Like many people, Tam and Long started riding motorbikes when they went to university, but a few years ago, the couple decided to return to the beloved bicycle. The 36-year-old couple recall a string of beauties they have owned since they were kids. At 12 years old, Tam cruised to elementary school on an orange Vietnamese mini, and 10-year-old Long peddled around a handmade Saigon clunker. Tam’s family eventually shelled out for a Peugeot and a Mifa, while Long’s Eskar and Favorit were his steps up in the cycling world.
“Before, mostly foreigners went by bicycle, but in the last few years, more Hanoians have been using bikes,” explains Long. “People see them more. We see them on the internet, in stores, and more of our friends are buying bicycles.”
An active member of the Vespa club, he adds: “In the Vespa club, the people are always looking for rare and vintage items and they are willing to pay. I think that for the bicycle it is the same.”
Zen and the Art of it
Shop owner Ton spent years playing tennis, golf, swimming and walking. Eventually, after “too much sport” and a back injury, Ton turned to bicycles and soon realised there was an obvious shortage of stores and repair shops in Hanoi.
For Ton, it’s all about the process. “I work with bikes A to Z,” he says, which means customers who come in for a bike tune up are invited to spend the next three hours learning about their machines while he and his staff tinker away.
“I don’t only sell bikes,” he adds. “I want my customers to understand bikes, what is important and how they work — it takes time.”
Though there are plenty of places to buy cheaper bikes, or famous brand name bikes, Ton enjoys being able to put his own concepts into bike construction and maintenance.
This attention to detail and quality goes into all the products at the bike store. Before importing something, Ton likes to hold it in his hands, explaining that for him “a picture is not enough”. So once a month he travels abroad in search of new materials.
At Anton’s Bike Store, customers come in for tune-up tutorials, repairs or to buy one of the new or used bikes. Ton’s got classic vintage designs for amateur riders, mountain bikes for those who like a strong frame and road bikes for those of the professional persuasion. He’s also got hot tea for those on loops around West Lake.
Anton’s Bike Store can be found at number 21, Alley 150 Yen Phu, Tay Ho
Around 6am, most of us are dreaming about our teeth falling out or about being naked in public, but a group of eight early morning speed demons are throwing their legs over their bikes and heading off for a daybreak break-neck expedition. From Veggy’s on Xuan Dieu to Thang Long Bridge, the group manages to cover around 30km by looping their route several times of a morning, before arriving back at Kitchen in time for coffee with us mere mortals.
With the group meeting up three times a week to repeat this journey, it’s no wonder that many come away scarred, bruised and bleeding after numerous collisions with motorbikes. This same fraternity of bike lovers also bolt approximately 20 km around West Lake in a not-too-shoddy 35 minutes. As if that wasn’t enough to feed a love of cycling, they have also been known to tear from Hanoi to Ba Vi in just three hours, followed by a grueling 12km hike up the mountain, which can take an additional 90 minutes.
If you like the idea of getting up early and putting yourself through this kind of fresh hell, try and catch up with these punishing pedalers from 6am outside Veggy’s, 99 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho
Just down the road from Anton is a similar new and used bike store and repair shop. Owner of the rhythmically named shop is Tuan, a local celebrity in the bike-racing world. The fashion at Xe Dap The Thao Cao Cap is decidedly sporty. One such spandex clad customer named Tao is among the dedicated weekend 200km riders who ride to places like Tam Dao, Ba Vi, Son Tay and Bac Ninh. Tao says there are many such groups addicted to this punishment and reward lifestyle, which meet for weekend jaunts or early morning West Lake laps.
Yet Tao imagines the biking population will stretch (just like his neon blue shorts) to include a wider range of people interested in bikes in the near future.
“Vietnam is developing and lots of people are wanting to take better care of themselves and their environment,” he explains. “Hanoi is a small city where it’s possible to ride around, and I think that local people will want to do that more.”
Xe Dap The Thao Cao Cap is at 114B Yen Phu, Tay Ho
Bike Free Hanoi
In the mix of vintage collectors and super athletes is a newly sprouted non-profit organisation working to make bicycling a more major mode of transportation. Bike Free wishes to spotlight the reasons to get on a bike, like the low environmental impact, health benefits, and cheapness. Through a purple plate and sticker system, Bike Free’s logo will be seen attached to members' bikes meandering down streets and in supporting establishments. With the purchase of one plate, cyclists get a free one to give to a fellow biker as a means of building a community around bicycle riding. Bike on.
Check out www.bikefree.vn for more information