Folding Bicycles Exercise and Entertainment
They can be found on subway platforms during Beijing's rush hours, those people toting small folding bicycles. Outside, they unfold their bicycles and ride them to their homes, workplaces or play grounds.
Xia Yang, a 27-year-old man, who with two friends started Beijing's first folding-bicycle club in 2005, said, "Every day, I ride my folding bicycle to my workplace at Chaoyang District's Xiaoyun Lu from Tongzhou District. It takes me about one hour. If I take buses or drive cars, it will definitely be slower during rush hours."
Although they first appeared in China in 2000, because of the influence of their use in Japan, folding bicycles were an instant hit in China's larger cities because of their novelty, light weight and portability. They were then used mostly for transportation or for fun. Since 2003, several Taiwan and foreign bicycle producers such as GIANT, DAHON and STRIDA have started to sell or manufacture folding bicycles on the Chinese mainland. Since then, an increasing number of folding bicycle lovers have begun to communicate via the Internet.
"Many people have realized that riding folding bicycles is also a kind of exercise. As tyres of folding bicycles are smaller than those of ordinary bicycles, riding them consumes more energy than other bicycles. However, they are more agile and easier to re-equip; they're more fun for the users." Xia said.
The folding-bicycle club has about 100 members, and all of its members ride folding bicycles to work. On the way, they abstain from smoking and drinking, as they are dangerous for riders and bad for their health. Wary of thieves, they often keep their space-saving folding bicycles in their offices.
Their Web site at www.zdche.com serves as a medium for the members' communications or "chats," with topics including their feelings about riding folding bicycles, information about bicycling equipment and refitting, where to buy novel and quality folding bicycles.
There are member outing on weekends, during which they ride more than 100 kilometres per day. Scenic spots in Huairou District and Miyun County are frequently visited, such as the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall. As they have no training tasks as professional athletes, they can ride at any speed in any place at any time.
Xia, a club member, said, "Our exquisite folding bicycles help gather a large group of like-minded friends who want to pursue a fun, relaxing life. And this idea has gradually influenced my parents, friends and even neighbours."
Zhang Jiamin and Long Mao, members of the club, said they bought their bicycles in 2004, with Zhang's DAHON at US$899 and Long's BIRDY at US$938. To equip the bicycle with some mountain bike features, Long spent another US$325 to refit his BIRDY. Now the saddle, speedometer and pedals are similar to those of mountain bikes. Though their bicycles are more expensive than ordinary ones, they feel it quite worthwhile.
Xia said, "Riding bicycles is a kind of protest against the current traffic jams and air pollution. Compared to several years ago, we strongly sense that our concept of fitness and health is accompanied by a sense of social responsibility."