Steffi's China - Part Three - Wonder Wall

Nov 11, 2013 at 5:04
by Nathan Hughes  


What do paper money, the compass and fireworks all have in common? Well they're all marvellous things to have come out of China. And you get the impression there's more to come, especially for the bike industry. Officially closed to foreign visitors until 1974, China now seems on the verge of a tourism explosion... currently the third most visited place in the world. There's so much to see, so much opportunity and so many interesting, friendly people. Pinkbike only had 10 days to strike the mountain bike gold with Steffi and while we found the good stuff (further evidenced this episode) it was a big regret we didn't have longer to cover all the spots we were hearing about across the land. Nevertheless, here we are lucky enough to be riding mountain bikes in China one last time, in the final installment of our grand adventure scoping out the many wonders of the Orient...

So from our Beijing stronghold we headed northwest, stopping a little short of Inner Mongolia at a mighty ski resort in the making. Currently with one solitary lift, Chongli aims to have 22 before you can say 'Shénshèng de gǒu shǐ ' (holy sh*t) and a plethora of upmarket hotels to back up the development. It is massively remote, a stone's throw from absolutely nowhere. And well, it seemed our visit was in the nick of time before the place went into hibernation for a long winter.

snow push

top chongli 3

bigquotesI didn't know 3 hours north of Beijing we would feel so close to the eskimos! Deep snow, poisonous animals and I didn't bring my thermals...or snake bite antidote- Steffi

Chongli flowers

'Through the clouds'... Great trail name, but there were none to fog our lenses on this bluebird day. We'd heard too many over the top warnings of the cold so far on our trip to take them seriously and were glad to have been travelling light... until this point. Chongli was absolutely far-gone polar and all that crying wolf left us in shorts and rain jackets in an arctic tundra.

Anyway, one good thing is how at this point on a journey like this you suddenly become aware of the amazing bond of professionalism that has developed between rider and photographer. A genuine respect...You're doing your job... I'm doing mine. A sense of 'we're nearly there; lets focus and see it through, behaving in as streamlined a manner as possible.'

top of Chongli chat bw

Refreshments. nice photo Karen -
  Professionalism at 50%.

Top turn landscape

wait n turn
  'Through the Clouds' is a legit downhill track; the longest and best made of anything we had discovered on our mission so far. The course begins with beautiful, flowing switchbacks out in the open and impressive views over the eerie terrain below. The lie of the land in this area, north of the Great Wall, is predominantly shallow peaks covered in long grass and great swathes of birch forest at lower altitudes.Thankfully the resort owner at Chongli is keen to have the biking keep a bit of buzz on his mountain through the summer months and has been greatly encouraging of all two-wheeling. Karen Zhang will run the Pinkbike Downhill Series here next year and it will feature as the longest track on the menu by some way.

  Steffi's upbringing in BMX shows through on the Oriental dirt as she pumps and airs, Olympic style. Chongli is as smooth as you like and despite big patches of snow it was actually super grippy and awesome fun to ride flat out. And it's a good couple of kilometers long. You wouldn't call it hugely challenging by Euro or North American standards, but it's hardly been touched after just a single race, so there's not a rut to be found on it.

Three trees

Chongli woods shred
  Steffi swoops in, full trust for that treacherous, icy, white strip on the entry. Lower down the track meets the birch forest and tightens up significantly, before shooting out into the open again for a rocky last descent back to the lift station.

Steff bw close up

bigquotesI can't imagine a better first day of winter. Riding across the frost with no people for hundreds of miles around. It was like carving big turns on skis down the countless switchbacks! A few more tracks like this at Chongli and the bikers will start to outnumber the skiers in future seasons! Steffi

Beijing horizons

Beijing metro
  The metro in the capital is unbelievable... quiet, clean and easily navigated for 32 cents for as long a journey as your heart desires. Having said that, it may desire getting off a stop early as the pressure from being crushed by people starts to shut down your vital organs. All the bustle and madness of Beijing center was the antithesis of the peaceful lifestyle we had become accustomed to so far on our journey... Chongli, Dalian and particularly the ridiculously serene ShangBaHe forest park.

