Buying a Vintage Suzuki Was a Huge Mistake

Cruising through the listings on Cho Tot, a popular e-marketplace in Vietnam, I came across what I instantly knew was my future bike: a 1981 Suzuki GN125. It was all original and came with the original, numbers-matching “Blue Card”, the title and registration for Motorcycles in Vietnam. The listing had the price at 15.5 million VND (about $681 USD) which I thought was a little high, but compared to the other listings this one was basically brand new. I fell in love, and I visited the listing over and over and over. I told my girlfriend I was going to buy it and all she said was, “Are you sure?” I should have listened.

On my very first ride, the chain broke one me, leaving me pushing the bike by everyone I had just triumphantly roared past. Luckily there’s a mechanic every 500 feet here in Ho Chi Minh City. After a quick once over that included changing the fluids, the chain, and the sprocket, I was off once again, but that would definitely not be the last time I was stuck sweating and huffing as I pushed a beautiful, but useless hunk of metal along the side of the road.

One of my many unscheduled stops

I’m constantly chasing down gremlins, and it often breaks without warning. A lot of this is due to the resources I have at my disposal. Mechanics here often have the attitude that if it isn’t completely broken, it shouldn’t be fixed. I appreciate that they are usually just trying to save me some money, but it often costs more to have something fixed late at night on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I also do not have the space or the tools to perform maintenance by myself. I’ve recently found a new mechanic who looks at something that’s broken and just fixes it, so I’m hoping that I should be able to keep it from any further sudden breakdowns.

On the go fixes often have to be done with whatever is on the side of the road

Which would be nice, because I dreamed of riding this bike all across Vietnam when I bought it. It’s very comfortable, even with two people, and I think it makes me look a little bit cooler (although based on the looks I get, I think my neighbors and unfortunate mechanics would beg to differ). I don’t think it will ever be reliable enough to completely trust it with a trip all the way up the country, but it is fun for quick trips running around the Mekong Delta. Even with the occasional breakdowns, I’ve always had a great time on the trips I’ve taken with it.

As it sits.

In the end, I’m not sad that I bought this bike. I do love it, and it’s taught me a lot about how motorcycles work; however, I should have waited and bought something newer and more reliable. A year later there have been times where I’ve wanted to just sell it and move on. Then I hop on it, it’s working great, the sun is shining, and I’m glad I didn’t as I go tearing down the road.


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