During my almost 12 months in the serene chaos that is Ho Chi Minh City I have owned a total of two bicycles. As per custom I named each of them, and both Susie and Richard have been instrumental parts of my life here. They have also both warranted city-wide searches for repair shops, secondhand salesmen and the friendliest road-side tire inflator man. I have a few favorite tire inflator men. You should visit them too.
Repairs on the cheap, or not...
Sometimes it’s worth spending that tiny bit more on your bicycle just to make sure the job you get is a good one. Especially if you plan to ride it in Ho Chi Minh City. I mean after all, that thing is the only thing carrying you safely through the mess of chaotic bullets that are the streets of Saigon. That being said, cheaper options are available!
Đề Thám in District 1: all along this street there are a number of sidewalk motorbike and bicycle workshops. My favourite is at the Phạm Ngũ Lão end of the street on the corner of Đề Thám and Trần Hưng Đạo, but there are several other shops over the other side of Trần Hưng Đạo. Shop around for prices, and check all parts before you hand over your money. A new tire and inner tube should cost around VND 100,000 to 150,000.
Since my bike sports disgustingly old tires at the moment I have gradually become very well acquainted with the best of Saigon’s grinning men with gas, ready to pump up the tires of your motorbike or bicycle. My absolute favourite sits near the Đề Thám end of infamous Bùi Viện. This tiny guy wears only khaki and always asks for ‘ten dollar’ from me before giggling and accepting my usual VND 2,000 with a grin. The joker…
Second Hand Gems: Where to Buy a Second Hand Bike in Ho Chi Minh City?
There is a famous bike street in Ho Chi Minh City. Go to Bùi Hữu Nghĩa in District 1 and prepare to be overwhelmed by spokes and tires. At the intersection of Bùi Hữu Nghĩa and Trường Sa just as you cross over the river, a seemingly endless strip of bicycles and motorbikes appears. This street is a black market hotspot, so if you buy here bear three things in mind:
Shop around. There are so many stores on this street! Be patient and walk the strip, check prices at as many shops as you can and compare quality - don’t rush the process.
Bargain hard. I brought a dealer down from VND 3,000,000 to 800,000 with a simple stubborn ‘no’.
Check EVERYTHING. Look at the tires and if possible request to see the inner tube, check the spokes are tight and unbroken, try out the brakes and make sure the brake pads are intact, look closely at the chain and if there are gears test every single one. Bikes on this street are usually riddled with low quality and often stolen parts.