Born To Be Mild

Picture, if you will, a slight breeze trying to muster the strength to ruffle your hair as you glide deftly through the wilds of Chinese traffic at a cool 35 km/hr. The slight buzz beneath you hums into your thighs with all the power of an electric pencil sharpener.

For only a few thousand kuai you’ve upped your rank on the food chain of China’s roads by an exponential factor. No longer are you bound by your two feet, nor your heart beat. You are born again; born to ride!

That’s right folks, I’ve bought an e-bike!

Actually, I bought it a little over a month ago, but as you may have noticed, have been crap about posting lately.

I didn’t pansy out either. I got the biggest frigin’ one I could find, figuring that if I’m going to ride something that would cause misdirected hate-crimes back home, I may as well do it right.

ebike01.jpgThis sucker tops out at 45km/hr. (50-55km on a slight down-hill grade), goes a quoted 80km before it needs a recharge, has storage enough to fit a box of cookies AND (possibly) a small bottle of Coke. It also somewhat-comfortably fits myself and Maggie.

Suzhou is a sea of bikes. This is something that took a lot of getting used to when we first moved down here from Dalian. The North East is no stranger to two-wheelers, but there is no where near the number you find here in the “South” – due in no small part to Dalian’s icy cold climate and amount of large hills I’m sure.

There are basically two options you have when you delve into the ebike market. You can get yourself a bicycle that has a battery strapped to it, or you can get a scooter with an engine. Beneath the plastic they’re the same damn thing, but the latter are slightly more manly (and I’m stretching that “slightly” as far as I can).

I had intended to buy one much sooner, but always seemed to avoid it. The reason? Fear. And I’m sure most of you who have braved the mean streets of China sympathize. Motorcycles on the sidewalks, cars in the bike lane, people in the street (ALWAYS looking the other way). It’s chaos would make Edward Lorenz tingle.

What I realize now, after a month of whizzing around the city like a mildman, is there is a strange system to it. Whereas we have laws and rules that govern our roads back in Canada, China seems to use a more “law of the jungle” attitude with a health mix of full-fault insurance (to keep it lively).

Horns are used not to show annoyance, but to say “I’m coming through, I’m not going to stop, and if you get in my way I’ll be long gone before the police arrive to question witnesses”.

Also, in a strange mirroring of China in general, there seems to be an unspoken rule that everything behind you is simply not your problem. Swerving the width of the bike lane is not only excepted, it is expected.

Despite my initial hesitations, I absolutely love having the bike. I didn’t realize how much of the city I was missing. I can now visit places that were previously too far out of the way to walk, and too random to take a bus or taxi to. I can wind and wander through all the old back alleys, giving as many stares as I get for what I see there.

Safety is a concern, and with videos like this on the news every night, it’s never far from my mind. However, I’ve always been a defensive driver, and that’s multiplied massively since becoming e-mobile.

The other big problem with bikes in China is that they’re at a huge risk of being stolen. The bike set me back about 2,800 RMB ($400 CAN), so no small chunk of change. It will more than pay for itself in saved taxi fares and general convenience (particularly when I start school in September), provided I can hold on to it long enough.

For 30 RMB a month I get a safe and secured parking spot (with an outlet for charging), and I’ll just have to be vigilant while out with it. My one friend has lost something stupid like seven bikes here, and just two weeks ago my other buddy nearly had his taken from right out of his upscale apartment building.

I’m currently trying to come up with a convenient way to strap my video camera to the front of it – if I do, expect a street-level vBlog soon 🙂

31 Responses

  1. Please include my address on your donor card. Pretty sure I’m in the market for a new liver within the next 10 years. Fits with your life expectancy now that you drive an e-bike 🙂

  2. Keep safe on the road, watch out for the guys eating, smoking, and talking on the phone all at the same time they are the most dangerous bikers I’ve ever seen especially when they have 6 propane tanks strapped to the back of their bike.

    Some good news the apartment complex where my bike was nearly stolen has in the last 2 weeks installed 4 security cameras and they are currently installing more.I guess its a good thing that i threatened to lead a revolt of the expats living there demanding they improve security and have everyone stop paying the guard fee’s until we felt secure again

  3. Ryan,

    Congrats on the bike. They are a lot more common in Suzhou – I think I’d fear for my life having one up here or there (and down in Shenzhen they were all but banned downtown)

    How did you convince Maggie to let you get the bike? That would seem to be the hardest thing to do.

  4. @A.L.: I hate the fuckers that stop in the middle of the lane to talk on their mobile. I respect that they are safety concious and don’t want to talk while riding, but fuck… just full-stop in the middle of the lane, c’mon.

    @Jeremy: Convincing Maggie to buy it wasn’t too difficult. Convincing her to get on it was another matter. She’s warmed up to it quite a bit though, I think she just doubted I could drive at first.

