Nothing worth having ever came easy. A truism as old as cycling. And there are certainly easier places to travel by bike than along the spine of Vietnam, which stretches a little over 1,500 kilometres as the crow flies. Except, you can’t go as the crow flies. Most of the country is blanketed in dense, impenetrable jungle, and the few roads that do exist stay tight to the coast, pumping a lifeblood of scooters and minivans and trucks up and down the country. Inland, a patchwork of unpaved lanes link field to field, town to town. It is not usual fare for the average cyclist - there is no easy way through the sprawl.
The Outskirts Collection
Special edition, designed for exploration and inspired by adventures in Vietnam.06 September 2019
But then, the easy option has never really appealed to the brothers who created Thereabouts or its sequel Outskirts, and who stand – perhaps taller than most – for a different way of cycling. Lachlan and Angus Morton, the Australian siblings who have captured an audience around the world for their radical approach to a traditional sport, have ridden deep into the Australian outback, across mountain ranges in the US and Europe, and on countless dirt tracks in between. The former recently rode the length of the UK on a near impassable course a few weeks after racing to third at Unbound Gravel, one of the most notorious gravel races in the world. The latter crossed the US on Route 66 and Northeastern Canada on the TransLabrador Highway, before being battered in the wintry weather of Eastern Europe earlier this year. They are rarely found in the easier places to travel by bike.
And yet, a seven-day jaunt from Hanoi – Vietnam's capital in the north – to Ho Chi Minh in the south was an altogether different proposition for both of them. Not for the length or elevation of its parcours – these riders have conquered far, far worse – but for its seeming incompatibility with movement on any two wheels not powered by an engine. Cycling is not much seen in these parts, and it is at least easy to see why.
The temperature in July rarely falls below 33 degrees and humidity sits at a steady 100%. The primary means of public transport – rail – is, to put it mildly, sceptical of bikes on trains. There are motorways and gravel lanes, nothing in between, and no obvious traffic laws. The only readily available source of hydration is an isotonic drink called Revive. It has an almost inverse flavour to the lemon it claims and is always served around the same 33 degrees as the rest of the country.
Vietnam is, therefore, the perfect place to test an Outskirts collection, and for all its challenges, the very few who do explore by bike are rewarded with some of the most beautiful scenery, the most engaging community and a feast for all the senses. As with all journeys on the outskirts of experience, our Vietnamese A to B tested perseverance, patience and a penchant for pedalling in severe heat. But it returned a renewed appetite for the frontiers less travelled, enough memories to fill a knock-off Supreme weekend bag and a confidence that even the strangest of conditions can be tackled by bike.
The brothers’ ride started with acclimatisation – a 100km out-and-back to the foothills beyond the edges of Hanoi, before a sleeper train to Hue and a three-day cross country journey along the coast and into the mountains. Staying in Hoi An and DeLat, Vietnam’s highest major city, the trio covered hundreds of kilometres before finally transferring to Saigon.
Inspired by the Mortons’ voyages and tested by the brothers and their lifelong friend Pat Drapac, the Outskirts collection features the best of Rapha’s products designed specifically for exploration. The range was informed by multi-day adventures in hot and humid conditions, when comfort, breathability and protection are of utmost importance, and styled in collaboration with Lachlan. The Cargo Bib Shorts, based on our Core offering with a Vietnam-inspired design, pair with special-edition long and short sleeve technical t-shirts to allow for a relaxed fit while keeping essentials close at hand. The collection also includes an extremely lightweight wind jacket, a cotton t-shirt and a cap inspired by their journey. These are clothes for the roads less travelled and the riders less interested in the obvious and the mundane. These are for the adventurers, the ones who ride on the outskirts.
Outskirts III: The Shadow of the East
In a region synonymous with division, two brothers reunite to ride 1600km to Istanbul, discovering new roads and dispelling old myths.
Leadville Trail 100
On Saturday 10th August, EF Education First Pro Cycling competed at the third event of their alternative racing calendar, the Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile, out-and-back MTB race in the high mountains of Colorado.
Joining the Dots
Taking a break from the usual WorldTour calendar, Lachlan Morton rides the length of mainland UK. Setting off from Cornwall, he was joined by dotwatchers on his way north to John o’ Groats.
The art of escape on two wheels and four
Perfect escapes start long before the first pedal stroke.