For the UCI, local knowledge and expertise has been crucial in taking the first Tour of Beijing WorldTour road cycling race from concept to reality. The same applies for visiting cyclists that plan to navigate Beijing’s traffic and massive urban sprawl. Local rider Shannon Bufton took me out on an early morning ride into the hills surrounding Beijing, proving local knowledge yields great rewards.
Any traveling cyclist with a sense of direction, a little courage and a GPS-enabled phone can manage to negotiate the streets of a new city without too many dramas. However, travel can involve enough complications and planning (especially on business trips, where the focus is on meetings, agendas, tight logistics, etc) that finding a local riding buddy – or even a local bunch ride – can totally transform the experience, making a good ride truly great.
My bike goes with me every time I travel overseas, as the minor inconvenience of loping about with an extra 20 kilograms is paid off in multiples with one good ride – especially given my well-documented loathing of hotel gyms. Having been lucky enough to ride in Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and many more of Asia’s great bustling cities, I came to Beijing with a keen awareness of local motorist’s driving behaviours and the often “flexible” traffic regulations.
Thanks to having mutual friends, Shannon, an Aussie expat who’s lived in China for five years, volunteered to take me on an early-morning ride before the start of the Tour of Beijing’s first stage. Here are some highlights of our ride: