A 10bhp soviet-made Minsk motorcycle that’s been hacked together with a 125cc Honda motor along with forks that have to be mounted back-to-front in order to fit a brake caliper on might not seem like the ideal companion to be travelling off-road on a 1500km journey through Vietnam. But, for our Managing Director, Stuart, it proved to be far more than its looks and lacking spec sheet would initially suggest and won him over with its simple charm. Oh, and before you ask; no we won’t be looking to stock them in the showroom anytime soon…
With 9 other riders, and a route that would take the group from the country’s capital, Hanoi before heading north and then west along the border with China before finishing 10 days later in Lao Cai, the bikes would be put through the mill in search of a ride that would reward in spades.
“The bike looks crap, but they’re brilliant” Stuart recalled. “It was an 80’s Russian Minsk motorcycle that had a 125cc Honda scooter engine fitted and had been converted from automatic to manual transmission. The drum brake was updated to a disc and the fork had to be mounted the wrong way around so the caliper would fit on. The quilted seat looked nice though!”
“The bike was a pile of trash, but it was amazing, they’ll go anywhere! The bikes were the same that were used when Top Gear went through Vietnam.”
The trip took them through the most stunning landscapes that Vietnam could offer and was led by Australian guide, Digby Greenhalgh, who’s been running tours through the Asian country for 25 years and draws upon a wealth of local knowledge for the trips.
Stuart laughed before continuing; “Digby’s barking mad, but he’s been doing these tours for years now. I did a tour with him about 10 years ago too so I knew him before this trip. The scenery is incredible, it’s a beautiful country.”
“You’d never be allowed to do a tour like it in this country, but it’s all the better for it! We spent three nights in Home Stays on the trip too, which equates to just staying on the floor in a big room. The riding isn’t exactly easy either, but the bike coped brilliantly.”
The trip matches the easy-going nature of the Vietnamese culture, flowing through the stunning scenery with the knowledge that only a seasoned veteran of the area could provide.