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Accessorize your bike - Ladies get pink handles and pink seats

MANY Chinese young people, who once would have disdained "old-fashioned" bicycles, are now riding them for fun and touring, upgrading their wheels and customizing their bikes.

They are buying fancier, more professional bikes and joining cycling clubs.

Bicycling has become a lifestyle.

One of the newest clubs is the Specialized Riders Club, which was started in May and has around 80 members so far. More than half are expats who have more of a bicycling tradition; more than 20 are women.

The aim is to inspire more people to ride and riders to ride more. The group goes for rides not only in the city, but also in the suburbs and beyond into the mountains. They also ride in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Taihu Lake, Xishan Island, Dongbai Mountain and Yuhang Mountain in neighboring provinces are popular destinations.

They have weekly get-togethers. Each Wednesday night they usually ride almost 40 kilometers around Zhangjiang High-tech Park in Pudong, where there is little traffic and the roads are lighted.

There is a group for general fitness and beginners and one for road trips and mountain biking.

Out-of-town trips cost around 1,000 yuan (US$146), all included.

Biking enthusiast

Yuki Zhao, who works at the US Consulate General in Shanghai, is passionate about biking and has been commuting and getting around on two wheels for the past two years.

Her latest bike, light and fast, is a Trek Pilot 2.1 Women's Specialized Design that cost 15,000 yuan (US$2,200). It was Zhao's present to herself for her 30th birthday.

She is especially pleased with her customizing - she changed the black handle bars and black seats for pink ones "to add a more feminine element." She had to order them from overseas because the accessories were not available on the Chinese mainland.

"It sounds a bit luxurious," she admits. "However, it's mid-range and it's my good companion. Now I'm saving for a new one."

In middle school she used to ride a nationally famous Phoenix bike, a traditional domestic brand, but then she didn't ride for many years.

For the past two years she has been cycling to work, to the gym and on errands. It takes her 35 minutes to ride to work at the consulate. With practice, she reduced the time from 50 minutes.

She spends around 24 hours a week on her bike. Every Wednesday she goes on a night ride with the Specialized Riders Club. On Thursdays she goes spinning at the gym. On weekends she usually rides with expat friends to the Pudong International Airport.

She enjoys short organized trips with the club.

In May, they rode to Dongbai Mountain in Zhejiang Province. The place was crowded and they couldn't get standard rooms so they showered outdoors.

"It was really great fun. I have made a lot of friends through biking, it's my good fortune," says Zhao. who has also practiced karate for around 10 years.

"I like to embrace the sunshine and nature," she says. "I like getting tanned and bronzed, not burned."

She started riding when her former boss, a biking enthusiast, dared her - he said she probably wasn't strong enough for biking. Next weekend she borrowed a helmet, gloves and a racing suit and proved him wrong on a ride to the airport.

Pain and risks

Yang Yuan, a 35-year-old customer support manager in the semiconductor industry, has been riding for five years.

"It's the mechanical enchantment," he says. "Men are naturally attracted to mechanical things - when I was a boy I took my clock apart and put it back together."

The Chongqing native says what he really likes is the stress, tension and physical strain, even pain.

"There's actually a lot of pain, and by its nature cycling has a lot of risks, either on the road or in mountains," he says. "But I'm addicted to danger and pain. So far no broken bones, only cuts and scratches."

Since Yang has a full-time job, he tries to ride every night after work. He rides around 10 hours a week, 250-300 kilometers.

"Keep riding and gradually you will know your riding style, your ability, and your preference," he says. "Then you will know what to buy.''

Specialized Riders Club

Tel: 3382-1192, 6471-1165


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