My Motorbike, Stavros

Last updated January 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

This is the Story of my Motorbike, Stavros, who has Taken me to Every Province in Vietnam:

Stavros, my motorbike, on the southeast coast, VietnamStavros basking in the sun and salty breeze on Hon Gom Sandbar, on the southeast coast

Introducing Stavros:

A few weeks ago, my motorbike – known affectionately to me as ‘Stavros’ – turned 9½ years old. In that time it’s clocked up way over 140,000km and taken me all over Vietnam. Stavros has endured the traffic-clogged, exhaust-choked streets of Saigon’s rush hour; stood up to the driving rain, gale-force winds, and biblical lightning of monsoon season storms on the central coast; survived the mud-filled mountain roads and landslides of the extreme northern highlands; suffered the potholes and red dirt roads of my many ill-conceived ‘short-cuts’ in the Central Highlands; and withstood the oppressive heat and humidity of the Mekong Delta. More importantly, it’s taken me to some sublime places, most of which I would never have seen or even known existed, were it not for the independence and freedom that my motorbike has given me in Vietnam. Stavros is a gold-painted, 115cc, 2007 edition, Yamaha Nouvo, and I love it.

15 Images of my Motorbike, Stavros:

The Birth of Stavros:

I bought my motorbike brand new in Saigon’s Chinatown (Chợ Lớn) for a cool 30 million Vietnam Đồng (yes, that’s 30,000,000!). In 2007, that was equivalent to about $2000, making it the single, most expensive item I’d ever purchased. At that time, my Vietnamese bank only allowed customers to withdraw 2,000,000VNĐ per time from their cash machines, and the highest denomination note was 100,000VNĐ. This meant I had to insert my bank card 15 times to reach the total cost of my motorbike, and, by the time I’d finished – after exhausting the supply of two ATMs – I had 300 notes stuffed into my pockets: it was a nervous walk from the cash machine to the motorbike shop.

Stavros, my motorbike, in the sands of Vietnam's desertStavros negotiating the hot sands of Vietnam’s ‘desert province’, Ninh Thuan

The Life of Stavros:

Back in 2007, my motorbike was new, shiny, gold, and a coveted model in Vietnam. I called it ‘Stavros’ because it had a masculine, macho arrogance about it – I imagined Stavros as a self-confident (perhaps self-deluded), tanned Mediterranean man, who thought of himself as a bit of a ladies’ man, and who wore his shirt unbuttoned to reveal a hairy chest and a gold medallion. Now, however, Stavros has reached middle age and signs of wear and tear are starting to show.

Stavros, my motorbike, covered in mud, northern VietnamStavros, in need of a bath, after tackling a muddy road in northern Vietnam

The plastic lamination, which I covered the entire body with when I bought the motorbike to protect it from scratches, is now blistering and flaking off, making it look as though Stavros has a rare skin disease. Various pipes on the underbody have turned a rust-brown and the square, Transformer-esque body looks boxy and heavy compared to the sleek and slender designs that are available today. But, I don’t care about any of this. In fact, the more worn and used Stavros looks, the more unyielding and tougher he seems to me. I’m suspicious of bikers whose motorbikes always look pristine and virginal, as if they’re fresh off the showroom floor: where’s the evidence of all the epic journeys it’s made, all the road it’s eaten, the weather it’s endured? It’d be like seeing a rugby team at the end of 80 minutes play with all their shirts still as crisp, white and unblemished as when they were fresh from the laundry. In fact, despite his ‘unshaven’ appearance, Stavros made it onto the GIVI display stall at the 2015 Vietnam Motorbike Festival in Saigon.

Stavros, my motorbike, at the Vietnam Motorbike FestivalStavros, on display at the GIVI stall, at the 2015 Vietnam Motorbike Festival in Saigon

I bumped into someone I know on Highway 1 during last year’s Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. He pulled up alongside me on his big white motorcycle and couldn’t help but laugh at the state of my mud-caked, flaky-skinned Yamaha Nouvo. But Stavros is thick-skinned (well, metaphorically at least) and he can take this teasing because he’s been up and down, side to side, round and round the country dozens of times, and he’s still purring away, eager to do it all over again. Stavros has matured, grown into himself: when young he was overly concerned with outward appearances and what other people thought of him; now, he realizes, what really counts is what’s on the inside; the engine, and Stavros has proven his to be robust, strong and determined.

