Photo Story: The Riders and Trails of Southwest China

May 24, 2020
by Scott Rapoport  


This is an article about China that has nothing to do with geopolitics. I write it in both English and Chinese with regard to mutual understanding. I think that by focusing on individual people, even if it is through the lens of our small and seemingly inconsequential sport, you can see a glimpse of life in this country from a new and different perspective. So read about Du Yao, a professional Chinese rider, and a trip we took to Dali—a beautiful city on the southern edge of the Himalayas。

我用中英文写这篇文章是为了增进各国骑友之间的相互了解和友谊,并提供一些关于中国积极乐观的内容,即使我们这个运动比较小众。我认为如果了解了这里人们的生活,你就能对这个不同的国家有更深的了解。那么读一读关于杜鹞(一位专业中国车手),和我们的大理,风花雪月之城的骑行记。

提示:中文显然不是我的母语。不过在过去的两年半里,我主要是通过和中国车友们一起骑山地车来学中文的,所以我很想试着用中文写这篇文章。如果有一些语法错误或不清楚的句子,还望大家能理解。







I first met Du Yao a couple years back in the city of Kunming, China. I knew him as the guy who could throw a backflip on a DJ bike off just about anything. He would occasionally show up to Kunming’s mountain bike trails on a downhill rig that his friend had let him borrow. As is so often true for those with skills on a BMX or dirt jumper, Du Yao’s transition from small to big wheels was remarkably smooth and fast. The 27-year-old is now a sponsored freerider and downhill racer, with plans to participate in races throughout the country in the upcoming season. But it’s certainly not easy to race bikes professionally in China. The market is small (especially considering the country’s massive populace) and disciplines like enduro and downhill are often regarded as foolishly dangerous. As an Olympic sport, and generally more accessible, cross-country is the dominant discipline. In China, if you’ve somehow managed to become anything close to resembling a real professional downhill rider, you are about ten in 1.4 billion. Du Yao is one of them. Over the past year, I have watched as his abilities on the bike and his infectious love for the sport has helped to strengthen the Chinese mountain bike scene.

大约两年前在昆明我第一次认识杜鹞。当时我只知道他是那个会做很大的土坡后空翻的车手,不过他很少骑速降. 那时他偶尔会骑借来的速降车来速降道玩一会儿。从土坡小轮换到山地大轮对他来说没什么大问题。他现在是有赞助商的速降和自由骑车手,今年将参加许多比赛。在中国成为一名专业山地车手并非一桩易事. 中国速降车市场的规模相对较小,而且有很多人认为这项运动是在作死。在中国,接近外国专业车手水平的车手很稀有,不过杜鹞的技巧可以达到这样的水平。在过去一年中,我亲眼目睹了他的精湛的技巧和热情,和他对中国山地车运动发展的促进。












The local trail building organization, Jade Dragon, has a pretty badass logo。小青龙协会的logo很酷


Kunming's massive cityscape is looming around every corner of the local trails。昆明城市景观

Du’s local downhill trails and jump park (where these photos were taken) are located in the western mountains of Kunming, the largest city in Yunnan—a province that borders Sichuan, Tibet, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. The riding area is named after the local temple, Bao Zhu (pictured below), which shares the forested hillside with the trails. Kunming’s mountain bike club, Jade Dragon, builds and maintains the trails; there are a couple of purpose-built downhill runs, as well as countless natural tracks that weave through the enormous forest park of Qipanshan just behind Baozhu’s main summit. Kunming’s winters are almost desert-like in their dryness, and so building occurs in the summer months when the rains soften the dirt. At least partially due to its temperate year-round climate and proximity to the mountains, Kunming undoubtedly has the largest mountain bike scene of any Chinese city.

