Honda Wave – Let’s ride Asia

It is unquestionable that the Honda Wave is the king of SE asia. They are EVERYWHERE, super cheap, super reliable, and they’re practically used as pickup trucks. But no matter where I look, there doesn’t seem to be any proper technical information on them. I will post what I have here, and edit with what is posted by others. (Yes, I searched, but please let me know of any other ADV threads about these).


Q: Why would you ride a Honda Wave around SE Asia? Why not an XR250?! KTM990?
A: Nobody owns any of these ‘fancy’ bikes. The police will look at you more carefully, your bike will be a target for theft, and if you break down you will have a LOT of trouble getting parts or repair help.

Q: I don’t want to ride a 100/110/125 cc bike.
A: Fine. But you won’t be able to use the extra displacement. Unless you are planning an off-road trek, even with 100cc it will be easy to go much faster than traffic allows. We have been riding two-up with a 110 wave and it very easy to go much faster than the 40-60kmh speed limits.

Q: What about the Honda Win? My friend/buddy/blogger did their trip on one.
A: No, they didn’t. They did it on a Chinese copy. The Honda Win hasn’t been made in over 25 years, and the bikes that are still running and cheap are all copies and are usually in very bad shape. No locals ride this bike. Stay away. I looked at a brand-new Vietnamese Sufat Win and everything on the bike was very poorly made compared to the Wave. 

Purchase Advice

First off, if you are purchasing in Vietnam, beware of the market for Honda Fakes, especially to and amongst backpackers. There’s plenty of ways to spot a fake:

-Anything other than “HONDA” on the engine cases.
-Anything other than “HONDA” on the blue card.
-Anything other than “HONDA” on the exhaust.
-The asking price is $400 or below. Dead giveaway.

The blue card should be a definite, but be careful. The Vietnamese ownership papers list the VIN and Engine numbers. The VIN is visible on frame just above the fork clam and the Engine code is on the bottom of the engine on the left side of the bike. Make sure you check these and be VERY CAREFUL with the blue card. Whoever holds the card is the owner. If you hand the card to someone, they now own the bike and you have NO legal recourse if they decide to, say, take it.

If you stick to a real Honda, just be aware that SE asia has only three states of vehicle condition: New, barely working, and broken. Do not assume that ANY repairs have been done or done properly. No, the bike didn’t just get an engine rebuild. Assume the absolute worst and take comfort in that repairs and parts are very cheap. I paid $650 for a 2013 Wave RSX 110 (carbureted) and immediately had to replace the voltage regulator, plug, battery, air filter, and front tireand tube. All of this cost something like $40, so no worries.

Oh, bit of advice: The 125cc Honda Wave is sold as the Honda Future in Vietnam. Otherwise identical to the Wave. Take the extra displacement.

Technical Information 

Wheels/Tires: You can get either spoked or alloy wheels. I opted for spoked wheels for repairability. Tires are 70/90 front, 80/90 rear but you can run a 2.75 rear with no modification and I *believe* the 80/90 fits on the front with no modification either. There are no tire gauges in SE asia, so bring your own: 29/32psi alone, 32/44psi two up. You’re welcome.

Brakes: Drum in the back, drum or disc up front. I opted for the disc. You should too.

Engine, FI or Carb:
The wave is available in 100 (very old), 110, and 125 varieties. Stay away from FI unless you want to risk not being able to fix an ECU/sensor issue. I stuck with carb and 110cc.

The rear suspension on the Wave is hopelessly undersprung and underdamped. I spent $18 on a pair of YSS “Top Up” shocks with adjustable preload and it made an incredible difference, especially since we are riding 2-up with lots of gear on the back. PN: RD220-340P-12-58N. You may be able to get away with a standard rear shock if you are light and riding alone.

I have also had some preload spacers added to the forks. I did not have the control I would have wanted for this modification (shop worked so quickly!) but the addition of new oil and to a higher height has so far seemed to really slow the front end down. Will update with more thoughts.

The 37/14 gearing on the Wave 110 is very very short and works great for mountain roads. Speeds in 4th gear is 55kph at medium RPM, 65 at high RPM, and 75-80 at top speed. I purchased a 16T front sprocket for 30k VND ($1.50) and swapped it on for the flat portions of our trip to lower the RPMs on long days and increase cruising speeds. On the 125 the final drive is MUCH taller and the gearing is 35/14 so you will have a MUCH higher top speed but a very hard time climbing hills if loaded down.

Long Story short:

110: Leave it stock for 2-up mountain roads, 16T front for flat terrain. 16T front at all times if you’re alone.
125: Leave it stock if you’re riding alone. For 2-up, you WILL need to gear it down in the mountains. Stock sprockets are 35/14 and you will not be able to even get moving on an incline. I had a 125 in Thailand, I had to use my legs and get a run at it. :lol3 37/13 or even 37/12 will be a much better option.

Although I see loads far higher in Asia being carried, be advised that Honda lists a maximum capacity of 375lb (170kg) for the bike. We weigh exactly that with all of our gear, so I can attest to this being a safe weight. Just don’t try it with the stock shocks.

More to come.

It sucks. If anybody is doing this trip and wants to burn a few bucks to try out an LED bulb, I’d love to see the results. But really, you shouldn’t ride at night, everybody is drunk.

Maintenance & Immediate Fixes you will need to do
This is Asia. Your bike will only be in great shape if it’s brand new. The speedometer will likely not be accurate. What you should really service on day 1:

-Air Filter & crankcase breather
-Spark Plug
-Valve Clearance (fyi I asked a dealer to check this and they just listened to the engine, lol)
-Engine oil & strainer/screen (will add info on the latter)
-Adjust/clean/lube chain. They don’t use chain lube in asia… it’s just old motor oil. Verify that it really is set to the ~25mm/1in slack. Make sure sprockets and chain are in good shape as well.
-Suspension if needed (likely)
-Brakes if needed, especially brake fluid if you get a disc brake

What should I pay? (bike & service)
Bike: Will fill this out later.

Oil Change: ~80k VND ($3.50)
Chain: 175k for new chain & sprockets at dealer
Chain Oil: free-5k VND
Battery: 280k at dealer ($13)
Regulator/Rectifier: 250k at dealer ($12)
Spark Plug: 30k ($1.25)
Sprocket Swap: 10k ($0.45)
Tires: 250k ($11) each, an additional 20k ($1) for installation
YSS Rear Shocks: $18-30 depending on location



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