The Seven Best Cities for Cycling in China

China's cities offer a wealth of opportunities for cyclists, from the historic hutongs of Beijing to the scenic landscapes of Hangzhou and the coastal routes of Qingdao and Xiamen.

The Seven Best Cities for Cycling in China

Cycling in China has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to its numerous scenic routes, historical landmarks, and the convenience of bike-sharing services. Whether you're a resident or a tourist, exploring Chinese cities by bicycle offers a unique and intimate way to experience their charm and culture. Here, we explore the seven best cities for cycling in China, with a special focus on Beijing's hutong bike tours.

Beijing (北京)

Beijing, the capital city of China, is not only a political and cultural hub but also a paradise for cyclists. With over 3,000 years of history, Beijing boasts numerous World Heritage Sites and renowned landmarks. The city's flat terrain makes cycling incredibly easy and enjoyable. One of the most unique cycling experiences in Beijing is the hutong bike tour.

Hutongs are narrow alleys that weave through Beijing's traditional courtyard residences. These alleys are too narrow for cars, making them perfect for cycling. A hutong bike tour allows you to delve deep into the heart of old Beijing, offering a glimpse of the city's ancient architecture and local life. As you pedal through these historic lanes, you can observe the daily routines of Beijing's residents, from elderly men playing chess to vendors selling snacks. This intimate encounter with Beijing's past is a must-do for any cycling enthusiast.

Beijing's flat landscape ensures that cyclists of all ages and abilities can enjoy a leisurely ride without much effort. The city also offers a well-developed bike-sharing system, with bikes that can be easily rented using popular mobile payment methods like Alipay and WeChat. You can scan a QR code to unlock a bike and return it at any designated station, making it extremely convenient to explore the city at your own pace.

In Beijing, and throughout China, traffic regulations do not mandate the use of helmets for cyclists. While this can make for a more casual and comfortable ride, it's always recommended to wear a helmet for safety. For longer rides, you might consider renting or even purchasing a bike, as bicycles in mainland China are relatively inexpensive.

However, be aware that some drivers in China tend to honk frequently, which can be quite noisy. Using noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can help mitigate this. When turning at intersections or going straight, always be cautious of motor vehicles, as right-of-way rules can be loosely followed.

Most cities in China have dedicated bike lanes that are separated from motor vehicle lanes, but intersections and shared roads can still pose a risk. Always stay alert and be prepared for unexpected interactions with motor vehicles.

Hangzhou (杭州)

Hangzhou, one of China's eight ancient capitals, is renowned for its picturesque West Lake and lush landscapes. Often referred to as "paradise on earth," Hangzhou is a top destination for cycling enthusiasts. The city offers numerous scenic cycling routes, with well-maintained paths that wind through verdant hills and alongside serene water bodies.

Cycling around West Lake is particularly popular, as it allows you to take in stunning views of the lake, pagodas, and gardens. Hangzhou's bike-sharing services are also highly efficient, making it easy for visitors to rent and return bikes as they explore the city.

Chengdu (成都)

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, is another excellent city for cycling. Known for its laid-back lifestyle and spicy cuisine, Chengdu offers a variety of cycling routes that cater to different preferences. The city hosts the Tianfu Greenway International Bicycle Fitness Festival annually, attracting cycling enthusiasts from across the country.

Chengdu's cycling routes often pass by famous attractions such as the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and numerous teahouses where you can take a break and enjoy a cup of traditional Sichuan tea. The city's flat terrain and pleasant climate make cycling an enjoyable activity year-round.

Qingdao (青岛)

Qingdao, often referred to as the "Switzerland of the East," is a coastal city famous for its beautiful beaches and European-style architecture. The city's blend of Eastern and Western influences creates a unique atmosphere, and its numerous cycling routes allow you to explore this charming city at your own pace.

Cycling along Qingdao's coastline is particularly popular, offering stunning views of the sea and opportunities to visit landmarks such as the iconic Zhanqiao Pier and the Qingdao Beer Museum. Qingdao also hosts annual coastal cycling competitions that draw cyclists from around the world.

Kunming (昆明)

Kunming, known as the "Spring City" for its pleasant climate, is a historic city with a rich cultural heritage. Surrounded by mountains and lakes, Kunming offers a variety of cycling routes that take you through picturesque landscapes and historic sites.

The city's undulating terrain provides a bit of a challenge for cyclists, but the breathtaking views and fresh air make it well worth the effort. Kunming's bike-sharing system is well-developed, allowing visitors to easily rent and return bikes as they explore the city's many attractions.

Xiamen (厦门)

Xiamen, also known as "Ludao" or "Egret Island," is famous for its clean air and beautiful environment. This coastal city is a favorite among cyclists, with its scenic routes that offer views of the sea, beaches, and tropical landscapes.

The most popular cycling route in Xiamen is the island-ring road, which takes you along the coast and through charming neighborhoods. The gentle sea breeze and moderate difficulty of the route make it ideal for cyclists of all levels. Xiamen's bike-sharing services are efficient and easy to use, ensuring a hassle-free cycling experience.

Shenzhen (深圳)

Shenzhen, a modern metropolis known for its rapid development, is also a fantastic city for cycling. Despite being a relatively young city, Shenzhen offers a variety of cycling routes that cater to different interests. The city is known for its well-planned urban spaces and beautiful coastal views.

Cycling along Shenzhen's coastline provides a refreshing experience, with the opportunity to enjoy the sea breeze and visit popular spots such as the Dameisha Beach Park. Shenzhen's drivers are known for their adherence to traffic rules, making the city a safer place for cyclists. The city's bike-sharing system is highly convenient, with bikes that can be rented and returned using mobile payment apps.

The Convenience of Bike-Sharing in China

One of the major advantages of cycling in China is the widespread availability of bike-sharing services. These services, available in major cities like Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, Kunming, Xiamen, and Shenzhen, make it incredibly easy to rent and return bikes.

To use these bike-sharing services, you simply need to scan a QR code on the bike with your smartphone, using popular payment apps like Alipay or WeChat. This unlocks the bike, allowing you to ride it for as long as you need. Once you're done, you can return the bike to any designated station or even park it in a safe and legal spot, depending on the service's policies.

This convenience makes cycling an attractive option for both locals and tourists, allowing them to explore cities at their own pace without worrying about the logistics of bike rentals.

In conclusion, China's cities offer a wealth of opportunities for cyclists, from the historic hutongs of Beijing to the scenic landscapes of Hangzhou and the coastal routes of Qingdao and Xiamen. With the convenience of bike-sharing services, exploring these cities by bicycle has never been easier. Whether you're looking to immerse yourself in local culture or simply enjoy a leisurely ride through beautiful scenery, China's best cycling cities have something for everyone.