Who cycles in Vietnam?


If you still ride a bicycle in Vietnam, in the time of motorbikes and car dreaming, it means you are either too poor, too young or too old. Or you are a bit crazy and weird, like us. Here are some of the most common kinds of cyclists in  Vietnam.

Authour: Norboer
Authour: Norboer

1) Children

Probably the largest group of riders in Vietnam. No matter what time you are riding your bike, sooner or later you will bump into a group of kids wearing their spotless school uniforms and gently pedaling to school or going back home. School schedules in Vietnam are often a mystery to foreigners, who feel kids are always going or coming back from school. Some of them will be amused if they see a foreigner on a bike and they will have a good time practicing the few English words they learned at school.

SONY DSC
Author CePhote Uwe Aranas

2) Scavengers

They are usually among the poorest people in Vietnam, they can’t afford for a motorbike and they use their old bicycles to collect used plastic bottles and resell them. The Vietnamese way of recycling. Usually they are women, with two huge bags or containers on the side of the bike, another one on top of the rack and sometimes another one between them and the handle bar. Similar to the plastic bottle collector, but the bike in this case is full of cardboards from all boxes that are recycled. Same as with the plastic bottles, sometimes it’s difficult to believe they can still ride the bike.

SONY DSC
Author: CePhote Uwe Aranas

3) Peddlers

Now they tend to go by motorbike, but there is still a fair amount of them who have no choice to push the pedals to bring the banh mi, the icecreams, the Vietnamese cakes or any kind of food you can imagine to your neighborhood. Bikes are still a livelihood for the poorest.

4) The feather duster man

Among the peddlers, they are probably the most charismatic. Their livelihood seems strange to foreigners and it might be the kind of job that will vanish as years go by. Their bikes full of feather dusters moving from one neighborhood to another are a typical sight in Vietnam.

Hue,_les_cyclos-pousses
Author: ntt

5) The cyclo drivers

Not as easy to spot as few years ago because of circulation restriction in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, this iconic symbol of colonial times is till quite common in Vietnam. In the city centers they are focused on tourists, which seems to be more profitable than transporting goods, as it often happens in the outskirts or in the countryside.

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Author: CE Photo Uwe Aranas

6) Old people

Maybe they no longer have the confidence to drive a motorbike, maybe they can’t afford it or they are so used to the times when cycling was the rule and they never found a reason to change their habit. Whatever is the explanation behind it, the elderly are frequently seen on bicycles.

8) Sporty cyclists

There are surely not as many as in other places, but if you drive around big cities in the early morning, it is very likely that you will spot a group of enthusiast cyclists doing their daily ride. After all, biking is becoming more and more popular and bike shops are growing like mushrooms in the last few years. Let’s hope it’s not just a short trend.

9) Teenagers with fixies

Vietnam is absolutely not impervious to the global trend of fixie bikes. It is undeniable: these colorful, light, single geared bicycles with no brakes look cool. Some of them have the back pedaling braking system and others have no brakes at all, which is probably cool but doesn’t seem to be the most advisable thing to do, specially in Vietnam. Anyway, we are happy that trends attract new bike lovers and we hope they will keep loving bikes their whole lives.

10) The Sunday Bike Ride guys

If you are in Saigon or in Nha Trang and you see  a big group of cyclists having fun on a Sunday morning, it is probably us. All kinds of cyclists are more than welcome in this group.

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