The Hobby with Mobylette in Vietnam

The Mobylette, sometimes called Moby, is a unique model of motorbike that looks similar to a bicycle. Since this type of motorbike was introduced  in Vietnam in the 60s, it has been a favourite of Vietnamese motorbike collectors  who go to great lengths to collect and make the ancient motorbikes more eye-catching.

The Mobylette was manufactured by the Motobecane Company of France. Right after being produced in 1949, this type of moped immediately had a large number of enthusiasts in France and other countries around the world, including Vietnam. At that time, the Mobylette was much sought after in Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City) and become very common in the lives of city residents. The image of mopeds can be seen in many photos of Saigon before 1975.

Some Mobylette models. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Mobylette’s speedometer. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Mobylette’s logo on the petrol tank. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Mobylette’s pedal. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

The engine of Mobylette. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

The petrol tank, pedals, and engine of Mobylette is luxuriously and harmoniously designed. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

The handle bar and headlight of Mobylette. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

All Motobecane mopeds are generally referred to as Mobylette. The moped’s engine is an air-cooled two- stroke single, low speed, however, there were models which had a top speed of up to 48km/h. During the moped boom in the 70s, the number of Mobylette exceeded 14 million, averaging around 750,000 produced annually. Since Motobecane stopped manufacturing the Mobylette in 1997, this model became more valuable due to the increasing demand of vintage mobylette enthusiasts.

There are three mobylette moped models. The first version which looks like a bike was black and pale yellow. It has a thin body with a petrol tank under the saddle. It has no rear suspension. The second is grey with a heavier body and a petrol tank under the saddle. The third is blue with a petrol tank near the front.

At present, there are some Mobylette clubs in Vietnam where members can share the same hobby and passion with each other. Many of them have made tireless efforts to collect old ones and then rebuild them like the original. Many spare parts were also bought from foreign countries or among Mobylette riders.

Dang Thanh Tri with the mopeds he rebuilt. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Dang Thanh Tri is rebuilding a Mobylette. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Dang Thanh Tri rebuilds the electric system of a Mobylette. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

A mechanic at Nam Tri workshop rebuilds and decorates an old Mobylette. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Carefully clean the vehicle. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Spare parts of Mobylette at Nam Tri workshop. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

To help rebuild the mopeds, some workshops were established in Ho Chi Minh City and Nam Tri in District 12 is a well-known one in the Mobylette circle. Dang Thanh Tri, the workshop’s 47 year-old owner, said that he has loved the Mobylette since he was 13 years old. With his thorough knowledge about the moped, Tri has engaged in repairing and reproducing the Mobylette for more than 20 years. He and his workers have turned many Mobylette into unique and eye-catching ones with mudguards, screws and other spare parts which look the original.

Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat – Photos: Le Minh