Young Saigonese take to cycling after long lockdown

By Diep Phan   November 29, 2021 | 05:31 am PT
A newfound enthusiasm for bicycling has caught bike rental shops and clubs in HCMC unprepared, and many are scrambling to import bicycles to meet the demand.

On a Saturday afternoon in November My Hanh of Thu Duc City and Hong Tham of District 5 met at a bicycle club in District 1.

For two weeks the 23-year-old women had not been able to get bikes due to the huge demand, but they were third time lucky. It was the first time ever they had handled sports bikes and had to be shown the ropes by a club member.

Unlike Hanh and Tham, Lan Anh and her two friends in District 1 have been hiring sports bikes for weeks. Since Oct. 1, when HCMC reopened, they have been to riding every weekend instead of eating and drinking as they used to before the lockdown.

Huynh Quyet Thang (R) shows Tham and Hanh how to use sports bikes, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Huynh Quyet Thang (R) shows Tham and Hanh how to use sports bikes, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Tran Uyen, 21, has been renting a bicycle almost every day for nearly two months and riding alone.

Renting bicycles to ride around for exercise has become a trend among youngsters in Saigon, and bicycle shops and clubs do not have enough bikes for all of them.

Huynh Quyet Thang, owner of the club on Tran Nhat Duat Street where Hanh and Tham go, says: "On average, around 70 customers rent bicycles every weekend. We have only 40 and we just imported seven more to meet the demand."

He admits to being surprised that so many people have taken up riding after the lockdown ended.

Before the pandemic the club had members mostly aged over 30 who would organize trips to suburban areas. Now he lets everyone rent bikes after seeing the spurt in interest among young people.

A bicycle shop in Co Giang Ward also reported a surge in demand. Tran Huu Van, its owner, says he has never seen so many people rent bikes until now. He has more than 40 bikes, and they are taken most of the time.

"At first they only rode in the city center, now there are bike trips every week to the outskirts," he said.

An employee at a bicycle rental shop in District 3 says: "The numbers of customers is four times higher than before the pandemic. The message system to book a bicycle is always overloaded."

Her shop does not have enough bikes to go around, she adds.

According to many shop owners, the majority of customers are women aged under 30.

Many young people rent bicycles to experience a new hobby, saying they only ride around the city center to take pictures and sit in cafes for hours.

Bikes cost VND50,000 ($2.2) to VND120,000 to rent, and customers do not need to make a cash deposit but only need to leave their ID cards.

There are many reasons for young people to turn to cycling.

Anh (L) and her friends travel to Thu Duc City by bicycle, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Anh (L) and her friends travel to Thu Duc City by bicycle, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Hanh says after months of being cooped up at home she wants to do outdoor exercises and breathe the fresh air instead of going to a gym like she used to.

"Biking is relaxing and easy to pick up. It is also the same for running, but one will get tired more quickly".

Anh's group of friends say: "After many days of staying at home and feeling stressed out by the epidemic, we now miss the sound of Saigon’s bustling traffic. Cycling is a way to see and feel the city reclaim its vibrancy".

Uyen, who spends hours glued to a computer attending online courses, just wants to ride around the city a bit to unwind at the end of the day.

Thang says cycling has become a new trend and will continue to thrive in future.

"Around 30 percent of first-time customers return after trying it out."

Similarly, Van’s shop has seen more than half the customers return to rent again, and many even bring friends along.

Some people also buy a bike assembled by him.

Despite only being acquainted with bicycles for a little over a month Anh's group already feels "addicted".

They realize that in addition to being relaxing, cycling also brings a lot of health benefits.

Uyen has also considered buying a bike to go on cycling trips to the suburbs with Thang's club.

Hanh and Tham, after returning from their first trip, said they plan to rent bicycles again next week.

Hanh said: "We wish we had picked up cycling sooner."

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