Bikes in Vietnam

Welcome to our blog about bikes in Vietnam and bikes in general :) 

My name's Mike and I'm the owner of Top Notch Bikes Saigon. Click here for more about me :)

We often hear a lot of people talking about which bikes are the most reliable and which are better to buy or rent, so we thought we'd express our fairly qualified experience into the picture to help people understand more about bikes and make better informed choices when deciding which one to rent or buy.

So lets start

There are basically two types of expat riders here in Vietnam

1. Those that rode bikes in their home countries

2. Those that first rode or learnt about bikes here in Vietnam

1. Riders that rode in their home countries

Riding in the west is quite different to here. Almost all motorbike riders have a car for their daily commute or when raining/cold. So the motorcycle is really just an extracurricular passion or hobby. Riders ride for numerous reasons from the love of motorcycles, to the comradery with other riders, or for the adrenalin rush when leaning around those twisty mountain roads, track days or to cruising the countryside on a Harley or other cruisers and listening to that beautiful twin cylinder engine purr. Even just to save fuel or commute easier in the city traffic. There are lots of reasons bikers ride in the west, but they generally also have a car for when needed or for family time and outings.

These riders love riding their motorcycles for numerous reasons and have a fair amount of knowledge regarding different brands, styles and general maintenance of their bikes.

2. Riders riding for their first time in Vietnam

This category of motorcycle or scooter riders first started riding bikes here in Vietnam. Most likely in the west they were driving cars (if over 18) and have lots of experience driving and with the road rules. This type of rider will have most likely learnt about the brands and styles of bikes from their experience here in Vietnam.

Here in Vietnam, a scooter is not a motorcycle for taking on those mountain twisty's or weekend track days, or even for the purr of that twin cylinder cruising. It is a family vehicle used for daily commuting to and from work or visiting family and traveling to your hometown (if not far) and so on. It's basically the equivalent of a car for westerners.

Deciding on a scooter or motorcycle

Nowadays, most name brand bikes are reliable enough to not need any discussion about which are better or which are more reliable. Yes you can debate which are more reliable and which will still be reliable after 5/10 years and even debate how they have been maintained (dealership or street mechanic) but generally any Japanese brand bike (Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki) as well as others like Harley, Benelli, Triumph, Brixton and so on are reliable enough and have dealerships in the big cities here for maintenance and repairs.

 

Rule number one is ALWAYS TAKE YOUR BIKE TO THE DEALERSHIP for service and repairs, or a reputable mechanic.

This all brings us back to the typical conversation we hear about which are more reliable. As stated, all are reliable enough if maintained and serviced properly.

In our opinion there are other things that are just as if not more important that should be considered.

 

Sure a Toyota might be more reliable than a Ferrari but which would you rather drive?

1. Do you like the look of the bike?

Are you really going to ride something every day for a certain number of years that's ugly or just acceptable to you just because you heard it's more reliable? This should be one of your first considerations when choosing a bike.

2. Is the size of the bike right?

Does it have a comfortable sitting position? Is it large enough for your body size, or are your legs hitting the handlebars? Are you leaning at an awkward angle that could give you a sore back? Most scooters in Southeast Asia are not made for taller sized riders. If you're taller, try looking for the larger sized scooters like the SH, NVX, Shark, Piaggio and others, depending on your budget.

3. Character.

Some bikes we ride just because we love the bike. It doesn't even have to be reliable. It's a bike full of character, excitement and just fun to ride.

 

Best value for money bikes in Vietnam

SUZUKI HAYATE 125cc

Medium sized fully automatic scooter with more than enough power to travel all paved roads in Vietnam 2 up. Fairly comfortable for both rider and pillion passenger for long distance travel, while also being zippy and agile. 

One of the best value for money bikes if you're after a super reliable bike on a cheaper budget. If you have any trouble with the Hayate, it'll most likely be the carb (due to lack of proper servicing) or something minor. The engines on the Suzuki scooters are one of the only Japanese scooters with an actual real oil filter making them virtually bullet proof. 

Unfortunately a lot of street mechanics either won't know there is an oil filter (because Honda doesn't have them) or change it which can cause major damage to the engine. They also don't have much knowledge of proper carb servicing and rebuilding. Either buy your own oil filters from parts shops or service your bike at a Suzuki dealership. Worth the few extra dollars.

HONDA WAVE 110cc

Smaller sized semi automatic scooter with gears but no clutch, making it easy to ride and still has more than enough power to travel all paved roads in Vietnam 2 up.

Mentioning the Wave because it's one of the most common bikes found across the country and every street mechanic knows how to fix them with their eyes closed. This is the bike you buy 

Unfortunately a lot of street mechanics either won't know there is an oil filter (because Honda doesn't have them) or change it which can cause major damage to the engine. They also don't have much knowledge of proper carb servicing and rebuilding. Either buy your own oil filters from parts shops or service your bike at a Suzuki dealership. Worth the few extra dollars.

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