Teatime in the city – and bikeshops too…

Today, we spent the day resting. Yes, resting. Muesli and yoghurt for breakfast, and a pork and cheeseburger with fries for lunch. Not very Chinese, but very welcome. After trawling through various bike shops around town, a favourite pastime, we met up with Peter Snow Cao, who runs BikeChina, in a tea house by the river. I love these places; people watching heaven, an idyll from the congested streets to either side. As we waited for Peter to arrive, we watched the ear cleaners patrolling about, rattling their long tweezers like mating calls. A trader hawked his wares from two wicker baskets balancing over his rear rack, and an elderly masseuse wandered around, on the lookout for sore backs and tired limbs.

Everyone sat around gossiping, sipping tea: the pile of sunflower husks at their feet the only indication to how long they’d been there, as each 5 Yuan glass is entitled to endless hot water top-ups. One man had an overstuffed suitcase at his feet, as if he’d stopped for a rest on his travels. Most looked like they were sitting in well worn, daily spots. A group of elderly men in blue caps squatted on low wooden stools – which would then be strapped to their bicycles and taken home – and squinted over cards. Some puffed on pipes, others had cheap Chinese cigarettes stuck to their lips as they argued good naturedly with each other. Young couples strolled by, and older couples sat quietly on stone benches. Overhead, the broad branches of Banyan trees cast a natural canopy over us, their sinewy roots bulging above ground and lifting the paving slabs; on the other bank, weeping willows dangled over the calm waters.

When Peter arrived, in true Chinese fashion he pulled out a bag full of sunflower seeds and pistachio nuts, which we worked our way through as we chatted, sipping our tea – an exotic blend of delicate dried fruits and flowers that opened when infused with water. Then we darted into the evening hustle and bustle of traffic, weaving down backstreets, past tangerine vendors, and through chicanes of fellow bike riders, emerging finally at an Uygur restaurant – the Muslim Chinese who hail from Xinjiang Province, far away in the foreboding deserts of the North West. The food was, as we expected, quite delicious – thick, fresh and doey noodles, laced with chopped peppers and garlic, along with frisbee-sized nan, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and thick wooden skewers pierced with meat, cooked over a charcoal fire by men in Muslim caps.

There was just time to check out a few more bike shops before we headed ‘home’. In one little indy setup, a local rider (English name Rick), offered to show us the mountain bike trails in nearby Long Quan, so we’ll be heading there on Sunday to sample some Sichuan Singletrack. Can’t wait (-:

Bike shops:
Enormous ‘Giant’ brand shop on Ke Hua Bei Lu (sells loads of high end Shimano and Avid kit as well as am array of complete bikes, plus Geax and Hutchinson mtb tyres, tools etc…), and a Merida shop just past it. Another Giant and Merida outlet on Yue Long Jie, both of which sell some high end bikes, including team full sus, carbon Meridas. Tough looking 700cx38 tyres also available (45Y), puncture repair kits, LED lights, SPD shoes, even basic racks and panniers. Nice indy bike shop on Hong Qiang Xiane with friendly owner, spotted a Voodoo 853 frame, some high end Rock Shox suspension forks, Mavic rims, and some cheap but decent looking alu frames, with rack eyelets, for 40GBP or so. Mainly smaller sizes. Overall, the Avid stuff is noticeably cheaper than the UK – eg 60GBP for front and rear BB7 brakeset – and a little cheaper when in comes to Shimano. Labour is really cheap for wheel builds, servicing etc… Many of those who work in the shops speak a smattering of English, and there seem to be a lot of club rides.

Peter also has a handy map on his website.


2 Responses to “Teatime in the city – and bikeshops too…”

  1. 1 Simon November 16, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Hey guys…so glad to see you back blogging by proxy. I thought that the hiatus may be down to wordpress access restrictions. It sounds like you have had an adventurous couple of weeks in the run in to Chengdu. Hope you have a good weekend of singletrack riding (now you’ll remember why you took the 29er).

    Sarah and I are in the last few weeks of preparation before heading of to SA. Most of the route planning is done now and what is left we’ll do on the fly. Hopefully we’ll just catch you befoe we head off on the 13th December…

    Are you guys still planning to head west out of Chengdu…sounds like there could be some chilly days ahead!

    Thanks for the updates…S&S

  2. 2 otbiking November 17, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Hey Simon, great to hear from you. It’s a real shame not to be able to post pictures, but the proxy I’m using doesn’t fully load up the blogging page.

    Our plans have changed a bit. Due to Cara’s visa hassles (and the cold weather) instead of heading into Tibet proper, we decided to spend more time exploring the Tibetan parts of Yunnan and Sichuan, which turned out really well. Now we’re going to chase the sun and ride down through S Yunnan, into Laos and Thailand, and pick up a flight to Delhi and home from there.

    The bad news is it means we won’t see you before you leave, as we’ll just make it back in time for Xmas )-: You’ll have to keep the blog active! Have loads of ideas for you guys when you head out this way, and maybe some thoughts about a bike tour…

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