What kind of people tour by bicycle in China?
At Bike China, we believe a successful tour results from the careful matching of your needs, expectations, and ability. Review these statements, and see if you agree with most of them:
I am adventurous, energetic, young at heart and open-minded.
I love the freedom and elegance of touring under my own power.
I can accept temporary inconveniences and am willing to try new things.
I can adjust easily to different situations.
I am in good physical condition and able to carry my own gear.
I am willing to try to communicate to people who speak a different language, even if I don’t yet speak a word.
I am eager to ride through a different world with great curiosity about how other people live.
I am tolerant of other people and cultures, and I’m willing to be a good ambassador of my country.
I am independent and independently minded.
I am excited by the thought of exploring a foreign land from the seat of my bike, and being the object of inquisitive local interest.
I appreciate a good value and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, even if I can afford the best.
If you agree with most of these statements, you’ll fit right in, because these statements describe the cyclists with whom we work best.
What support services are provided?
Pre-trip Services – Bike China provides you with an information packet with detailed information concerning your preparations for coming to China.
- Trip itinerary with a description of the route with distances for each day
- Typical daily schedule
- Clothing and equipment checklist
- Suggested training guide and schedule
- Rider Orientation Information will include basic riding information as to how riding in China differs from Western countries
- General Tour Information
Tour Services – Bike China provides you with the following tour support services:
- Hotel accommodations will be provided for each night in double occupancy rooms, unless a single room supplement is specified on the reservation form. The hotels will be simple but clean.
- Meals are provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, except for lunches on rest days where we spend two days in one place.
- There will be scheduled stops in the morning and afternoon on ride days where you can refill water bottles, and have snacks of fresh fruit.
- Optional support vehicle will be provided (if requested in advance) to provide on-the-road support as needed: a lift to sagging cyclists, water bottles refilled, and fresh fruit.
- Optional luggage transport service is available for a modest additional fee. See individual ride descriptions for costs.
How are the cycling tours structured?
The tours are structured so you can ride at your own pace. Detailed route maps will be distributed at the beginning of the ride. Included will be maps, qualitative traffic descriptions, and physical road conditions. Also provided will be planned restaurant and night stops, a bilingual list of phrases, and the name of our destination in Chinese that you can point to in case you need help from a local. A guide will be available at restaurants and hotels to help order food and secure lodgings.
How many riders will there be on the ride?
This varies by tour, but there are generally 4-12 riders per group. Private tours are also available that for just yourself or with any number of riding companions.
What kind of bicycle should I bring?
This is a personal preference, but we recommend a men’s frame touring, hybrid, or mountain bike. The bicycle should have enough gear range and a sufficiently low gear to be able to handle steep ascents. The handlebars should be well padded to protect against hand stress. The brakes should be new or in very good condition. The bike should have at least two places to carry water bottles. See also BYOB.
Should I get special shots or bring medical supplies?
We recommend that you visit a doctor six weeks before the trip for an opinion on your physical condition and to get any recommended shots or immunizations. Some tours are moderately to fairly difficult, and some include several days at high altitudes (10,000+ feet, 3,000+ meters). You might also check with the US State Department’s Tips for Travelers to China, information that may also be useful for non-US citizens.
First Aid – For guided tours, Bike China will have a standard first-aid kit on hand just in case. This will include basic medical supplies, Band-aids, alcohol wipes, anti-septic, gauze and tape, ets. Bring your own medical supplies, prescriptions, disposable syringe, ace bandage, ibuprofen, sunscreen, talcum powder, etc. if you Medical supplies are readily available in China without a prescription, but the quality does not match those of the West.
What sort of tools should I bring?
The same tools that you would pack for any long distance tour: tube repair kits, extra tubes, pump, freewheel remover, 10 extra spokes, small wrench, hex set for the bolts on your bike. We will provide you with a checklist of items to consider bringing.
What sort of panniers and clothes should I bring?
Good quality panniers, large ziplock freezer bags to protect gear from rain, and fenders are recommended. Lights are probably unnecessary as we won’t ride in the dark, but if you prefer, bring them along, the Chinese enjoy seeing bikes with lights as they are rare in China. Bring shower sandals, a mosquito net for mosquito country, and a sleep sack with a pillow holder.