杜鹞的当地速降道路与包场位于昆明西山区。骑单车的地方叫宝珠,以附近寺庙命名(如下图所示)。这些速降道路与包场是由昆明小青龙自行车协会修建。昆明有两条速降道路,还有很多自然的林道在棋盘山森林公园。昆明的冬天非常干燥,所以他们在夏天雨季修路。那时雨水会软化泥土,使修路变得更容易。由于气候温和与靠近山区,昆明拥有中国最多的山地车爱好者。






Salto is a Chinese domestic brand out of the same Shenzhen factory that manufactures frames for many big name bike companies. 杜鹞的车Salto是一个中国品牌。

Many of these photos were taken directly before and after China's Corona lock-down period. Kunming has now gradually begun to return to normalcy. 这些照片是在疫情期前后拍摄的。昆明现在已经逐渐开始恢复正常。



Du and a couple of his students。杜鹞和他的小徒弟们。

Du Yao has also built a pumptrack and dirt jump spot near the city center. In addition to being a spot where local riders can come to improve their skills, it is also a bike school for kids to learn the basics. These types of pumptracks are becoming increasingly popular in China, but not many of them have a teacher with an ability level as high as Du Yao’s. It’s always fun to watch the parent’s and kid’s reactions to what he can do on two wheels. Mountain biking is often done deep in the forests, away from the masses of people in city centers, and so it is quite rare for your average Kunming resident to stumble into the local trails and see what is possible on these bikes. By building this spot in the heart of Kunming, Du Yao has not only created a place where China’s younger generation can discover mountain biking but has also helped to increase awareness and understanding of the sport.

杜鹞在昆明修建了一个pumptrack 场地与土坡包场。当地车手不仅可以去那里练习技巧与提高水平,这里同时还是一所让孩子学习山地车基本技术的学校。这些类型的pumptrack 场地在中国日益流行,但很少有像杜鹞这么高水平的老师。观看孩子们和家长们对他的自行车技术反应很有趣。山地车经常在远离人的树林或山顶进行,所以大多数人从未见过这项运动。通过修建这个在市中心的包场和pumptrack,杜鹞不仅创造了一个儿童和青少年可以发现山地车的地方,而且还提高了人们对这项运动的认识和理解。










Du Yao and I set out on the five-hour road trip to Dali, a mountainous area of northwest Yunnan on the eastern reaches of the Tibetan Plateau. I had been to Dali two years before and found the area’s potential for riding to be huge. The problem was there weren’t enough people riding and the trails, while many in number, desperately needed some love. But that has already changed, and on this time around, both Dali’s riding culture and trails blew me away.

最近我和杜鹞去了大理找当地车友们。我两年前去过大理,发现那里真有很大山地车潜力。当时问题是骑enduro和修路的人没有那么多。但这已经改变了。在这次大理之行中,大理的山地车文化与氛围给我留下了深刻的印象。

Dali's trails at this time of year are loose and dusty. If you ever go, try to avoid the rainy summer months. Late fall to early spring offers prime riding conditions. 大理每年这个时候的车道充满灰尘与乐趣。秋季到春季是骑行的最佳季节。


A local BMX rider riding Shan Yang's dirt jump spot at the base of Cang Shan. 山羊的土坡场地

A few local kids watching the jumps。当地的一些孩子在观看飞包

Dali is a large area that spans an ancient city, a new city, Er Hai lake, forests, pastures and farmland. The constant between all of these is the Cang Shan mountain range, which features 18 peaks standing at least 3500 meters and hovers wall-like over the entirety of Dali. Recently, the local riders took to Cang Shan with spades and shovels and simply asked the forest guards, “can we make these trails better?” Of course the answer was yes, who doesn’t want better trails? Many of the local riders in Dali had raced in the Asian Enduro Series in Malaysia and came back eager to dig trails. Cang Shan is vast, steep and perfectly suitable for enduro-style trails. The plan is for Dali to become a race destination for the upcoming Asian Enduro Series, which currently holds races from Nepal to Thailand, but none in China. Dali is listed on the AES website here, with a scheduled race date of October 24th-25th.

大理是一个湖光山色的地方。它包含古城,下关,洱海胡,苍山,森林和农田。苍山有十八座海拔三千五百米以上的山峰。近来当地车手在苍山开始修路。他们问防火员“能否改变自然的林道使其成为更适合骑行得车道”,当然,他们得到了许可。去年许多大理车手参加了Asian Enduro Series 比赛,回来大理后急于修路。苍山又大又陡,真适合Enduro方式的车道。如今呢,规划是让大理举行一场Asian Enduro Series 比赛。大理在AES 网站上公布,比赛日期是10月24日。





Below, I've also included some photographs by Zhu Mei Xin, a very talented young photographer and filmmaker from Kunming. His photos can be differentiated from mine by his watermark in the bottom center. Check out his edit on the Chinese freerider Ding Zai Gang here.

