On clear days if you look out over Ningbo it is possible to see a multi layered grey jagged outline on the horizon. These are mountains, which surround our city on all four sides and are less than an hour away. For the past year or more a group of friends and I have been exploring them on two wheels.
When I first moved to Ningbo three years ago I hardly dared to venture further than the nearest shopping mall. As time went by and I became more familiar I invested in an E-bike and rediscovered the joy of two wheeled transport. E-bikes are the best way to get around any city. Soon however, I got the itch to travel further and made the decision to buy a petrol bike.
I started with a Chinese made Regal Raptor, which I bought in Beilun. I actually had the bike delivered because at the time I was too worried about getting lost with no map, rudimentary Chinese and certainly no GPS.
My first rides were short forays on my own to Dongqian lake and as far as I dared go while relying on memory to get me home. Time passed and I was lucky enough to meet a group of like-minded souls who also reveled in the freedom a motorbike can give you.
Riding a motorcycle is so much more rewarding than driving in a car. In a car your mind can be occupied with other things. On a bike all your senses must remain alert. Riding requires foresight, balance and coordination; simply put, a much higher level of road craft. Taking a bike through a set of corners well is something I can only ever hope to do. However, like most sports, there is pleasure to be found in the attempt.
Our group now consists of over a dozen riders, all from different countries and all riding different bikes. Everything including a side-car, dirt bikes, cruisers and street bikes will turn up for our weekly gathering.
The Ningbo countryside never ceases to take my breath away. So close to such a large modern city are hundreds of kilometres of twisting roads that take you up into the mountains. We pass through beautiful little villages beside rocky mountain rivers and can look across valleys of carefully husbanded tea plantations or bamboo forests constantly being tended by the hard working locals.
More often than not, one of our group has a technical issue. This has to be resolved where ever it happens and has resulted in some very lateral solutions involving bits of stick, tie wraps (the most important fix it) and anything which can be borrowed or found in the vicinity. If all else fails, the bike is manhandled on to a pick up and returned to base with its tail between its legs.
During the week plans are made for the next outing and of course weather forecasts are keenly viewed. They are exceptionally accurate in the Ningbo area. If they say it’s going to rain at 4.00pm it usually does! Where I come from we get all seasons in one day and the forecast for next week.
Ningbo has sadly turned its back on motorcycles and the reasons why are not very clear. The problems start when you try getting a driving license, registration plates and insurance for your bike. To get these necessary items you will need to have an address outside of the “no go” zone. The process can be a drawn out one and it helps if you already have a bike license from your home country. It took me many months of persistence but it paid off and finally I had all the necessary documentation.
Last Chinese New Year a couple of us travelled all the way to Hunan and back, a 3500km ride. Who knows where the next trip will take us but I cannot wait to get started! In the mean time every weekend brings the promise of more happy hours spent riding through the never ending maze of winding mountain roads and the pleasure of sharing it with my friends.