In Praise of Motorbikes

Vietnam was and is a nation that travels predominantly on two wheels. Uncle Ho's supply chain, consisting of tough human beings propelling supply-laden bicycles, proved equal to the challenge of defeating the US, whose petroleum-powered network of supply lines spanned the globe. Even today, while cars and trucks clog the avenues of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, much of the rest of Vietnam sits astride two wheels.

Today those two wheels tend to be petrol-powered and it's not unheard of for relatively prosperous families to have a motorbike for each parent, as well as one for each kid over the age of 18. But, prior to the precipitous drop in motorbike prices that resulted from the introduction of imported Chinese motorbikes about ten years ago, a single motorbike was considered a terrific asset for an extended family.

Access to a motorbike enabled sick folks to be ferried to medical care more expeditiously and rural shop keepers to more readily access goods from the larger towns and cities. Wider ranges of employment and educational opportunities arose as well, thanks both to the improving economy and the ability to cover somewhat longer distances in a reasonable amount of time (i.e.; making it feasible to get home at mid-day for lunch and a nap.)

The bulk of motorized two-wheeled transport in America consists of either motorized bicycles or enormous Harley-Davidson clones - both of which are generally considered to be dangerous toys (a Harley viewed as an extravagant one and the moped being merely comical) - rather than as serious modes of transportation. In Vietnam, 110cc "underbone" style motorbikes such as the Honda Wave represent the basic mode of transportation. Unlike Harley owners, Vietnamese ride their bikes rain or shine--along with their kids, their groceries and even live pigs, chickens, and plate glass windows. It can get a bit dicey at times but--with the bike's low center of gravity and ease of operation--even a fifty-something year old American woman like me can learn to operate one with confidence. Modification of the basic bike with kits (which are readily available in Vietnam) enables even disabled folks to travel independently by motorbike.


All told, these small motorbikes have contributed greatly to the enhanced quality of Vietnamese life over the past decade. With their fuel efficiency and relative ease of maintenance, one might well be a valuable asset in a survival-oriented post-Peak Oil community.

What are your experiences with two and three wheels motorbikes?  Share your thoughts and comments below.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

since I just turned 81, and even though in good shape, I wonder if I'm taking a chance with accidents?
Not only because of my riding but the insane car/truck drivers!

Love to hear any experiences from "Honored Elders"  (forget the senior citizen label!!)  Zen

I had a Ducati, which I loved, but in Pennsylvania, the season to ride comfortably is terribly short. A fifty degree day on a bike is unbelievably cold, without the right gear. I remember riding into work on a 30 degree morning. I was dressed appropriately, with good gloves, but by the time I got to my office, my hands were practically frost bitten. Even with the right gear, it's a pain to suit up for short trips. The other problem is the death that seems to accompany the motorcycle. A friend of mine died two years ago in a motorcycle crash. 
Having said that, if I lived in a tropical climate, I would  get some nice boxes for cargo, and ride everywhere. In the North, it's just too damn cold.


When I was a student in England my only means of transport was a Norton. I loved motorcycling but always rode too fast and, as a consequence, had several accidents. Most of them were trivial but I was almost killed a couple of times.
Now, as an 'honored elder' I still daydream about riding again and often stop to drool in motorcycle showrooms. I also attend motorcycle races and follow the sport. High on my bucket list is to be on the Isle of Man for TT Week.

Nevertheless, although I could easily write a check for any bike I fancy, I refuse to let myself buy one. I just know it would greatly accelerate my demise. Kenneth Pollinger has correctly identified the real danger, which is the other road users. Car drivers just don't seem to see motorcycles and pull out in front of them, cut them off and generally pose a very real menace to even a careful motorcyclist's health and safety.

Safety, schmafety!  Tell me, if fuel were 5x it's current price, or if you only had access to 5 gallons per month per household, you wouldn't strap on your helmet (and your "big boy" pants, I may add…) and trundle off to the store 10 miles away on a two-wheeler to get your needed items.  Keep in mind, at this point, there would be few cars on the road and many scooters.  Elders may have a hard time walking or biking that distance.  We here at Steve's Home for Wayward Motorcycles (pop. 17 and growing…) recommend not worrying yourself into an early grave.  Tell me swinging a leg over that Duke or Commando didn't get the juices flowing!  In the words of Jim Morrison- no one here gets out alive.  Granted though, the folks illustrated in the OP are probably in more temperate climes…(electric gloves!).  Aloha, Steve.

Yes, I had electric gloves (made them myself) and a newspaper stuffed down the front of my Barbour jacket. No question about the juices flowing either even if they were sometimes blood.The bike was an ES2, a bit before Commandos were introduced.
Under the conditions you state I wouldn’t hesitate to ride again.
But, until then, given my riding style and the number of people texting and driving, I think I’ll stick to safer sports like shooting.

Yeah Boomer, I concur on the extra risk inherent on todays highways.  Here on Kauai, along with the pretty poor local driving habits, we have a large portion of visitor drivers with one hand on the steering wheel and one on a GoPro…or phone.  That has caused me to ride rarely.  I discovered the wonders of an electric vest a number of years ago on my last mainland M/C tour.  Been hounding my local state reps on building a safe place to shoot- no public, or private, range here.  We're forced to skulk off into the jungle.  Aloha, Steve.

Motorbikes are good transportation alternatives for declining energy. It is an interesting article in praise of Motorbikes.But if you have a car and concerned about its security while traveling you can visit for finding cheap parking solutions.