Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The bike makes the man
Teddy de Burca Jnr. takes us through a lineup of the motors he once had the pleasure to drive, how they made him feel and how they made him look in the eyes of the public

Over the years I’ve either owned or borrowed a wide range of two-wheelers in Vietnam. I’ve been laughed at, winked at, honked at, abused and ignored. So below here’s a quick guide to what each motorbike represents in the eyes of the public (in my opinion, which is of course the right one, in my opinion).

Honda Dream – Old reliable. This says “you will always find me in the kitchen at parties”. On the road no one acknowledges you. In fact it’s positively anonymous. Its plain exterior could almost be an ironic celebration of the motorbike’s famed functionality but of course its not. It’s way too boring for that. A more apt name would be the Honda Reality. But, steady as she goes on the Hanoi roads, this is the bike for flying under the radar and playing it safe. If you’re trying to avoid people, this is your man.

Honda Wave
– A sleek version of the aforementioned Honda Dream, but more androgynous and also a flimsier product and more prone to breakdowns. Driving this says you’re not the kind to brag or show off but you want to look good at the traffic lights. You need to get around town with a splash of style and a fair degree of reliability. Just avoid a helmet that matches the colour of your motorbike. That looks really twee.

Minsk – Once the Minsk said “I am Expat hear me roar” but numbers of expats riding this Belorusian two stroke are dwindling fast while more local youngsters seem to be flying around town on them looking dark and moody. It says "I might just be heading off to the mountains" unless you're wearing a suit which means you're off to work - heigh-ho - but still want to retain that rough and ready image. Unreliable for those who don’t want to get their hands dirty, and unapologetically smoky, this is the bike to make enemies at the traffic lights. While if you’re hoping on impressing the beautiful people on the terraced-cafés then leave it somewhere else before arriving for your ca phe sua da. If you already have one, then you either don’t know this and are living in denial or do know this and don’t care.

MZ 250cc
– Virtually extinct this ugly Germanic cousin of the Minsk is twice as loud and twice as smoky – so just multiply whatever I said about the Minsk by two. One advantage of the rumbling engine is it scares the bejesus out of every one. As they scurry to the sides you sail through. Very nearly lost my girlfriend over this one and in the end she paid my friend (one gin and tonic) to take it away while I was on holidays.

Any kind of dirt bike – Well you might as well be waving a flag. Yes, we see you and hear you. You are most certainly male and we’re not suggesting for a minute you’re compensating for something but let’s just say if you’re NOT actually using it for off road adventures in the back of beyond then it might as well be true.

Yamaha Mio/ Nouvo
– The Mio is a small person’s automatic, you should probably not be riding this if you’re a large cumbersome male, as I did (I was in between bikes, alright?). Truck drivers slowed down and howled with laughter while giggling kids sped past me on their rickety bicycles. Like a bear on a tricycle, apparently. The Mio and the Nouvo are the latest in conventional style. Nouvo and Mio drivers like modern gadgets and hope to come across as smooth and modern as a flat screen TV. And if it’s good enough for Brad Pitt…

Other bikes I haven’t driven but are worth mentioning
Old Vespas – A touch of old school class. These beautiful vintage Italian machines are eye catching and cool. It says “less about little old you, and more about little old me” or perhaps, later on in the night, "let's get out of these wet clothes and slip into a dry martini". The only problem is when the little fellow breaks down on your way home at 2am or gets cold in winter – ah bless.

Enormous motorbikes with sidecars
– The Sunday driving toy for expat males with kids. If you live down a lane then you’re probably too lazy to take it out Monday to Saturday but when Sunday rolls around you get out onto the open road and search the land for a nice cappuccino. I’ve only ever sat in the sidecar and I didn’t feel or look as cool as the guy who was driving it but he was also wearing a WWII helmet and fighter pilot goggles. In the sidecar reminded me of sitting in a xich lo – you do it to relax and enjoy looking at the city, but in the end the city’s looking at you. At least in a sidecar you go faster. Without a passenger it’s good for picking up the groceries from Vivimart or transporting potted plants.

Fancy modern Vespas/ Dylans/ Honda @ – Oh yeah baby, you’ve made, you got it, so why the hell not flaunt it. It’s either that or you just borrowed it from your new girlfriend or boyfriend – in which case, you might be flaunting two things at once.

The bike I’m driving now
It’s a 1980s Vespa PX and yes I know – it says “I am a middle aged beret-wearing artist with a moustache or a goatee, by day I smoke Vinataba and drink coffee, by night I wear stripy pajamas”. But hey, as long as I’m comfortable with that then it’s my problem.


Anonymous said...

Your opinions are indeed the right ones - I know this because they are much the same as mine. Check out this report on Vietnam's two-wheel options (scroll to the bottom for the bike review):


My take on the Honda Dream: 'You can have any colour you want, as long as it's brown.'

pittstop designer said...

Mike's piece sends me back... through time!

A few auld motors there that have been swallowed up by the traffic - FX 125, the boy-racers' favourite, a wee man's motorbike... Vroom vroom. Don't see them at all thesedays.

And the Honda Spacy, the yuppie's fav back then, its been the Honda Passe lau lam roi. Soooooo 2001.

The Yamaha Majesty reminds of that modern Piaggio model that was briefly around - whole families piled on with room to spare. We dubbed it the Flying Couch.

You could be an ice cream man with that yoke if you stuck a freezer in it.

A bit like this one, but longer I'm sure...