China on two wheels and through a lens. Part Two. LKLM fun.

First of all I would like to say thanks for the positive feedback on my first post and now that I’ve introduced myself to the OTB viewers I promise that the future posts will not be so heavy on the reading!
Having spent around two weeks living in the LKLM dormitory I thought it was about time I made another entry to OTB, I really didn’t plan to stay in Shenzhen city anywhere near as long as I have but due to the riding scene and the good friends I have here the time has flown by! Since my last post me and the LKLM crew have been on two major rides out to the mountains that surround Shenzhen and one road trip to Feng shun which is about a four hour drive to enter in a 168km enduro event.

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A short afternoon ride to Ji Gong mountain in Longgang district surrounding Shenzhen.
Photo captions.
1. LKLM crew after a big feast and 5 bottles of rice wine.
2 to 5. Testing some new bikes and other LKLM toys! A summit view and a brief stop at the mountain spring.The bike in the final photo is a prototype for next years range, lugged frame and forks is a new look for LKLM and the attention to detail going in to next years range is looking good.

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An 86km lap around Longgang district.
Photo captions.
1. Annie is a friend and local rider in Shenzhen who I have known for a little while, as I was in Shenzhen we met up for a cruise around some of the parks in central Shenzhen. Annie is full of life and loves almost any sporting activity! She is a strong and independent young girl who is a perfect example of “The modern Chinese girl!” Nice to see you Annie and hope you have a fantastic time in America!
2 + 3. Leaving LKLM HQ at 06:30 and heading for the mountains.
4. The meeting point at the foot of the mountains, quick breakfast and on with the climb.
5. Looking back down from about 3/4s of the way up, sadly as you reached the summit of this climb the road became hidden behind the trees.
6. A few games of Mah zhong whilst waiting for lunch to be cooked.
7. The descent was an enjoyable one with plenty of switchbacks.
8. The South China Sea! Having lived in Mainland China now for a while its been almost three years since I last saw the coast! I hadn’t noticed just how much I missed this part of my upbringing until I saw it again!

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Fengshun 168km Enduro Event.
A four hour drive East from Shenzhen takes you to a place called Meizhou, surrounding Meizhou there are lots of small towns nestled amongst some beautiful mountain scenery! Arriving at our destination we took a quick tour around the park to find the start line and then drove around town until we found a suitable camping spot! A half built house was perfect for us, unpack the car, rebuild the bikes and get the hotpot blazing! A dinner of lotus root, ribs and pigs feet stew before a few shots of rice wine and off to bed for an early night. Not the best camping spot due to heavy trucks rumbling past throughout the night but slept through until 6am then cruised our way down to the start line before sunrise. A fantastic day with lots of pedalling, eating and laughter! Being one of the few foreigners on the course I even got interviewed for the local news broadcast, quite an experience! Too funny!
Thanks to LKLM for hooking us up with this trip, it will not be forgotten!
Photo captions
1. Fully loaded car, 5 bikes, 5 dudes and a shit load of pigs feet.
2. Arriving at our destination, checking out the start line.
3. Hot pot of pigs feet and ribs.
4. Old wolf stoked on his camping location.
5. Early morning mountains as the sun burns through the clouds, first climb of the day.
6. Cruising through some mountain towns.
7. A cheesy photo for the local TV broadcasters.
8. Starting the second climb of the day.
9. About 80km in a young Chinese girl still has enough energy for a casual pose.
10. Lunch stop, xiao long bao, minced pork and soup inside a bread ball with soya been milk.
11. Granny is not impressed.
12. Stocking up on Redbull.
13. A group of girls wearing the traditional minority clothing wait at the summit of the third climb to cheer you on!
14. Back in the river basin.
15. The final descent with about 25km left to go.

Today is Monday 9th of November, I plan to get back on the road on Wednesday after my long rest with LKLM. There will be a few weeks to wait for the next update so stay posted!
Thanks again guys,
Nathan.
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China on two wheels and through a lens. Part One.

Hello my name is Nathan, I’m 27 years old, born and raised in and around Brighton, South England! I’m a general bike lover and have a history of around ten years riding both BMX and Mountain bike. In July 2012 after completing The Trans-Mongolian railway I was inspired to move to China to teach English. After travelling for a couple of months throughout the vastness that is China I decided to settle in a city called Nanning in Guangxi Province which is located in Southern region, bordering Vietnam.

