Helmets and New Look Vespas

Pat Joynt of Saigon Scooter Centre has been in Vietnam for 15 years restoring classic bikes, importing and producing parts. Here he answers your questions.

 

HI PAT,
I KNOW YOU’RE INTO CLASSIC BIKES. BUT HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE LATEST VESPAS BEING PRODUCED IN VIETNAM? ARE THEY WORTH INVESTING IN OVER, SAY, ONE OF THE AUTOMATIC HONDAS OR YAMAHAS?
THANKS,
PW


Weighing up the pros and cons with the Hanoi-produced Piaggio models, I think they’re a good deal. It’s only a couple of years ago that the imported Italian LX models were selling here for US$7000 (VND140 million). The new VN LX model is priced at about US$3400 (VND70 million) which is less than half price. Of course there are differences between the European-produced model and the Vietnamese model, but more than acceptable considering the price.


The most important factor is the engine unit that even on the Vietnamese-produced scooters is still imported as a complete unit. I’ve found the local models use slightly inferior parts such as tyres, brakes, suspension, rubbers and trim, but at the of the day these are wear and tear parts that you will replace over the course of a couple of years anyway and then change for better quality imported versions if you want.


You’ll still end up saving a considerable amount of money if you’re looking for classic Italian styling. And the Vietnam-produced Vespa will always pull looks over the plastic fantastic Nuovo.

 

 


HI PAT,
ARE THERE MASSIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HELMET QUALITY AND PRICE? I’M LOOKING FOR A WELL-MADE HELMET BUT WITHIN A BUDGET OF LESS THAN VND2 MILLION. WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?


You really do get what you pay for with regards to helmet quality. There are a number of premium international helmet companies, some of the more famous being Schoei, Arai, Bell, Nolan, Vemar and AGV. For the budget you’re looking for in Vietnam you’d be better off with either Korean or Thai brands. You will not of course find international safety kite marks like Snell, DOT or British standards on these helmets. However, on budget helmets both Thailand and South Korea offer reasonable safety standards for Asian manufactured helmets.


There are five main materials used in the production of motorcycle helmets, these are: plastic, thermo plastic, fibreglass, kevlar and carbon fibre. As a general rule the better the protection, the higher the price.


Also remember there are two impact zones to consider. In the case of an impact there should be sufficient protection between your head and the interior helmet as well as the primary impact point between the helmet and the road. A comfortable fitting and well padded interior-lining and a foam or equivalent liner is essential. Budget VND50,000 helmets are just a plastic shell offering no first stage protection and in most cases will break-up on impact with any hard surface.


In the 1970s Schoei ran an advertising campaign “A US$5 dollar helmet for a US$5 dollar brain!” Buy yourself the best protection you can afford, you only get one brain. At the end of the day a good helmet will save your life and in the meantime you can look good, be comfortable and avoid that VND200,000 fine for driving without one.

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