If you've never thought about riding a motorcycle in China before, this film will change your mind.
When motorcyclists discuss their “bucket riding list” China isn’t usually on the list. The Alps, the California coast, Iceland, New Zealand, the Blue Ridge Mountains; these all come to mind pretty easily (no? just me?). But this short documentary will make you want to ride a motorcycle in China. The country is vast with beautiful landscapes, and loaded with motorcycle enthusiasts!
The documentary introduces us to several folks who are not just motorcyclists but true enthusiasts. Some run motorcycle repair and custom shops, some build their own bikes from the ground up.
We visit ManDrill Custom Motorcycles in Shanghai with Luo Hao, dubbed “Beijing’s best builder” where he produces stunning custom motorcycles. He describes how difficult it is to, as we would say, register a motorcycle (they refer to it as licensing) in the larger cities like Beijing, since the city limits the number of motorcycles allowed. Once you have a registration for one you must keep it running. If you need a new motorcycle in Shanghai the registration alone may cost you 300,000 yen (~$2700US).
Villian Motorcycles began in a bicycle factory and it shows. Occasionally the film’s subtitle translation is a bit vague (“coffee” motorcycles instead of “cafe”) but this is a fascinating lens into the world of motorcycling in China. These cafe bikes are hand built, but there is a production line. These “coffee” motorcycles are absolute originals.
Built on mountains, Chongqing China is known as the “motorcycle city” and our guide there describes how motorcyclists are discriminated against, always assumed to be riding too fast (sounds familiar?). He then takes us on a beautiful tour of Tie Shan Ping, a forest park around a mountain near Chongqing. There is usually a view of the entire city and the Yangtze River basin from the top of that mountain; alas, it is a foggy day. He describes how it’s easier to register a motorcycle there than in some of the larger cities, so there are loads of motorcycles around on the beautiful mountain roads.
Our narrators describe the feeling of pure focus, familiar to every rider, that riding grants them. Poetry, they say. A feeling of meditation. “Only me and my bike and the world,” one says. “Anything else is a distraction.”
“The view you see in a car is different than what you see on two wheels. There is no window. People now are always looking at the windows on their phones, iPads or computers. Or the car windows, you are inside of them. But motorcycles release you from those windows. And you will experience something new on the road.”
I dare you not to add China to your bucket riding list after watching this film.