在下面,我插入了一些朱美鑫拍的照片。他是一位来自昆明的天才摄影师。他拍摄的照片均含水印。你可以在这里看看他拍的关于丁再刚的视频。







The three pagodas of Chong Sheng Temple, originally constructed in the 9th century. 崇圣寺三塔




Much of Dali’s blossoming riding scene can be attributed to the passion and work of my good friend, Lao Fan (pictured above and below in the red Fox jersey). He has a deep understanding of mountain biking and has shared that knowledge with other Chinese riders. When he first showed me Dali’s trails two years ago, he had a dream of opening a mountain bike specific hostel at the base of Cang Shan. That dream has been realized, and Lao Fan’s hostel is now a fully functional rider’s paradise.

现在大理大部分较于繁华的山地车社区可归功于我的好友老范的热情和努力。他对山地车有着深刻的理解,并与其他车手分享了这方面的知识。两年前老范第一次带我骑大理的车道时,他的梦想是在苍山脚下开一家山地车民宿。他的梦想现在已经实现了,而且他所经营的民宿现已成为山地车的天堂。






This trail leads you through Dali's tea fields。这条路通过大理的茶田。


The trail's off Cang Shan will drop you out into a maze of small villages along the mountain's base。苍山脚下的村落



On our third day of riding we drove to Dali new city, just a few kilometers down the road that separates it from the ancient town and neighboring farmland. While most of Dali’s trails are inside the Cang Shan range, there is also another mountain that climbs westward out of Xia Guan (the new city). Zhe Mo Shan is the go-to spot for riders who live nearby. It has a classic, rough and long track that begins at the mountain’s peak and descends into the city. The trail is rocky and challenging, leading many to dub the mountain 折磨山 (a play on words as it is pronounced very similarly to the mountain’s actual name), which literally means “to cause physical or mental suffering”. I rode this trail with Lao Fan a couple of years ago, and it remains one of my favorite trails in China. The difference this time around was that we now had over twenty others riding with us. The Dali MTB scene is alive and well, and in my opinion, is one the best areas to ride a mountain bike in China.

在大理第三天我们去了者磨山骑车。大部分大理的车道是在苍山里面的,不过下关的者磨山也有。这条车道又难又长,给我留下了一个很经典外国车道的感觉。因为者磨山非常有挑战性,车手有时会称这座山“折磨山”。几年前我和老范一起骑过这条路,仍然是我在中国最喜欢的车道之一。这次不同的是我们有二十多车友和我们一起骑车。大理的山地车社区正在蓬勃发展。据我看,这是全中国骑山地车最好的地方之一。


Dali certainly has no shortage of temples。大理有很多壮观的寺庙




As my time in China comes closer to an end, I would just like to express my thanks to all my Chinese riding friends. It has been an amazing experience which I will remember for the rest of my life.

随着我在中国时间越来越接近尾声,我只想向我所有的中国车友表示感谢. 这次经历在我的心中留下了深深的烙印, 今生难忘。





38 Comments

  • 31 1
 OK...this is brilliant. When the world opens back up, this is the sort of goodness we need. Trails EVERYWHERE!!
  • 5 8
 The Chinese government will not allow its citizens to share the horrible conditions that exist there. They don't show you the skinning of animals while their are alive, the pollution in the cities, organ harvesting of prisoners, concentration camps, and beating of citizens of Hong Kong.
  • 10 5
 @abzillah: ok, here's my question: how did you know all of these 'horrible conditions' given China and Chinese people never share it? -> Who told you this? -> Are they trustable? -> Could it be they lie to you? -> Could it be they build an enemy for the provocation of your nationalism so as to help with their elections?.. Think about it, and don't be a brainwashed dumb bullshitting everywhere. We are all human, the same as you people on the other side of Pacific. Demonizing China and the people will not make you rich, wise, or happier. It only gives you hostility and make you look ugly. Btw, I am a proper Chinese living in this land for 30+ years. To be honest, I have never seen anything about concentration camps or organ harvesters (there are organ trading underground I assume but it is not only in China, it exists also in the West). For the pollution, yes, we have, although it's been significantly improved vs. only 5 years ago. And also think about it who brought this pollution to China and who are the end consumers indirectly leading to this pollution? I am sure you must be one of them. And you mentioned HK, yes, should I show you the countless videos that innocent people being hurt by those mobs? I suppose no, because a man who pretends to sleep can never be wakened up. Sad.
  • 5 0
 @abzillah: Pot. Kettle. Black.
  • 3 1
 @DKDHILLER: I'm because you never saw it yourself tiananmen square never happened.
  • 10 1
 Super awesome. Anything related to riding using the words ‘Tibetan Plateau’ is going to be killer. Side note: interesting seeing the space utilization of written English side by side with Chinese ideograms.
  • 11 1
 AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 6 1
 Good stuff! Your Chinese isn’t too bad, I think just need to shift some sentences around to flow better instead of strictly translating phrase by phrase.