Hidden Dragon

forbidden city detail 3

Forbidden City portaits

9 million bicycles in Beijing plus one in each ear.
  Inner peace found at the Forbidden easy task if you've seen the crowds. 'Silence is a true friend who never betrays' - bit of very appropriate Confucianism for you there.

bigquotesThere's a super inspiring atmosphere to these ancient courtyards. Although it couldn't be busier, it feels like an island in the middle of the capital, where despite all the political and religious history there's a deeply spiritual vibe among these temples - Steffi

Forbidden scape

Bamboo graffiti

Beihai park red tag 3

Beihai Park lucky tags
  Suffice to say there's nowhere else quite like China. It's as photogenic and fascinating as they come. Visitors beware of being dazzled by the options and ending up paralyzed and twitching in your hotel room, dribbling into the Rough Guide. In the absence of a nice well prioritized itinerary, a little direction helps, and our stomachs were steering us towards the smell of food.... Mmm what is that? Hotdogs? Enter the unbelievable Beijing Night Market.

Smokey coke

Skull n jewels

bigquotesWhen I first set foot in the night market I was excited by all the beautiful red lanterns and all the nice Asian jewelry. At second glance I quickly turned pale at the thought that anyone would eat such things. My eyes were met by a Chinese chef in a white overall, sliding live baby scorpions onto skewers Steffi

Chocolate Starfish and the hot-dog flavored water
  What to say about this infamous food quarter in the heart of the city? Well first gotta be hungry. No, let's say really, quite especially famished.

Toasted pigeon
  You know when you just crave meat? Toasted starlings... that's perfect.

Tarantula to go
  Thanks for the offer my friend, but there's just no way... Now give me the donkey broth I asked for and I'll be on my way.

Scorpions gecko amp lavae
  Admittedly the Night Market is a bit far fetched with a stomach-churning thrill in mind... but I have to say not that much. The menus in China get pretty wild even on the high street. Rabbit tongues, bull frog, turtle and bull phallus all headlining.

Thinking about a purchase
  In the end it was one of those awkward dilemmas... Steffi's a vegetarian, really desperate for some sustenance and at this market, and in fact China in general, that was going to be difficult. A case of sheer hunger versus principles... And Steffi gets properly 'hangry'. Anyway something had caught her eye, a tasty morsel no doubt about it.

Scorpion eat duo
  So how does it work? Well you pick out your preferred snack creature, whether it be a sea horse, gecko or chicken fetus, any of which are likely to have been on display long enough to have gathered dust, the market stall man dunks it in his pot of boiling black oil for 2 minutes, offers a sprinkle of cajun (I recommend you accept) and it's ready to eat. And at no small price. Steffi's dinner cost the Pinkbike coffers $8 equivalent. Which was fine, I just explained she absolutely had to eat it all.

Scorpion eat close
  True to say every stall owner is fully aware that squirming scorpions on sticks bring in the gobsmacked masses better than tasty noodles, although you can buy more sensible meals here too. Besides some western faces there were tons of hungry Asian, even Chinese visitors lapping it up, greasy squid juice dripping down chins, giant beetle legs poking out between teeth. Come on down if you're in the area, we'll buy you a family bucket of locusts on Pinkbike.

bigquotesThe feeling of a scorpion claw cracking between my teeth was worse than any bike crash for me haha! As much as I didn't want to disappoint anybody, I also absolutely didn't want to eat that spikey, black, chilli-topped, delicacy. No offense to these great chefs of Beijing! Steffi

Toilet stoppin
  Just an innocent toilet stop on the road, surprised as we were to experience no repercussions of an evening eating Bear Grylls gourmet. We had time for just one more excursion and it must be said, of the many sites available in China you'd be a fool to miss the one they stamp for your tourist visa...

wall ladder climb

Wall ladder access
  Estimates place The Great Wall at around 21,000km in length. So Pinkbike hoped there was inevitably somewhere fit for a bit of bike riding nearby. The struggle to find more than a short farmer's track in several hours search, led us to a more exciting take a spin on the marvel itself.

