There might be nine million bicycles in Beijing, but there's no shortage of them in Shanghai either. Sure, riding them isn't without its hazards – especially right now, what with every road being busily ripped up and Expo-sed – but they remain by far the best way not just to get around town, but to see and learn more about it as you do so.
We're hoping the recent expat fad for buzzing about town on newly-bought electric bikes (think motorcycle sidecars circa 2007) soon blows over – it seems like only yesterday that we were all cursing these 'silent killers'. And of course, the most common sight remains the trusty (and often rusty) granny bike. But a more sophisticated bike culture is nevertheless beginning to emerge – clubs that meet for mountain bike rides outside the city, shops specializing in building bikes to order, even a creeping obsession with fixed-gear rides, those oh-so-slick machines beloved of London bicycle couriers.
Whether you're buying a bike for the first time, or looking to upgrade, you need to know where to go. Here with the eChinacities guide, in no particular order, to the ten best bike shops in Shanghai.
If all you're after is an entry-level bicycle, you could do a lot worse than check out Carrefour. Make your way past the imported cheese and two-for-one underwear, and there's a reasonable selection of ready-to-ride steeds. You can't haggle like you can elsewhere, and the staff don't know too much about what they're selling, but on the plus side you can carry your shopping home in your new basket. The same is also true of sporting-goods giant Decathlon (600 Lantian Lu, near Yanggao Zhong Lu, and other locations around town; 5030 7558; www.decathlon.com.cn/EN/). Both chain stores have basic mountain bikes starting at around 700 RMB.
Carrefour ShanghaiView In Map
268 Shuicheng Nanlu, near Yan'an Xilu, Shanghai and other locations around town
021 6209 8899
2) Giant Bikes View In Map
They choose their names well in Taiwan: Giant is the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world (wikifact: they produce more than 5million a year). You can find their bikes at a host of places around town, but it's worth going to one of their branded franchise stores for help selecting the right model - one of the best is the Aibo Bicycle Shop (2068 Zhangyang Lu, near Yangjing Nan Lu; 5075 1084; www.bicycleshop.cn). With a well-deserved reputation for reliability, Giant stores are the perfect place to start if you want something better than what's on offer in Carrefour, but find the chains and grease at the more obsessive stores a little much. Day rental is also available (50 RMB) from their Jianguo Lu branch.
743 Jianguo Lu, near Hengshan Lu, Shanghai and other locations around town
021 6437 5041
www.giant-bicycles.com/zh-HT/ (Chinese only)
3) Trek Bicycle StoreView In Map
A step up from Giant in price terms, US manufacturer – and former Lance Armstrong-sponsor – Trek stock an impressive range of bikes, from standard commuters, to top-end off-road beasts. But unless you're serious about going off the beaten track – and even then you can have someone build you a machine to spec much cheaper - it's worth the 'trek' to another, cheaper store. Quality is second to none though, as members of The Max Shanghai Racing Club, which operates out of their Fuxing Lu store, will testify.
1058 Fuxing Donglu, near Xizang Nanlu, Shanghai 上海复兴东路1058号
021 6366 3137
and 168-172 Biyun Lu, near Bahua Lu, Shanghai 上海金桥碧云路168-172号
021 5030 9251
4) SpecializedView In Map
Staying true to their name, Specialized do one thing – super sophisticated cycles – extremely well. If you're the sort of person who wouldn't dream of dismounting anywhere but inside your apartment, who can't live without imported, brand-guaranteed quality, this is the place for you - few people know more about quality bikes. Otherwise it's good for window shopping only.
221 Jianguo Lu, near Jiashan Lu, Shanghai
021 6471 1165
5) 27Bike View In Map
One of those that does know more is Yang Qi, who runs 27 Bike out of a warehouse tucked away at the end of an old lane. In fact, he's been known to help his friends at Specialized out in his spare time. Good news: his custom-built bikes are much cheaper than the corporate competition. Bad news: the warehouse is closed for renovation at the moment – a sign on the shutters directs all inquiries to the Specialized store just down the road.
Lane 369, No.27, Wulumuqi Lu, near Zhaojiabang Lu, Shanghai
021 6471 1056
6) Speedcat 速度猫View In Map
Plenty of folk are only now discovering this little gem, though owner Xiao Du has been building bikes to order here for more than a decade. They sell a limited range of standard road and mountain bikes, but their real strength is in building high-end (including fixed gear) bikes to order, for far less than they'd cost you back home. Since the parts come from the same factories that produce them for export, there's no need to sacrifice quality for economy - in these grey days of recession, we say amen to that.
Note that Speedcat are sometimes short on larger frames, for which it's worth checking out Airwalk – the new specialist in town (if you count in the shadow of the A20 as town) and proof that Shanghai really is becoming fix-ated (750 Jiachuan Lu, near Hongmei Nan Lu; 1390 1657 184; http://airwalkfixed.blogspot.com/)
404 Xiangyang Nanlu, near Jianguo Lu, Shanghai
021 6467 1586
7) Devil Bikes德诺单车View In Map
A home away from home say the fixed gear posse of this workshop with a nice sideline in retail. In addition to their 'fixie' expertise, they're also into minivelos – tiny wheeled, big framed hybrids that are hugely popular in Japan as a cool yet portable alternative to folding frames. Hugely helpful, it's also a great place to come if you've a nice bike in need of a tune-up.
912 Jiangning Lu, near Anyuan Lu, Shanghai
021 6276 7732
8) Dahon 大行View In Map
"Freedom comes in small packages," say Dahon. And they certainly know whereof they speak. Specialising in all manner of folding bicycles – the kind that make you look faintly ridiculous, but elicit gasps of envy when you pop them in the boot of a taxi. Though the trend hasn't caught on to anything like the extent it had when last we were in Europe, Dahon's bikes are a super-practical answer to life's big questions: What to do if I'm on my bike and it starts to rain? Is it safe to leave my bike out overnight? Should I risk cycling home after a few too many drinks?
611 Wuzhong Lu, Puxi, Shanghai (locations in Pudong and Hongkou also available)
Tel: 021 6478 0521
9) SISUView In Map
More than just a bike shop, SISU (not to be confused with the Shanghai International Studies University; in fact it's Finnish for determination and perseverance) have been around six years now. Having started out as a club for expats to get together for weekend rides, they now have their own store. It stocks a variety of bikes, including models from Giant, XDS, and Oyea, and the staff can help you put together your own, if you're so inclined. They also rent bikes, starting at 70 RMB per day. And their Cycling Club still gets rave reviews: offering family-friendly 'escapes' to places like Hengsha Island, as well as excursions much further afield.
395 Dujuan Lu, near Baiyang Lu, Pudong, Shanghai
021 5059 6071
10) Forever 永久
This list wouldn't be complete without mention of where to buy the two-wheeled wonder that is the Forever bicycle. You've probably seen the postmen riding them, and though you can't buy a green one like theirs, the classic 26-inch and 28-inch models are available in dark blue and the traditional black, and only cost 300 to 400 RMB. Along with a Red Light radio, a Butterfly sewing machine, and a Shanghai Watch, a Shanghai-made Forever bicycle was once one of the four "must-haves" for men who wanted to prove they were suitable marriage material. And who are we to argue?
Locations around town
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