Founder and Friends Escape Hanoi for the Soc Song Nature Preserve
Hanoi, Vietnam is where I call home right now. Though it isn’t as face-paced as Singapore, Hong Kong, or even Ho Chi Minh City, it is the capital city of Vietnam and home to over 8 million residents. It is plenty fast-paced to me.
No matter where you call home, it’s important to take the time to disconnect. I try to do this every morning with a run in my neighborhood or a quick road ride on the surrounding streets and highways. When my friends proposed a mountain bike trip to Soc Song District of Hanoi last week, I quickly cleared my schedule. Only 45 minutes outside of Hanoi, Soc Song is a nature preserve in the mountain ranges that begin north of Hanoi. Home to reservoirs, fresh-water springs, and a noticeable absence of modern gadgets, it is an outstanding place to unplug and take in all that northern Vietnam has to offer.
In case you missed it, last week was a banner week for the GrüneStrasse Backpack Co. Last week, we were able to complete production on the Shellback backpack, throw a Shellback Launch Party for our Hanoi customers, and get the remainder of backpacks shipped to the United States. There was a LOT going on. So when my good friends Poul Lundsby and Miroslav Strinic proposed a trip to Soc Song, I was first in line.
The key to this trip is Poul’s Toyota Fortuner SUV. Bike racks are non-existent in Hanoi, so he mustered up the best of Danish ingenuity and fashioned a homemade bike rack for the top of his vehicle that allows him to transport up to four mountain bikes. Without Poul and his Viking rack, we’d be confined to rice-paddy rides and bumpy Hanoi streets for our mountain bike fix.
Soc Song did not disappoint. Though hot and humid (as Vietnam tends to be), riding conditions were excellent as it was overcast, and we avoided the direct sunlight. The climbs of “The Three Peak Ride” were both manageable and appropriately difficult. On this day, the “Pink Floyd” peak required us to dismount on the ascent. Yes, we got turned around a couple of times, but as Miro loves to point out, “getting lost is really just exploring” so we added to some new trails to our body of knowledge in the area. Notably, it is rice harvest season in northern Vietnam, and we encountered many trails and roads that were covered with drying rice or straw. We were careful to avoid any and all drying rice, which typically covers only half the road, while riding on straw, which is used for animal bedding and spread the entire width of the roadway.
On a personal note, this was my first major test of my re-manufactured 2002 Gary Fisher Hoo Kee-e-Koo. In March, I replaced the 3×7 groupset with an SRAM 1×12 NX Eagle DUB Groupset and SRAM BB 7 Disc brakes. I put both additions to the test and they passed with flying colors! The 1×12 worked flawlessly on the climbs and as a result, I was the “stronger” climber of bikers my equal or better. Thanks again to Hanoi’s THBC Bike shop for their help in bringing my mountain bike into the 2020s.
After completing two of the “Three Peaks Ride” we stopped at a place called Dong Do Quan for a quick break to refortify and recharge before tackling the third peak. On some rides, bikers opt for coffee, coke, or a candy bar to refortify and recharge. On this 4 hour ride, it was totally appropriate to power down 2 or 3 draft beers and a banana before setting off again. Properly rested and invigorated we chugged up the final peak and back to Poul’s SUV without incident.
Start to finish, we totaled 27.6 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation. To Poul, Miro, and I, and those of us who know, this was a great day to “relax” on a bicycle. I regret that I will not have a chance to do it again soon.
Shellback6 is GrüneStrasse’s regular blog contribution to the Bike to Work and Alternative Transportation Movement. Comments, suggestions, and dissenting points of view welcome!
#1/66 To Ngoc Van
Tay Ho District
To Provide all-weather backpacks for fearless Bike to Work and Alternate Transportation Commuters