The Super Cub
“Does it have training wheels?”, “Did you get that in a toy shop?”, “What’s Mr.Bean going to ride now you’ve got his bike?”, “Do they sell men’s bikes where you got that?”
Yes I’ve heard many derogatory (and there are plenty more) in reference to my motorbike, the legendary Honda Super Cub. To some people it looks old, ugly and under-powered, but to me it is one of the high points of human history in visual and mechanical design, and it also comes with 70cc of raw power.
The Honda Cub is not only the biggest selling model of motorbike in history, it is also the biggest selling model of any type of motor vehicle ever, with about 60 million sold worldwide. (it appears about 59 million are in Vietnam)
For me the attraction lies in the Art Deco-esque curves, the old style instrument gauge, the round blinkers and of course the front mudguard which looks like a remnant from a discarded french horn.
These bikes are literally everywhere in Vietnam, some look great, some look like ancient mechanical relics. The most common is the 50cc, older models that are 70cc like mine are harder to come by and then there are the newer 90cc models, which don’t have the nice curves of the older models. The one thing they all have in common is they are reliable and they keep going…and going…and going.
They are perfect for crowded cities, they use very little fuel and they are light, so are easily manoeuvred in the crowded streets and parking lots of HCMC. Their top speed is only about 55km but they get you where you want to go and they can be very good value for money.
Mine is an old one that a mechanic friend restored for me. He repainted it and rebuilt the engine. Some people want all original condition but I was happy to have mine customised. Total cost less than $300US completely restored with future services from the mechanic included.
I ride it every day and could not be happier. It is certainly popular with the Vietnamese, maybe it’s the fact that a foreigner is riding around on such an old bike, but they seem generally enthused whenever they see it. I’ve had many comments of “Dep qua” (very beautiful) but unfortunately they have all been directed at the bike! It does feel good to be riding a bike with some history and they are far more practical, reliable and cheap than a Vespa.
The guys from UK Top Gear rode one about half the length of the country, at some point I’d like to attempt the full length. In another program they filled one with cooking oil and dropped it off a two story building….and it still started.
If you are very tall then maybe they will be too small but for average sized people they are fine. The 3 speed gear box takes a little getting used to, each has its own quirks, and checking the petrol gauge is done by lifting the seat, undoing the cap and looking in i.e. It doesn’t actually have a petrol gauge, but it is a strong little unit and can carry a couple of 80kg westerners with ease, not quickly mind you, but with ease.
Even though I could easily get myself a nice, new, shiny, Honda that is covered in stickers and with a factory paint job like everyone else I’m more than happy getting to my destination on my little engineering marvel. It might take me a little longer to get there, but sure is a stylish way to travel.