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One year riding with you on Sundays!

Sunday Bike Ride
Sunday Bike Ride

You may know by now that we don’t only like to ride our bicycles, we like to do it with you. Companionship, sharing happy and funny moments is as important as the fact of feeling good about the exercise and this is what truly makes a difference between us and other cycling groups in Ho Chi Minh City. This is why one year ago we decided to start the Sunday Bike Ride. It is hard for us to believe that twelve months are already gone and we are waiting for you this Sunday November 2nd to celebrate it with you. For such a special event we chose to ride to peaceful and relaxing Gia Bao Villa, in Ho Chi Minh City’s district 12, about 20 kilometers from the city center.

It is a short and easy ride for any level and we will actually spend most of our time relaxing, singing and swimming as we get to know each other a bit better. And there will be some exciting surprises that we can’t tell you about yet… You’ll have to come if you want to know. As usual, the meeting point will be Ben Thanh Market at 6:30 AM and we expect to be back there around 1pm, after having lunch together. If you need a bike, you can rent it with us, here you can read about the new ones that are available.

Since we started this adventure on the first Sunday of November last year, we have cycled on 49 Sundays out of 52 and we ventured into kinds of terrains, enjoying nature, exercise and friendship. We learned about Vietnamese culture in places like the Cao Dai Temple, the Thanh Da Peninsula or in the floating Market in Tien Giang, we discovered amazing natural sceneries a few hours away from Saigon such as Da Han waterfalls or the beach in Bien Ho Coc, and, most important, we had a lot of fun. It would really be a pity to miss the surprises going on this Sunday!

How to carry your bicycle in Vietnam

One of the good things of being part of a tour like the ones we do in Vietnambiketours, is that you can forget about all the logistics problems and you only have to focus on pedaling and enjoying. Still there might be some adventurous riders who want to go on their own. If your legs are too tired and you need a public transportation or if you are traveling to a far away part of Vietnam, you have several options.

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If, you want to get quickly to any part of Vietnam, you can fly with your bike with Vietnamese airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Vietjetair and Jetstar. As a general rule:

1) You have to position the handle bar along the length direction of the bike.

2) Disassemble and pack bulky parts like pedals, lamps, etc.

3) Deflate your tires (unless you want them to burst with the pressure)

4) Detach the front wheel. This is not always required, but some airlines have a length restriction, so it’s safer if you do it.

3) Put your bike inside a box (this is not always a rule, but it’s safer for your bike). It’s easy to get a box for free in any bike shop, just plan that a few days before your trip.

This option is quick, but airlines clarify that they are not accountable for any damage on your bike and it is likely that not everything is perfect when you pick it up in the airport. Also, you must be aware of the size and weight restrictions, which vary depending on the airline. Also, make sure you book the sport equipment option in advance and it doesn’t hurt to call the airline and tell them the characteristics of your bike to avoid nasty surprises at the airport.

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Motorbike and bicycle transportation in Vietnamese trains works really well and it is a very affordable option. You just need to bring your bike to the rain station and buy a ticket to send it in a special train, usually full of motorbikes but with a few bicycles on it. Vietnamese people can hardly be away from their motorbikes and many of them send them by train if they are traveling to another part of the country for a long time. It usually takes a few days, so you have to plan it in advance, and it might get a bit busy in the train stations but it is a reliable service and inexpensive, taking your bike from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City will cost you around 300,000 VND.

Buses and public vans

You shouldn’t have any problem in loading your bike in a van or bus… as long as they have enough space. If you can, you should book it in advance, it is not uncommon to even see motorbikes being carried in the luggage space underneath the bus, so a bicycle shouldn’t be an issue. In public vans in more remote areas, they will also be willing to carry it on top of the vehicle for a small fee, although you should be prepared to see some scratches on your beloved bike.

Ferries

They are quite common in Vietnam specially in the Southern part, in the Mekong Delta, and there is no problem puting your bike in, since motorbikes, cars and buses are also loaded.

As you can see, getting your bike anywhere in Vietnam is not difficult, but it can sometimes cause some trouble and damage it. In Vietnambiketours, we take care of all these logistics, that are more difficult to handle if you don’t know the country well.

Don’t hit the wall!