Should I use a bike box or travel case for the bike?
A hard cover travel case costs about $275 from Bike Nashbar or Performance Bicycle mail order companies. Your local bike shop may rent cases, if you prefer to use one, but don’t want to purchase it. For tours that do not begin and end in the same city, there will be a US$30 bike travel case transfer fee.
Boxing is inexpensive, but there is some risk of damage to your bike. The most susceptible parts are the front and rear dropouts where the wheel axles attach to the bike. If you decide to use a box, get an extra set of front and rear axles with ball bearing cones and standard nuts to put in the dropouts while in transit. See also Costs: BYOB.
For some time, George Farnsworth has been collecting information on user experiences of taking bikes on planes, trains, buses, boats and more. On his web site, BikeAccess, there’s lots of stuff on rentals, folding bikes, busing, boxing, airlines, and railroads around the world and how to ride in/out of about 120 airports.
But you may wish to consider shipping the bicycle unboxed (check with your airline first to be sure they don’t have special requirements). This is the way I travel with my bike and have never had a problem. I simply lower the seat, remove the pedals, detach the rear deraileur, and turn the handlebars 90 degrees. You can wrap the frame with plastic bubble wrap or cardboard to protect the paint. This method of leaving the bike unboxed tends to result in better handling and storage of the bike by baggage handlers, because they know what they are dealing with, rather than some huge box thrown in among the suitcases.
What should I expect in China?
A radically different culture. People may behave in ways that would be considered impolite at home, but are acceptable in China. Keep an open mind and an easy-going attitude, and you will be fine.
What spending money will I need?
Bring what you expect to use for incidentals; gifts, snacks, minor repairs, new clothes, etc. The tour will include three restaurant meals each day except on rest days, lodging and local attraction entrance fees. The money that you bring should be in the form of traveler’s checks or cash. Credit cards are used in some larger cities, but are not widely accepted. The Bank of China, however, can process credit card cash advances for a 5% handling fee.
How do I change money?
You may exchange currency at major hotels and at most banks. In some locations there is also a black market for hard currency (US dollars, German marks, Japanese yen, etc.) Currently, the black market is paying a 1.5% premium over bank rates, but it is best avoided.
What kind of food will be available?
Chinese, of course! But much, much better than the take-out Chinese food that is available elsewhere in the world. Also, in the larger cities, Western food is available at prices comparable to those at home. Outside the cities, you’ll find great tasting fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry, served with rice. Breakfast generally consists of noodles with eggs and vegetables. Oftentimes, breakfast will include some sweets. Also, there will be opportunities to have Western food if so desired at some locations.
Sanitary conditions are better than those in most of Asia, but are not up to Western standards. The rule-of-thumb is to BYOC (bring your own chopsticks) or use the single-use disposable chopsticks available in most restaurants. A supply of disposable chopsticks will be provided to you at the start of the tour. If you prefer to use knife and fork, it can be arranged.
Snacks: candy, chocolate, cookies, breads and other typical snacks are generally available, but are not quite as tasty as in the West, since milk and butter are scarce.
Where will I get water?
Bottled water is readily available throughout China. In addition, hotels generally provide thermos bottles with boiled water for tea or coffee.
What kind of weather, terrain, road and traffic conditions can I expect?
Weather and Terrain: Check the ride descriptions for riding difficulty and climate conditions.
Road Conditions: Mostly asphalt pavement outside the cities and concrete pavement in the cities. Some tours may have some unpaved (gravel or metalled) sections. Check specific route descriptions for details.
Traffic Conditions: Cities are generally busy, most with separated bike paths parallel to and on both sides of the road. Outside the cities, some major roads have higher speed traffic, while mountain roads have slower traffic. Generally there will be a variety of people, vehicles, bicycles, tractors, and animals using the roads, even in the more remote areas.
What are the Chinese drivers like?
