My $178 Budget Bike Touring Set Up for Vietnam (Bike Included)

I biked 1000km in Vietnam and spent $178 on gear including the bike, and I want to prove to you that you can do the same. Bikepacking. Bicycle Touring. World by bike. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Sounds hard, too. Thing is, if you can ride a bike then you can bikepack and you REALLY don’t need to be rolling in cash money to give bike touring a try. Here’s how I created a budget bike touring set up for my trip in Vietnam. Go do it! Try it! Learn to love it!

For a full itinerary and recount of the trip, find it here: Bike Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

Cost Breakdown: What I Bought for my Budget Bike Tour

Bicycle: $300, sold for $150 at the end of the trip = $150. This included a cable lock, rear rack, water bottle cage, and spare inner tube after much haggling.
Bungee Cable Net: $9. This bungee cargo net from MEC was my answer to not using bike bags such as a seat bag, frame bag, or panniers. Instead, I brought my 40L backpack and used this cord net to secure it to the back of the bike. That’s it, that’s all.
Patch Kit: $2.50. A patch kit from MEC is literally two dollars and fifty cents.
Bike Multi-Tool: $12. Another MEC purchase when I was a couple days away from leaving and starting to wonder if I was remotely prepared enough.

Total Cost: $173.50. Plus a bit of tax, so let’s call it $178. That’s it. All of it.

Budget bike touring set up in Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
I soon realized that orienting my bag parallel to the bike was far more stable and aerodynamic, but here was my bike and gear in its entirety on Day 1

What I Did Not Buy for my Budget Bike Tour

Helmet: Free. I brought mine from home.

Bikepacking Bags/Pannier Bags: I decided this wasn’t worth the hassle. Plus, buying or bringing bike touring specific bags would be awful to carry on side trips or further travels beyond the bike tour. While I understand this would be much harder if I was camping throughout my travels, touring Vietnam meant all I needed was a change of clothes. Hooray for packing light!

Bike Shorts: Who needs ’em? Ok to be honest you probably need them. Or at the very least, they would be helpful. The two guys I was with both had bike shorts and were happy they did – even with the shorts, there were a few days of sore bums for the two of them. Maybe I’ve just blocked it out of my mind, but I honestly don’t recall feeling any negative effects of my lack of bike shorts!

Bike Gloves: Another unnecessary item. It was already quite sweaty without another layer on my palms…

Bike Shoes: No thanks, not for me. Not only would this have made rainy days awful, it would have made every other day sweaty and stinky. I cycled over 1000km in good ol’ sandals, and I would do the same thing all over again. It made getting on and off to visit towns and explore lookouts easy, and meant I only needed one pair of shoes for the entire trip. Going long distances each day wasn’t top priority – I wasn’t racing the length of Vietnam, I was trying to experience the length of Vietnam, and sandals allowed me to do just that.

Literally Anything Else: There is an ENDLESS amount of gear one can buy. Bicycle touring has really taken off recently, and with that comes lots of gear. A touring bike can run you at least $1500 alone, and a decent set of panniers might be $400. The list goes on!

But What About the Actual Biking Part?

When I thought up this trip, I had no one to go with. I asked a number of people, and was always met by the same responses: I can’t bike that far. I’m out of shape. I don’t like biking. I’ll be too slow. This list of excuses goes on, as well! So now I’ll tell you about the two people who did end up joining me. Caleb, a friend living in Boston who I’d met in New Zealand, and Andrew, a friend from university who literally bailed out of a job he had lined up for the summer to come on this adventure. The only difference between them and the rest of those who said no? Attitude!

Cycling in Vietnam on the Ho Chi Minh Road
Caleb up front and Andrew immediately ahead: the best attitudes a friend could ask for

You Do Not Need to be a Pro. Or Even an Amateur.

Until Vietnam, Caleb had literally not been on a bike since the 8th grade. Grade 8! Think about that for just 5 seconds. This incredible human being signed up to cycle for a month without having been on a bicycle for over 6 years. 10 points for Caleb. The best part about it, of course, is that he was fine! 

Andrew and I were chatting one day and I proposed this plan to cycle Vietnam. Andrew had never been anywhere outside of Canada or a beach vacation in the Caribbean. And guess what – even though he had a job for the upcoming months – he was in! The best part about this one is that not only did he of course get another great job the following year, but the trip got him hooked on the adrenaline of travel and has done many epic trips since.

Passing cows on our bikes in Vietnam
A poor rainy photo of how we often shared the Ho Chi Minh Road with cattle and their shepherds

So now you know: no need to be a millionare or a professional to tour Vietnam (or any city, country or place) by bike. All you need is a winning attitude and a bit of gumption.

Friends bike touring in Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
A sweaty, grainy, and rainy pic – smiles all around despite the ridiculous number of hills…

Living in Toronto and want to give it a try? Bike from Toronto to Niagara with the added incentive of incredible wine, or a much shorter distance from Marsville to Elora with an incentive of house made ketchup and craft beer!

Bonus: Where to Buy a Bike in Hanoi

Ba Trieu street is a street of bikes. Shop around, visit various places, and haggle your way into a deal for the ultimate budget bike touring bicycle! We got our bikes here:

Budget Bike Tour of Vietnam

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