Hi May, do you like cleaning bicycles ?

“Well, it’s part of the job ;)”

The memoir of Urban Discovery tours series…

The first working day in the Hanoi Bicycle Collective. As expected, Guim pulled me to a corner and said:

“As a guide you need to know all the basics. Guiding bicycle tours is not only about telling people where to go but also knowing how to fix a bike, at least at a basic level when troubles happen along the way. You must know differences between a mini bike and a mountain bike, for example. If a person pointed a pink city bike like this and ask “Can I go from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh city with this bike ?”, you must know enough to answer him why NOT?”

“I need you to absorb as much information as possible in two weeks, if you are quick”

And that’s how the journey in The Hanoi Bicycle Collective started. Not all glittering for sure. I still remembered very clearly two weeks ago when I first stepped inside: strong impression from watching the video about Guim and Thuy Anh still there, creating the halo effect all over the shop. “Wow, all bikes look fancy and modern, with fashionable clothes and a cool mechanics’ corner”, “wow, the wall clock looks so nice”, and the list of “wow this”, “wow that” just keeps going on…

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And now here I am two weeks later, cleaning bicycles. The particular task is so boring that I have to keep myself motivated by imagining me a few months later riding on a mountain with a group, after the rain when the road is slippery and muddy. If the bike has a flat tire at that time I would have been more professional with hands-on experiences to change a new one and continue, to be on-the-go again.

And that works pretty well. Huyen, the sister in the shop with her carefulness sets a good example of how to turn monotonous chores into something more enjoyable. (?)

Well, not that so. Monotonous chores are monotonous, in the end. You can’t change the fact that at the moment in front of you are various parts of a bike waiting to be cleaned, and your future projection cannot linger for too long.

In that case I use people interactions to keep things more interesting and try to dig deeper to the why-s and what-s. If you keep observing (in a way, for distractions 😉 ) then interesting things keep showing up: I found out that Lai, out mechanic master has such an interesting background and sharp eyes for business stuff (he just favors not talking and not care enough to apply them), that Esther (our multi-tasker) can speak 4 languages (English, Dutch, German, French and a bit Vietnamese as well), that Tham — our accountant, the softie lady turns out to be the manager (oops), and one more important thing:

Bicycle components can be fun !!

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The working shifts ends at 6:00 PM when most of our customers are free, what a pity. Though very short, it was so nice to find out a man bringing his bicycle to fix for Danang Ironman:


Another customer named Ramsay is here to help engineers fix soil erosion facilities in mountainous areas

Well I would love to end up this journal with a quote about mundane things:

“Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”

Enjoy all the mundane details of life, cause it is beautiful that way.

Written on 24/3/2015


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