LIFE / CULTURE
Cycling culture becomes hot trend among Chinese people
Join the club!
Published: May 23, 2022 07:36 PM
Bikes park in front of Beijing's Palace Museum.
Photo: Courtesy of Wang Yibo  Members of a biking club cycle around Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of RE

Members of a biking club cycle around Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of RE

Bikes park in front of Beijing's Palace Museum.
Photo: Courtesy of Wang Yibo  Members of a biking club cycle around Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of RE

Bikes park in front of Beijing's Palace Museum. Photo: Courtesy of Wang Yibo

With the good news that Shanghai is gradually relaxing its strict COVID-19 lockdown, Song Renka, a 27-year-old passionate biker who has been cycling since her teens has been able to hop off her stationary bike at home and once again take to the city streets dressed in her coolest skirt.  

Within the circle 

"Finally! I've been making plans for cycling routes at home and matching my clothes, makeup and accessories for when I'm on the bike. It is not just exercise, it feeds my fun-loving Sagittarius persona," Song told the Global Times on Monday. 

Song is not the only biker in China who sees cycling as a way to show who they are. All around the country, especially in major urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, bikes are no longer defined as tools for daily commutes but have become a lifestyle choice for cosmopolitan trendsetters.

RE, a biking lifestyle company in Beijing, runs just one of the city clubs that have started to gather cool bikers together. The company's shops not only provide bicycle gear and products, but also have cafes and flower and clothing sections as it aims to promote bike culture as a lifestyle choice and also expand the scale and togetherness of the biking community in the city.  

Luo Yuan, CEO of RE, told the Global Times that the cycling culture has long existed in China and now a scene that was once commonplace during the 1980s, masses of people riding bikes, has returned. 

"The positive concept of sports can meet today's urban riders' longing for a modern, eco-friendly lifestyle. Riding a bike is becoming a form of spiritual healing for more and more people," Luo noted.   

Biking circles are not just connected through brick and mortar shops but also online communities. Take the RE's online platform for example, it has more than 20,000 registered online members and over 20 sub-communities, in which bikers participate in creative events such as designing their own riding clothes from recycled materials. 

Such creative trends can also be observed on social media platforms such as media review site Douban and lifestyle platform Little Red Book, on which veteran riders share their designed routes and experiences. 

On Little Red Book, a biker called MR. CAI mapped a route through the streets in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province that looks like an elephant, getting many likes from fellow bikers. Also, Wang Junjun, a cycling planner in Chongqing, told the Global Times he designed a very challenging route called "The 3D Adventure," which guides bikers to explore hard-to-find spots in the city. 

"Due to its mountainous nature, not many people ride bikes in Chongqing, but the city is an interesting place to cycle, you can feel the so-called cyberpunk nature of the city even more when you get lost while cycling," Wang noted humorously. 

"The oldest member of our team is nearly 68 years old. Cycling no longer belongs to people of a particular age or group, it is popular among many types of people," Wang noted. 

Fallen in love  

With the lockdowns from the pandemic causing headaches for public transportation, more people, especially in big cities, have fallen in love with biking around the city.  In Beijing, where mass public transportation is temporarily closed due to the recent Omicron outbreak, residents are choosing to ride bikes to work or ride inside parks to relax. 

More than that, people have begun to see the advantages of this low-cost form of transportation: It is environmentally friendly and also better for their health.

"My husband and I have stayed home for a long time and wanted to get some exercise outside during weekends. We noticed cycling is quite popular now, so we tried a 20-kilometer ride for the first time a few days ago in a park near our home and it felt really amazing," said Wu. 

Wu is not the only amateur biker who has fallen in love with this sport. It is now rather common for shops selling bikes to have shortages due to the high number of people who are buying bikes to make it a long-term hobby. 

"In just April we saw at least a 30 percent increase in sales," Bai, a manager of a bicycle shop in south Beijing's Fengtai district, told the Global Times. 

For Daming, a cyclist from East China's Shandong Province who has been biking for at least nine years, told the Global Times that he too has noted the public's increasing passion for biking.

Daming is currently undertaking a cross-country cycling trip so that he can meet more cyclists from different places. 

"More and more people, especially young people, ask me questions about biking. For example, asking for notes on cycling to the Xizang Autonomous Region."

Daming himself completed a 59-day trip through Xizang with other cycling lovers, which he described as "a precious experience." 

This sport provides people with a means of getting exercise, but more than that, it can also improve one's perseverance, Daming said. 

"It's like a spiritual practice where you suffer physically but benefit spiritually."