No, we are not talking about how to avoid bumping into walls while you ride, it’s more of a metaphoric wall, also called the bonk and feared by many cyclists. Almost everyone who cycles or does any endurance sport has experienced this awful feeling of emptiness, when your bike suddenly becomes so heavy, when the slightest slope becomes the col du Tourmalet and your legs seem to shout that they are not willing to work anymore. Wikipedia describes it as “a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy”. In short, it means you didn’t eat and drink properly and your body has no more fuel to keep going. Specially in tropical countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia the bonk may be haunting you and you always have to be careful.

If you experience this feeling, stop as soon as you can and give your body the fuel it needs. Fortunately, in most parts of Vietnam you will find small stores or eateries where you can have some rest and some food for your tired muscles. You will specially target the foods high in carbohydrates, which, once again, is not difficult in Vietnam, unless you are cycling in some remote mountainous area. Here are a few Vietnamese foods that you can buy along the road and will make your legs happy (as much happy as they can be):

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Author: Freshcrackedpepper

Bánh mì

One of the best remains of French colonialism in Indochina is this delicious baguette filled with a mix of ingredients from France (the baguette itself, pâté, mayo sauce…) and Vietnam (fish sauce, pickled vegetables, chili, local sausages…) . They have different recipes in different parts of Vietnam, some are loaded with a fried egg, others add a delicious sicy sauce to the cold cuts. Try as many as you can and decide which one is better for you!

Noodles

Another unavoidable companion of your rides in Vietnam. Wether it is in the form of soup (pho, mien, bun…) or dried, noodles are a great option when you cycle. Easy to digest, they will give your body the energy boost you need and, more important, they are delicious. Eating the typical pho is a good option since the soup will help you rehydrate. Don’t be reluctant to eat soupy foods under the hot weather, they will really help you feel better. If the local people have been doing it for so long, there must be a reason to it.

Author: Ketai blogger
Author: Ketai blogger

Local cakes

Here again, Vietnam can offer a great variety of different cakes, with rice as the king ingredient. Bánh tét, made of glutinous rice and mung bean, bánh khoai mì, made of cassava, bánh da lợn, made of pandan leaves and bánh rán, a delicious glutinous rice fried ball from the South of Vietnam are some of the tastier options you can look at.

Sugar cane

Although energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular in Vietnam and can now be found pretty much everywhere, the traditional sugar cane juice is a really good alternative. It will be easily assimilated by your organism and converted into energy.

Bananas

We have already seen before how the local fruits can be a great way to refuel. You might never have heard of some of them, but one of the most efficient if you are in trouble is one you always knew: banana. Quickly digested, it will give you almost instant power to keep going.

Anyway, in our tours we will provide you with the necessary drinks and we will stop when needed for you to get the  energy you need. Eat and drink well and you will not hit the wall!

5 reasons to cycle in former DMZ in central Vietnam

DSC_0097There was a time, not so long ago, when the provinces of Quang Tri, in central Vietnam, was probably the most dangerous place in the world. During the late 60’s and early 70’s, at the spike of the Vietnam war, the US forces dropped about 8 millions tones of bombs and mines in the area. Some of the cruelest, like Khe San or Quang Tri battles, happened in the area. 40 years after that, the bombs left from wartime still haunt the locals, but the former Demilitarized zone is not a dangerous place for tourists. Just 75 km north from Hue, it’s one of the best hidden secrets of Vietnam. The hell that was is now a paradise where you can experience the real Vietnam.

1) Beautiful and clean beaches

DSC_0117Do you dream of those white sand beaches with turquoise waters? No need to fly to Phu Quoc or Con Dao. If you ride through the quiet coastal road that connects Dong Ha city and the Vinh Moc tunnels you will spot some of the best beaches in Vietnam. The most famous is Cua Tung, where king Bao Dai used to relax in the 40’s and where you can enjoy the several bars, hotels and resorts, but along the way you will spot amazing strips of white sand that remain mostly untouched. Cua Viet beach is probably the best one. Good way to refresh from a long day of pedaling.

2) Historical interest

Due to its strategic importance during the war, Quang Tri is an interesting historical site. A ride to Vinh Moc tunnels is really recommended. Not as famous as the excavations in Cu Chi, near Saigon, but far more impressive, with structures where it is easy to walk and with different rooms that go up to 23 meters down. In front of a beautiful beach, it’s a must if you are in Quang Tri. Project Renew museum, the war cemeteries, or the Khe San battlefield are also good options.

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3) Cross the border between North and South Vietnam

The 17th parallel that used to separate North and South Vietnam passes by Quang Tri. Crossing the Peace Bridge that used to separate the two countries over the Ben Hai river is one of the highlights of the trip, although you won’t be allowed to do it by bicycle.

