Lanzhou. City of 2.1 million. Gansu Province. The far west. Faxian probably rolled through this way on his way to search for Buddhist scriptures. Likewise, Xuanzang likely passed by on his own Journey to the West. But the days of the silk road have long been over. Caravans have been replaced by freight trains and pilgrims make their journeys on 747s. However, in the history of the Flying Pigeon Project, we have covered bikes from many areas of China, but seldom from the arid, unforgiving, and history soaked west. Now thanks to Canadian David Brownridge, we can see that some people in Lanzhou, still find the old fashioned modes of travel most satisfying.
David, a teacher at the Northwestern Institute for Nationalities, writes us from this city on the Yellow River."
I am now in possession of my most beloved bike ever – The Phoenix. I believe it to be among the most beautiful vintage Chinese bikes ever, at least in regard to brand logos. I have now owned all four of the famous brands, but this one by far rides the smoothest, like a bird on the wing, 28-inch wings.
Six weeks ago I had my beloved Hong Qing stolen. Then I got a kinda' beat-up Forever. Then while browsing the second-hand bike market I saw this one, and even though short on cash, the man accepted my old bike as partial trade and I just had to take this baby home with me. It was love at first sight.
And, as you can see, bikes here are made to be functional, not pretty. So it's super-tough to find one that shines and has original decals and paint, I mean check out the pin-striping.
And original thick leather seats are almost unheard of.
Natch, the main area has lost some of its paint, but the chrome still looks pretty good all around, and the bell rings like an angel. The seller even tore off the chrome chain guard topper off my old bike and stuck it on the Phoenix. Nice. Exchangeable parts.
I don't ride her enough but at least a couple of times a week, and a good distance. With her height and smooth cranking she can eat up the klicks. And because I live on the side of a mountain, the brakes are vital, and work dreamy. Of course the roads are total mayhem; see the pic on a not-busy day – bikes going the wrong way, usually cars too, pedestrians jaywalking, or walking, or waiting on the roadside, big garbage pails, and the ubiquitous two-wheeled handcarts walking the wrong way. It'll keep you on your toes.
I was further provoked to buy her when so many people stopped at the market to admire her. And even now, wherever I ride, stop, or park, people often gather to gab and gawk at her beauty.
I was pretty depressed to lose my Red Flag, but as my Buddhist friend here says, 'It's all about karma'. So getting it stolen turned out great as now I am happier than ever; I hope will be together forever. I don't even think a heavily-chromed tart could tear me away from her colourful plumage.
Karma indeed! I think Faxian and Xuanzang would have agreed. The loss of the Hong Qi has resulted in something even finer. Of course every fine machine needs a name. I propose "Sandy"! ...which would hit on many notes. Xuanzang probably would have given his eye teeth to ride the Phoenix into the west.