China was once known as “the Kingdom of Bicycles”. But this is changing – especially in the cities. In Beijing for example, some four million bikes now compete for road space with more than two million cars. China’s exploding middle class has more money and they want an upgrade. But this has also created an interesting side effect… now that more people have more money and more cars, some of those people are choosing to use that money and those cars to escape the cities and go mountain biking. It is the infancy of what could someday become one of the largest mountain bike cultures in the world.
Late last year, Shimano invited Thomas Vanderham, Matt Hunter, Andrew Shandro, Darcy Turenne, Endless Biking and us (the Anthill crew) to come to China and be part of a mountain bike festival at the country’s first lift-accessed bike park. It was a chance to see the beginnings of mountain biking in China first hand and none of us knew what to expect… here’s a look at what we found on that trip.
|It was a very cool opportunity to travel to China and immerse ourselves in their culture. People came from across the country to attend a three-day MTB camp. I can honestly say I have never seen a more enthusiastic group of riders, the stoke level was at an all time high! - Andrew Shandro|
|I was really impressed by the stories of the riders who came out to ride with us. The event was near Beijing and many had driven for hours and hours to be there. A lot of the people were from Shanghai, over a thousand kilometers away! These riders are just as passionate and stoked as anybody. They are living it and they are getting their friends into it. Mountain biking in China is happening. - Matt Hunter|
|It is so humbling to see how far our films travel. One night we found ourselves driving though Beijing on a huge highway past nothing but high rises for an hour. It felt like a scene from the future; about as foreign from home as one can get. After getting out of the car and walking on foot through a maze of hallways it was a wild experience to come around a corner and see a huge Strength in Numbers banner and all these people lined up to see our film. - Darcy Wittenburg|
|It was really cool to be able to work with such a large group of riders that had so much passion for the sport, but with so little experience. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier. Our instructors did not speak Chinese and over 90% of the riders did not speak English. This ended up being a real highlight of the camp, as we all ended up speaking the universal language of the bike! - Darren Butler (Endless Biking)|
|It was amazing to see mountain biking in its infancy and to meet some of the people who were working hard to grow the sport in China. The level of excitement and enthusiasm of the Chinese riders we met is definitely unparalleled anywhere else in the world. And riding what was described as "the best trail in China" made their enthusiasm infectious. We had a lot of laughs, made a lot of friends, and ate a lot of interesting food - the perfect ingredients for a very memorable trip! - Darcy Turenne|
|The riding scene in China may just be starting, but I met some of the most hardcore fans that I've encountered anywhere in the world. They have a true passion for the sport, which was very evident as they rode the new bike park for the first time. With more trails and events like this camp I expect the number of riders and will grow quickly. - Thomas Vanderham|
Thank you to Shimano
for making this trip possible! All photos courtesy: Darcy Turenne