First published May 2016 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle [Tiếng Việt]
This post was last updated 7 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.
This is the Story of my GIVI Bike Box, bearer of my Baggage on all my Road Trips:
Over almost a decade of riding in Vietnam, two pieces of equipment have remained constant on my road trips: my motorbike, Stavros, and my GIVI bike box. Having accompanied me on more than 130,000km through all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces, they have proven to be both indispensable and inseparable: everywhere Stavros goes, my GIVI bike box goes too. Having already sang the praises of Stavros in a previous article, I think it’s about time I give my GIVI bike box the eulogy it deserves.
Unlike my motorbike, I’ve never given my GIVI bike box a name: I’ve always referred to it simply as, ‘My Bike Box’. Purchased not long after I bought my motorbike, My Bike Box has been the bearer of my baggage for nearly 10 years of riding. It’s endured the heat and humidity of southern summers, and the typhoons of the central and northern rainy season; the slick, muddy highland roads, and the bumpy, potholed surfaces of highways under construction; and even, on one or two occasions, minor collisions. Throughout these testing conditions, My Bike Box has kept my belongs safe, secure, dry and intact.
Along the way it has received some minor cuts and bruises, but it has never even hinted at breaking or failing in any way. Even when I’ve condemned My Bike Box, on several occasions, to the luggage hold of aircraft – at the mercy of airport baggage handlers, with a ‘Fragile’ sticker plastered to it – it’s always arrived unscathed on the baggage claim carousel at my destination. Although there are other essential items which accompany me on all my road trips (my camera and my laptop, for example), over the years these have all had to be replaced, on several occasions, due to wear and tear. My Bike Box, on the other hand, has remained constant; never having needed any maintenance whatsoever.
The Birth of My Bike Box:
After I’d bought my motorbike from Saigon’s Chinatown, I needed a way to carry my luggage on my road trips. Vietnamese people famously carry anything – small or large, fragile or robust, alive or dead – on the backs of their motorbikes. Squealing pigs, window panes, bales of hay, whole families; they all balance in varying degrees of comfort and security on motorcycles in Vietnam. I couldn’t see myself doing the same thing. Nor did I want to wear a backpack: that, for me, would spoil the freedom of motorbiking and, in a country where humidity usually hovers around 90% and daily temperatures regularly reach 35°C, it would be unbearably hot and uncomfortable to have several kilos of stuff strapped to my back. I also wanted something waterproof, to protect my things from the monsoon rains.
Backpackers riding through Vietnam tend to fix a rudimentary metal rack to the backs of their motorbikes, and tie-down their baggage (wrapped in bin bags to keep the rain out) with bungee cords. This is fine if you’re on a one-off road trip, but not if you’re going on multiple trips for long periods of time. I wanted something secure, convenient, easy to use but also durable, and I wanted it to look good too. What’s more, I didn’t want to sacrifice my seat space for my luggage: I wanted room for a pillion and all my stuff.
I’d seen some GIVI bike boxes on motorcycles in Saigon, so I found the GIVI store (which happened to be located just a few blocks from where I’d purchased Stavros) and bought my own. I chose the second largest model they had in stock at that time: a 35 litre box, with a secure lock and a reflector on the back. I also chose a heavy duty rack for My Bike Box, so that I could fill it with all my things without compromising the stability of the bike and the strength of the rack. It cost me around $50 which, even then, seemed reasonable but now, having ridden so far and carried so many things without a single incident, seems exceptionally good value.
The Life of My Bike Box:
It wasn’t long after I bought My Bike Box that I started to make multi-day road trips from Saigon. At first, I’d spend just a few days and nights on well-trodden loops covering the Mekong Delta, the southeast coast, and the Central Highlands. But, soon I began to realize that I could make much longer trips and get further off the beaten path thanks, in part, to how much I could conveniently and securely carry with me in My Bike Box.
Motorbike road trips are, for me, all about the potential for exploration, and the sense of freedom, independence and excitement you get when riding on a new route, going through new landscapes, trying new food, and meeting new people. Because the lid of My Bike Box has a secure lock, and because it is securely fastened to my bike, I am able to confidently do things like: stop for swims at deserted beaches and rivers, take small treks to waterfalls, visit historical monuments on hilltops, walk up slippery paths for tea and tobacco in minority villages, without having to worry about the security of my belongings on my bike. In this way, My Bike Box stays with my motorbike, so that I don’t have to.
