When you ride a motorcycle in Vietnam’s weather, it’s a lot like rolling dice. You can always hope for the best outcome but there’s no possible way to determine what you’ll get. Vietnam’s weather is quite unpredictable and when you’re opting to tour the whole of Vietnam from north to south, you’d better be expecting one heck of a weather rollercoaster ride. Knowing what type of gear you need to wear depends on when and where you’ll be riding in Vietnam’s unpredictable weather.
Welcome to the country with 2,000+ kilometres of coast and three weather systems. Vietnam covers over 300,000 square kilometres of land but this area is stretched north to south—hence the huge differences in climate. Vietnam is typically warm and humid—it is a tropical country after all. But due to the country’s length, the mountainous north can have snow (yes, snow!) while the beaches in the south enjoy 32°C in the sunshine.
The mountainous far north
When riding in northern Vietnam, one might notice the region to be mountainous and cold. This region experiences two seasons: October up to about the end of March is pretty dry but the wet season lasts from April to September. Temperatures can drop and it can get really frosty in December and January, especially at night.
The region immediately below the far north has distinct winter and summer seasons. April to around November is the winter season, but it’s mostly dry with the coldest months being January to March. The hot and humid summer arrives in May and it lasts until October. The most rainfall occurs between the months of July and September.
The best time for adventure riding in Central Vietnam could be from mid-January to late August where riders would experiences a hot and dry climate with temperatures reaching well above 30°C. Rainfall increases during the winter months peaking in October and November with the occasional aid of monsoons. The southern end of central Vietnam actually experiences a long dry season, typically from January to September. The rainy season there runs from October to early December.
Riders may notice that temperatures are much more constant all year-round when riding in Vietnam’s southern region. The climate is split between the wet and dry seasons and the weather becomes hot and dry from November to late April or early May with February to May being hotter and more humid. From May until early November the region experiences the wet season with June, July, and August receiving the highest rainfall. Rainfall in the form of short-lasting mid-afternoon bursts can be expected throughout the wet season.
Choose your gear carefully
Although Vietnam has a dry and wet season, as well as summers and winters, rainfall should be expected at any time of the day throughout the year You can start your ride at 6 a.m. in central Vietnam in the middle of April and still be cold and soaked a few hours later. When riding in Vietnam, you should be prepared for anything. Fortunately, Onyabike Adventures has you covered with an article on How to Gear Up for a Vietnam Adventure Ride.
Motorcycle gear is designed with the intention of taking on nature. If there’s a situation or a riding scenario you can think of, there’s probably gear specifically made for it. With Vietnam’s weather in mind, riders should be able to get a pretty good idea of what gear they ought to be wearing.
Jackets might be the most important piece of gear when it comes to maintaining or regulating body temperature for comfort. The torso always tries to maintain a constant temperature because it contains all your vital organs. If it’s too hot, your chest and back will sweat a lot to prevent your internal organs from overheating. If it’s too cold, your body will try to divert warm blood from your hands, feet, and other extremities to keep your torso warm and will, in turn, make your hands and feet go cold and sometimes even numb. This is why it’s important to have a good jacket that can manage Vietnam’s huge temperature swings and unpredictable weather.
Most people associate motorcycle riders with blacked out leather jackets and those are still the best when talking about abrasion resistance. But leather is often too hot for Vietnam and would leave you a sweaty mess.
If you know what time of year you’ll be riding in Vietnam, then from the information above, you probably already know what kind of gear you should be looking for. A good choice of gear for riding in Vietnam in the hot and dry season would be a well-ventilated textile jacket or a good mesh jacket.
Textile jackets and mesh jackets give riders protection from the heat and sun but still give great air flow. People who don’t ride motorcycles might spot a rider wearing a jacket on a perfectly good sunny day and think, “Wow, he must be cooking inside that jacket!” The truth is motorcycle jackets actually come with strategically placed vents that allow cool air to flow in and hot moist air to flow out. Vents are a rider’s best friend in a hot and humid climate like Vietnam.
Other jackets even give riders the ability to carry water with them. Riding a bike is thirsty work and most riders tend to get parched when riding long distances without noticing. Some jackets come with a hydration bladder and this not only helps the rider remain hydrated, but the cool water in the bladder helps to cool the body.
Most of these jackets also come with a removable inner liner. The keyword here is “removable”. A ride in Vietnam may go a little something like this: You start out your ride with blue skies and a few clouds here and there for a little shade and two minutes later, a thunderstorm starts brewing. A jacket’s inner liner adds some adaptability to your jacket with insulation and waterproofing but they can be hot in the sun, that’s why riders opt for a removable liner.
It’s also good to look for a jacket with zipper and Velcro strips on the sleeves and waist to help prevent cold air or water from riding up or leaking through. Some jackets also come with waterproof pockets and even a non-rider would tell you how valuable that is.
Some riders don’t want the hassle of taking a liner on and off each time it rains or shines. It’s a valid point. What if you get caught in a cloud burst? By the time you’re able to put on your inner liner, you’d already be soaked. Gore-Tex is the magic word you may want to look for. Gore-Tex is a company that came up with a fabric that’s highly breathable and 100% guaranteed waterproof. This can be found on a lot of sportswear and motorcycle gear is no stranger to Gore-Tex. It’s the best type of motorcycle waterproof gear but it’s expensive.