Stavros, my motorbike, in Vietnam's Central HighlandsStavros takes Mum and I into the Central Highlands on the spectacular pass from Nha Trang to Dalat

Indeed, based on the similar models available on the market in Vietnam today, I think, if Stavros was to break down and die tomorrow, I’d simply go out and buy another Yamaha Nouvo, not one of the new versions – which look so delicate and precious that they’d blow over in a gust of wind – but exactly the same ‘old’ model as Stavros. However, I hope that day won’t come any time soon: Here’s to another 100,000km around Vietnam with Stavros!

Stavros, my motorbike, in the sands of Ninh Thuan Province, VietnamReady for another 100,000km, Stavros? “You bet!”


        • Expenses for a Vietnam Road Trip 

        •  Which Road Maps to Use in Vietnam 

        •  2 Month Road Trip Route Map

[Back Top]

Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats:  What's this?

This entry was posted in ALL, MOTORBIKE GUIDES, Resources and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to My Motorbike, Stavros

  1. Hannah says:

    Hi Tom! Love your website – so glad I was directed here by a friend. My fiance and I are wanting to do a month-long motorbike tour, renting from one of the companies you suggested. Neither of us know anything about motorbikes, though! Any models you’d suggest for us? I drive a manual car, but neither of us has ever driven a bike.

    We also haven’t decided whether we should both ride on one or each rent our own bike. We’ve got a 6’3″ 250 pounder and a 5’6″ 125 pounder on our hands, if that matters!

    Thank you!

  2. Hey,
    Amazing blog, used it a lot traveling from Saigon to Hanoi and going to follow some of your routes in north vietnam !
    I’m riding the same nouvo bike as you, little older, mine is from 2006, had some maintenance to do on the way but there is something I have difficulties to get rid of. The transmission is making quite a lot of noise, especially when driving aroud 50/60kmh, mechanics do not seem to want to work on that problem. Seem to be quite a common issue on these bikes, still I would love to get it sorted out, any advice on that ?

    Thank you in advance


  3. Pingback: The Tết Classic: Lunar New Year Motorbike Loop » Vietnam Coracle

  4. Pingback: Mountains in the Mekong: Motorbike Loop » Vietnam Coracle

  5. Kiat says:

    Great blog Tom!

    I’ve been to VN quite a few times and the first solo trip I ever rode on was on a Nuovo too! (though it was just from Danang to Hoian lol)

    I was wondering if you’d think that one of the newer Honda cubs would be alright to make a journey from Saigon to Dalat and back? I’m looking to buy one and keep it there with a friend as i do visit the place quite often and it’ll make sense financially instead of renting.


  6. Noemi says:

    Your website is indeed a labor of love!

    I came to Vietnam for the first time in 2008 and have been trying to come every two years since. 2016 here I come:-) I did something that looks like the North Eastern loop over 10 days on a Honda Wave and have the most unique memories from that trip. I was advised to try a Yamaha YBR 125cc this time, for comfort, but seeing your postings and great photos I am reconsidering “just” getting a Yamaha Nouevo or Honda Future. Is it pretty easy to get a custom top case rack like you have on the back of Stavros? It looks way more solid then what I have seen so far. (I’ll be between Hanoi & Hoi Ann).

    Many thanks!!

  7. Louis says:

    Hi there! We love your blog, it’s providing us with so much valuable info. Question: we just purchased two second hand Yamaha Nouvos, like yours. They are automatic transmission. The receptionist here at our hostel has said to us that these bikes will not get us up the steep gradient to Dalat. Is this true? From your blog it looks as though you have an automatic Nouvo and it has taken you basically everywhere (although you bought yours brand new). We’re thinking that all we need is a little faith…what do you think?

  8. Pingback: Two Months on a Motorbike » Vietnam Coracle

  9. Hi Tom!
    I’d follow your trips…impression & intresting, your most favorite photo is on the “Starvos” with your Mom in HonGiao pass. Wish you good health to continue the journey meaningful!

    On December I had planned to tour the survey bow-Dalat-Nha Trang route SGN-Qui-Nhon-QuangNgai-HoiAn by Vespa. All along the road from Nha Trang-Hoi An is the coastal road away from highway 1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>