Cycle Travel: Exploring off-the-beaten track in China

China is a massive country with many off-the-beaten track gems just waiting to be discovered by bicycle, so many that you can spend a lifetime here and still not complete them all; I’ve been living in China for over four years and have barely scratched the surface. For familiarity sake and time constraints, I tend to do many of the same routes around the city of Hangzhou where I live, and travel out frequently for bicycle races around China. Unfortunately, many of the bike races around China are not held in locations that ideally show-case the region where the race is being hosted; many races are held on flat, boring circuits, however there are a few real-gems of race courses that are slowly growing in number as organizers and government officials realize that it is what riders want. By holding races on beautiful routes also serves to promote the region, thus bringing in tourists.  Anyway, back to the main point of this article: China discovery by bicycle. Whether you believe it or not, China offers a countless number of unbelievable locations to ride your bike that will blow away your pre-conceptions about an over-crowded, polluted country which has no places to ride. Most recently I discovered the Zhuji area, located about 80km south of Hangzhou.

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There are many trains that go to Zhuji daily from Hangzhou and there are a few that take just 45minutes, making it possible to do a one-day excursion to Zhuji to ride in the mountains and be back in Hangzhou that evening. If coming from the Shanghai HongQiao station, you can catch the D5651 at 6.40am and that would put you in Zhuji at 8.51am for a cost of 74.5rmb. There are other trains that are later, take a look at the schedule. Arriving at 8.51am gives you the full day ahead of you to explore the many quiet roads that are littered with old temples set amidst bamboo forests, old Chinese style houses, and traditional Chinese gates. It is the type of ride that is suited for the roadies or cycle tourists that enjoy exploring new places and not always be into hammering.  I was so thrilled with the ride that I stopped many times to take photographs. If you have a decent camera to take with you on the bike, it is a photographers dream – such a variety of landscape, villages, animals and people life to capture.  I just used my i-Phone to capture the images that are shown in this article, but I did wish I had my SLR camera with me. There is a definite sense of traveling back in time in this area as you spend the time to appreciate the blend of old and new.

The last train back to Shanghai is the D98 which leaves at 6.57pm and arrives 9.02pm, costing 74rmb. The riding in the mountain area is about 20km from the Zhuji train station and navigation help can be found by viewing my Strava mapOr you can download the GPX file here and then you can upload to your GPS device for navigation if you need. Typically, though, I tend to head to the general destination and then explore the area without having to follow a GPS lead, however most people like the security of following an existing route, and if you followed ours you won’t be disappointed. It’s a solid 150km day with 1400m of climbing, starting and returning to the train station.  There are shops conveniently along the route where you can stop for refueling with drinks and food.

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  • Gavin

    Wow, this is great thanks! I am booked to go to Hangzhou next month for two weeks of cycling and was planning to head south to 1000 island lake but had not worked out where to go after this, so this is perfect. I hope I will be able to find accommodation. My first overseas touring trip is looking even better now.