As a country that relied on the bicycle for most of the last century Chinese drivers are quite accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists. Most people find that Chinese drivers provide a comfortable berth when passing and are otherwise very cautious. One of China’s traffic laws requires that drivers warn pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers that they intend to pass by using their horn. This can seem a little annoying and unnecessary but it nevertheless is the the standard practice in most places in Mainland China. With the recent rapid increase in the number of private vehicles, it is best for cyclists to stay attentive, keep a respectable distance, and whenever there is any doubt… yield.
What are the Chinese people like?
The best part of the trip. If you are a celebrity, this aspect may not interest you. However, if you are like most people, fame has some appeal, and in rural China you will enjoy instant celebrity status. Foreigners are noticed, everywhere they go. In the smaller towns, both children and adults will flock to you, fascinated by the foreigner who has entered the village. It is a an experience that will warm your heart and soul. Although shared language is rare, facial expression and hand gestures create a flow of communication and memories that will endure.
In general, Chinese people in villages and small towns are very curious and friendly. Some may wish to practice their English, as every school child is exposed to English in the third grade. Sometimes the local middle school English teacher will be located to translate for the group. In larger cities you may become anonymous once again, but after continuous celebrity status, it can be a nice relief.
What about crime in China?
The US government reports that U.S. citizens and other foreigners have seldom been victims of violent crime in China. However, petty theft does occasionally occur. Be mindful of where you keep your valuables and do your best to avoid carelessness in busy, public places.
Do I have to know how to speak Chinese?
No, but learning a few phrases like hello, thank you, and I am American/German/British/Australian etc. will result in tremendous respect from the locals. Also, learning the numbers will help you in the skillful art of negotiating your purchases. We will provide a short list of phrases with written Chinese characters for your use on the trip. You may also wish to purchase a phrase book, such as Berlitz.
I am concerned about the cost of the trip.
The mission of Bike China Adventures, Inc. is to provide a memorable, affordable cycling adventure in China. There are many ways that we try to keep the costs of our tours low:
Cost Control: We use the Internet
Offering our tours on the Internet is a prime example of our efforts to keep costs down. This allows us to become more efficient in a number of ways. First, there is advertising. We don’t produce slick, full-color, glossy brochures, which saves you money. Our correspondence costs are significantly lower because we use e-mail rather than a postal system or telephone company. This means that we can pass significant savings on to you.
Cost Control: We live in China
We live in China, rather than across the Pacific or halfway around the world, so you don’t have to pay for our airfare to China as part of your tour. In addition, our living expenses in China are about one-third those of living in the US – these lower required costs also help to keep our rates low for you.
Cost Control: We don’t sacrifice Quality
As bicycle travelers with many years of touring experience, we consider money to be a scarce resource, and we try to provide the best value. We evaluate the quality of a bicycle touring experience by the experiences of the road, rather than the bellhop, chandelier or maitre d’. This means that we choose clean, economical Chinese hotels before Holiday Inns or Best Westerns. We choose clean restaurants with quality food rather than those with expensive decorations. What this means to you is that you will enjoy the excitement and thrill of exploring a strange culture by bicycle without spending your life savings on all of the glitter that would actually distance you from the real China.
Cost Control: Bicycling tours in China is our only business
We know China well – it is the only country in which we conduct tours and we only do bicycle tours. While we have bicycled all over the globe in many extraordinary places, we believe that China offers some of the best cycling in the world. We have spent months at a time exploring this vast and amazing country by bicycle, and we have selected for you those experiences that appeal to us as cyclists. If you would like to combine your bicycle touring with some conventional sightseeing, we will be more than happy to refer you to other sources, but we will be spending our time cycling.
Cost Control: BYOB (Bring Your Own Bicycle)
We offer rental bikes if you need them, but recommend that you bring your own bike, if possible. Be sure to find out what the airline’s policy is before you purchase the ticket. It may be less expensive to purchase a more costly ticket if the bike can go free.
