Amateurs in Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities have recently begun to bike more for both physical exercise and pleasure.
It is now common to see athletic men and women hunching their backs over the thin frame of a racing bike on busy streets, especially during rush hour.
Many amateurs have grown to love cycling and have invested large sums of money in their ‘iron horses.’
Those who have enough money have even begun to collect racing bikes from various famous bicycle makers throughout the world.
Bicycles made by famous manufacturers such as Colnago, Lightweight, Pinarello, and Shimano are often seen on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
Diverse varieties of racing bicycles
More and more bicycle shops have appeared on Nguyen Kiem Street in Go Vap District and Vo Thi Sau Street in District 3. For the most part, they offer popular racing bicycles from VND5-10 million (US$240 – 480) each.
A few of them specialize in providing extremely costly bicycles with prices of up to VND400 million (US$19,200) each.
Toan, the owner of a bicycle shop on Nguyen Kiem Street, said he has three main kinds of racing bikes, including ‘MTB’ bikes for beginners, ‘road bikes’ for cycling on long roads, and ‘commerce’ bikes for students riding to school.
Cheap bicycles are made by companies such as Jett, Giant ATX, and Giant OCR, he said. These go for less than VND10 million each.
“You can order more expensive bikes to be delivered to our store. A Giant Propel Advanced 2 is about VND84 million [$4,000] and a Giant TRC Advanced SL RABO ISP is VND104 million [$5,000],” he added.
However, some more serious cyclists refuse to buy a bicycle as a single unit, instead selecting spare parts imported from Europe and the U.S. and assembling the unique bike on their own.
Such customers order spare parts from Colnago, Warrior, and Shimano, said Hung, the owner of a racing bike shop on Cach Mang Thang 8 Street in District 10.
It takes two to four weeks or even longer to have ordered parts delivered to Vietnam, he said.
“The most important parts of a racing bicycle are, in order, frame, tires, chain, freewheel, and brake,” Hung said, listing the parts that make up a qualified racing bike.
“The frame is made of either steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber, which is currently the best material on the market.”
The most expensive frame is produced in the U.S., priced at $7,000, while the most expensive tire is from Italy, at $2,500-3,000 a pair.
Assembling a racing bike is not a simple job, as it determines how well the bike operates.
In Ho Chi Minh City, a man named Tong who resides in District 8 is known as the ‘superman’ of assembling racing bikes, according to Hung.
Tong has traveled from north to south just to assemble racing bikes at the request of individual owners, Hung noted.
“It takes him just two hours to finish assembling a racing bike,” Hung said. “He is paid from hundreds of thousands of dong to several millions of dong for assembling a bike.”
Because of their expense, racing bikes have become a target of thieves. Working in groups of two or more, they will suddenly dash into a cafeteria to snatch a bike and jump on a motorbike waiting outside to escape.
A man named Thuy, a member of an amateur cycling club in HCMC, said members of his club lost ten racing bikes in the past two months alone to thieves.
Bike or child?
Ly, director of a chain of restaurants in District 7 and an amateur cyclist, said, “It’s more painful to see your bike get hit than your car or motorbike.”
He admitted he has ridden his racing bike to work for over a year and always brings his bike into his office to prevent it from being scratched in the parking lot.
His bike is worth over VND200 million ($9,600).
Currently, the most expensive racing bike is owned by a banker in HCMC, at VND400 million ($19,200).
Nguyen Huu Vu, nicknamed Vu An Dong, has a collection of seven bikes, including a Colnago C59 – Art Décor and Lightweight Urgestalt.
Whether they own a cheap or expensive bike, cycling enthusiasts all love and care for their bikes as they would their own children.
After riding around the city, a cyclist may spend an hour at home cleaning and washing their bike.
Ha, who lives on Quang Trung Street in Go Vap District, admitted, “If you are addicted to cycling, your bike must be flawless to ignite your passion. It’s a source of pride to ride it to the office.”