Cyclists splurge on high-end bikes

By Minh Tam, Ngoc Han   December 17, 2022 | 09:54 pm PT
Truong Quang Thuan never imagined that one day his garage would house more than 30 bicycles worth a total of tens of thousands of dollars.

"I bought my first high-end bike for VND10 million ($425.08) ten years ago," said the 53-year-old cyclist in Binh Dinh Province. "At the time, I only dared to tell people around me I spent VND2 million because I was afraid people might think I was bragging and showing off.

Thuan used to play football, badminton and a variety of other sports before switching to cycling. Growing up in Binh Duong's Phu My Ward ten years ago, there wasn't much cycling culture around, so the opportunities for enthusiasts like Thuan to connect with each other were few and far between.

In 2012, he visited a friend who collected bicycles in the central coast town of Quy Nhon. The friend encouraged Thuan to pursue the hobby and purchase a road bike from the Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer Giant for VND10 million.

Thuan didn't know much about pro bikes when he first started out. When his bike broke down, he took it to Quy Nhon and paid a lot of money for a professional repair shop to fix it. He decided to buy a second bike after almost a year of cycling. This time he bought a VND90 million bike with a carbon frame made by Italian brand Bianchi.

After three years of growing more passionate about bicycles and deepening his knowledge, Thuan was able to equip himself with enough knowledge to repair and customize his own bikes however he wanted. When he bought a high-end bike from American brand Trek for VND312 million, he spent another VND8 million upgrading it and add new accessories.

"My bikes are expensive, so I don't use them very often. I only go for a ride when meeting up with my guy friends," said Thuan, who is now president of the Bora bicycle club with 50 members in Binh Dinh.

He said that many cyclists collect high-end bikes, but he doesn't think they are real bike fans because they only buy and ride them for fun. He said they get bored quickly and quit after a while.

Truong Quang Thuan pedals a road bike made with carbon frame from Italian brand Bianchi that he bought in 2013. Photo courtesy of Thuan

Truong Quang Thuan rides the carbon frame bike he bought from Italian brand Bianchi in 2013. Photo courtesy of Thuan

Do Anh Khoa bought his first bike in 2021 after Covid social distancing measures were lifted. The 28-year-old man in HCMC took up cycling to improve his health.

Less than a year later, he had bought four bikes for a total of VND140 million.

He said that he used to have regular bicycles, but that they were dangerous to ride because they were too flimsy. One time, he fell and his bike broke in half. Fearing he may one day break in two as well, he then decided to save money to buy a high-end bike. He later spent VND92 million for a Canadian-made P-series bike from the brand Cervelo.

Khoa said that the price of a bike depends on brand names and materials used.

When it comes to brands, models used by famous Tour de France racing teams are the most expensive, he said. Carbon is the most popular material because it is light and durable. This makes it easy to speed up and saves a lot of energy peddling.

Cyclists can also "pimp" their bikes by upgrading wheels, disc wheels, handles and other parts. Some owners spend another VND40–80 million adjusting their already-expensive custom bikes.

During the week, Khoa rides his bike to work at least two days, mostly using a Touring bike that cost VND17 million. On weekends, he often goes on a 70–90 km ride.

He said that on the surface, riding a bike seems easy, but that hard-core cycling requires a lot of techniques that only long-time players will pick up.

For example, each cyclist’s height and proportions are different, so the configuration of each bike should also be different.

After he started cycling, Khoa's weight dropped from 82 kg to 76 kg. He also feels less stressed and has more energy.

A bicycle supplier said that the demand for bicycles went up by 70% in the fourth quarter of 2021, after HCMC lifted Covid-19 restrictions. The majority of buyers are people between 30 and 50 years old.

He said the top three most expensive bike models at his shop are: craffle bikes that can go on rough terrain, road bikes that are used in bike races on asphalt, and triathlon bikes that are used in triathlon tournaments. The most expensive bike this HCMC dealer has ever sold was worth VND400 million.

This shopkeeper said that nowadays it's not unusual for people to spend several hundred million dong on bicycles, and more people are getting interested in the sport every day.

Huynh Thien Tu poses for a photo with his bike in Gia Lai Provinces An Khe Town after a morning ride on November 30, 2022. Photo courtesy of Tu

Huynh Thien Tu poses for a photo with his bike in Gia Lai Province's An Khe Town after a morning ride on November 30, 2022. Photo courtesy of Tu

Growing Movement ‘Can’t Compare’

Huynh Thien Tu, a 50-year-old from Gia Lai Province, said he first picked up cycling in 2014, but he only did so because there was already a strong movement gathering momentum for the sport at the time.

"I wasn't too interested in it at first," he said. "But as I learn more about how different kinds of bikes can be used for different terrains and purposes, I start to love it more and more. Now the more I think about bikes, the more I want to ride them."

After getting himself "addicted" to cycling for eight years, Tu now has more than 20 bikes with a wide range of prices, including a racing bike worth more than VND300 million.

He spends more than an hour every morning riding his bike 30–40 km in the neighborhoods around his house.

"I like being outside and breathing in the fresh air in the morning. It brings me so much joy that can't be compared to anything else," he said.

He says that while cars divide society by class, bicycles bring people together.

"When people realize how important health is, spending a lot of money on high-end bicycles won't be a waste of money," he said.

Tu has also urged his family and friends to take up cycling as a hobby. Up to 20 people, including three 78-year-olds, now ride bikes with him.

"My father's health has gotten much better and he has gotten stronger too after picking up cycling," said Tu.

Cyclists also point out that maintenance costs on bikes are actually less expensive than the costs of some other sports.

According to Thuan, it costs him about VND5 million a year to keep the 30 pro bikes in his house in top shape.

"Cycling is an inexpensive hobby. Meanwhile pro bikes are also tools that can help people, especially middle-aged people like me, improve our health in a big way. I hope that this sport will become popular all over the country," Thuan said.

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