Thursday, September 29, 2016

A weekend in Doumenzhen

A couple of weekends back, Guiping and I took a weekend tour of Doumenzhen, an historic town on the outer reaches of Zhuhai. I wanted to see the town's Old Street, an example of Lingnan architecture that saw some restoration back in 2013.

I thought the 40 km ride down to Doumenzhen would be pretty nasty; we'd be traversing huge industrial zones that make everything from air conditioners to bicycle derailleurs. Happily, my fear proved unfounded. The ratio of quiet lanes and cycle paths to busy roads came in at about 3 to 1, though a few hiccups were  experienced when placing too much faith in the Roading Department.

We decided to be good and follow the cycle path rather than using the overpass. This is how we were rewarded.

Such vexations aside, the path provided some sublime cycling, often belying the fact that we live in the most populous region of the World's most populous country.

Guiping follows the sylvan way.

Just before Doumenzhen itself, our route took a diversion up to Wangbao reservoir for some spectacular views of Jintai Temple.

The LKLM finds religion at Wangbao Reservoir.
After a pleasant afternoon of rambling, we found Old Street and refuelled on our respective favourites: noodle soup for Guiping and wonton soup for me. There is no excuse for riding hungry in Guangdong.

The street itself provided plenty of interest. To explain, I can really do no better than to quote directly from our city guide:
Doumen Old Street was constructed at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, and was designed by the Rev John Galloway, a priest and architect from Canada, and his team. With both Chinese and Western architectural features, the street incorporated silk, household product and forest product stores, grain shops, general banks, pawnshops, and a church. It became a logistics center for goods on the south bank of the Pearl River Delta as well as an entrepot for overseas remittances and financial businesses.
Think of Christchurch's new Regent Street on steroids and you have Old Street's late-Lingnan archtecture.

Jiu Jie (Old Street), Doumen Town.
After only three years, the region's hot, humid climate has done its work at softening the restoration. The street feels alive and busy, not like some of the more disneyfied spots we've recently visited. People continued to work, shop and play as a handful of tourists wandered up and down the thoroughfare, snapping the inevitable selfies as they went. A couple of retired gents provided a classical backdrop with er hu (two string) and guzheng (Chinese zither) in a small tea shop.

The gaudy and prosaic rub shoulders.

Brooms guard the entrance of a village hardware store as Old Street awakens.
Village stores are an Aladdin's Cave for the practically minded.

Our return trip was longer and more challenging. Winding south, we looped back home via a collection of quiet villages, raucous market towns and inexplicable high-rise developments.

A nicely restored classical Lingnan home in Wangshan Village.

The final 30 km drag along the wide and busy Zhuhai Avenue was relieved by a chance meeting with Justin, an intimidatingly in-shape young American on a carbon wunderbike. He graciously slowed down, and we chatted about gear, planned trips, good routes and all the other stuff that cyclists find important. Justin was impressed by my locally made panniers and racks, and later sent a message that he'd ordered some for his fancy, Xian-made titanium tandem.

After that, Guiping and I had only to cross the frankly terrifying 2-mile-long Xi River Bridge to be back in Zhuhai proper. The bridge is not an experience I'm altogether keen to repeat, but I guess we can say we've done it now. Luckily, if we find ourselves down that way again, we'll be able to detour north via a plethora of narrow concrete paths that line the canals and drains hereabout.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

George Sutherland, seen here posing in 1898 with the 75 Guinea Royal Enfield Challenge Cup, was quite the lad.

He was a  "cashie", a racing cyclist who raced under the rules of the  League of New Zealand Wheelmen's "cash amateur" rules.

The rules allowed for cash prizes, but not financial sponsorship. Cash Amateur riders weren't supposed to give up their day jobs.

As you might guess from his Sterling emblazoned jersey, George didn't follow those rules to the letter. Some say he was New Zealand's first domestic professional cyclist.

At the time this photo was taken, George was about 20 years old and already a dominant force in New Zealand cycling. The previous year, he won the 50 Sovereign New Zealand Wheel Race, a 2 mile handicap styled on the Melbourne Bicycle Club's Austral Wheel Race.