Steff wall portait

bigquotesTo say I was impressed by The Great Wall is a true understatement. The word 'epic' has come to irritate me badly, but for once I was speechless to say something else as I looked out over it - Steffi

Scoping the scape
  Steffi surveys the scene at our chosen ride spot, an un-restored stretch of the wall at Mutianyu. Each section has it's own unique character through varying construction style and terrain. There's a recurring theme though; steep, winding and totally incredible to lay eyes upon. It's been built and rebuilt over the centuries hundreds of times, beginning as far back as at least 200 BC to keep out invading Mongolians.

wall detail trio

Great hike duo
  It's hard to believe the gradients the wall spans. The steps are sometimes half a meter high on certain climbs...if still in tact. When it's just rubble, there's no chance you're getting up, especially not with a bike. We were told every year multiple tourists fall to their deaths at the wall and there was no need to doubt it, just best to keep a firm grip of the bike. Don't wanna lose a 2014 carbon Remedy over the edge.

Peace out China
  For those about to ride...we salute you (Steffi clearly anticipating a Chinese audience)

Slaying the wall

bw wall shred
  Riding the on the thousand year old ramparts is the stuff of pure fantasy. We were lucky enough to find some awesome little stretches to shred and stairs to drop as the sun went down on one of, if not the most breath-taking landscape on Earth.

spine line
  We wish we could tell you we rode for 10s of miles, up and over, railing the bends and airing gatehouses, but that really is entering dreamland... or at least your X-Box. The wall sadly just isn't passable in most places. Still we got a great taste of this fantasy and we were yet to drop into the most stunning set of flagstones we would find that day.

Reflections worth a thousand words
  A reflection worth a thousand words.

bigquotesOn our climb to the wall we found a sign which said, 'Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints'. Well we I guess we left our tire prints instead - Steffi

Riding a little-known wall on the outskirts of Beijing.

Wall descent
  And through it all, you're my wonder wall...

Sunset hikin
  One more section before the sun dips. One more quad-destroying hike up a deadly-steep and dilapidated ancient staircase.

bigquotesIt's always so sad when you come to the end of road on any adventure, but not this time because I'm definitely far from finished with China - Steffi

Last light at the wall
  Last light at The Great Wall as the sun sets on Steffi's China. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Many Xièxiès (thank yous) are due to Travis Ott and Larry Wang at Trek Bicycles as well Karl Burkat and Karen Zhang of Pinkbike fame who each played huge roles in making this unforgettable trip a possibility.

Steffi's China Part One:
Steffi's China Part Two:


  • 37 2
 I was told I wasn't allowed to ride bikes on the great wall when I was there. Super jealous! Also, the berms at the beginning look endless and amazing. On a side note, since nobody else has pointed it out yet, I feel obligated to note that she looks like a much cooler Keira Knightley.
  • 5 1
 Yes she does!
  • 31 1
 Great Wall was very very long, thousand years, some sections was destroyed. Now some sections are under the government protection,you are not allow biking in these sections.But there are a lot of sections not under the government protection, you can biking in there.
By the way, we are not eat spider and scorpion,maybe the weird food just for tourist.
  • 47 1
 Actually, even in those unprotected Great Wall sections, we don't suggest anyone riding on them. The time has made them so fragile and everyone should protect them.
  • 32 1
 Stomach churned seeing riding on the Great Wall. Many parts of the wall are slowing falling apart thanks to nature and now the decision to ride it? The tiny section of the Wall that most people do see has been renovated and restored that you're pretty much walking on brand new material; the rest of the Great Wall is neglected and never looked after. If you venture further into inner China, the wall is actually made of mud and is eroding away (if it hasn't already). Downvote all you want, but no one should condone riding bikes on a World Heritage Site.
  • 6 11
flag chyu (Nov 13, 2013 at 0:38) (Below Threshold)
 got laid?
  • 6 5
 @renkai19880205 they tell us on the news here that China and nearby nations eat too much endangered species. You may not eat spider and scorpion, but do people eat other stuff that is more endangered? This is a big problem the world is facing today and China is in the spotlight. If it is not true, your reply is much appreciated.
  • 11 6
 SithBike - all is fine as long as you don't write "This is a big problem the world is facing today and China is in the spotlight." Curiosity and being concerned is alright, but don't go too deep into it because we should always deal with our own stuff before we point fingers or ask naive questions... Your country is in the spotlight as well. It is actually ironic that you say that, coming from Alberta, Edmonton particularly, a place synonymous worldwide with dirty oil... Don't watch news other than the very local ones talking on issues that might affect you directly. They might tell you that in the winter you'd better wear a protective mask or filter drinking water very carefully. I'm not trying to be an asX to you, I'm no hollier than thou, just giving you an idea to think about...
  • 4 0
 have you even seen what chinese people eat, whales and a whole lot of fish. i agree with sithbike on that for sure
  • 1 4
 Wolly96 - my sarcasm detector is broken - not sure if serious...
  • 3 0
 If somebody asks Canada about the "dirty" oil sands, we say it's true. @renkai19880205 was addressing food rumors and imply'd the locals don't eat the weird stuff. So i'm wondering where the shark fins, tiger balls, bear bile,..etc is going? So @renkai is telling me one thing and the news the other. I don't think it is naive to not want to believe everything the news tells us. Especially when there is a MTBer living there that is "willing" to give us his opinion.
  • 3 3
 Well, maybe it is all going to North America and Europe? Have you heard why there are Pirates in Somalia? To make the long story short (which requires generalizatios) Somali Pirates are ex- fishermen. European vessels fished out the fish at their coastal waters, normal fish... Ilike how my short sighted boss tells me that hebelueves in liberalism and charity, He believes that he helps Africa by donating money. Well, the reason why such donations and foid convoys are necessaary is becausetoo many people believe in liberalism. It's a hard one to live up to, and I myself can't live up to itbut here itgoes: live simply so that other can simply live their lived
  • 5 0
 @wolly96, a guy from a country which is so proud of their "Fish and Chips" now commenting on other country eating too much fish? I think you should point your spear to our neighbour, Japan on eating fish. But I have to admit, there used to be many rich people who are fond of precious animals such as shark fins or swallow's nest, but recent years those kind of people are becoming fewer and fewer. We can see the anti-wildlife-eating ads on tv, website, bus stop and many other places. People are more and more against those food. And as a native Chinese, I can tell you that what people eating are way more normal than you thought. Oh, BTW, we don't eat potatoes all year long.
  • 2 0
 @milanboy1986, Thank You for you input. Most of us eat stuff we maybe shouldn't. And it's good to know that China is running those anti-wildlife eating ads. Your nation has proven it's capable of doing anything it puts its effort towards. Corporate Japan should be ashamed of it's whaling and fishing practices. Rumors are Mitsubishi corp. is fishing the big fin tuna to extinction. And is putting the fish into long term freezers. So they can sell them for way more when the tuna are all extinct.
  • 2 0
 And yes @WAKI, Canada should not be so proud either. Especially how we over fished the Canadian cod in the Atlantic. The industry fished themselves out of work. The damage has been done and it's not pretty. People should learn from our bad example.
  • 3 0
 Speaking of Japan, I feel so bad for those dolphins get killed every year!!! But what I would say is that no country is innocent. Even everyone of us has done more or less bad things in our lives so far. So we should all look back on what we have done and to do better in the future.
  • 4 2
 Fuka you Whale! Fuka you Dolpheen!
  • 2 0
 I don't think you'd want to be fuka-ed by any of them. Ever seen their package?
  • 2 1
 (South Park reference).
  • 3 3
 Sith... If you were really concerned about the environment and we are in the topic of Asians eating something, you'd better worry about them eating as we eat: cows, pigs and chickens! Read about meat production and the impact it has on the environment. To make the long story short (simplified and generalized), a stereotypical average person in Asia eats 1kg of vegetable protein per week. He eats that, get his protein intake satisfied. A cow eats 5 times that per week, then it takes way more energy to give you a steak or a burger, than to gather a crop, package it and put on shop shelf. Find some scientific FACTS, it is not hard in internet. Living in Western country and pointing a finger at anyone in Asia for their eating habits is a pure hipocrisy and a sign of utter ignorance - just stop listening to people doing it on the News or in newspapers - they have no excuse for being naive or uninformed, this is their job to be well informed and balanced. But they aren't because instead they give us stupid entertainment - most journos are freaking idiots, a-holes, and should be treated as criminals. All endangered species, China is in a spotlight... why do you repeat that utter bullcrap? You haven't come up with it yourself, no sane person would, it is clear as water, you repeated that pish you heard.

