While the streets of Phnom Penh are crammed with motorcycles, it’s not every day that you hear the distinctive roar of a Harley-Davidson.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any “Hoggs” on the streets of Cambodia’s capital. While not a common site, there are a few Harleys, says Derek Mayes, who runs Harley Tours Cambodia with partner Murray Heath.
“It’s definitely less than 10 or 12,” he estimates.
Although the typical Harley owners in Cambodia are ex-pats, Mayes points out that there are a couple of Khmers riding them in Phnom Penh.
Anyone visiting or living in Cambodia who has always dreamed of riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle can make that dream a reality even if they don’t own Harleys.
Mayes and Heath have been offering tours on Harley-Davidsons for the past two years.
“It was Murray’s idea. He thought it was a cool idea,” Mayes recalls.
People can ride the Harleys themselves or simply ride on the back. They can go on a day trip or go on a two-day trip in the countryside, Mayes says.
“All the trips are custom trips,” he says. “We’ve done two large ones for a couple of days. It’s really flexible.”
Customers come from all over the world. About 60 percent are tourists from Western countries while the remainder are ex-pats living in Southeast Asia, Mayes says.
Anyone who wants to go on a Harley tour must have a motorcycle license from their country and health insurance, he says. As well, they must purchase insurance in Cambodia to ride one of the bikes.
People hear about Harley Tours Cambodia through word of mouth when they come to Cambodia, advertisements and the company’s website, http://www.harleycambodia.com/
Mayes and Heath have four Harley-Davidson motorcycles between them that they use on the tours: two Soft Tails, a 1600cc Dyna and a small Sportster. As well, they can use two other Harleys from friends who live in Phnom Penh if necessary, Mayes says.
“So we have access to six bikes,” he says.
The site of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle tends to draw a lot of attention in the countryside where children run up to the tour while they’re waving and smiling, Mayes says.
But then a Harley isn’t just any motorcycle.
“They’re comfortable to ride. They’re loud,” he says.
Mayes’ personal favorite is the Dyna.
“The 1600cc Dyna is just pure power. To me that’s the Ferrari of Harleys,” Mayes says. “Once you start riding bigger bikes, it’s hard to go back to a smaller bike.”
There are no Harley-Davidson dealerships in Cambodia. The Harleys that are in the country have been imported, and bringing one bike into the country can cost as much as $5,000 including fees from the shipping agent, he says.
The cost of going on a Harley tour ranges from $50 for a three-hour ride to $300 for an overnight trip including the hotel. While that might sound pricey to some, maintenance costs are also high.
“If it was a business to make money we would have gone broke years ago,” Mayes says. “It’s a hobby.”