DSC_01144) Quiet roads

One of the upsides of Quang Tri’s slower development is a paradise for cyclists: roads free of traffic, with very few cars and a lot of charming backroads where you will feel the freedom of cycling. If you fear big slopes, don’t worry because it’s mostly flat, but you should start your ride early, since it can be very hot during the day.

5) The caves

In the neighboring province of Quang Binh, the Phong Nha caves are an exciting choice for adventure lovers, very few places in the world can offer such an underground river exploration. Sure, it may be not as impressive as the nearby Soo Dong cave, labeled as the biggest in the world after it was discovered in 2009, but not everybody can afford the 3,000USD you need to pay for that tour.

Try our new bikes!

Maybe you have thought about trying to join some of our rides but you are not sure about the bike. You might think of buying one, but that’s too expensive and you don’t know if you will use it as much. In that case, you can just rent the ones Vietnam Bike Tours offers for the Sunday rides (join, it’s free!)or for the personalized tours. You might be picky and worry about the quality of a rented bike, but you shouldn’t. We like good stuff and from today (October 3), we have 30 amazing brand new bikes available. So, you should run, you have the chance to be the first one to ride it! This Sunday, the trip to Saigon Outcast and Thanh Da Peninsula is a good occasion!

GT Avalanche Elite
GT Avalanche Elite

These are mountain bikes good in every terrain, with 30 speeds, hydraulic disk to improve the safety and a comfortable 710 mm handlebar. They’re good on roads but it’s on trails where you will really see they come alive and you will feel the difference.

If you prefer, we also keep our usual bikes, which are no longer new but are still high quality bikes. Our Canondale Trail 6 will fit the expectations of the most demanding riders. This bike is really fun to ride, very good to control in a difficult terrain and really agile.

And for the Trek fans, we also have the Trek 4500 Disk, which is perfect when you go offroad, very comfortable and easy to handle. You will feel like you’re flying accross rice fields. So, if you are thinking of riding, the bike should no longer be an excuse for you!

Ten tips to ride a bicycle in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi

It may appear like it’s not advisable to ride a bicycle in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, and to some extent it is if you are not an experienced rider, but if you are able to ride a motorbike, there is no reason why using the bicycle should be more dangerous. And for distances that are not so long, it can even be faster. Here are ten tips to avoid problems riding in major Vietnamese cities.

Child_Bike_Helmet
CPSC

1) Wear a helmet

Well, this should be a must wherever you ride, even if there is no traffic at all because we are never completely safe from falling down. In a tropical weather like the one in Vietnam this may seem to be a nuisance but it’s worth it to avoid bad injuries if you happen to fall.

2) Follow the rules

Some cyclists tend to think rules don’t really apply to them. This is very wrong and it gives arguments to people who want us out of the road. If we want to be respected as cyclists and stand for our rights, we should start following the rules to deserve this respect.

3) Wear a mask

As it happens with the helmet, the climate doesn’t encourage wearing a mask, but if you are going to ride your bicycle often it is worth to avoid breathing all the motorbikes fumes. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City’s air are among the most polluted in Asia and it’s not getting better. If the masks sold by peddlers make you feel too hot, you can check some of the special ones made by I can breathe! for people who do exercise in polluted environments.

4) Don’t be shy

As a cyclist you will be the weakest animal in the traffic jungle and the others might want to take advantage of that. Don’t let them (as long as you don’t take risks). Defend your position and don’t let them abuse you. One of the advantages of the bike is that you will be higher than motorbike riders, so they can see you easily.

Street_bike
Photo: Kordian

5) Don’t take anything for granted

If you are used to driving in Vietnam you may know that you can never assume other drivers are going to do the right thing. On the contrary, you should always be prepared in case they don’t respect traffic rules or they don’t look back when they join a main road. Be extremely careful with cars, specially taxis, as passengers don’t feel it necessary to look before opening the door to step out.

6) Use small roads

As much as you can, try to use smaller roads, it may add a few meters to the total distance if you ride to work or school, but it will be worth and much less stressful. It’s worth getting a map and check the best options before going.

7) Avoid rush hours

Riding a bicycle in Saigon or Hanoi when the traffic is not so heavy is a pleasant experience, but as much as you can, avoid the peak hours when people are going or coming from work. Unless you are really in a hurry, it’s worth waiting in a coffee shop until the traffic storm is over.