Ryan from Fortnine actually makes a great video about riding in the rain, and he also made a video about what he thinks is the best rain gear in the market today. Alpinestars Vietnam actually has great product presence in the country and their gear is now more accessible in Vietnam so anyone looking for a good jacket can easily find one.
Onyabike Adventures’ jacket
Here at Onyabike Adventures we want to make sure that people who ride with us need not worry about anything else but the ride and experiencing Vietnam. That’s why we offer gear for rent and sale. We don’t want you having to go through the trouble of sifting through a mountain of gear.
Onyabike Adventures offer two choices of jackets: The Taichi RSJ710 waterproof textile jacket, and the Hevik Paride perforated mesh summer jacket. These jackets provide great protection for the journey and are perfect for Vietnam’s climate. The Hevik Paride jacket is made of mesh, making it light and allowing for ample airflow—great for those hot summer months. It also comes with armouring and adjustability on the sleeves and waist.
The Taichi RSJ710 is an all-weather jacket complete with armour, active and passive air vents, and a removable inner liner. This jacket is coated in a water-repellant material keeping the rider dry and comfortable in Vietnam’s unpredictable weather.
Your hands are particularly sensitive to the cold and anybody who has ridden a motorcycle on a tour in the rain or in the cold would tell you that gloves are a huge part of the comfort factor when riding a bike. Vibrations from the handlebars during a long ride can cause your hands and fingers to go numb. Pair this with Vietnam’s extreme heat and cold and your hands can become uncomfortable, which won’t mix well with long tour rides.
A pair of perforated leather gloves would be fine in a hot and dry riding situation, but if you intend to stray away from the paved road, some mesh or textile gloves would give you more air flow. Riding off-road can sometimes be slow and leather gloves are only as cool as the wind allows them to be, so in a slow off-road crawl, textile and mesh gloves may be better. Some riders even sacrifice safety for more comfort by going with half-finger or open finger gloves. Waterproof gloves would be extremely useful in Vietnam, especially in the monsoon season but these aren’t all that common.
Onyabike Adventures’ gloves
The Alpinestars Spartan, the Alpinestars SMX-1, and the Hevik California-R are available for sale and rent at Onyabike Adventures. All gloves have armour for protection and 3D mesh inserts which add comfort and cooling. The Spartan and the California-R have what some might call basic protection: both have hardened knuckles and provide great airflow but miss out on features like leather reinforcement and palm sliders.
Stepping up to the SMX-1 would give riders a full leather palm construction and beefed up knuckle and finger protection while maintaining the mesh 3D inserts for airflow and comfort.
Ryan from Fortnine also made a video on his choices for the best street and touring gloves.
Pants are very similar to jackets in a lot of ways. Your legs actually do a great deal to cool your body down. Not a lot of people may notice this but when legs are cool, you feel cool overall. A lot of riders can attest to this, and legs can get pretty uncomfortable quickly in Vietnam’s weather.
Motorcycle pants, however, can be hot and heavy. Even mesh pants with vents can get quite hot. That’s why, for shorter rides, it’s not uncommon for riders in Vietnam to wear normal jeans with some padding, knee protectors, or shin protectors strapped on.
The feet are just as sensitive to discomfort and extreme temperatures as hands. Anybody who’s been caught in the rain and ended up with water in their shoes can tell you that it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Unfortunately, riding boots are not common in Vietnam and only a few dedicated riders bother looking for and wearing motorcycle specific shoes. Some riders just opt to wear a pair of sturdy leather work boots and call it a day. But, with Vietnam’s unpredictable climate, your feet are bound to get some abuse.
Some leather work boots actually are great as motorcycle boots. Given that they are cheaper and come with almost the same amount of protection, riders tend to gravitate towards them. You can get shoe covers for your work boots to add some waterproofing. These are small rain shells that cover your boots up to your shin and keep your shoes and feet dry. However, they can get a bit hot and humid as they don’t breathe very well. What’s important to look for in a riding boot that you’ll go touring in is waterproofing and breathability.
Biker Shield has a great versatile summer and cold weather boots selection in their lineup both for long tours and daily commuting.
Other Weather Gear
For staying cool in the heat, some riders actually start out each ride by damping their undershirts. As they ride, the water evaporates and cools the body down. Other riders have also resorted to putting ice cubes in their jacket pockets and pants pockets. If you want to learn more about gear for beating the summer sun, check out Ryan’s video on gear for staying cool in the heat.
Sadly, even the best rain gear in the world will still leak after a certain amount of time. If riding in Vietnam, you will eventually need a raincoat. Raincoats are cheap and plentiful in Vietnam. Anybody can get a cheap raincoat for 23,000 VND – 46,000 VND (10 USD – 20 USD) but these aren’t very good. Luckily, Onyabike Adventures offers a GIVI rain shell riders can wear on top of their gear. The GIVI waterproof rain suit is made from Ripstop nylon so it can take a lot of abuse. It comes with vents, a foldaway hood, front pockets, and Velcro cinch straps for a nice fit, so that it won’t flap around at speed.
The climate in Vietnam is part of their rich culture and Onyabike Adventures wants to make sure that riders are prepared to face and experience Vietnam’s climate, and not to avoid it or be put off by it. Riding in Vietnam can be problematic without the proper equipment but Onyabike Adventures wants to make sure each rider coming into Vietnam gets the best experience from their trip.