In 1898, "The features of the [NZLW] meeting were the success of single pacing in the long distance events, and the magnificent riding of G. Sutherland, of Christchurch, who defeated all-comers in the One-mile Championship, the Five-mile Championship, and the Royal Enfield Challenge Cup Race". (Christchurch Star, 28 March 1898, Page 2).

In 1900, George was set to represent the NZLW at the Paris World Champs when he finally fell foul of anti-professionalism rules. A letter was produced which proved that he had demanded appearance money from a race promoter. George was summarily banned from racing, but more evidence was produced to show that Ted Reynolds, the Auckland "crack" who was to have replaced Sutherland in Paris, had received expenses whilst racing in New Zealand. Pragmatism ruled and both cyclists headed for Europe. In the end, only George raced at the worlds, simultaneously signing the League up with the newly-formed Union Cycliste Internationale, which had just won the stoush for control of international cycle racing.

George admitted that in Paris he was hopelessly outclassed in the tactical "continental" racing, for which antipodean handicap races provided poor preparation.

As well as signing NZ up with the UCI, George's influence on New Zealand cycle racing was long felt. In the 1920s, he managed the highly successful English Park Stadium velodrome in Christchurch. Under his management, English Park experienced its own jazz-age revival as bicycle racing once again echeived status as a glamour sport.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Er Shi Ba

The Chinese 二十八 (er shi ba - literally, twenty-eight) in gas bottle delivery mode. This has all the classic er shi ba features - heavy duty 4 strut rear carrier, rickety basket, pink rubber inner-tube bungees, industrial-quality stand and general air of neglect. Technical highlights include out of phase cranks (courtesy of a worn cotter pin, no doubt) and rod brakes adjusted by the time honoured kink-the-rod-with-an-adjustable-spanner technique.

I wish that I could show you a photo of my shiny, brand new  永久 (Forever) er shi ba, but some bugger stole it - an absolutely guaranteed experience for new bike owners in China. Still, before the nefarious denizens of the Nanchang underworld got away with my pride and joy, I managed to take part in a daily ritual of twentieth century Chinese life - riding through a balmy subtropical evening with my wife-to-be sitting side saddle on the carrier of my er shi ba. Good memories to get me through the day back here in my car-is-king homeland.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

2 Star on a favourite road

The 2 Star is, I think, an early-postwar New Zealand made frame. I've seen a few of these and own two. It's not a Jones Special and it's not a Cycleworth (Austral Star) frame - both of which also used stars as head badges. Austral Stars used pressed lugs, and these are cast. Pre-war Joneses used clip type 7/8" headsets. I'm also pretty sure it's not an Australian-made Malvern Star. The number of stars on the front of a Malvern Star denoted quality. A "2 Star"was well down the pecking order, but this frame is almost identical to another I have, which features five stars on the head tube. Provenance remains a mystery.

The frame is nicely made and painted flamboyant green with elaborate pinstripes and blocking. It has Cyclo dropouts rather than the older, BSA fork ends which were popular in NZ before the War.

I set the 2 Star up as a classic English club bike - Sturmey FC four speed hub, 27 x 1 3/8 wheels, GB brakes. The front wheel is an old 36 spoke Weinmann rim laced to a Japanese "Chair" brand hub and a set of dodgy aluminium wingnuts.

Tied to the B17 is my trusty Tika (made in Christchurch, NZ) saddlebag. Made tough from Birkmeyer 12oz canvas, it has lasted me 25 years and counting. The saddle looks awful tilted up like that, but for some reason, it's comfortable that way.

I cobbled the guards together from leftovers. They are old Taiwanese alloy guards fitted with Bluemels stays scavenged from busted up Lightweights. That massive mudflap is a beauty. Available from Cycle Trading Co in Christchurch, these truck-dimension flaps really do the work.

The photo is taken on a wee gravel road in Loburn, north of Christchurch. I've been riding that road since I was a kid.

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