The rolling horde stops at an intersection. Photo: Cai Xianmin/GT
They could be brightly colored ninjas, moving swiftly silently through Shanghai streets at night. They swoop through quiet streets, swing around corners and vanish as quickly as they appear. Not ninjas they are cyclists, Shanghai dwellers who love cycling and have decided that one of the best ways of enjoying the city is by riding at night in a group.
They gather every Tuesday night for a whirlwind but relaxed ride through the city, getting a perspective on Shanghai that most never enjoy.
“Especially in the summer, nights are the best time for riding. It’s a lot cooler, the traffic is a lot less aggro and people seem to be a lot friendlier,” Drew Bates, one of the night bike ride organizers, told the Global Times. He said it was also a great opportunity for fellow riders to relax and get together after a day’s work.
Thanks to the efforts of three young cycling enthusiasts – Bates from England, Tyler Bowa from Canada and Jeff Liu from the US, this group of cycle lovers in Shanghai has been swelling. While not all are hard-core cycling addicts, the fraternity embraces the green way of life that cycling promotes and enjoys making friends on the pedal-powered outings.
Brought together by an interest in fixed-gear riding, the trio first met a few years back when they came to Shanghai. Fixed-gear cycles have no gears and do not coast. Road racers often use fixed-gear cycles to train for pedaling.
“For a city fixies are perfect, light, simple and beautiful. They don’t have any complicated parts and can be maintained with two tools and a bit of gumption,” Bates said.
With a shared passion for cycling, the three were actively involved in biking events, parties and competitions in the city. As they watched the local cycling community growing bigger and bigger, they decided to spend more time together and develop a group activity for cycling enthusiasts.
The money from sponsorships of previous events helped them put their ideas into practice. “We thought the best thing to do with it was to put it back into the community, invent some space and make it like a clubhouse,” Bates said. With this on the agenda, they opened Factory Five last year. Located inside a stationery manufacturer, Factory Five is a workshop where they make custom-made fixie bikes. It also serves as a place for cycling fans to gather and hang out.
After they opened the workshop on Jiangsu Road, the night bike rides, which they had been organizing informally, really started taking off. In the winter, they organized night rides every other Tuesday. Because it was often too cold, not many people came. However, as the seasons changed, the rides attracted more. “In the past two or three months, we’ve made it more and more official. Now we send out newsletters and we have a big e-mail group,” Bates said.
With an average 20 to 25 participants each outing, there have been times when as many as 60 riders showed up. This demographic of the night riders, according to Bates, is quite diverse, with both expats and local residents now dedicated members. “It’s open to anybody who wants to come. There will be people who have just bought a bike, people who have just come to Shanghai and see it a way to explore the city, or people who actually ride a lot and see it as an opportunity to ride even more,” he said. “It’s all about people who enjoy riding around for leisure.”
Ricky Phung, who came to Shanghai about seven months ago, joined the group as soon as his bike arrived from Los Angeles last week. “I like riding, but I just ride for leisure. I am quite excited about the night ride,” the 26-year-old said.