Vietnam’s complex climate means that it’s on the receiving end of two separate monsoons: any rider in Vietnam will, at some point, encounter large storms and very heavy rain. But, as far as keeping my belongings dry through these weather conditions, I’ve never had to worry: My Bike Box is 100% waterproof – I’ve ridden straight through storms and even skirted a couple of typhoons, and come out the other side with not a drop having penetrated My Bike Box.
My Bike Box has also enabled me to camp. I think of camping as one of the greatest expressions of the freedom of travel, but it does require a lot of extra equipment. However, with the exception of my tent, all my camping gear simply fits into My Bike Box – my sleeping bag, cooking stove, food supplies. At night, when I’m asleep in my tent under the trees or on a beach or by a river, I can rest easy knowing that Stavros is safely locked up outside with My Bike Box sitting securely behind it. This has given me total freedom on my trips: now, when I look at my motorbike fully loaded for a road trip, I see it as my transport, my belongings and my home, all safe and secure. Some of my most memorable nights on the road have been camping.
Many of my road trips are solo, but the best ones are always with other people. Over the years, my parents, my expat friends, Vietnamese friends, visiting friends from the UK, and girlfriends, have all accompanied me on road trips. Since My Bike Box is elevated above and behind the passenger seat, I’ve always been able to comfortably accommodate a passenger, and this has made my trips that much richer.
My Bike Box looks good too: it’s curvaceous and smooth; sleek and aerodynamic, as if it had been designed in a wind tunnel. To my eye, My Bike Box complements Stavros; so much so that Stavros looks naked without it. I’ve come to see them as inseparable: on my road trips they are always together and, when I’m back in Saigon, if I don’t need it, I simply detach My Bike Box from the rack.
Convenient, secure, durable and stylish, my road trips would not have been the same without My Bike Box. An absolutely essential piece of equipment, I don’t consider My Bike Box an accessory; I consider it a part of my motorbike. Everything that I hoped and wanted motorbiking in Vietnam to be – exploration, independence, the freedom to go anywhere and see everything – My Bike Box and my motorbike have, together, made possible. The two pillars of all my road trips, they have been with me since I started riding in Vietnam, and I hope it will continue that way in the future.
Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like my bike box & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here
Thanks again for all the invaluable info – another great article!
Despite some limitations, such as not being as easily cleaned or as protective and secure for their contents, I like the soft motorcycle panniers made in Vietnam from ‘army green’ waterproof fabric. I’m sure you’ve seen them too. Practical, budget-friendly and versatile, different sizes are available, and a large pair cost me 300k VND from Ha Trung Street in Hanoi. Impressed, I took a set of them home to the UK. I found they can usually be easily secured underneath the padded seats of most scooter-style motorcycles, but sometimes having them atop the seat is better to prevent any rubbing against rear suspension or a hot exhaust! They certainly don’t look as good, so I used a couple of cans of black spray paint on mine! : ) Cleaning usually requires a stiff brush and water, leaving them out to dry in the sunshine, but I have also put mine in a large washing machine.
I can see in addition to the top box, Stavros has also been fitted with GIVI hard panniers. Is that right? Can you share your thoughts and experiences on using those?
Yes, the GIVI side boxes have also been useful, practical, durable, secure and weather proof over the years I’ve been using them. In general, all my boxes have been good quality and ultimately extremely good value for money – I can’t really imagine my road trips without them.
Great site mate, so much valuable info.
What device do you use to record your routes/tracks? I’m not that keen on using my phone and it seems near impossible finding a simple gps device that records routes easily.
Thanks, glad you like the site.
I don’t use anything to record my routes – I just remember exactly which roads I’ve taken and then map the routes myself. But if you don’t want to use your phone (there are lots of apps for tracking your routes, I think) you can buy something like Tripy to track it instead.
What model Givi Box is this?
I plan to rent a bike in VN from Tigit(probably a Honda Winner or Yamaha Exciter) and would love to have a box for my journey but also plan to buy a bigger bike in Thailand(probably a CB300F) when I tour there. Do you think there is a mount that Givi makes that would allow such a box to work on both models?
Thanks, love the guides.
I’m not sure, but it seems unlikely because the racks and usually made specifically for different types of bikes. It’s worth contacting them in Saigon to ask though.