  5. I’m still searching for a tricked-out e-bike in China. Somebody somewhere has to have their e-bike in bright neon colors and hellish underlights and flames scorching the little trunk-box in the back.

  6. Yee-argh, what a painful video.I’ve seen so many near-death incidents in this town that I’m still fairly amazed none of them has become an actual-death incident yet.

    A friend of mine who owns a car here recently explained to me that Chinese traffic law is, like much other Chinese law, vague and open to significant interpretation. There then comes a point where natural law has to take over: don’t ride in front of speeding cars.

    Keep your head on a swivel and in a helmet, dude.

  7. Big up the E-bike riders it is the only way to travel in Hangzhou – I’d love to see the vid, i’ve been saying i’m going to do that for ages.

    Word to the wise though. Lock your battery to your bike as (at least in Hangzhou) the government has apparently started offering money to people who bring batteries in for recycling which has resulted, somewhat predictably, in a dramatic increase in battery theft, me included. Chain through the battery handles and round the bottom of the bike with a big pad lock will do it.

  8. @Mark: I was considering doing the sexlights on my bike… haha. Up in Dalian there’s a crew of motorcycle taxis that all have their bikes done up with underlighting and such. They look like big awesome Christmas trees.

    @Amanda: haha… umm… hahahahaa.

    @Will: Sorry, should have warned ya about that video. It’s disturbing. I don’t have a helmet (yet), and I’m just not certain I can bring myself to wear one. I know I should, I’ve seen all the PAs about it, etc…. but I’m a bit of a lemming, and I’ve yet to see a person on an ebike wearing a helmet.

    @Pete: Good advice with the lock. My bike has a built in lock for the battery… though I don’t know that it’s much needed. The damn thing weighs more than Maggie! And no one’s tried to steal her and sell her to the government (yet).

  9. That is severly awesome. I had a sick moped back in the states (When I was like 15) and I’ve always wanted one here.
    I will get one someday…and when I do….it’s racin time! (yeah, that’s pretty much a death-wish)

  10. Congrats, you sound exactly how I felt when I got mine. Like suddenly I was free to go anywhere anytime and truly explore the city. Then winter came and when I tried to start it up in spring it was dead even after charging the battery and I haven’t figured out a way to take it to be fixed.

    And yeah, that battery is unbelievably heavy I seriously considered just bringing the whole bike up to the 18th floor to charge – at least then I can roll it up there!

  11. Pig_s ahhh, bum !

    … goes a quoted 80km before it needs a recharge…. Sorry, Nah mate, you will get a good 11 km before you need to power up. Unless you tow a huge array of batteries on a trolley behind you. Mrs. Jamieson bought a new battery after a mere 12 months of use of the uber-bike for 375 kuai (Chinese woman haggling, no Laowai in sight to ramp up the price).

    Just hope they recycled the battery content responsibly. Another Maybe.

    Max speed can be, yeah maybe 40 km/h downhill on a sunny day with a tail-wind ! I want to buy a bike helmet in lieu of a baseball cap 🙂

    Check out my method of re-charging the bike. Might be worth a thought, it is cheap !

    Cheers mate, J. Beep Beep !

    Catch you soon for a cleansing Ale, hey ?

    [email protected]
    You know the X.

  12. @Jamieson: I’m pretty certain you’re right in it not lasting the full 80km, but it does last. I can drive all over the place for a few days before it needs a charge. And that’s with my fat ass and Maggie in tow.

    However, we’ll see where I’m at after a year.

    Always up for a cleanser! 😉

    @Mark: They’re pretty common – but it’s suicide. I don’t know, the electric bikes and the regular bikes work on similar concepts of bigfish-littlefish… and as you might guess, a good pedal bike will go faster than 30-40km/hr… so if you’re motivated, they’re the quicker method of transport.

  13. When you hate chinese so much why do you even stay in china …it is a place of savages in your opinion right…..

    There are many difficulties which china had to go through because of the repressive ming dynasty and later mao zedong’s rule…but they are recovering and at least look at how much the infrastructure in first tier cities has evolved….

    And what about japan …it is an asian country,it is developed….canada is not the only developed country in the world…but i think in your racist opinion even they must be savages…then why do you stay in china..go to canada…go to where you are happy…and i do not think you respect it as a nation never seem to have suggested a way to improve the situation…..all you want to do is sit back and criticize…and what kind of comments do you make about chinese children and kids….in your opinion they are ignorant savages right…..why should chinese tolerate persons like you..and when you hate this country so much why do you bother teaching there…go teach in korea,india or some other place know…see you…or are koreans inferior animals in your opinion too…maybe they are….

  14. @Jim: Yeah.. that video is pretty disturbing. Cheers for the props.

