Why do I always end up on the back of a bike?



Parking lot at Walmart…..

I suppose I am of the more adventurous type, happy to embrace all kinds of experiences, but being the pillion passenger on the back of a bike, especially a motorised one, is not exactly my favourite pastime.  And until recently I had managed to avoid it almost entirely, only recalling one distant event sometime in  my teenage years.  But in a world where most people can only dream of owning a car, other means of travel are a necessity, so it was inevitable that I would end up on the back of a bike at some stage during my travels, although it looks like it is becoming a bit of a habit.

It happened first  in India, in Kochi and Alleppey to be precise, where Indian men were incapable of using their legs to cover a trifling distance of a few hundred metres to show me where a cookery course was taking place, or to get me to the river for a kayaking morning.  I was hobbled and shaken  – over, in, and around potholes – and had to hold on for dear life.  And then there was Nepal where I was encouraged to make my body move in unison and hold on tightly, as it was safer and easier on the bike.  He may well have been speaking the truth, but it was just a tad too close for comfort for me…

So, only a few days after arriving in Hangzhou I found myself again the passenger on a bike,  an e-bike to be precise, one of those electric scooters that noiselessly and menacingly sneak up behind you.  They move en-masse, engulfing unexpecting cyclists and pedestrians, and only the brave would not jump aside.  But the winter fashion of protecting legs and hands with blanket-type, colourful wraps strapped on the handlebars?  Somehow I cannot imagine this fad to take Britain by storm…  But as John said after our little sojourn, ‘You are sitting at the back, I am the one getting the wind and the cold in the front’…

I bumped into John in the little supermarket around the corner, another white face in the sea of Chinese people.  We stand out and somehow this makes us gravitate towards each other.   John,  a fellow English teacher spawned from the depths of inner USA, has lived in China for a number of years already.  He is a man with expertise, someone who possesses invaluable information about the hows and whats and wheres of Chinese ex-pat living.  A fountain of knowledge not to be ignored…

Having been shown the existence and whereabouts of Walmart on our first day in the area – by the office junior driving a big red Mercedes (on her salary?????) – it was definitely a place to be explored, but on foot???  I do not mind the 30 minute walk there, but traipsing back laden with food and some of other life’s essentials sounded like hard work.  So stumbling across John was a blessing, a ‘god send’ as he introduced me to the possibility and pleasures of riding a bicycle in China.  Whereas in India, as a woman, any thoughts of mounting a bicycle evaporated on my arrival, China clearly offered options of cheap, affordable exercise in the open air.  And it doesn’t take rocket science to discover where London’s Boris Bikes found their inspiration.   Here I can use the bikes for free up to an hour as long as they are deposited in good time at one of the many bicycle docking stations dotted around the towns.  That is if you are in possession of the bicycle/metro/bus card or the Chinese Oyster card!!



On my first Friday afternoon,  when the weather was balmy and spring in the air, John offered to show me where to get the magical card.  We could take in some of the sights in the town, he mentioned, and Linping Hill definitely beckoned.   We had discussed walking, and at the time John had indeed intimated that he was a keen walker too.  So on Friday afternoon, I came prepared: suited and booted for some serious hiking.  We met at the front of the flat block where John was tinkering with his e-bike, not a walking boot in sight on any of his limbs…

‘Hop on,’ John urged.   ‘Seriously?’ I was thinking, ‘On this thing?’…    ‘What about walking?’ I piped up.   ‘Walking???  I was only joking,’ was his retort….  It was not so much the size of the bike that worried me, but the space reserved for the pillion passenger.  Once John had positioned his not unimpressive American posterior on the seat, there was hardly any room left for me.  Let it suffice to say that my manner of sitting on the back of that bike was far from ladylike and maybe I would have been wise to engage in a little yoga whilst in India to ensure flexibility and stretchability of my joints.  And I had no idea where I was supposed to put my legs, so in the end I left them dangling aimlessly just above the road surface, lifting them as required when we veered perilously close to a kerb.  Thank goodness for the protection afforded by my walking boots!!  And even if China’s roads are miles better than the Indian mud tracks, there were a million drain covers and other uneven surfaces to negotiate.  It might not have been too bad if the bike tyres had been fully inflated cushioning the assault on my lower body half.  ‘Oh,’ John smirked, ‘I forgot to mention about the bumps in the road…’  Glad someone was having fun…at my expense!!

But I did end up with my magical card after parting with 200 Rmb as a refundable deposit for the bikes…  and have been whizzing backwards and forwards to Walmart and other parts of the town for the last few weeks.  Cycling is definitely great fun!!!!!

And when I do not feel like cycling?  Or my shopping cannot be squeezed into the basket on the handlebars??  There is always the option of the little taxis, the Chinese version of the Indian Tuk-tuks… Only not quite as many occupants at one time allowed, it seems…

4 thoughts on “Why do I always end up on the back of a bike?

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