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Happiness on two wheels

Updated: 2023-09-20 08:03 ( CHINA DAILY )
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In recent years, cycling has surged in popularity, especially among young enthusiasts. On lifestyle-sharing platform Xiaohongshu, there is a thriving community with over 3.2 million cycling-related posts. Popular hashtags like #roadbike and #Brompton have garnered more than 1 billion and 93 million views respectively.

To further encourage this trend, the platform initiated a special challenge this month, inviting users to share their cycling adventures.

Wang Xiaoying, who started cycling in 2016, believes that cycling has become increasingly accessible to a wider audience in recent years thanks to the rise of rental bikes. "Many people initially acquired their cycling skills through these rental bikes. And once they had attained proficiency, their inclination toward buying a more comfortable and personalized bicycle for themselves increased substantially," she said.

Wang, 34, purchased a Brompton folding bike last October. She is attracted to the Brompton bike primarily for its potential for personalization. Over the course of a year, she's extensively modified her bike: replacing components like forks, seat posts, and the saddle for both comfort and aesthetics. She also upgraded the gearing system for smoother rides and enhanced the brake levers and other small parts for improved functionality and style. "I've changed pretty much everything," she said.

Wang emphasized the versatility of Brompton bikes. Unlike many other bicycles that necessitate wearing slim-fit pants to avoid chain entanglement, Brompton bikes come equipped with chain guards, allowing riders to choose from a broader range of clothing styles.

Li Haimeng, 25, who also owns a Brompton bike, began her cycling journey in April, driven by her long-held desire to ride what she affectionately referred to as "a stylish bicycle".

During her middle-school years, Li was obsessed with "fixies" — bicycles with fixed gears, no brakes, and often vibrant colors. However, Li's parents had concerns about safety, leading them to refuse her request for such a bike.

"To this day, the dream of riding 'a stylish bicycle' remains close to my heart," she confessed. That's why, earlier this year, when she landed a job just two kilometers from her home — an ideal distance for cycling — she decided to fulfill her dream by purchasing a Brompton bike. She opted for an uncommon greenish hue, which, although more expensive, appealed to her the most.

"Owning this bike felt like a nostalgic journey to my childhood, healing the disappointment of not getting the bike I once longed for," she said.

Both Li and Wang commended the convenience of Brompton's folding system.

"I did my research, and while many folding bikes offer a similar overall cycling experience, Brompton boasts the most convenient folding system, allowing the bike to compact into a very small size, making it easy to carry and maneuver," noted Li.

And Wang pointed out how Brompton's portability has become even more valuable with the increasing acceptance of bicycles in public spaces. Being able to bring her bike onto the subway or into shopping malls has added to the appeal.

"Within my cycling community, people have compiled a directory of bike-friendly establishments, including malls, eateries, and office complexes, making it much easier to navigate Beijing's streets," said Wang.

More than just exercise

Shao Qi, 25, opted for a road bike in May after weighing the pros and cons of road bikes versus folding bikes. "While folding bikes prioritize convenience and portability, road bikes offer a more dynamic riding experience," he explained.

However, he clarified that his preference for road biking isn't driven by speed. He doesn't wear tight cycling gear or specialized shoes to maximize his pace. Instead, he sees cycling as a distinct sporting activity, different from other sports like basketball and soccer.

"Unlike team sports that require a group, cycling allows me to enjoy my own company while staying active," Shao explained. "Unlike team sports, where I'm confined to a designated field or court, cycling also takes me to new places."

For Shao, cycling not only serves as exercise but also offers the added benefit of appreciating the scenery, creating a more engaging workout. "I used to run every day, but running doesn't take me far. But cycling allows exploration of diverse and distant places, making it an attractive alternative," he said.

Living in Beijing, Shao typically ventured out on his bike after work, frequently choosing Chang'an Avenue as his route. The avenue, known for being cycle-friendly with its width, illumination, and absence of electric bikes, provides an ideal setting.

Qiao Qiao, 30, a seasoned cyclist who began riding a decade ago, also started riding on Chang'an Avenue with a road bike. But he had soon transitioned from leisurely cycling to competitive racing, and his passion led him to explore challenging climbs in hilly terrains and even participate in off-road races across China, from the mountains of Yunnan to various events in Inner Mongolia, Chongqing, and Hebei.

For Qiao, cycling has become more than a casual hobby. He established a rigorous training regimen, cycling three times a week from Monday to Friday and dedicating an entire weekend day to long rides.

"When I first fell in love with cycling, it was all about relaxation and freedom," he reflected. "But as I connected with more experienced riders and witnessed their victories on demanding routes, my perspective shifted. Now I ride with a competitive spirit."

Qiao even transformed his passion into his profession in 2017, joining Xingzhe, China's leading cycling app which records cycling tracks, monitors statistics, and facilitates cycling plans. He spent three years in the job doing trade sales and marketing, leveraging his extensive knowledge and experience in the cycling world.

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