales. Yes, you read that correctly. In terms of global sales, North America is insignificant. And if you think that those countries are too third world to have their motorcycles taken seriously, think again. Italy in the early 1950’s was pretty third world too, and we know what happened afterwards when motorcycle passion met increasing standard of living.

    Some sources :

  • Smitch

    Asian hipsters! ASIAN HIPSTERS!

  • wreckah

    yapp, on both acounts: SEA as motorbike place, and small cc bikes as being as cool or as engaging as big ones.

    i met a bunch of crazy motorcyclists in the south of Thailand (Trang) a couple of years ago, super hospitality, i’ll never forget them, fantastic people and pure motorbikers with passion.
    and i experienced one of the best riding in my life on a rusty crappy 223cc honda FTR in Laos…i bonded with that thing more than i ever did with my 15 grand EUR KTM990SM.

  • current activity for the Yamaha GP team…

    “Lorenzo now flies to Indonesia and will be joined by team mate Ben Spies for two days of PR activities in Jakarta on the 14th and 15th January. The trip will be hosted by Yamaha Motor Kenkana Indonesia, a main sponsor of the Yamaha’s Factory Racing MotoGP Team”

  • mxs

    I think something is being lost in the discussion. There’s no disputing that Asia is the main market as far as number of units sold for any manufacturer. But the huge difference is what bikes are we talking about which are being sold there vs here. I don’t have the numbers (I’d actually love to see them), but something tells me that 90% of bikes are under 250cc where in North America it’s the other way around.

    So again, why would someone from Jakarta (without any relation to North America; American living in Jakarta doesn’t count …. LOL) be interested to check on North America blog daily. A very good one indeed, yet a content not much related to the needs of a person from Jakarta. I think ….

  • mxs, the answer to that question is simple: a great deal of the content here is relevant, even outside of the US market.

  • Westward

    Smaller displacement bikes are more practical in S.E.A. and even in Asia, and most of Europe. I feel it is the testosterone of the US, and to some extent the UK, and Australia that drive the manufacturing of higher displacement bikes. Like someone said earlier, the US accounts for 20% revenue but 3% of worldwide sales. That means the US consumer is paying a heavy premium for larger displacements recreational bikes. Where as in some of these other countries, 600 CC’s or less are more convenient and practical for all purpose daily riding, as well as recreation…

    Western civilization is egocentric, that is why it seems surprising to some that the US makes up such a small portion in terms of global sales. There is a large segment of non US visitors to A&R, But there is very little to none of US visitors to foreign websites. That is the world as we know it I guess.

    I come to A&R precisely because of articles like this one, I am so over the who’s balls are bigger mentality of most of the other Motorcycle websites and their reviews. Besides, I have my own set and not really interested…

    Keep up the good work A&R…

    PS. I also enjoy the regular attention to the growing electric markets this site provides…

  • mxs


    I agree with you, however do you think that answers why majority of your users is from there? I can understand some of them yes, but vast majority I would think not. Look at your latest HCM post and the picture of the insane scooter ans small cc traffic ….. I don’t see the correlation, do you?


    I very much disagree that less than 600cc bikes are from some mysterious reason less practical here then in Asia or Europe. I will make the argument any day that bikes less than 600cc (heck lets take it even lower to 400cc) are far more practical for anyone living in a city or close to it in North America. It really is just the ego the more must be better (that goes for HP) and because we can (thanks to buying power and price of gas), there’s no other practical reason, it just doesn’t exist. The only practical reason for larger bike is regular long distance riding, which very few (percentage from all of us) do.

    But at times we are not honest with ourselves. I always laugh when there’s an occasional article about small cc bike here, like the Duke 125 and their bigger brothers, yielding tons of posts and discussion and how good would it be if it was imported here. People seem to like the light and powerful enough bikes to appreciate their fun factor, but I guess most of the same people turn around and buy a litre bike to get fast from one light to another …. I really don’t get it sometimes.

  • Westward


    I agree with you 100% (I thought, that is what iIwas saying), I myself have a 600cc bike. I’m nearly 183cm in height, and weigh around 80kg. The only advantage a litre bike has over mine is on the straights…

    It’s all about perception, and western culture is simply more “Tim Taylor-ish”, at especially in the US… Look at James Bond, ever time I see an American inspired version of him, the character has a bigger gun, as if bigger guns make a person more dead…

    In fact I am looking into 250 bikes in lieu of getting a scooter, though I would be more interested in a 300 or 400, but they are hard to find and I am not into motocross. I do recall a conversion kit though…

    *4 wheels to me means 2 bikes…

  • CamBox

    Great article, as these markets get more and more middle class riders it will only help the US market with new lower priced models to serve this new group of riders over seas. Win win for all riders!!