 

The city was vibrant, the food was eye-opening and my job was great! My new life was fantastic and I haven’t really looked back since but there was one underlying problem, other than my motorbike there was a serious lack of two-wheeled activity. To solve this problem I asked my friend James who was at the time working for BrightonBMXco to pack up my BMX and pass it on to my parents who would kindly send it out to me! For the best part of a year I would routinely go out to the local spot in Nanning and ride with the locals on the very basic ramps which they had set up themselves but to be honest I never felt truly satisfied. As time passed my BMX started to form a layer of dust but that yearning for two-wheeled activity was still present. I spent a long a time trying to put my finger on what it was that I truly missed and why riding BMX in China just wasn’t cutting it.

 

In the UK I spent many winter days digging trails in a spot about 20km from my house. Riding out there in the rain with a grave digger spade gaffa taped to the top tube of my road bike and 4 sausages in my back pack, I was happy. Being alone in the woods, having a fire and digging until you can’t close your hands for blisters was what I really missed and I came to realise that this side of BMX actually meant a lot more to me than the “trick chasing” or “progression” that you naturally seem to strive for.
The next thing was to ask myself why I enjoyed the woods so much?
Freedom, exploration, knowledge of an area, camping and having a place to escape to were words that came to mind immediately.

 

Riding BMX in China as a foreigner definitely wasn’t giving me freedom, in actual fact it was causing me a lot of attention which really put me off riding a BMX at all. If I’m riding I want to put my headphones in and escape in my own thoughts and not be asked a million questions which was what seemed to be happening here. Maybe it sounds unsociable or selfish but really I began to realise that riding bikes for me needs to have this sense of freedom or escape otherwise it just doesn’t appeal to me.

 

As a result I decided to buy a road bike, panniers and some basic camping equipment. I set off on a short two week tour around Guangxi province and I immediately realised that bicycle touring really was the perfect balance. Riding, camping, travelling, learning, exploration, knowledge of an area and hundreds of photo opportunities all wrapped up into four bags that strap to the side of your bike. Since completing that tour my mind was made up, save money, quit your job and explore China.

 

The first leg. Nanning, Guangxi to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
Nanning, Bingyang and Guigang, Guangxi.
Leaving Nanning on the 1st of October I started my journey heading North East to the city of Guigang to meet an old friend for dinner at her parents house. The morning after arriving in Guigang I received numerous “Weather alerts” on my phone warning me of Typhoon Mujigae, I decided to stay put for a few days as the whole of Guangxi Province was expecting to be hit hard. Thanks to Sylvia and her family for such fantastic hospitality throughout these days off!

Leaving Nanning, Guangxi. 01.10.15 Binyang, Guangxi. Binyang, Guangxi.   9 In and around Guigang, Guangxi.
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In and around Guigang, Guangxi.Dinner at Sylvia's!

 

 

Guigang to Guiping, Guangxi Province.
Back on the road after three days of good food!
Typhoon Mujigae caused a lot of damage throughout Guangxi Province, more than 130,000 people had to be evactuated and it was estimated to have destroyed more than 80,000 homes. Sitting that one out in my hotel was definitely a good decision.

The typhoon has passed! Guigang in the early morning. Trees down on the roadside. Guiping, Guangxi. Flooding. Dinner with this dude. Roadside campsite.

 

 

Guiping to Wuzhou.
From Guiping I will follow The Xi river for around 800km, before arriving in Wuzhou I will cross my first Provincial border from Guangxi into Guangdong Province.

Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. The Xi River.  The Xi River, Guangdong. A long day in the saddle.

 

 

Wuzhou to Xinxing, Guangdong.

A road side soldier. A road side soldier. Road side lunch break. Taking candy from a stranger. Taking candy from a stranger.

 

 

Xinxing to Kaiping, Guangdong.

7am Roads. Breakfast stop.  Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping, Guangdong.

