Everyone has a few crazy pipe dreams; daydreams that more often than not stay as whimsical “if only’s”. Well, 2018 was very much a year of going after what I wanted, so I took the plunge and did something with my pipe dream. I wanted to buy a vintage honda cub motorbike. So I found a Saigonese company, The Honda Cub Exchange, that specialises in reconditioning vintage Hondas and decided to buy myself the cutest little 1972 honda cub. Here is what you need to know about buying a reliable vintage Honda Cub in Saigon.
When I decided to buy this bike, my initial Vietnam road trip plans were in tatters post-break-up and I was in desperate need of a pick-me-up. This bike fulfilled not only the dream of owning my own classic cub, but it served up lots of badass “girls-can” vibes that were much needed at the time. I’m sure the road trip would have still been great had I bought a regular backpacker bike, but going all-in with my vintage honda cub marked a turn in my life; a chapter of independence.
Buying a Vintage Honda Cub
Buying a vintage honda cub is no challenge in Vietnam as they used to be one of the most popular models of motorbikes, and are making a comeback among the younger generation. However, while cheaper to buy a non-reconditioned model, there is no guarantee of quality or reliability, which is unsurprising due to the age of the bikes. For me, the security of buying a motorbike that I knew had reliable mechanics was essential, especially as I was taking it on a cross country motorbike trip.
Who are the Honda Cub Exchange?
The Honda Cub Exchange is a motorbike workshop in Ho Chi Minh City that specialises in reconditioning vintage honda cubs and other vintage honda motorbikes. It’s run by a Vietnamese-English duo, with much of their custom coming from exporting reconditioned bikes to the USA, Europe and Australia. They take vintage motorbike frames, fix them up and build out the bike using the old frame and brand new mechanics. The result is a vintage motorbike that runs like new while keeping the charm of the old frame.
Another perk of buying a motorbike from The Honda Cub Exchange is that you get to customise the bike. Not only was I was able to pick aesthetics like the colour of the frame, the leather of the seats and features like the basket, but also mechanical aspects like how many gears, what cc engine, level of suspension and whether to add an electric start button or exhaust silencer.
The whole process was really smooth from start to finish. Before finalising my order I went to The Honda Cub Exchange workshop and got to see some of the orders they were currently working and see the quality. To have a motorbike custom-made by The Honda Cub Exchange takes anywhere upwards of three weeks depending on how busy they are (mine took just under 4 weeks).
For personal reasons, I’m not going to disclose how much I paid for the bike, but you can message them for prices via Facebook. Certain features like having an electric start button (rather than just the original kick start) cost extra.
Once the bike was ready they gave me a lesson on how to use it, from the kickstart to changing gears, as well as so many general maintenance tips. They were really thorough, ensuring I practised around the neighbourhood until satisfied I had adapted enough to drive the bike home.
In the first 24hrs I had a minor issue where the seal on the cap of the gas tank was too tight, starving the engine of gas. They came right to my house to take the bike away and fix the problem. Thankfully this was the one and only issue and all it took was to change the screw cap (they’d tried a new supplier but obviously decided not to continue using those caps). That summer I drove from Saigon to Hanoi with the only maintenance being regular oil changes.
Honda Cub servicing in Ho Chi Minh City
Now that I’m back living in Saigon, I try to take my motorbike for regular checkups at the Honda Cub Exchange as they are incredibly thorough and I always end up driving away with my motorbike feel like a brand new again. Over the many years I’ve had the motorbike now they’ve done a few cosmetic touch-ups (replacing the seats, basket and mudguards due to wear) as well as some engine work due to damage caused by monsoon flooding (moving the electrics from the front of the back to a more enclosed area at the back, replacing the electric start and rewiring the gears and electrics into a new dashboard). Always great service and even if you haven’t purchased your Honda Cub from them, I highly recommend contacting them to have your motorbike serviced.
✍ For more information on motorbiking in Vietnam check out my Complete Guide to Motorbiking in Vietnam.