I love riding motorcycles. I had a big bike in the states and riding was one of my greatest passions.
In South East Asia the bikes are usually smaller, but still a blast to ride. Thailand has every bike available that you could ever want. In Vietnam, there is a max limit of 175cc for motorbikes. You can get a bigger bike but you have to jump through some hoops. It requires a special license and the bikes are super expensive to import. Then you will run into problems with parts availability.
My advice is to steer clear of the exotic imports and buy a common bike. If you’re a tall foreigner with money to blow, it will be tempting to buy something big and flashy. I would advise against this… You’re better off buying a commonly available bike that is sold in the dealerships here. Plus the driving conditions aren’t really good for fast speeds. Traffic, retarded drivers, animals and people wandering into the streets. Take it slow over here.
Buying a Real Quality Motorcycle Helmet in Vietnam
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If you’re going to ride a bike in South East Asia then I suggest you buy some proper motorcycle gear. In the few years I’ve been here I’ve seen countless accidents. Most accidents are fairly minor scrapes. Two people bump into each other at a low speed and the bikes tip over. They usually stand up, argue for a bit then drive off.
One thing that almost ALWAYS happens is they start looking at the palms of their hands and they are bleeding. If you go down, you’re going to put your hands down. It’s just a natural instinct to protect your head and face from a fall.
I recommend buying a pair of gloves. A pair of mesh motorcycle gloves are cheap and offer enough protection for minor scrapes. It puts something between your hands and the pavement. Most offer knuckle protection as well.
On top of protecting your hands from falls, they also keep the sun off you. Trust me, on long rides you will want to cover up! Mesh is good because it can get rained on and you can easily wash them when they get sweaty.
The cheap gloves usually fall apart within 6 months but they are cheap enough to replace regularly. Gloves only take a few seconds to put on. Your hands are super sensitive and you use them for everything. It’s hard to eat, type on a keyboard or finger some pussy when you’re missing skin from your hands. Wear your gloves!
A quality helmet is also super important. It’s the law to wear a helmet here so you might as well wear a good one! I recommend getting a DOT certified helmet. DOT means it’s certified by American standards. I think it’s “ECE” the rating for Europe? Either is better then the shitty helmets most locals wear.
A quality helmet will be more expensive then the 5 dollar plastic lids you see for sale in the markets here. But how much is your head worth? You can get a good helmet for around $100 usd. It’s worth every penny!
Not only will it protect your head if you crash. It will be comfortable and have some air flow. It will also have a removable, washable liner. That way you can take it apart and wash out the lining every weekend. Sweating in a helmet every day can really funk it up after a while.
I recommend a full face helmet. I once saw a low speed crash here. Two bikes collided in an intersection. A pretty girl in a mini skirt stood up and started screaming and crying. She was holding her hand under her chin and drooling blood and teeth into the palm of her hand… Yikes. She won’t be pretty for a while. 🙁
Of course, girls never wear full face helmets. They don’t want to mess up their hair… But they will risk scraping their jaw off their face. Up to you! If you’re a man then the choice should be easy.
Helmet style is a personal choice so I won’t preach to you here. Half lid, 3/4, full face. Regardless, you need a quality lid. Those plastic caps sold here are just made to keep the cops from giving you a ticket. They will NOT protect you from head trauma! If you bounce your skull off the pavement here, that will certainly ruin your holiday…
I don’t wear a motorcycle jacket or pants, but it’s not a bad idea if you are doing some touring. A lot of guys like to ride all over the country. I’ve done some touring here and it’s a blast! 😀
You can buy some knee and elbow protection at these shops. They strap on and you don’t need to wear a heavy jacket and pants if you don’t want to. I might purchase these at some point. For now I stick to the basics.
If you’re doing some serious riding then I recommend wearing proper shoes. You don’t need to go out and buy moto racing shoes… But wearing actual shoes that lace up tight and cover your skin will help. Ditch the flip flops guys! Not only do they look stupid, you will also lose some skin if you have to put your foot down real quick.
I saw a pic online of a foot missing all the skin from a motorcycle accident… It was just a bloody skeleton of a foot. Fuck man that image is forever burnt into my brain. Absolute horror show. 🙁 If you crash, you WILL try to put your feet down. It’s guaranteed. In fact, at low speeds I’d say gloves and shoes are more important then a helmet. But helmets are a must as well.
I saw another low speed crash in Mui Ne, Vietnam. The kid was wearing shorts, flip flops and no helmet… Guess what! His hand and foot was bleeding and he had scrapes around his eye and forehead. He would have walked away without a scratch if he had a full face helmet, gloves and proper shoes.
If you’re touring then I also recommend buying some high visibility gear. If you’re riding around the mountains near Da Lat or Chiang Mai, you will encounter cars, trucks and buses that whip around those turns into your lane.
People here like to drive like homicidal maniacs so you want them to see you. You can buy a high visibility vest for a few dollars. The kind that road workers use. It might just save your life!
Obviously you don’t want to get fully geared up wearing high viz orange to drive your shitty Honda wave to the local cafe… (Although it’s not a bad idea.) But I think a quality helmet and gloves is a good compromise. The other shit you can throw on for long rides.
Where To Buy Quality Motorcycle Gear in Vietnam
I found this shop in Ho Chi Minh City. They have a decent selection of helmets and gear. All quality, (real) name brand stuff at reasonable prices. The staff speaks English too. VietFullFace.com
Where To Buy Quality Motorcycle Gear in Thailand
Thailand has a lot more options. If you’re in Bangkok, take a look at Paddock or Real Helmets. Real Helmets is a Thai brand but they appear to be DOT certified. They also get good reviews and they are priced right! Be safe out there guys.