Kaiping is an area of South East China that has a very interesting history, still to this day it has more than 1,800 diao lou scattered throughout the region. Diao lou are fortified watch towers which were built through the area from the early Qing Dynasty. The watchtowers served both as housing and protection against forays by bandits.This area of China has traditionally been a region of major emigration abroad, as a result several of the watchtowers incorporate architectural features from the West.

 

Kaiping to Zhuhai to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
A long ride and pretty boring ride to be honest. Guangdong Province is a lot more urbanised than Guangxi, due to this it has become increasingly harder to find a suitable camping spot. I searched for a cheap hotel and rode an extra 25km to save 3 quid, sadly when I got to the destination the hotel didn’t exist!
Bamboo forest roads. A lizard at lunchtime. Xiangzhou, Guangdong. Ferry from Zhuhai to Shenzhen. Shenzhen, Guangdong. Shenzhen, Guangdong.

 

 

Shenzhen, Guangdong. Birthday celebrations and meeting LKLM.
Thanks a lot to LKLM and Emily for my birthday celebrations! Being on the road this year I really expected to be alone for my birthday but thanks to the good friends I have around me I had a really nice day!
Luohu, Shenzhen, Guangdong. 19.10.2015. 27th Birthday! LKLM 开朗。 Birthday dinner! LKLM's Free Cyclist Dorm.Nanning to Shenzhen.

 

 

First leg completed.
Thank you if you have made it this far, apologies for this first post being a bit wordy but I felt I needed to give myself an introduction to OTB! From here I plan to stay with LKLM for a week or so as they have planned some riding/camping trips around Guangdong province. After my time at LKLM I plan to ride through Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Xinjiang province over the next 9 months. Please stay posted as this really is just a teaser for what is to come! If you have any requests on products used, roads chosen or what food I have been eating please feel free to leave me a comment! I will be posting on OTB about once a month due to the lack of WiFi connection. If you are interested in less words and more photos please find me on Instagram @selftravelvehicle
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Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way so far, and thanks again to OTB for hosting this!

Speak soon, keep spinning,

Nathan.

 

 

Riding T-shirts from OTB

On a trip to the south-west of England at the end of last summer, visiting friends and riding around Exeter, I was introduced to Dan from Broadside Printing. After the inevitable chat about all things bike, we sparked the idea of making some functional t-shirts for the Blog that would be great to ride in.

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So after a little sourcing of different breathable t-shirt options, and then putting the best ones through the rigorous testing procedure that is various bikepacking trips, holidays and races over the last year. The green light was given to Dan to fire up the screen and make some awesome T’s. All hand screen printed, packed up and ridden to us (well to the post office…its a bit far to ride from Exeter with a massive box on the front of your bike…).

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We are now proud to have a small production run available to buy! They are a blend of Naturally Sustained Bamboo and Organic Cotton, so they are super soft on the skin and also quick drying and odour resistant. Perfect for the trails, camping or going down the pub!

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Available to buy from our online shop @ £15 + P&P, and from Rule5Bikes in Fiveways, Brighton @ £17. In Medium and Large sizes!

Salsa Deadwood – Bikepacking Bike

If you are planning a bikepacking trip, this certainly looks like a bike that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it! I’d have loved to take this across portugal and for the upcoming trips over winter and next year. Head over to the bikepacking.com site to read a full review.

Bikepacking the Camino Portugal – Day 3: Alvaiazere to Coimbra – 40.4mi 2,859ft

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Time for day 3 and it was going to happen eventually, I got lost. Now normally this wouldn’t be a surprise but when I had a GPS, a million yellow arrows and a guidebook, there really was no excuse other than lack of observation skills by myself. The route I was using (John Brierley’s Camino Portugal) also shows some road routes that avoid some of the steeper off road bits, it was one of these I took by blindly following my GPS. It turns out the route I had downloaded had a few of these anomalies and certainly wasn’t the last detour on this trip. Continue reading

Bikepacking the Camino Portugal – Day 2: Santarem to Alvaiazere – 63.7mi 3,620ft

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Santarem Vista and start of excellent singletrack

After the best bit of singletrack descent so far from Santarem to the valley below, it was time to start the second day of the trip. Today was the last of the flat; the route leaves the flood plains along the river and takes you up into the rolling hills. With the extra height came the heat and a change of scenery, there are still the vineyards and fields but also pine forest and miles dirt tracks. Continue reading