8) Bring an extra shirt (and shorts)

If you are using your bike to move around the city, it is advisable to bring extra clothes as it is very likely that they will get soaked in sweat. Even if you do a city tour like the ones organised in vietnambiketour, it is a good idea to bring extra clothes, as the weather can change very quickly in Vietnam.

9) Don’t listen to music

It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but it is common to see cyclists with their earphones on. Listening to music might make your ride more pleasant, but you will miss a lot of information necessary to drive safely. Horns are an essential part of driving in Vietnam and you don’t want to miss them if you cherish your life.

10) Be quick in traffic lights

If you are riding a bicycle it will be easier for you to find your way to the head of the queue when there is a red light. As soon as it turns green (and after checking nobody is doing anything wrong) start pushing the pedals and enjoy these few meters in which you get rid of all the polluting vehicles.

Ha Giang mountains: a tough but rewarding ride

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Cycling in Ha Giang is not for the faint hearted; riders there will face really tough climbs, with gradients often going over 10% and long stretches of road in which you will not see a single village or hamlet. But, hey, if you go there, that’s what you actually wants. And the rewards that such a trip offer are difficult to match: breathtaking views from some of the highest and most remote roads in Vietnam, discovering a land that has been almost unscathed by development and mass tourism, meeting ethnic minorities who are not used to show off for foreigners and might not be as interested in talking to you as you would expect.

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P1050367P1050411The trip can start in Hanoi, the three or four days ride to Ha Giang through an easy road are a good warm up and give the opportunity to see an interesting city like Thai Nguyen, with a surprising historic background. But it’s in Ha Giang where the fun really starts. Ha Giang town is facing the mountains that have formed through the centuries a natural border with China. This one is the most obvious border, and many signs will remind you that you are not allowed to enter the restricted areas. But there is a more subtle border that you will notice as you pedal through those rice fields surrounded by vertical mountains which seem to spring out of nowhere: it’s the separation between the world that we call “civilized” and the one of people who have been living the same way in the last centuries. Ha Giang mountains are populated by 17 different ethnic groups such as the Hmong, the Dao or the Tai who have little in common with most of Vietnamese people. Unlike in more touristy places like Sapa or the Central Highlands, many of them won’t dare to go near a foreigner riding a bicycle. It’s an opportunity to observe a way of life that is vanishing everywhere in the world.

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It’s not the only attraction. The landscapes as you climb Quan Ba (Heaven’s door) are impressive, the downhill from there to the charming Tam Som town (with stunning views of the town midway) is one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip. It’s all up and down through the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, the first geopark in Vietnam, and cyclists shouldn’t try to cover a very long distance per day unless they are very fit. Dozens of miles pass without any proper village on sight, Tam Som and Yen Minh, for instance, are 50 kilometers away from each other. The toughest part of the trip is probably pushing the pedals during the first 25 kilometers from Yen Minh to Dong Van, but the reward is a wonderful and long downhill across a majestic rocky landscape. It’s worth to spend a night in Dong Van and take a full day to savor the 23 kilometers to Meo Vac through Ma Pi Leng pass, pedaling in a road that winds above a magnificent canyon. If the weather is sunny, the views will be mind-blowing, if it’s cloudy or hazy (very likely) you will have the chance to see a unique landscape, with some huge blocks of limestone emerging from the clouds and making you feel you are the king of the world.

P1050589*Photos by Eric San Juan

Magical Pongour Waterfalls

One of the best trips around Dalat is to hike and to ride around the wonderful Pongour Waterfalls, which is nestled in Lam Dong Province. The waterfalls are only 50 km from the city, so we will begin our ride in Dalat, continuing through highway 20 and then entering the forest to find the magnificent Pangour.

 

We truly recommend this trip during the rainy season, so we will definitely be prepared for the wet weather…but once you arrive to this location you will understand how magical it is to see the waterfalls full of water. Pongour is also named as the ¨seven floors waterfalls¨ due to its height–it is truly amazing and we will be able to hear the sound of the water long before we even arrive there!

 

During the TET celebration the people of the surrounding areas celebrate with picnics near the waterfalls, mainly because of its magical environment and the legends that are inspired by it.

Once there we will park our bikes for a while to contemplate the beautiful sight and we will hike to the top of the waterfalls to take some of the best pictures and to take in the view. Then we will ride around to discover the amazing area where the waterfall is situated. Don’t you want to ride with us? It will be legendary!

Pongour Waterfall Dalat

*Photo by the Vietnamese photographer Dang Ngo.