Huang Guosong cycled the Changping-Cibeiyu trail in outer Beijing, a 100-kilometer accomplishment intertwined with pain and desperation.
Huang said he only started cycling a month after Beijing forced gyms to close in May, another target of the city’s Covid restrictions.
Huang prefers cycling at night. He often heads out at 9pm and bikes around 50 kilometers in two hours, taking different routes.
He had never seen Beijing so shuttered: skyscrapers and shopping malls were closed with lights out. However, public squares thronged with people. Outside the Taikoo Li shopping mall in the city’s trendy area of Sanlitun, people of all ages played badminton and tennis, roller skated and skipped rope – all clad in the latest gear.
“It was so different before. Sanlitun is known as the place where hip young people hang out and amateur photographers linger to take snapshots. Now the landscape has totally changed,” Huang told NewsChina.
As a possible hard lockdown loomed and traffic thinned, cyclists seized the moment to cruise their city’s streets.
Lin Haonan, an avid cyclist in Beijing, racked up about 1,700 kilometers and over 10,000 vertical meters this April, breaking his personal record. Since April, after cycling organizations in Beijing stopped organizing group activities, members either hit the road alone or in small groups.
“If you don’t get out to cycle right now, you probably won’t be able to tomorrow. That acute sense of uncertainty and helplessness drove us to get out and about,” Lin told NewsChina.
For Lin, his two hobbies – reading and cycling – held new significance during the pandemic restrictions. But because Covid restrictions threatened his cycling, it took priority.
“The meaning of cycling for me is not only that I’d meet a lot of interesting people on the road, but these encounters provided a powerful message – always be positive, stay curious and never let the weariness and absurdities of life get you down. At the very least, I’ll try to keep fighting as long as I can,” Lin told NewsChina.
Li Xuan is the founder of James Outdoorlife, an outdoor equipment brand based in Beijing. Recognizing the growing market potential, he recently expanded the brand to include fishing and hiking equipment.
“I believe the boom in outdoor activities will go nationwide. Lots of areas are still underdeveloped – hiking, mountaineering, camping, cycling, cross-country running, surfing, diving, sailing, paddle boarding, canoeing, rock climbing, skiing, fishing, golfing and horse riding,” Li said in rapid fire as he unboxed newly arrived fishing tackle.
Lin Hong visited Li’s store on June 1 with her son and parents. Her family started camping this year, quickly purchasing a tent, cushions, a folding table and some stoves. She was still shopping for comfortable chairs and a portable refrigerator.
Over the past two years since the pandemic spread, Lin would barbecue in friends’ backyards in the Beijing suburbs. She aims to capture that same atmosphere with camping.
“We don’t own a house in the suburbs. Camping equipment for me is just like having a small mobile home in the suburbs. It’s a pretty good deal,” Lin told our reporter with a smile.
Lin is typical of Beijing’s middle class. She and her husband are college teachers, who used to travel overseas every year, but the pandemic changed that. For many like them, outdoor activities in the suburbs are the next best thing.
“On the surface, they are camping and barbecuing. But behind the trend is an intense longing for gathering with family and friends. In the meantime, the boom in outdoor activities also reflects people’s growing need to explore the wider world,” Li Xuan told NewsChina.