China and Motorcycles!

So after a long hiatus, I thought it was time for a new post, particularly with the weather getting so nice. I am currently in Beijing, China studying for a semester and with my beloved Sportster sitting in a garage 10,000 miles away and the weather in Beijing in the high 20’s to low 30’s (celsius), I’m feeling that inevitable itch to get back onto the road more than ever!

For whatever reason, it seems as if Rubber on the Road had been blocked for me in China until very recently. What’s even stranger is that my political blogs seemed to get through the Chinese firewalls, but the motorcycle one apparently took a while to gain approval. Either way, I’m back and thought I’d give a little summary of what I’ve seen of the motorcycles in China.

Motorcycle in Mandarin is 摩托车, the pinyin is mo2tuo1che1 (pronounced muotuochi). The motorcycle culture here is certainly different from the western countries with developed highway infrastructures. However, the desire to be on motorized two wheeled vehicles is alive and well, if not simply for the practicality. In Beijing, scooters seem to be the most prominant and popular forms of transportation at this point. There are bikes that have pedal start engines (start pedaling until the engine kicks in), bikes with electric engines, old, motorized tricycles with trailers used for transporting things, and then a lot of motorcycles (cruisers, sports bikes, and dirt/road hybrids) with no bigger than 125cc engines. In fact, during my nearly two months since arriving in China I probably have seen no more than 5 bikes with 2 cylinders. There are a lot of Chinese manufacturers, but the two most popular, at least around Beijing, that I’ve seen are Chongqing and Jiangmen, the rest are Japanese, usually Suzuki or Honda. The few bigger bikes that I have seen usually have a sidecar attached and made by Chongqing. These have a really cool look to them though as they’re older and have a sort of WWII feel about them.

My plan right now is that I would really like to get a bike while I’m here, because, of course, once you’ve been on two wheels, you can only stay off for so long! Obviously, something around 500cc minimum would be preferable in order to take long trips on it (I’d actually like to drive in Beijing as little as possible, as it can be quite treacherous, as anyone who’s been to China could tell you). My school semester finishes up on the 12th of June and my flight out is on June 30th, so I’d really like to take the time to see how far across China I can get in that time. I’ll either buy and sell back at the end or rent, whichever turns out to be the cheapest and most convenient. A friend that I’ve met at the school here is also into bikes, which means I’ll have some company for any motorcycle adventures I may find myself in. Currently, I’m most interested in getting one of the WWII looking Chongqing bikes (minus the sidecar), but it seems it’s been pretty hard to find any place in Beijing to get any sort of motorcycle with a decent sized engine, which doesn’t surprise me given the number of motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc I’ve seen. So if any readers have any experience with motorcycles and motorcycling in Beijing and in China in general any advice or stories you may have are welcome! In the meantime, I’ll post updates and should have some pictures up soon.