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What commuter is best for me?

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Most often when customers come to me to buy or rent a bike they have some idea of what they like the look of but little idea of what will suit their physical size, intended use, experience and budget the best. We sell and rent everything so without bias I take pride in matching people with a bike they will be happy with ongoing and not just the day they pick it up. Here's a basic overview of type and some of our preferred sales and rental models for your perusal.

Full Automatic

Generally preferred as a commuter/ll at least by less experienced riders. Front and rear brakes both on the handlebars and its basically twist the throttle and away you go. I've been riding and racing all of my adult life and still have an auto for short local commuting.


These have gears but no manual clutch. Front brake in your right hand and rear right foot as with a full manual. Easy to get used to and more fuel efficient than an auto particularly if the commute involves longer highway stretches. Choose the right one and also quite a capable out of towner. I don't recommend these however for anyone with a view of going to a full manual.

Full Manual

Generally this is a motorcycle rather than a commuter. It's only in the last 6 or 7 years that manufacturers have offered full manual underbone scooters and certainly not for everyone around the city. They are fast and nimble and mostly preferred by the boy racers or as a starting point for those wanting to take the step up to a motorcycle. You are required to manually disengage the drive from the engine with the clutch lever in your left hand. New riders will find this tiresome in heavy traffic.

Yamaha Nouvo Generations 1, 2 and 3

These, in their glory years were previous to my tenure in Vietnam though I have over the years used them as a budget rental and set countless numbers of them up with luggage racks to head North for the motorpacker also with tight purse strings. They get a pretty bad wrap these days which isnt completely fair. Gen 1 dates back to 2002 and are now pretty rare. Gen 2 and 3 though cosmetically a bit nicer and with the inclusion of dash pockets are still around in their thousands and given the last one rolled off the assembly line over a decade ago its fair to argue they have indeed stood the test of time. Most likely fuel or electical issues will be responsible for a breakdown. Many can be easily identified by the sound of transmission bearing noise due to lack of maintenance. Mostly the motors despite often being neglected also tend to be reasonably bullet proof.

Yamaha Nouvo Generation 4

This bike changed the whole perception of Nuovos for many. Yamaha made a major marketing error by keeping the Nouvo name at this point in my opinion as it is unlike the first three generations which were bit lacking in so many ways. Firstly the 108cc engine of its predecessors went to 132cc, they improved the transmission and changed the geometry. In short a spritely and powerful commuter which poses very good value for money and became a favoured choice for companies hiring out bikes to tourists and expats alike. One of these in good order still poses good value to someone on a budget but still wants a good performer with reasonable reliability.

Yamaha Nouvo Generation 5 and 6

Yes I put these two together as other than cosmetics there isnt too much between them. A small reduction in engine size from the Generation 4 but going to fuel injection was the right move forward and power delivery is at least equivalent with improved fuel economy. The handling and agility in traffic is at least as good as anything in its class and comparitive to the Honda Airblade which here amongst the locals is its favoured competitor although it doesnt hold its value quite as well so is a good option at the price point second hand.

Yamaha NVX

Finally after 15 years of Yamahas iconic Nouvo the NXV made its debut in 2017 and I was a big fan initially. On the plus side it had a great new look and the geometry if under 180cm tall is okay. Where Yamaha let themselves down was braking and suspension. A rear suspension upgrade on the early ones was a big improvement but the front end is soft out of the box though can be cheaply stiffened up. A rear drum brake on the 155cc model at least is just wrong. The passengers seat is thin and though I never ride pillion I imagine not too comfortable long haul. The 125cc version is bit slow out of the hole as the bike is considerably bigger than the Gen 6 Nouvo before it so the 155cc is better matched to the bike in my opinion. I had one of these as my personal town bike for a while and had my engine builder take it to 250cc. That certainly made it a fun ride but reliability was compromised long term. Worthy of note if you are 180cm tall plus, the leg room behind the dash is insufficient unless riding with your legs splayed which compromises safety and posture.

Yamaha Janus

First seen in 2016 these were no doubt introduced to compete with the hugely popular Honda Vision. With a 125cc engine against the 110cc Vision that should have been easy but sales would not reflect this. It took me a while to take them seriously too. In recent times though I've bought a few and been very happy with them as have their new owners. Definately worthy of consideration as a lower priced ladies commuter.

Yamaha Grande

I completely overlooked this bike until around a year ago when a very nice matt black one was offered to me and I test rode on looks alone. I couldn't believe how comfortable it was and although a bigger bike than the Janus adequately powered by the fuel injected 125cc engine. Great under seat space as no doubt its direct competitor the Honda Lead has but also with smaller circumference wheels than i like. This has got a 12 inch rear though so for some would be enough to get the nod. As a local shopping or family run about worth a look.