No hard feelings, nothing personal to you Sith, we are all guilty, I've been there too, I still am to a big degree, but it's time to wake up.
  • 3 0
 well that escalated quickly
  • 1 0
 do you people not have jobs, school, a life? wtf
  • 1 0
 Oh... You see we are thinking. Some think, some do. Both are just as goid as they are wrong.
  • 1 0
 I definitely will not have any hard feelings towards someone who is telling me the locals, poachers and the news are wrong. @milanboy said "they are running anti wildlife eating ads". And you bring up way to obvious facts like how much more energy it takes to produce farmed meat. We are talking about eating ENDANGERED species @WAKI. They will never come back if they go. Something that people pay way more for to eat than a regular (beef, chicken or pig) meal. And they eat the dwindling species most likely because of superstition. It's not like endangered's are being eaten for the need to survive. It's not like the oil sands where the world needed a energy source safe from conflict. We are talking about a "big" unneeded problem that can disappear if people shed "spotlight" on this matter. None of your facts have contributed to this conversation, they were obvious and irrelevant. You actually made up a story, trying to dismiss the endangered species "spotlight" by calling the news propaganda.
  • 1 0
 Idid not call News propaganda, I called them entertainment. Every intelectual will tell you that. It is not information, it is entertainment business. To a great extent, all major News agencies are propaganda - it is delusion not to think so. Independent journalism can exist only in smallest local scale where no big money are involved. As much as I am touched by a picture of an Orangutan in agony picked up from on one of few uncut palm trees, I dare not to point a finger at people who cut those trees. Superstition? a there are more trivial things raping this planet. Like the thing I am writing this from. Whatever, youhunt your sinners
  • 4 0
 Can you guys like inbox this shit? Nobody cares.
  • 3 0
 props to Milanboy1986, eating endangered species might be a problem in China back to 10 years ago, but now things have been changed a lot; even rich people are not chasing the taste of endangered animals any more as the awareness of eating healthily and protecting the nature has been wildly spreading in whole Chinese society; the food material on our daily menu is mainly about rice, meat and vegetables; TRULY sometimes we eat something that you might not find on Western menu like pig's feet, chicken feet or duck's neck, however, they are more about the eating culture in this country and truly delicious to our people; BTW, @wolly96, i think what you are talking is Japan, people in China do not eat whales...not even a whole whale...some rumors are truly ridiculous.
  • 32 0
 Biggest wall ride I've ever seen.
  • 1 0
 And probably longest as well. ..and I still cant believe that women like her ride bikes and shred!!! Go Steffi!
  • 4 22
flag Narro2 (Nov 13, 2013 at 5:28) (Below Threshold)
 can she really shread?, I mean, there's girls like this everywhere, they pretend to like MTB, videogames, dirtbiking, cars, etc... but all they want is attention.

