Going on a Chinese Road Trip

Just a quick post to say that since I’ve got a couple of days off work for the Chinese “Tomb Sweeping” holiday coming up this weekend, I’ll be taking my first “road trip” with Mafan, my JinCheng 250. Of course in typical Chinese fashion, in order to make up for the extra day off, the government decided to make Saturday a working day. So after the 6 day work week, on Sunday, my girlfriend and I will be leaving for Cuandixia Village, 爨底下村 (which literally means “Under the stove village”). Cuandixia has been named World Heritage Site protected for it’s authentic Ming Dynasty era buildings and scenic mountain scenery. Luckily, it’s also only 90km outside of the city center of Beijing and looks like it might actually provide some nice windy mountain roads making for an exciting and pleasant ride. I also plan on taking my camera mount for the ride so check back regularly over the next couple weeks and keep an eye out for a video posting from the trip.

For more information on the village and some pictures, click here to check out what Tour Beijing had to say.

Below you can check out the map of the route we’ll be taking:

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Named my Chinese Bike: 麻烦

I recently came up with a name for my new, Chinese-branded motorcycle, a Jincheng 250cc. After going through several difficulties with my bike from the get go involving my battery and rectifier (which you can read about here and here) and then recently having my license plate stolen, I decided upon a very fitting name: 麻烦 or Ma fan which means “trouble; troublesome” in Chinese. It’s typically used as a type of exclamation, such as when something is acting particularly annoying or troublesome, you say something like “很麻烦“ or “what a pain.”

Of course, I knew that buying a motorcycle in China would come with its fair share of difficulties, so it hasn’t come as much of a surprise. But still, doesn’t mean it’s not a pain when these things do crop up!

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

Buying a Chinese Motorcycle: Jincheng 250cc

A Very Chinese Motorcycle Repair Experience

Video: Riding through the Chinese Countryside

Mapquest for the iPhone: A Perfect Motorcyclist’s Companion

I just recently added this update to our Motorcycle App Review section, but I thought I’d give it a new dedicated post as well since I thought it was such a great app.

Mapquest– Free turn-by-turn directions.

This is an absolute must-have app. I only discovered this while on my 2 month trip around the US but it was a huge time saver. Obviously a bit issue with being on a motorcycle can be figuring out directions. There’s always the option of having a gas tank mount to hold some directions and a map, but that can’t be always safe looking down while driving trying to figure out if you have to make that exit approaching at 70mph. Of course memorizing them is not very reliable and you’ll find yourself second guessing yourself more often than not at the last minute.

I found the Mapquest app to be a perfect solution to this. I typically like to listen to music when I ride (a decision which some might question from a safety standpoint, but that’s for another post), and this app work perfectly in the background with the new iOS 4.0 in my iPhone as it would unobtrusively turn down my music and announce on-coming directions and then turn the music back on when it was done. It also has an auto reroute feature if you get off course, automatically adjusting its directions. There are options for shortest time and shortest distance, as well as the options to avoid highways, toll roads, and “seasonally closed” (all of which are nice for motorcycle riders).  Since it is built in with Mapquest capabilities, you can search for restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, etc. and get directions to them as well.

I found one important feature missing was that there was no option to turn on warnings. This was big on a motorcycle because you couldn’t just look down and check what the status is (unless you had a mount for your phone, but I carried mine in my jacket pocket), so I would find myself in the familiar trap of second guessing myself and my phone’s battery power only to pull over on the side of the road and discover I was still 5 miles from my turn. It looks like they might have added this option though in a recent update with “Walking Directions Alerts,” though I haven’t had the chance to test it out. I would recommend however not totally relying on the app, quickly reviewing the directions before stowing your phone away, as sometimes it can crash or your battery may die, leaving you endlessly waiting for the next turn (the walking alerts may do a lot to alleviate this concern though).

Oh, and did I mention the best part? It’s free!!