Anyway, photos look great! Love to see articles like this and seeing Mtb growing in China slowly. My in laws are from north east China near shenyang but unfortunately I haven’t been able to research much riding by that area yet. I really hope I can ride some local trails there next time I go visit.

Cheers and keep up the good work!
  • 5 0
 Cheers. Yeah I definitely need to work on the writing flow. My sentence structure and grammar lack behind vocab/speaking, probably because I never took actual classes/had a formal learning environment.
  • 11 4
 Feel so proud of being a Chinese. This is so AWESOME! NIU BI! Bro!
  • 7 1
 very cool, thanks for this article and many photos
  • 1 0
 Awesome! I've always been curious about the mtb scene in asia and wish it got more coverage. Countries like China, Japan, Korea, etc certainly have the landscape for it. Would be cool to see some pro riders come out in the future from that part of the world or maybe some races hosted in those countries.
  • 2 0
 Thank you so much for these reports made by Soctt for China MTB, let more people know what we are doing, understand our riding culture, and look forward to meeting you next time, brother!
  • 3 0
 Your Chinese is really good. And I had planed to ride there for a long time
  • 2 0
 Thanks. Yeah Dali is definitely worth a trip!
  • 4 0
 Beautiful blend of culture and riding. Thanks for sharing.
  • 3 10
flag abzillah (May 25, 2020 at 21:10) (Below Threshold)
 what culture? Didn't see the wet markets and live skinning of dogs, no organ harvesting of prisoners, and no pics of concentration camps.
  • 2 0
 Keep going friends of China! So good to see more people riding!

Fun side note: in lots of places - ask to make trails better(er) - answer: F-Off lol
  • 2 1
 Once again killing it Scott! A hike on Cang Shan 10 years ago made me change my mind about leaving China. Sad to see you may be on your way out soon?
  • 1 0
 Thanks Stephen. Yeah, I think sometime this summer, if this whole situation subsides a bit. I'll definitely be back to visit though!
  • 3 0
 很厉害!Can't wait to visit this area in the near future.
  • 1 0
 Sweet! Send me a message if ya go, I'll put you in contact with the locals.
  • 1 0
 @scottrap: Thank you! Will do! I'm sure they can point me to the best rental place as well for a bike Smile
  • 2 0
 Dali is just simply AWESOME with countless trails which are 100% natural and super flowy!
  • 2 0
 I currently live in China and this really wants me to book a flight to Kunming right now.
  • 1 0
 Haha nice! The riding in KM is ok, nothing too special but good for China. Dali is sick though.
  • 2 0
 Salto means “jump” in spanish. And that guy really makes that bike live up to it’s name. Wonderful!
  • 2 2
 Y’all keep sucking up to China, I wonder if the Chinese government paid pinkbike to put this crap up? I can’t even ride my local trails because of China why would anyone go to this shit hole
  • 1 0
 I can assure you the government did not pay pb to put this up. I did not get paid anything. 1 out of every 7 humans live in this country, you can't just judge everyone here based on news articles. The whole point of this article was to try to show another side of this country. Like I said in the opening paragraph, this article has nothing to do with geopolitics. It's just about riding bikes.
  • 4 2
 Great trails and stylish riding!
  • 3 0
 牛逼
  • 4 0
 你才牛逼
  • 1 0
 Kids with full face helmet and face mask riding on pump track, bizarre and cool as F.
  • 2 1
 Every word from China is a lie
  • 1 0
 embers of freedom.
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