My Motorbike Is Not For Sale...Yet! (part 1)
One of my favorite books I have read is called “My Mercedes Is Not For Sale” by Jeroen Van Bergeijk. I don’t get any payments for recommending this book, but it is a great read if you like adventure books like myself. Preferably, I’d like for you to read my blogs and share them. Then maybe one day I can get paid to write about my experiences to help me earn an income to continue to do this…#selfplug. In a subconscious way, this book probably played a distinct role in my decision to do what I am doing right now.
Last Saturday (June 3rd) I started doing an all-out search for a motorbike or scooter to make the drive. I had done some research online and read a million different articles on bikes to buy for a Vietnamese road trip. I spoke with some motorbike shop owners to try and get a better understanding and their input. After all that searching my head was spinning like “Taz” the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes. My conclusion to bike research came down to this: Unless you are made of money and can afford to buy whatever you want than it’s not worth the time to fret too much over what brand of bike you should buy. Every shop owner is going to tell you to buy the brands they sell because they are the most durable and easiest to service.
Every bike you buy is going to have problems and need to be worked on at some point. Even brand new bikes are going to need work on this kind of journey. It is almost certain that every mechanic you come across in Vietnam will be able to rig your bike enough to keep it running and no matter what brand you own they probably aren’t going to fix it with OEM parts anyways. Decide on what is most important to you in a bike for a long ride and go with that. My priority came down to comfort, manual transmission for a challenge, luggage rack already attached, looking like it had not been overly abused, a reasonable price, and the potential for resale when I’m ready to sell it.
I ended up purchasing a used 2017 Detech Espero Win. It is more commonly promoted as a Honda Win because in Vietnam there’s no worry about being busted for ripping off someone else’s brand. From what I’ve read on the interwebs, the original Honda Win has not been produced since 2005, a Chinese version was the first to copy it and then a Vietnamese company (Detech) got in the game too. The Honda version carries the reputation for having the best quality, but good luck finding Honda parts in any of the repair shops. The Chinese version is considered the junk brand and then the Detech surfaces in the middle of the road. My Detech Espero Win is a 127cc version (the largest) and had 6,000km on it when I bought it for $450. Brand new this bike can be purchased for $750 from a reputable bike shop. I’m the 3rd owner and the bike was originally purchased by a Dutchman in HCMC before he drove it to Hanoi. He sold it to an Irishman who rode it back to HCMC and sold it to me. The price to buy this bike in a shop with a decent reputation and this low of miles would have been in the $550-$650 range.
Me being who I am decided I had to a have manual transmission because it felt like the rawer form of trekking through the country on a bike. The interesting side fact is I’ve never really owned or driven a manual motorbike. About 17-20 years ago I think I drove a manual dirt bike for 10 minutes. My first car was a stick so I am familiar with using a clutch and shifting gears. Learning how to drive manual on my motorbike in HCMC traffic was a little more ballsy than smart. But hey, how else is one supposed to learn when they are leaving on a road trip in 24 hours? My first turn on to a main road had my palms sweating and butt puckering. After a couple of turns and not stalling I was able to relax and concentrate on the road in all directions to avoid involving myself or anyone else in a potential accident. I spent 4 hours that day homing in my skills driving around the city with white knuckles before calling it a day to have goodbye beers with friends I had met during my TESOL course at AVSE.
This past Monday it was time to start my journey and I left Ho Chi Minh City headed for Vũng Tàu. I had one last breakfast with my closest “Bruv” and bought a few things like protective gloves and an extended battery pack for my iPhone. Then I packed up my bike and hit the road around 1:15pm as the rains were on their way and I wanted to avoid having to drive in the rain on my first solo trip. But let me tell you… packing a bike for the first time with a 70L REI Traverse and a smaller Tumi backpack with all my electronics was a bit more daunting than I had planned. Throw in the 95 degree Fahrenheit temps with 95% humidity and I was sweating enough that you would have thought I just drove through the rain storm I was looking to avoid.
To be continued…