The September Tour de Bund, Charity Bike Ride is nothing like I have ever seen before on any bike ride in America. It was however, a great fundraiser for an organization called Raleigh.
I had registered for the ride but it was already full before I got my registration in. Apparently, a rule in China states that if more than 99 people congregate in the same area, it is against the law. So, they had to limit registrants. Several of us who ride frequently with the SISU bike club in Shanghai were asked to be guides for the ride instead.
A guide? Hmmmm, as I chuckled knowing I get lost pretty easily over here trying to read Chinese signs with their arrows pointing everywhere but the right way. Guides for this ride were going to be responsible for 7.5 people each as we were told. Each group would have 15 people and two guides, one lead and one sweeper. I opted to be the sweeper thinking that might be safer for my 7.5 people. However, the leader of my group was a colleague who had only been in China for 4 weeks. So I wasn’t really certain I chose the correct guide position. But what the heck, it is always an adventure in China, no matter what you choose to do. If we get lost, we will eventually find our way to the finish line, courtesy of google maps on our I-phones, well I can’t figure out the dots, but he will be able to guide us.
The guides met at a local coffee shop on our side of town on a beautiful Saturday morning to get an escort to the start line, which was a good thing because I did not remember how to get to the start line. WHEW, One less thing to have to think about, I can just follow the group. With about two miles to the start, my co-guide had a flat tire on his road bike. Did we have a tube or tire pump to fix it? NO. Was there anyone near who could help? NO. So he ran along side his bike for the next couple of miles until we reached the start line where the TREK Bicycle employees were setting up their tents and providing support to riders along the route. I think they were surprised they had a flat to change so early in the morning before the ride even started.
As we waited for everyone to get registered Dale and I went to study the map. I figured we ought to know where to go since we were the guides. There was a huge 3×6 foot map of the route.
We bent down and tried to remember the route from the pre-ride the week before, but not too much was coming back to either one of us. We remembered we turned right at the chickens, and we passed the guy scooping eels in a bucket as we rode through the village, but that was about it.
One of the registrants noticed us looking at and studying the map. She was trying to reassure us that “everything was going to be ok and she wasn’t worried about it because after all, they are supplying guides for the ride.” We looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh as we told her, “We ARE the guides!” Her mouth fell open and her eyes grew as big as baseballs! We kept studying the map!
It was time for group 5 to start, which was us, 7 groups altogether. Each group started a few minutes apart. We had about 24 people in our group, hmmmm, that’s a lot more than 7.5 people, and there was about a total of 180 people riding in all. So now not only do we not know the route, we are breaking the law with more than 100 people assembled in a group. Of the 24 people in our group, two of them were children under the age of 12, which is another law breaker, as kids under 12 are not allowed to ride bicycles except for in their own compound. Aye Yi Yi….what have i gotten myself into.
Well, the good news is that we lost our group of 22 adults and two kids, so it didn’t really look like we had more than 100
people anyway. Dale had taken off with the faster group, while I was in the back with the slower ones. Some of the slower ones were not registered riders, so I did not have to wait on them so I continued on trying to catch up with the rest of group 5. I stopped and helped a girl who was having problems with her brakes. Yes, my time at Lee’s/TREK Bicycles in Tulsa helped me get this girl back on the rode rolling freely.
This girl eventually joined group 6 so I kept rolling, finally passing the chickens and the eels, and catching up with Dale at the ferry. I asked him where our people were? He said he didn’t know. I thought he had them, and he thought I had them. Neither of us had our people. We got on the ferry and hoped they were on the other side. We did find a couple of riders from group 5, so we gathered them up and continued on.
We made our way through the oncoming traffic of buses, motorcycles, taxis and so on along side the Bund, which is also a NO-NO in China. Bicycles are not allowed in this area. Finally arriving at the finish line with two people in our group, Dale and myself, we park our bikes with the valet and strolled into the Peninsula Hotel for nothing less than a feast! There was so much delicious food, fruits, pastries, chocolates, salads, pastas, beef kabobs, pork, you name it, and it was being served on real china, (I guess that is what they call their good dishes in China) with real silverware,
no chopsticks! The spread was amazing! As we strolled around sampling everything they had to eat and drink, we saw the final group leader come in and we figured all of our lost souls in group 5 had made it in as well, we hoped so anyway!
I wonder if they will want us as guides next year?