  • donno

    Asia pacific riders / bikers have been traditionally very2 enthusiastic about their bikes. That’s why there is a lot of followers of this blog from that region. Even though most of them can afford only a small capacity bike. The main point here is AFFORD. Most asians love to get their hands on a CBR600, or a BMW1000RR; if for westerners the price of a 600cc bike cost only about 6-8 months of salary, for most asian’s even a honda moped can cost more than a year of their wages…

    for example even an ER-6 means something like 4months salary for downpayment and 5years of loan for a fresh degree exec…

  • Frenchie

    A&R is not a blog about test rides therefore it is not intrinsically limited geographically depending on the availability of bikes on a certain market.
    A&R is about passion for riding motorcycles, for which South East Asia happens to be the biggest market in the world.
    Simply put this is where you’ll find the most motorcycle enthusiasts, no matter the capacity of the bike’s engine.
    It’s been long known that the most google searches related to MotoGP come from Indonesia, yet again most western readers dismiss the fact as “this is because people in those countries don’t know anything about MotoGP unlike us because we don’t need to google search, we go directly on websites”.

    North America (same goes for Europe) is a tiny market in terms of motorcycle sales except for Europeans brands such as Ducati (and possibly HD) and a tiny tiny market in terms of motorcycle racing enthusiasts.
    There are much more people living in SEA and a far greater proportion of them that do ride motorcycles daily, are passionate about it and even care about motorcycle racing.

  • Kevin D

    I’m from the Philippines and why do I read this blog? because it’s relevant yes… and also, there are not too many bloggers/writers in my country who write about motorcycling. Yes, there is a HUGE forum (… but no real writers (people who do research and post facts and can compose a decent sentence).

    Also, it’s just nice to read about the industry in general even if many of the bikes featured here may never touch my islands in the near future. Hopefully in the far future?

  • HI, just another Jakarta biker :)
    But, this time from local auto industry R&D guy…

  • Hi JB.

    First of all, nice blog. And i see you have a lot of loyal readers. Great job!

    My name is Sammy from Lawless Jakarta, Indonesia. We are basically a concept store that sells motorcycle clothings, motorcycle customization service, band/music merchandise and tattoo parlour. All of the founders of Lawless have been (and probably always will) doing those things since way back. This other guy and me have this heavy metal band since the year 2002, and we are die-hard fans of Motorhead. The other two had always have grease on their hands and tattoos on their arms. So Lawless came from our interest and passion since childhood. Making a living out of a belief.

    The video tells you about those elements. It’s not about how true the term “Jakarta Motor City” really is, it’s not about how dependent Jakartans to motorbikes, it’s only about having fun, with attitude. Your opinion that motorcycles are the cheapest and most effective means of transportation in Jakarta is correct. A lot of people here don’t really want to be stuck in a bus with probably 70 other people in itlike a canned sardine. And they probably don’t really have enough money to buy a motorcycle. But in Jakarta, if you want a bike, any bike, and you only have USD$50 in your pocket, you can actually bring one home right on that moment. If you eventually can’t pay you installments, the bank can just take away your bike. And then the next month, when you have another $50, you’d do that again. It’s messed up.

    And to strengthen your analization about the SEA motorcycle industry, you should check other videos at Youtube. There’s a lot of traffic videos, test rides, tourings, with bikes that sells millions of units in Indonesia. Compared to those amounts, the bikes that we use on the video can be considered as ‘cult’ bikes.

    Thanks for the post. If you happen to be in Indonesia, be sure to stop by at our place.



  • Slamet

    I’m from Indonesia..
    Stoner,Rossi,Lorenzo,Ben Spies often visit to Indonesia…

  • Hello
    I’m Indonesian blogger too, my blog is
    cool video, but many motorcycle in Indonesia dominated by scooter and moped.

  • Hai kang mas Jansen…
    Semoga sehat selalu
    Maturnuwun sampun nulis Indonesia…
    Sayang seng ditulis sampeyan cuman kemacetane tok…
    next time sampeyan nulis ayune wadon ing Indonesia pripun??…

  • jabul2

    weleh ora jualan pertamax neng kene yoo..
    Jakarta oh jakarta.. semrawut.. bisa2 tua di jalan kalo begini terus

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