Chengdu is the gateway to the wild-west of Sichuan and the city itself is reasonably clean by Chinese standards and contains an interesting mix of modern buildings and old streets that have ancient ‘hutong’ or alleyways. Sichuan food is also one of the best in China – they serve it extremely spicy! Chengdu is a good place to base yourself to visit famous attractions including the Jiuzhaigou National Park and Emei Mountain.
I spent several days in Chengdu recently visiting my brother and sister-in-law and had the chance to ride on the bicycle twice and a third time was on a rented motorbike for 50rmb per day. Our daily breakfast consisted of fresh lightly roasted Organic Muesli made by my brother. It was the best muesli we have had and it contains no preservatives and is ideal for cyclists and travelers in China. To check out his awesome muesli check at Sunrise Muesli. I know that alot of foreigners living in China are missing their traditional muesli or granola breakfasts; it is hard to find good quality muesli in China and if you do, it is usually quite expensive. My brother offers free delivery for the organic muesli nationwide in China. Check his website for further details. This is the breakfast that powered us for our travels.
Chengdu is a large sprawling city of 5.2 million and is the gateway to the Wild West Sichuan for adventure travelers. It is also the starting point for many people embarking on epic cycle touring through Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Tibet. There is a company called Bike China that offers guided tours as well as do-it-yourself tours. For those people who want to do it themselves, all the essential equipment can be rented from Bike China. They are also a wealth of information about tips and ideal places to visit in Western Sichuan and Yunnan. For more information on Bike China visit their website here
I found Chengdu a little bit big for my liking, it takes a good amount of riding before you leave the city proper but its not too bad for ‘city riding’. There is a nice river that runs through the middle that has roads on either side and is lined with various eateries that put out caned wicker chairs for evenings drinking tea. Early mornings is the best time to ride the riverside area before it becomes too clogged with traffic. For a good solid smooth ride circumnavigating the city, the third ring road is a good choice. There are also numerous back streets lined with old buildings that Chengdu is famous for. A visit to Chengdu is not complete without visiting the Panda Research Facility. It costs 60rmb a ticket but its worth going to see the Pandas. Make sure you go early as they put the Pandas indoors when as the temperatures become too hot for them.
The first time riding in Chengdu, I spent time exploring the city which included the third ring road, riverside riding, and some rough riding through some villages on the very outskirts of Chengdu. In fact, I was hoping to find a good road to take me out of the city and into the countryside – but was not successful. The second day was better having made it out of Chengdu riding alongside the river south towards Huanglongxi, an ancient 1730 year old village, but ended up riding to San Sheng Xiang (Three God’s Village) a beautiful village full of flower manufacturing nodes dotted with small ponds and the odd traditional Chinese canoe.
Recommended places to ride
Ride South of Chengdu to Huanglongxi along the river
About 50km each way and will take about 3-4 hrs continuous riding from the centre of Chengdu. Can stop in the ancient village for coffee and lunch before exploring the village on the cobblestones.
East of Chengdu – Longquanyi
This is a brilliant riding area – unfortunately I did not ride my road bike out here on the network of small country roads. To spend time with my brother and sister-in-law as well as bring my wife along, we rented a motorbike to have lunch in Longquanyi with Chinese parents and then explored the mountainous area East of Longquanyi. It is very easy to find the start of the long climb on perfect road surface, you just head out of the city on Oupeng Road and up past the dam on the left. The climb goes on for at least 10kms at a good consistent gradient. There are a couple of lakes that you can check out during the ride. Its up to you how long you spend riding in this area; you can easily make a good day of riding if you want to. This area will become more popular with cyclists when the Chengdu subway is complete – it includes Longquanyi as a stop in Chengdu’s outer suburbs. It would be best to catch a best to Longquanyi (1hr bus ride) unless you want to combat the traffic leaving Chengdu.
Northeast to Jintang
This is another recommended ride, but one I did not get a chance to do.
Ride to San Sheng Xiang (Three God’s Village)
About 60kms round trip and there are some nice roads that snake through villages and lakes fill of Lilies and flowers. Once you find the river that heads out of Chengdu City towards Huanglongxi, you can ride along the banks and see the early morning fishermen poling along their canoes. The pathway alongside the river will end after about 15-20minutes of riding and you have to negotiate more traffic before getting onto the quieter undulating roads that lead to San Sheng Xiang. This is a good ride to do for 2-3 hours if you don’t want to go all the way to the ancient village of Huanglongxi.