Still... she's good looking, hehe
  • 7 1
 6th place world champs 4X...
  • 7 1
 Let me guess ... you're either single or your girlfriend sucks. Big companies don't sponsor girls who can't really shred.
  • 1 5
flag Narro2 (Nov 13, 2013 at 13:37) (Below Threshold)
 just asking, guessed wrong
  • 2 0
 @Narro-minded: You assumed and couldn't be bothered to look at her link at the bottom of the article which shows her race results. Grow up, kid.
  • 16 1
 What a fun article and great pics. I loved it... and she looks pretty dam good dressed up in the forbidden city.
  • 15 1
 She's super hot and she shreds!!! Marry Me....
  • 4 0
 She has that Euro girl diamond tooth thing going...
  • 11 1
 Great Wall,Great Steffi!
  • 9 0
 we don't eat spiders and scorpions which are really sick to my stomach; those weird things are just for tourists.
  • 1 0
 I was told exactly the same thing when I was there... no one eats those things. They are just for tourists and pictures.
  • 7 0
 Love the bike earrings Steffi!
  • 4 0
 nice story...i know the purpose is to symbolize MTB in China...but i think the part of cycling on Greatwall is's objects of cultural heritage that has been around for thousands of years..
  • 5 0
 The bamboo says: "may all your wishes come true".
To explore China by bike is definitely on my wishlist.
  • 3 2
 Nice stories about China! I am currently living in Guangzhou and I am planning to go to Xi'an - Beijing - Ulanbator in December. Too bad without my bike though as it is still in my home country... Anyways, Could you tell me how and where did you visit the Great Wall? I really would like to see it on a remote location without tourists!
  • 5 0
 Sorry for repeating this again and again - welcome to China you guys!
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Are you kidding?
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 就让我 贻笑大方 我们也不能做历史的罪人 当年他们两次洗劫并火烧圆明园时 可从来不觉得可耻 如果他们骑得不是中国的长城而是埃及的大金字塔在我看来性质是一样的
  • 2 0
 Oh look, one of the most feared animals in the world being sold on a stick Sick pics by the way.. Looks like a phenomenal trip
  • 7 2
 What don't Asians eat?
  • 9 3
 In China, eat these, to increase sexual desire ......haha then I'll show you to your hotel for sister................come on
  • 3 0
 NOO they Killed Patrick!!!!
  • 7 0
 we don't eat those bugs that really disgusted me seeing the pics above, and eating bugs for increasing sexual desire is totally a bullshit!
@gaoxiang89, no more bullshit please.
  • 5 1
 Bull phallus is absolutely increase sexual desire ....but I don't eat ..............haha....
  • 1 0
  • 3 0
 I worked all over and lived in china for just shy of 3 years and never was any of this on the menu, and working in the oil industry we worked in very remote and poor communities and in many major cities, never was any of this on the menu.
Can only really be found/seen at tourist hot spots, where guess what? its the foreigners that eat all these rare and incredible creatures
  • 4 0
 damn shes super sexy. eatin scorpions too lol
  • 1 0
 SO sexy
  • 1 0
 hello!! I still say Chinese bar!!Orz。。。下次来联系我,重庆是DH的圣地,英文不好自己去翻译去,有木有china的伙伴我是重庆的驴友。欢迎国外的骑行者来中国修炼【表情】
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 会讲中文不? No what.
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 1
 中国试涂鸦 上PINKBIKE了............我真不知道说啥好了!!请原谅我没好意思用中文留言..............................
  • 1 1
  • 1 1
  • 1 2
 @DKDHILLER 如果你是竹子 你会肿么想 - -!
  • 1 0
  • 3 2
 Steffi's really sexy. Please be my girlfriend. ...................................
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 go for it dude!
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Any photog wants to come with me for my next holidays? Seriously I'm jealous! Smile
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Going hungry in China, with Steffi, would be just what the Dr. ordered. I'm up 10 lbs already from the summer.
  • 3 0
 great photos!!
  • 1 0
 Yeah that opening shot of Steffi riding on the wall in the bottom right with the wall behind left is pretty sweet !
  • 1 0
 hello。变形金刚5的一个取景就在武隆。到时候你们看看武隆就知道那个是DH圣地 吼吼。
  • 1 0
 1风景真不错 居然是祖国
  • 1 0
 Awesome stuff Wish I was there
  • 1 0
 steffi ...... what is her family name ?
  • 1 0
 nice trip, i love nature of china, i want be there sometime
  • 1 0
 That is some amazing shots
  • 1 2
 Wow I really like the series about her shredding in China... Big props. However, I hate to say it but that helmet is one ugly piece of equipment.
  • 2 0
 ignore the helmet, she is cute!
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Eye Candy
  • 2 1
 I like the Trek.
  • 1 0
 Steffi is so gorgeous
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Is She
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 Amazing captures!
  • 1 3
 That was really rude to post a swearword in Chinese. Tossers. 你是豆渣脑筋 !
  • 1 2
  • 1 2
  • 1 2
  • 1 0

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