“After I retired, I stayed at home for a few months doing nothing and felt my health decline. Then I tried different exercises like jogging and working out, but cycling is the most suitable for me. I really enjoy cycling in the evening. It also helps me sleep well every night,” Huy said. He cycles from his house in the West Lake area to the Old Quarter and back, a total distance of 20 km.
Huy has spread the spirit of cycling to other members of his family. His wife now cycles to work three times a week and on the weekend, their two sons join them on the evening rides.
Cycling is not only popular among retirees like Huy but also among people of all ages. Not only does it boost their health, but it is also a joyous thing to do. Many are also influenced by the fact that it is environmentally friendly.
Four days a week, Thanh Tung, 31, wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to cycle with a group from downtown Hanoi. They go past Nhat Tan Bridge to Dong Anh Town and back. The group has been active for over a year and even have their own uniform.
“It started when I talked to two guys who shared the same hobby on Facebook. We began cycling together and invited our friends to join the group. After a year, we have 22 members who are passionate about cycling for a healthy lifestyle,” Tung said.
Due to the rising demand for cycling, more and more bicycle stores are popping up in the city. On Ba Trieu Street in Hanoi, there is a section that has had dozens of stores selling bicycles for many years that have seen business surge in recent years.
The owner of a bike shop in Ba Trieu told local media that they sell as many as 70 bicycles a day. Demand rocketed right after Covid-19 restrictions were removed and there have been days when the store has posted a turnover of hundreds of millions of VND (VND100 million = $4,023).
“The bicycle market is on the rise because people are tending to use vehicles that are friendly to the environment and they choose bicycles to exercise and improve their health,” the bike shop owner said.
According to a study by SSI Research, the demand for bicycles in Vietnam is around 2.5 million units a year. With an average selling price of VND2-2.5 million, the size of this market is about VND5-6 trillion ($201-241 million) a year.
Bicycle rental services are also flourishing. In the West Lake area, there are about five bicycle rental places that charge VND40,000 ($1.6) for three hours on weekdays and VND50,000 for three hours on weekends and holidays.
“Many customers don’t have the need to buy a bicycle, so they rent one when they want to go cycling. During the weekdays, the number of bicycles rented is 60 to 80, but on weekends it can be more than 100. Sometimes we even run out of bicycles,” the owner of a bike rental service said.
Trang Nhung, 21, a fourth-year student in Hanoi likes to go cycling in her free time with friends although she doesn’t have a bike.
“They have this bike-renting service in West Lake. I have been renting bikes here since the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Apart from the health benefits, cycling around the West Lake is a way for me to relax, sightsee and get some fresh air after a busy week,” Nhung said.
“I’m thinking about getting my own bicycle after I graduate and start working,” she added.
A customer in a bicycle store. Photo by VnExpress/Phuong Dong
Alongside cycling, tuning, upgrading and customizing bicycles has also become a hobby of many bike lovers. There are many cycling groups on Facebook that have thousands of members. They don’t just cycle together but keep upgrading and trading their bikes.
Duc Ha, who has been a cyclist for 10 years and member of a Facebook cycling group with over 12,000 members, said a nice-looking bicycle with high-quality features puts him in the mood to ride longer and more consistently.
“When I started cycling it was purely as a physical exercise. After a few years, I began to dig deeper into the bike-tuning game. I love giving my bike a new look and adding new gear. Trust me, it’s addictive. I also change my bike every few years because the new ones are lighter and designed better,” Ha said.
Huy also likes to customize his bicycle. He browses the web often to find things to make it better. But he thinks the pleasure and benefits of cycling don’t depend on how fancy it is.
“I think everyone should hop on a bicycle and get a few laps around West Lake every day, regardless of the type of bicycle they have. You don’t need a shiny, expensive and fully-geared bike to start cycling. It’s really about being able to relax, exercise and get healthier. All at the same time.”