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Riding experience in Vietnam using Rinsten Spring by Mark Hall

Many thanks to Mark Hall! We are so happy that Rinsten Spring helps people, makes their ride more comfortable and their lives more enjoyable! Hard work of the whole team worth it to get such a nice feedback! We do our best!

CEO Iurii Kopytsia


«Hi Guys at Rinsten.

I just wanted to give you some feedback on how my Rinsten Spring went on my recent ride in Vietnam.

I have just completed a journey a few days ago from Sapa in the north to Ho Chi Minh city and on into the Mekong delta in the south, over 3000kms in 33 days.

I ride an old steel frame, Sturmey Archer 5-speed, unsprung bike I bought 26 years ago in London and have tweaked over the years. The reasons being:

  • The tortoise always gets there
  • I can fix steel
  • 5 speeds isn't greedy
  • I really like my bike.
  • I left only knowing one word of Vietnamese (Tra = Tea) and anyway google translate wasn't that accommodating with terms like "Carbon Fibre frame" or "aluminium weld" so I thought it better to be safe.

I was aware however that as I planned to stay off the main roads and take the more scenic route as much as possible that the condition of the road surface may be a factor in my comfort.

I had done a bit of work on my bike to get it ready for the trip in the preceding year and liked the idea of the Rinsten suspension spring, so I ordered the one early on in 2018. Delays and recalls at the Rinsten end meant I became increasingly worried it might not materialise before I left, but it turned up 3 days before I flew out and my arse breathed a sigh of relief. I bolted it on to my Selle Anatominca Titanico seat, played with the adjustment once and packed the bike up to fly.

I arrived in Hanoi and unpacked the bike at the hostel and put it together. Big cities hold little attraction for me and so after a day reviewing fake Northface outdoor gear in the French quarter, I put the bike on a bus and drove 300 kms north to Sapa, an old hill station at about 1600m altitude near the Chinese border. My kitchen table plan being that if I started high it would all be downhill. I guess in hindsight I didn't really consider that as I was in the southern tail of the Himalayan range, hills were going to come into play, no matter my cunning plan.

And so to the ride. I was predictably unfit and unprepared and soon discovered that I couldn’t even pronounce the Vietnamese word for tea, but this is travel and the road doesn’t play favourites or respect my effort, so best get out there - the first day went up and over a 1900m pass. Although a tropical country, this pass and Sapa are notoriously cold with Sapa experiencing snow at Christmas on occasion. (I had been up Mt Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam the day before and the temperature was 2 degrees, my thin cycling shirt and shorts, chosen and packed so carefully for the tropical late monsoon season, did little to assuage the wind chill factor at 3140m and drew some surprised looks from the myriad of Chinese tourists all dressed beautifully in the newly purchased, fake Northface outdoor gear).

It took a few adjustments to get the spring set right on this 300m climb. The biggest issue was getting the angle right of the seat to the bike as the spring “Flattens” the seat angle when my weight is on it. I was 100 kg so it flattened quite a bit. It was a lovely day and the several stops needed for adjustments were no hardship to get the seat and suspension Goldilocks right, and eventually I felt satisfied. Once set, the only adjustment I made was towards the end of the ride when, having lost 8kgs, I softened the suspension a bit more on some really rough roads in the Mekong Delta.

The seat does move a little under you as you ride, especially if the springs’ suspension is set to the softer end and that takes a mental leap of faith that you are still connected to the bike and in control. That feeling soon passed and I didn’t notice it after a day.

Riding uphill and slowly, the suspension effect wasn’t really that noticeable as compared to what it does on the flat or on the downhill sections when at 60 km/h all the bumps get magnified. After this first day I took the spring for granted but that first long fast downhill stretch was where it became my friend and I marvelled at its simple elegance.

The conditions of all roads in Vietnam are wildly variable as I expected but the main roads were a game of road roulette. From barely double lane, goat track with lots of seemingly permanently ongoing road works to smooth, beautifully cambered and well-marked mountain roads, glorious to fly down, overtaking buses, trucks and motorbikes and watching for buffalo.

After climbing a pass (and largely walking) that had substantial road works and single lane sections that were ungraded on the boulder substrate base layer, and too rough and steep to ride up for me, I came into one town a few kms later with a 10 lane smooth highway for a dozen kms before the road reduced back into the rutted and roadwork track from before! Either way, the spring was there at all times, gently caressing my holiest of holys and keeping me safe and secure and happy.

And so for 33 days I rode. I only had two rest days were I didn’t get on the bike and ride 60kms or more so I expected some saddle soreness but even that was negligible on the sit bones and was really more noticeable in very humid conditions (making me think it was as much a chafing effect as anything) but it was very easy to mount up each day and ride. I did a 500km ride a few years ago and getting on the bike each morning with tender-butt was the hardest l part of the ride psychologically.

Vietnam is a wildly beautiful country, from the rugged mountain and forest and rivers with Hill tribe villagers, and every child excited to see you, to the amazing Limestone karst and rice paddy fields closer to the coast. My trip ended in the Mekong delta where you could get happily for weeks on tiny back tracks and ferry crossings amongst some of the most green, wet, fertile ground I have seen.

Every day was different and wonderful and if I praise the Rinsten Spring for one thing above all others it would be that the comfort it provided me allowed me to enjoy and focus on every kilometre I rode, and it meant I got to go where and when I wanted, so my journey wasn’t dictated by pain or limitation, just my imagination. Thank you for that.

Cheers

dandelion

29 Dec 2018»

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