If you are uncomfortable packing your bicycle, for a small fee, you can ask your local bike shop to box your bike for you, and we can reassemble it here. Or you can bring your bicycle to the airport fully assembled and hand it over to the airline. Some cyclists prefer this method; they believe that baggage handlers will be more careful with a bike that is not boxed because they can see it. We have tried it both ways with successful results. A good online resource for taking bikes on planes is produced by George Farnsworth. He has been collecting information on user experiences taking bikes on planes, trains, buses, boats, etc. There’s lots of stuff on rentals, folding bikes, busing, boxing, airlines, and railroads around the world and how to ride in/out of about 120 airports. Of course, if your bicycle is fairly expensive, you may wish to rent or purchase a bicycle travel case available at your local bike shop or by mail order from Bike Nashbar or Performance. See also Should I use a bike box or travel case for the bike?
Want to buy a bike? While we encourage you to bring your own bicycle, it is possible to buy a bicycle . Prices vary from US$30 to US$1,200. For about $250 you can purchase a bike with fairly good components and take it home with you at the end of the tour. You will need to arrive one day early to pick out the bike and get it set up. Please make a note in your reservation form. You will still need to bring your own panniers and other equipment, however.
Cost Control: Carrying your own gear saves you money
Another way we are able to reduce the cost of the ride is by allowing you to carry your own gear. This means we do not need a support vehicle (unless pre-arranged), and encourages you to travel light. Since we will be staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, there is no need to carry heavy tents, sleeping bags, pads, cooking gear or food. Just your clothes and other personal effects are all you need. You should be able to fit everything in two lightweight panniers and a detachable handlebar bag for your valuables. However, as is the case with most of our tours, a support vehicle can be arranged to accompany the group throughout the tour to carry luggage and supplies.
How do I get my tourist Visa for China?
Tourist visas for individuals are routinely issued at Chinese embassies or consulates abroad. Expedited processing is often available for an increased fee or by working through a travel agent. Apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or at a Chinese consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Addresses are listed in the US Department of State web page. At this time, the cost of a visa for China is $140 for Americans, $30-90 for non-Americans (not including fees for expedited handling, if needed). To apply, each person must send an application form, valid passport, two photographs and the fee. U.S. citizens applying for visas outside the United States may be requested to fill out visa application forms both in English and in Chinese. Whether you visit on your own or with a tour, allow several weeks for visa processing. The Chinese Embassy and consulates in the United States often require 10 working days to process visas.
US Government’s Tips for Travelers to China
For additional information for US citizens visiting China, please visit US Department of State web page. If you are not an American, you may still find this site informative, but also be sure to contact your own country’s State Department.
I am concerned about human rights in China.
Here are two opinions from individuals who have visited China and given considerable thought to these issues. These quotes were obtained from The Oriental List, a moderated email discussion group list concerning travel questions in Asia. You can contact the moderator, Peter Neville-Hadley, for further information.
“I think that a presence of a foreigner at the individual level can have positive influence on individual Chinese people, give them new ideas or at least open their eyes to see that there are so many different opinions and ways of living. Most of us cannot influence the governments of large powerful countries like China but we can give hope, help or only pure friendship for citizens in those countries.” – Pia
“My recommendation is that you go to China to learn and not to impose your views. Time and again I find people arriving in China deeply concerned about the status of civil rights, one-child families, the Three Gorges Dam, and the right to vote. After traveling in the country for three weeks, most travelers are less concerned with these issues and more concerned with issues of economic development and the environment.
“If this is a first trip for you, you would not be compromising your beliefs to restrict yourself to gathering information and impressions on this trip. Keep your mind as well as your eyes and ears open. Be open to altering your current conclusions about such issues as Tian An Men Square.
“China is a complex society in the process of massive change. Experimentation (trial and error) is often used to find the best policy. This means mistakes are made but mistakes are also getting corrected. You may find that the more you know about China the less you will want to offer the standard, simplistic American nostrums. Have a good trip!” – Dan Curll
What if I have never been on a tour before?
We offer private introductory cycling tours that will teach you what you need to know to successfully tour in China, or anywhere else you may be interested in going. We will teach you the proper cycling techniques, adjust your bike so it best fits you and coach you on pacing yourself. Also we will teach you the basics of survival Chinese so that you can interact with the locals on your own.
Didn’t get an answer to your question? Please contact us and we will give you a prompt, personal reply.