Mountain Biking Around China
China had just opened its doors to tourism in the 1980s, and it was against the rules to enter the country with a bicycle. Rumor had it that it was possible to enter through Chinese-controlled Macau, so I jumped onto the Hong Kong to Macau ferry. Despite the new rules, once across the border, I was free to go wherever a mountain bike would take me.
China was fun, it was exciting, and it was friendly, as long as I avoided the men in green. It was also cheap and there was food everywhere. China is also big and there were so many roads and no maps to guide me. I just biked north or south, east or west, and whatever was on the way was a surprise.
For two years I pedaled as far as I could, minus 11 months that I spent hiking the Great Wall. Other than when on the Wall, privacy was unheard of. But having roommates was great, someone to talk to and share experiences with. Other than in towns where tourism was legal, I would spend the last half hour of the day looking for a place to hide for the night and begin again the next morning. Often the Chinese would find me hiding behind a bush and take me home to provide some shelter.
Having the best bike in China was a big surprise. Being a huge bicycling nation, everyone was interested in my bike, not to steal it, but to touch it. Strangers would oil the chain without asking. They would wipe it clean with their shirts. They would stand there speechless admiring it. I didn't mind, I slept with it every night and it was the love of my life.
Surely times have changed and a mountain bike is just another mountain bike, but 45 years later, I still remember, and I still feel blessed to have been there when . . .