    @Hari: Is there a coalition of you people or something? Honestly, your comment is like a copy&paste form comment I’ve seen on a thousand other blogs/forums that all say the same mindless thing. It’s not enough that you had to post this comment on no less than three (all un-related) blog posts?

    Do you get something from this that I can’t see? Does Google pay you $64,985 if you send out this stupid comment a thousand times in under an hour? What gives?

    China is not a person, it does not merit respect. People who have helped make China great do. I don’t hate China. I think China is a fantastically interesting place to live – but like everywhere (and more than many) it is littered with problems.

    I talk about Canada because I’m Canadian – you dork. Of course I could compare China to any number of other “developed” countries, but I’ve never lived in any of them. I’ve lived in China and Canada. Hence the comparisons.

    And who the hell said anything about Chinese kids being ignorant savages? The only ignorance I can speak directly to is your own. And I think you meant to say *Qing* Dynasty, not *Ming*, unless you really want to take things a further 300 years back looking for scapegoats.

  15. The guy is a complete moron and knows bugger all about what he’s talking about. This post is about how great it is to own an electric scooter to whiz around on and from that, this IDIOT sh*t for brains concludes that Ryan thinks China is full of savages. I sometimes wonder whether these people just do it to wind us up and if so, they’ve succeeded here.

  16. As I get notified whenever someone comments on my blog(s), I got to see Hari’s little trail, by which he posted the exact same comment on a post at my old Blogspot blog, then reposted it on the last post of my Blogspot blog … and finally here as well. I usually ignore his kind of drivel… but meh… sometimes I’m bored and want an outlet. The Hari’s of the world are key for that.

  17. If you Google him you’ll see he’s had many posts removed by the blog author and those that remain are the rantings of someone who should be in an asylum. But you are right, it’s madness to even respond.

  18. … When you hate chinese so much why do you even stay in china ….

    Fuckwit !

    Oh yeah, he hates it so much that he fell in love with, and married a lovely CHINESE woman and is obviously enjoying most of his time here.

    Hari Deepak *if that is your real name, most unlikely* I just love a nice Halal BEEF Big Mac,a BEEF Quarter-Pounder or a BEEF curry. Yumm !

  19. Based on the ridiculous generalisations he always makes like the one he made here on Shopgirl’s blog 2 days ago, I am guessing he is Chinese. Basically he’s saying all westerners are lazy and all Chinese are hardworking, hmmmmm. I guess he also thinks that all black people are drug dealers and all Italians are in the mafia!

  20. Posted on Shopgirl’s blog today by Hari Deepak:

    “i have seen humannaught’s blog…i think he is a racist…..any day your blog is millions of times superior to him…you only use your’s to express yourself and he uses his to degrade others….”

    Mystery solved – Hari Deepak is Shopgirl …. LOL!!

  21. Haha… naw, I give her more credit than that.

    Technically isn’t degrading others expressing yourself?

    The guy is a knob and doesn’t really deserve our attention.

  22. You’re so right but I just can’t help it because he’s just so off the mark he belongs in the loony asylum. And surely even Shopgirl’s most loyal fans wouldn’t claim her blog is several million times better than yours. Maybe twice as good, possible three times, on a good day she may even be 4 times better, LOL!

    But the irony of him calling you a racist is just off the scale. Racism is the belief that race is the main determinant of human traits or abilities. Which makes his comment that Chinese people are hardworking a very good example of racism!

    Ok, I’m gonna give it a rest!!

  23. Well I made a generalized comment not something related to this post alone,but something which i wrote after reading many of your earlier posts,I do not believe mr.woaizhongguo that all westerners are lazy and all chinese are hardworking. There are many very hardworking canadians and many lazy chinese. But the kind of comments ryan made about china and chinese in particular,led me to conclud that he hated chinese in some way or another. And i am not so dumb to copy and paste data from somewhere mr.ryan,it was only an angry rebuke because i got an impression from reading your previous posts that you generally harboured a hidden prejudice against chinese. And in the end i am not chinese.

  24. After a month of this being a closed thread, you speak… sadly, again with nothing interesting.

    You’ve yet to substantiate your claims that I’m a racist, or that I hate Chinese.

    As the person I love more than anything else is Chinese, it seems a bit strange that I would hate Chinese people in someway or another.

    So, let me do you one better. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in your accusations you’re mirroring your own prejudices.

    Whatever the reason for your mindless blather, it doesn’t change that it is just that.

    So, with all the egalitarianism I can muster – fuck off.

  25. hey, if its a 50cc 4-stroke to get about 100-120 kmh just put a couple of metal washers between the exaust and engin casing. then put a bigger main jet in the carb, slash a load of holes in the air filter and then re tune the mixture using a screw on the left side of the carboretor, setting it to the point when the bike revs faster on the tickover, then all you need to do is set the tickover to how desired and then your done

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