The Vietnam backpacker’s most popular motorbike, the Honda Win is neither a Winner nor a Honda. On backpacker forums, hostels and facebook you’ll likely see many Honda Wins for sale. Although cheap, this bike is not a good deal and should be avoided like the plague.
History of the Honda Win
The original Honda Win was first built in 1971 and continued being made by Honda up until the year 2000. After that the Chinese took over and started copying the Honda Win. Vietnam has built their own copycat version under the name Sufat. The “copycat” bikes do not have have nearly the same build quality as a true Honda bike. The Honda Win has become a popular cheap motorbike for backpackers in Vietnam to buy for one way motorbike journeys from Hanoi down to Saigon or vice versa. Original Honda Win’s are extremely difficult to comeby. Therefore any Honda Win you see for sale is almost certainly going to be a Chinese knock off.
One of the problems with the Honda win is its popularity among backpackers means this bike has been yo-yoing up and down Vietnam countless times. In addition because the odometer is so easy to change you cannot rely on the reported mileage. The handling is also poor compared to sturdier bikes and once you have it kitted out with your backpack and other luggage, you’ll find that the bike can be quite wobbly.
The Backpacker Bike
A glance at any popular backpacker forum or facebook group will reveal countless advertisements for Honda Wins which will have just made a one way journey. Typically they will go for around $300 which is steep for a bike whose usage you don’t know. Keep in mind a brand new Honda Win will only run you a bit more than $500. While there are many positive stories from backpackers who’ve bought a Honda Win and not run into any issues these really seem to be in the minority. In reality breakdowns are common and repairs are not cheap. The good thing though is this is Vietnam, and in Vietnam you are never far from a repair shop. Whether that means an authorized motorbike dealership or just a guy with a few tools and some space in his garage you’re bound to find someone when you’re in a jam.
That doesn’t mean you can be careless on picking a bike. Some people will tell you that it’s all a part of the adventure. Ultimately that’s for you to decide, a hitch here and there can be part of the fun, but having a complete engine failure and having to shell out more than you like for an engine rebuild is not our idea of fun. Brake failures are another story altogether and something that is unfortunately not all too uncommon and goes without saying, extremely dangerous.
Buying a Bike or Renting
If you opt to buy a bike here are a few things to keep in mind
- As a foreigner it is very difficult to buy a brand new motorbike. This is due to registration requirements. You would need an address as well as special ‘NN’ license plates indicating that the bike is registered to a foreigner. See our post about license plates to find out more.
- Be weary of fresh paint jobs. It is a common trick to spray paint over rust and cracks to cover up any issues. Check the bike carefully. If you don’t know what to look for, see if you can find a local independent mechanic to help you.
- Make sure the ownership papers match the license plate, engine number and frame number of the bike. If the police stop you and your papers do not match your bike will be impounded.
The other option is to rent a motorbike from a reputable vendor and drop it off on the other side of Vietnam. In this case you can be sure the bike has been properly cared for. You will also get better quality bikes as most won’t bother with motorbikes like the Win. Major repairs will be covered by the company you rent from so long as its from an authorized dealership. Things like flat tire repair usually won’t be covered but these come cheap. A flat tire repair won’t cost you more than 30.000 – 50.000 VND. These dealerships can be found in almost any Vietnamese town or city.
Tigit Motorbikes is the largest company for motorbike rentals in Vietnam. They are very reliable and have a large selection of bikes. They offer one way rentals and have drop off points in all the major cities. If you don’t believe us on the Win, check their video below for further analysis on these Chinese knockoffs and why you don’t see locals driving them.
Motorvina is another option for bike rentals and drop off. Based in Da Nang, they are popular for travelers wanting to do the Hai Van pass on a one way journey from Da Nang to Hue or vice versa.
Other motorbike dealerships will allow for one way journeys but if they only have one office, you’ll likely be paying a premium for the motorbike to be sent back across Vietnam via the trains.