Are you tired of only ever seeing road hogs on shared bikes when you step outside in your apartment? Do you long for the open road, free from luxury car drivers with a severe case of short-man syndrome? Then you’re mentally ready to take up serious bicycling and explore some of China’s best bike races.
Photo: Rob Annis
Just like with other previously predominately Western pastimes such as marathon running, bicycling is becoming increasingly popular in China. This might seem strange to some, but remember that Beijing is perhaps the world’s most iconic cycling city.
But jumping on a rusty Flying Pigeon to pick up you veggies from the market is hardly comparable to spending tens of thousands of RMB on a cutting-edge carbon fiber road bike because you want to take up cycling as a sport.
Many an expat has realized that the roughly 6 million kilometers of mostly well-kept roads in China are more than adequate for bicycling activities outside of the occasional bike-sharing commute. This is especially true when you consider that car ownership is limited in China, and therefore many of the roads outside of the main cities are pleasantly quiet.
Just like with marathons and most other outdoor activities, events and competitions are held all over the country. Here, I give you the rundown of China’s best bike races of 2019.
>900km divided into six stages
The Gree-Tour of Guangxi is a recurring bike race held in, you guessed it, in Guangxi province. It is heavily sponsored by, you guessed it again, the Chinese appliance manufacturer Gree.
Part of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) World Tour of 2019, the race will be divided into six stages over the course of several days. This is certainly not a race for beginners, but it’s also a great experience for spectators if your legs aren’t quite up to par.
September 2 - 4
<400km divided into three stages
Only a few hours to the south of Beijing lies Xingtai, a prefecture-level city with a modest population (by China standards) of about 8 million. The UCI-endorsed Tour of Xingtai is one of the smallest UCI events in China this year, consisting of only three stages.
If you’re looking for a professionally-run road race but don’t have the fitness to complete a six-stage slog, this might be the China bike race for you.
September 9 - 18
<100km per stage, 10 – 14 stages
The Tour of China is not a single road race, but rather a series of amateur-level bike races in locations across the country. Organised by China Olympic Sports Industry (COSI) and UCI, the exact dates and locations for 2019 can be found on the website.
Stage distances are usually no longer than 100km, which by road biking standards is entry-level. The Tour of China is a great way to see China and celebrate all things bicycling.
>50km, single stage
Road biking culture in Hong Kong when compared to the mainland is, as you might expect, more developed, almost entirely bilingual, and an unbelievably sweaty affair. The single-stage 50km Sun Hung Kai Properties Hong Kong Cyclothon is aimed at both amateur and professional riders looking for a short but sweet bicycling adventure.
The exact date and route have yet to be decided for 2019, but although the distance is very short, you can be sure to encounter a lot of elevation differences.
September 1 & 7
<3km, 10 laps, single stage
Cyclocross is a sport that takes place across varying laps of a small dirt course, making it a hybrid of mountain and road biking. It’s been growing in popularity for many years, so its appearance in China became all the more inevitable with each passing season.
The Qiansen Trophy Cyclocross will be held in Fengfeng and Aohan this year, two cities only a few hours to the north and south of Beijing, respectively.
Feel that you’re not quite ready to participate in a big multi-day event? Or maybe you are, but your beat-up GIANT bike isn’t? Even transportation to events like these might be as big a challenge as participating in them. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way — the effort involved in joining major bike races in China can be off-putting.
Luckily, there are options on a smaller scale. In every Chinese city there are local clubs and teams coming together to organize events and races for amateur enthusiasts.
If the linguistical caveat is a deal breaker for you, there are also likely to be plenty of foreigner-friendly groups and teams, especially in China’s typical expat cities. The biggest challenge is finding them. Go to trendy bike stores and talk to the staff and customers, search for WeChat groups, or just assault the first foreigner you see on a road bike at a red light.
Once you’re in, you’re likely to see an entirely new side of the expat diaspora in your city; a vibrant bicycling scene where people are remarkably dedicated to their hobby. Expect group rides, friendly races, and all-out competitions the whole year round.
Bicycling is growing in China, both as a culture and a sport. If you’re thinking about giving it a try while you’re here, stop thinking immediately and just do it!
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Keywords: best China bike races
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