Members of the “Hanoi vintage bicycles” Club gather at the West Lake every morning (photo: toquoc.vn)
Members of the “Hanoi vintage bicycles” Club talk about their bicycles. They passionately discuss details of their bikes, how they repair and preserve them, and their sad and happy experiences with them. Established in 2007, the Club now has 70 members. They meet every morning at Thanh Nien road by the West Lake. Nguyen Viet Bao is one of them. “In the past, these vintage bicycles were very expensive. Only people who traveled abroad or were rich could buy them. We share the same hobby of vintage bicycles so we formed a Club and now we collect spare parts to repair old bicycles. We exchange information and spare parts. I wake up at 5 a.m to prepare my bike, for example I pump the tires, and then I am out of the house by 5.30. We ride together around the West Lake.”
Members of the Club work in different sectors and are of different ages. Besides doing physical exercise, they share their passion for and knowledge of vintage bicycles. Le Van Mui says: “I joined the “Hanoi vintage bicycles” Club to share my hobby. I remember when I was small the images of people riding bicycles on Hanoi roads and the sounds of the train bells were joyous. I wanted to receive those memories. I bought a bike and joined the Club. Cycling is a good way to improve my health. I enjoy cool weather when riding bicycle around the West Lake in the morning.”
Owning a vintage bicycle requires passion and patience. It’s not easy to buy an old one in a good condition. In order to repair the old bike in the right way, they have to search for the original frames, saddles, bells, rims and tires. Some people spent thousands of USD to buy an old bike just in order to reuse one part. Nguyen Viet Bao again: “Old bikes are durable if we know how to maintain them. Sometimes, we have to buy 3 or 4 old bikes to assemble one good bike. When we use it, we have to take care of it so that it will be durable.”
The original famous bicycle brand names such as Peugeot, Mercier, Aviac, Marila, and Sterling have reminded many people of harder times, when a bike was almost worth a house on the main road. Nguyen Thanh Cong is a member of the Club. “I have loved bicycle since I was small. At that time, a Peugeot bike was very expensive and not many families could afford one. In the subsidy period, it was difficult to buy a bike.”
Many old bicycles dating back 50 or 60 years can still be seen on the busy streets among the various other motorbikes and cars. With their passion, the members of the “Hanoi vintage bicycles” Club are preserving a piece of the past for Hanoi. It’s a way to live at a slower pace and to think about what really matters in life.