Riding vs Driving in Malaysia

Photo by  Quintin Gellar  from  Pexels

Photo by Quintin Gellar from Pexels

Maybe you’re a motorcyclist looking to invest in a car. Perhaps you’re a car owner wanting to start riding a cool motorcycle. Or maybe you’re just trying to decide between a car or motorcycle license.

In any case, your years of experience in navigating the roads and highways of your city or town may lead you to believe that both modes of transportation are the same. The truth is far from that.
You see, it’s important to understand that even if you’re navigating the same highway but in a different vehicle, your experience will be completely different depending on the vehicle you’re operating. It is indeed true that some of the skills are transferable, but the demands and dangers of each mode of transport are completely different.

Let’s take a quick look at all of these differences, and then we’ll put these differences into perspective.

Physical Demands

The first and most obvious difference in demands is in the realm of the physical. Cars are comfortable by design, with air conditioning to control the temperature and comfortable seats that make long drives easy; all of which are contained inside a cabin separating the driver from the external environment.

Motorcyclists on the other hand are completely exposed to the elements, be it rain, heat, and the emissions of all the other vehicles around. There is very little a motorcycle rider can do to enhance the comfort of their rides other than to manage the clothes they wear or choose a more comfortable helmet to wear.

Added to that, motorcyclists are constantly balancing or shifting their body weight to navigate turns or move between other vehicles. Unlike driving a car, riding a motorcycle is practically a full-body workout each and every time!

Cognitive demands

Have you ever stopped to think about the demands that car driving or motorcycle riding has on your cognitive abilities?

This refers to your ability to process what is happening all around you as you’re moving down a road. The ability to spot dangers and decide what to do to avoid it, all in a matter of microseconds. Both riding and driving are demanding on your cognitive abilities, but they differ in different ways.

Cars generally behave in predictable patterns, even in the context of Malaysia and ‘typical Malaysian drivers’. For the most part, cars stick to lanes, and it’s easy to anticipate their moments or notice if a car decides to make changes in their direction.

For motorcyclists, not only do they have to constantly monitor what’s going on with cars or motorcycles around them, they also have to look out for much smaller dangers that may knock them off their bikes. Debris on the road, obstacles, the behaviours of other motorcycles; all of these things require a motorcyclist to be very attentive at all times to ensure their own safety.


One of the biggest concerns when choosing a mode of transportation is the element of safety. In life, we must understand that there is never an option that will guarantee a person’s physical safety up to 100%, so all we can do is attempt to manage the risks that we face. The same holds true for transportation.

Cars provide a much higher degree of safety for those within the car’s cabin, assuming that they follow necessary steps such as driving safely and using seat belts. However, when faced with a sudden danger on the road, a car has limited options in terms of how to react to that danger. For instance, suddenly decelerating the car could result in getting hit from behind by another car. On the other hand, swerving to another lane will result in the car hitting other vehicles as well.

On a motorcycle, riders are exposed to the dangers all around them without a layer of steel to separate them from other vehicles. In an accident, this limitation could prove fatal. However, unlike other cars, a motorcycle has incredible flexibility in terms of avoiding a sudden danger in front of them.

Putting the trade-offs into perspective

With all of the differences in physical and cognitive demands and dangers faced between riding a motorcycle or driving a car, what needs to be understood is that both modes of transportation have their own strengths in different situations.

Cars provide more comfort, physical safety, and also the added ability to transport a larger number of people or pieces of cargo (like luggage, for example). Motorcycles are much more affordable (unless you’re talking about higher-end models), and provide an amazing amount of flexibility and mobility (especially during traffic jams) that cars simply cannot match.

As with many things, the choice comes down to you, the person operating this vehicle. What is your context? What are your needs? What are your personal preferences? When you understand what your needs are, then you’ll be able to make the best choices for yourself.