When it comes up in conversation, it shocks people when I say I can’t bike.
(Gasp.) “But you’re Asian!” Well, not all Asians are equal. Riding a bike in my country is recreational, not always necessarily as a means of transport as it is for a great majority of the Chinese. And I grew up around some very anxious adults who didn’t want to see me fall or scrape my knee, so instead chose not to teach me to pedal on two wheels.
Those who’ve known me and my family for a while are just as surprised. “But your husband is a VERY avid cyclist.” Yes he is. And goodness knows how many times he has tried to teach me since we started going together. I’m awful at balancing and panicky at the first rush of the wind in my face and the voices in my head telling me I can’t do it. A hopeless combination. We eventually agreed to give up the biking lessons.
So, of course, God has a great sense of humor and has gifted me with two energetic boys. Whom, from the moment they were born, I resolved should learn what I never managed to. It is to my husband’s great frustration that they have not been zipping around on two wheels since they were old enough to walk. Don’t look at me, I never got in the way of them learning. But for their own personal reasons, both kids just didn’t take to it as quickly or as eagerly as we may have hoped once the training wheels came off.
They both learned the mechanics at around age five. And eventually, by age eight or nine, they began to really enjoy the freedom it gives. And so, now, all three of boys can zip far far ahead of and away from me. I’m happy to have some quiet time either staying at home when they go off exploring, or walking around in an area we’ve all driven to together, and await their return to tell me where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.
It seems like a fitting preparation for what our life will be like once the kids have grown up and gone off to see new places, feel the rush of being taken away by their own two legs, and hearing the voices in their head that tell them they can do it.
If you are enjoying a staycation during the October National Holiday, there are three places worth exploring in Shunyi for kid-friendly biking. All are easy to get to, with your bikes loaded up in the back of the car. Non-bikers in the family are welcome too.
The loop around Yosemite C and B sections makes a neat rectangle that is easy to navigate. A once-around gives you a four-kilometer ride. Start off at the entrance of Yosemite C across from the pedestrian gate of ISB and head off towards the river. This ensures that you are always on the right side of the road. A good kilometer of this ride, after you have turned right beyond the Yosemite B gate, will be on a section of road that is car-free. If you have beginning riders, you can limit yourselves to this closed-off portion of the loop. It is a good place to practice any form movement on wheels. So you can also bring skateboards, rollerblades or scooters.
The riverbank at the border of Shunyi and Chaoyang makes for good trail-style riding. Park your car in the vicinity of BMW (formerly Oasis Restaurant) and very carefully cross Gaobei Lu, known to foreigners as Dead Ayi Road. Please make sure you explain to your children even before you alight from the car how fast cars go on this road, to make sure they don’t zip across ahead of you. My boys have encountered many a fellow mountain biker who enjoys this easily-accessible spot just within minutes of the central villas area. It is also a nice place to wander around and enjoy the shade from the trees.
Luoma Hu, or Roma Lake, can be very busy with cars at lunchtime and dinnertime, but the rest of the day it is quiet and the road leaves lots of space for even the youngest of bikers to pedal away. The entire loop is roughly two kilometers, with one portion adjacent to a mini-forest of young trees that is fun to walk and zigzag through. On a clear day, which will be the case for most days of the Golden Week, the water will be a fantastic shade of blue. Pack a sandwich and a drink, and sit on the grassy bank of the lake for a snack. It may well be the highlight of your staycation.
Photo by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.