1 Zola and Retail Marketing
2 Playing the Waiting Game
3 Beware the Ides of March
4 The county not on a map
5 Chinese Chess in Beijing
6 Build it and They'll Come
7 Riding the Water Dragon
8 The Best of Both Worlds
9 Storming the Great Wall
10 Welcome to the Wangba
11 The Catcher in the Rice
12 The Marriage Business
13 The Crouching Dragon
14 Counting the Numbers
15 A Century of Migration
16 Shooting for the Stars
17 Rise of Yorkshire Puds
18 Harry Potter in Beijing
19 Standing Out in China
20 Self-pandactualisation
21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
23 Animated Guangzhou
24 Trouble on the Farms
25 Christmas in Haerbin
26 Dave pops into Tesco
27 A Breath of Fresh Air
28 The Boys from Brazil
29 Rolls-Royce on a roll
30 The Great Exhibition
31 Spreading the Word
32 On Top of the World
33 Moonlight Madness
34 Beijing's Wild West
35 Avatar vs Confucius
36 Brand Ambassadors
37 Inspiring Adventure
38 China's Sweet Spot
39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
46 Red-crowned Alert
47 In a Barbie World
48 Domestic Arrivals
49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
69 Brandopolises
70 Red, red wine
71 Finding Nemo
72 Rogue Dealer
73 Juicy Carrots
74 Bad Air Days
75 Golden Week
76 Master Class
77 Noodle Wars
78 Yes We Can!
79 Mr Blue Sky
80 Keep Riding
81 Wise Words
82 Hair Today
83 Easy Rider
84 Aftershock
85 Bread vans
86 Pick a card
87 The 60th
88 Ox Tales
2001 to 2007

Inspiring Adventure

Land of the Giants

His yellow jersey shone brightly as, head down, the red-helmeted cyclist rode towards me.  I was standing by the side of the road, drinking a cold Pepsi (the full fat version in case you were wondering), and thinking that the 50km I had just cycled should have been a lot easier than it was.

  Mr Liang, who had probably spotted that I, too, was riding a Giant and dressed in cycling garb (without a helmet), screeched to a halt. 

  “Where are you going,” he gushed. 

  “I’m heading for the Fragrant Hills, and then to the city, before returning to where I live, a few miles west of the airport,” I answered.  

  “Where’s the airport?”

  It was clear that Mr Liang is not a local.

  “More to the point, where are you from,” I asked.


  “Inner Mongolia”.

  Inner Mongolia is a very big place.  I was keen to find out more.  Mr Liang, who is in his early 20s, told me that he is from a small town about 100km the “other side” of Baotou and that he had already cycled 860km (with about 40km still to go).  Even more impressively, he had left home the day before.  By anyone’s definition, 450km a day is a long stretch in the saddle.  At an average speed of 30km an hour (a pace that’s way beyond my ability for more than an hour or so) he would have been in the saddle for an average of 15 hours a day by the time he reached his goal, “Tiananmen”.

  “I’ve never been to Beijing,” he said, “I’ve often dreamed of seeing it.  And I thought, why don’t I cycle there.” 


  Mr Liang is, without knowing it, the best possible kind of endorser of Giant’s advertising tagline and company ethos, “Inspiring adventure” (better than anything they have ever paid for, to be sure). 

  “Can I take a photo of you and me together,” he asked.  “Only if you promise to send me a copy,” I countered with a smile.

  Photo taken, we exchanged email addresses and shook hands.  With a cheery wave, Mr Liang continued on his way down the G110, the road that connects the capital with Baotou and way beyond to Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, about 1300km away.

  I, too, felt inspired.  In a flash I had made up my mind to do the following day what I had been threatening to do for a long time.  To cycle all the way from Beijing to Chengde in Hebei province, weather depending of course.

  Why Chengde?  Well, it’s a famous mountain resort, which was the summer retreat of various Qing emperors no less.  And I hadn’t been there.  What’s more, it’s “only” 220km from where I live.  Problem was, the last time I had cycled more than 200km in a day was more than a quarter of a century ago.

  Anyhow, my determination was bolstered after a hot bath and a look at the weather forecast, which promised a cool day (possible showers) and a head-wind of no more than 10km per hour.  A tail wind would have been better of course, but why make it easy for oneself?

  I left quite late in the morning, knowing that this would create a bit of pressure to keep up a reasonable speed so that I could reach Chengde before dark.  The first three hours were a joy – cool, quite flat, and light traffic (with minimal fumes and dust), and I was on track, averaging a little over 25km/hour.

  Then I entered the mountains.  I knew that Chengde lies at about 300 metres above sea level.  But I had no idea just how high I would have to climb on the way there.  I had conveniently scrubbed from my memory the snippet of knowledge that the highest point of the Yanshan mountains, 2118m, at Wulingshan, was not far to the east of my route.  Just as well, because I don’t think I would have attempted the ride with that in mind. 

  It turned out that the high-point of the journey was “only” 790m, but there were two other severe climbs from about 300m to just shy of that height.  Severe enough for me to wonder what I was doing in the middle of nowhere, cycling up mountains that made the Derbyshire peak district (my nemesis as a young cyclist) seem about as significant as a bump in the road.

  Then it began to get darker. 

  It began to rain. 

  It then rained heavily. 

  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it began to rain torrentially. 

  I had no lights, no waterproofs, and I still had about 35km to go.  But, on the plus side (it pays to be optimistic in these situations) I was much higher than Chengde.  There couldn’t be another climb, could there? 

  There wasn’t.  Spurred on by the survival instinct, I raced downhill, managing an average speed of the required 35km per hour, to complete the 220km adventure in 8 hours and 40 minutes – slightly better than my 25km per hour “goal”. 


Alas, my momentary triumph was deflated in more ways than one when, no sooner had I entered the city, I had a puncture. 


I was soaking wet, exhausted, and aching in places I never knew I had.  Having no will to mend the puncture, I persuaded the kind owner of a garage to allow me to house my Giant there for the night.  I then found a hotel, a hot bath, and time for reflection.


The victory procession was a bit shorter than I had planned, but the most important thing was that I had somehow managed to cross the finish line – thanks to Giant for making such a great bike (not to mention excellent cycling shorts), and a big thanks also to Mr Liang for showing me the way.    

The biggest bike-maker in the world sold 1M in China last year (of 5.2M global sales).