Don’t be totally convinvced of the security of the top box, somebody kicked my Givi box open on the street outside my house in London.
They stole my helmet.
Joke’s on them though, I’d just got back from 3 weeks of riding around Europe and the lining of the helmet was disgusting!
Sorry to hear that. I’ve never had a problem with the security of my GIVI boxes in the 10 years that I’ve been using them. But I wouldn’t leave anything really valuable in them for any length of time, especially in London – that’s where I’m from.
I saw a guy with a rented XR150 that a Givi box on it that he bought into the room with him. How does it detach, I assume it has something to do with the locking mechanism? I also see yours is mounted quite high, wouldn’t this be an issue for stability? I assume the lower you can mount it would help with overall handling of the bike.
The GIVI box is securely attached to the GIVI rack on the bike. You use a key to lock and attach/detach it from the frame. GIVI mount the boxes differently according to each bike in order to maintain optimum balance, weight distribution and handling. If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City you can drop by their shop on Nguyen Chi Thanh Street in District 10 to ask for more information and take a look at their products. Or you can email them.
I hope this helps,
Thanks, I’ve been to the store, have a Givi jacket and pants. Will visit again about a box. As an aside, I noticed someone recently posting about not being able to open your maps visa your links. I’ve had the same issue on both my Android phone and laptop. On the phone it says loading map once Google opens but no joy. On laptop Google maps opens but not your route etc. Perhaps Google have change thier interface?
Thanks for letting me know. That does seem strange. You should be able to view all my maps in your browser. However, when there is a problem it usually has something to do with browser or device incompatibility – try opening the map on a different device or browser. I am just talking about opening the map, not about uploading it to Google Maps app and following it with directions.
Speaking of using phones on the road, they are quite helpful as are your maps!!! I do have a couple questions around this, if you have experience to share:
1. Do you use a cell phone holder? What type?
2. My biggest challenge with a cellphone on the road was using it in the rain. Any tips?
Yes, you can get phone holders for your bike. There are lots of kinds. GIVI sell them too. They’re waterproof. I have a GIVI one, but there are many others too. If you Google around you’ll find lots.
Love the website. I arrive Sep 25 in the evening in Da Nang. I need to go to Hoi An for clothes (probably will require a few days). Then I want to head north on motorcycle and see as much as I can within 12-14 days. Where would you recommend getting a motorcycle in Da Nang? Also what routes/sites would you prioritize as I make my way north? Perhaps, it might even be better to skip central vietnam and fly to Hanoi to do motorcycle tours from there to save time? I was thinking Ninh Binh, limestone loop, Sapa, Ha Long Bay, etc.
Of course, there’s phong nha as well and I’m sure other worthwhile parts of central vietnam so idk.
Let me know your thoughts. Thanks, Tom.
In Danang you can rent bikes from Tigit and Rent a Bike Vietnam. They are both good, reputable companies. There are links to all of them in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.
You could start from Danang and do the Golden Loop and then continue from A Luoi on the Ho Chi Minh Road through to Phong Nha and beyond (section 4-8 of this guide). This is a great road trip.
Or you could start from Hanoi and do some of the northern loops. September is a good time of year for this regions, so this is a good option. You could combine some of my northern guides to create a larger loop. In particular, the Northeast and Extreme North loops.
If you choose the northeast loop, please note that road DT206 from Ban Gioc waterfall along the Chinese border to Ha Lang is in bad condition and best avoided.
I hope this helps,
LOVE my Givi box!
Hei Tom, I am planning for a motorcycle trip in Vietnam (hopefully soonest at the end of this year) and ended up here at your blog. Very well-written and informative articles! Thanks a lot!
Thanks, great to hear you’ve been enjoying my site. I hope it helps you to plan your Vietnam trip!
Hey, I live in Los Angeles and I love my Givi box. I’m arriving in Hanoi in a week and I was wondering if you knew off hand where I can either buy a Givi box there or a mounting bracket for the Tigit provided Yamaha Exciter I’m having shipped up to Hanoi?
GIVI’s main office and store is located in Ho Chi Minh City – here’s a map. You can try to contact them to ask about what they can do from Hanoi: here’s their website.
I hope this helps,
That box is legit. The only downside is those side winds on Phú Mỹ Bridge can really affect the motorbike’s balance!
That’s interesting. I’ve never had a problem with side winds myself – no more than I do when I don’t have the box on it.