Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vietnamese - The Hardcore Bikers

We've all seen photos like these, where some guy in Vietnam has several people riding on the back of a 125cc motorcycle. And then we laugh at how ridiculous it is.

People in Vietnam ride their motorcycles in situations that many of us wouldn't even dare. Most of us are not willing to ride in the rain, let alone down flooded streets, and not even do so with several passengers on the back. But they've developed the skills to do it.

I believe this is actually a photo of a motorcycle taxi. So, the taxi driver is doing this because it's his job. But given the rainy conditions, you'd think he'd wear a jacket, right? You gotta admire the Vietnamese for their toughness and skills as motorcycle riders.

If you're a mom, would you put yourself and your kids on the back of a motorcycle, driven by someone you don't know, in the rain, down a flooded street, while holding on to your umbrella and shopping bag? In the United States, we call it stupid, but in Vietnam that's their way of life.

And there's something hardcore about that, which those of us in the United States are too soft to understand.

Many bikers in the USA talk about living the motorcycle lifestyle, but only a tiny few truly do. Even though we ride our motorcycles as often as we can, we're still fair-weather riders to a lesser or greater degree. We choose to hold on to our cars because sometimes it gets too wet or too cold outside. Sometimes we elect to set our groceries on the back seat of our car, instead of bungee-cording them to our motorcycle. Just how hardcore are we?

You could argue that if Vietnam had a large middle class, that most of them would drive cars also. True. But my point is that too many bikers in the USA talk about living the lifestyle, just because they have a Harley, a patch on their back, and a novelty helmet, when in fact they're ill-prepared to deal with life on a motorcycle.

I am of course comparing two different philosophies. In the USA, we tend to think of the motorcycle lifestyle as a social life, whereas in Vietnam it's a domestic life. It's apples and oranges.

Still, when you hear someone boasting about the "motorcycle lifestyle", keep in mind that all they're talking about is a social life, and reflects nothing of their riding abilities. Ask yourself if that person is prepared to rely on their motorcycle in the same way that people do in other countries, and figure out how that person compares with the motorcycle riders of the world.


  1. It's amazing how hardcore any human can be when they have few or no choices.

    When I was in the service, the coffee was terrible, but it was all there was and it was cold out, so we drank of it gladly. Same with the early MRE's - horrible - though I hear they're really very good these days. Still, would I eat a military Meal Ready to Eat now if I had a choice of something better? Of course not.

    I think those folks over there have had a very hard life, and they do what they have to do. I've poured water out of my boots a few times more this year than I'd like - I hate riding in the rain. Why? Not because I'm scared of water. It's because it takes away from the pleasure of the riding experience.

    Yeah, we're lucky over here to be able to "enjoy" riding and choose to not ride when we don't have to. On the other hand, I'm going to Milwaukee next month no matter what the weather throws at us. I'll try to make the Vietnamese proud. In this case, being hardcore for a while will actually enhance the riding experience, even in the rain.

  2. Yeah, it is pretty amazing.
    You should have seen how people ride in Thailand. I've been there a couple of times. And man, these people are able to do things on their 125cc ...
    Once I got passed by a guy on a 125cc with a couple of bamboo sticks that were approximately ...15 feet long. Reminded me of medieval jousting tourneys :).

  3. Heh, Funny...who you calling a pussy bro?...but, you are 100% on the mark here. I love reading this kind of stuff. You know why American's don't like bikes? It's not practical to go on a shopping spree on a bike. Man brother, we have it good here in the U.S. Thanks for the reality check. Hardcore for sure...wonder if I went on a pack ride with these guys if I could keep up? Don't know...probably not.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)