Project Minsk

Until two days ago there were three fragile dust-covered and forlorn Minsk bikes scattered across our garage roof waiting to be resuscitated. Soon, these three carcasses of metal will be rejuvenated with a slick of British Army Green paint and lots and lots of love (read new brakes, new clutches, new engines, new everything) and within the next two weeks there will be three hardy Minsk bikes revving along the perilous roads of Vietnam.
What a beauty!

The Minsk, a 125cc two stroke dirt bike, is based on a pre-world war II design and is named after the city it is made in; Minsk, Belarus. It is a popular bike in Vietnam, especially in the more mountainous regions, and apparently in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest from expats and young Vietnamese who are drawn to its retro style. The motorbike can also be found on the dusty meandering roads of Afghanistan and even as far afield as Mozambique. In the Top Gear Vietnam Special Richard Hammond rides a roaring Minsk up the coast of Vietnam while Jeremy Clarkson’s on a lovely dainty Vespa. I tried to embed the video of the special from YouTube but it didn’t really work so have a mooch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1zfuBgCUqY, even if you’ve seen it before it’s always worth another watch. Not sure if I approve of them spray-painting the Minsk bright pink though…

All three of the bikes on the roof belong to our landlord Neil, and this week, alongside Gareth, two of our flat mates Lincoln and Mark decided to start their own Minsk Club. Neil cut us a deal. The boys can take the bikes into the city to get them repaired, pay for the repairs (about $100 for each bike) and then they can have the bikes rent free for a year. Absolute bargain!

A couple of days ago Mark and Lincoln took one of the bikes into District 1 to get it repaired. Mark rode the Minsk while Lincoln took his normal bike. As Mark’s engine was too corroded and needed a spark plug for it to work Lincoln literally pushed him into town with his foot; an illegal yet effective maneuver. In the end Mark actually arrived some time before Lincoln because the locals took it upon themselves to push him in. In a couple of days Gareth is going to have to make this same 40 minute long voyage to District 1 once Mark gets his bike back. With Lincoln and the locals of Saigon, he’s in safe hands.

The end goal is that on 3rd September, a national holiday, we will take all three of the bikes for a spin to the Mekong Delta for the day. Having the Minsk also opens up the rest of South Vietnam for us (our  wee geared Honda that we rent now just doesn’t have the power we need to really get out and explore) and we intend to visit Dalat for the New Year, an area 185 miles away that has been described as the Alps in springtime, and go camping in the woods there.

Wish us luck!

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2 thoughts on “Project Minsk”

  1. Sounds like such a brilliant idea! Forever jealous. Whilst your camping in the woods of Dalat i'll be in Kirkby, great. I hope you and Gareth are having a lovely time, i expect a few souvenirs muhahahaxx

  2. Well we're more than likely to be travelling home through China, Mongolia and Russia so take your pick for where you want your souvenir to come from!! xxx

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