Hello Beijing

Our final day of riding was to be one with a difference, it was a misty morning as we loaded up our bikes for the final time and set off. We were going to be given an opportunity to try the “forbidden fruit” of the expressway. Apparently the area manager for this section of the roads is a BMW bike fan and we were to be permitted to ride along it. We enjoyed the feel of once more using the higher gears on the bikes and easily covering distances which would have taken us much longer on the other roads, but we also realised that actually we might as well be riding at home on roads like this and not on the opposite side of the world. On the expressway we missed seeing the trucks with their comedy loads, the sight of whole families crammed onto one scooter and the smiles and waves of the other drivers as we passed by. So maybe there is a trade-off and actually going the fastest route isn’t always the best way to travel.

Regardless, we made it into Beijing and then had to stop, we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and our expected escort of local riders had not appeared. We waited while the guide contacted them by phone. I used the time to polish up Beryl, cleaning some of the dust off her with the rag that I kept handy. Traffic stopped to get a closer look at us, with people standing in the street to take photos. As we were well aware, the habit of pointing and staring is quite common here and yet again we were the object of their fascination. We stood out more than usual because our group of thirteen vehicles had stopped on a main road and obviously had no idea where it was going.

There’s a strange law that doesn’t allow foreign bikes inside the fifth circle of Beijing, ie we can’t go into the centre of the city. There’s some confusion aongst us and the guides as to why this is, maybe because of congestion or pollution are two of the educated guesses, but neither of those seems probable. Eventually a small group of the city’s finest bike riders arrived, beckoned us to follow them and doing a U-Turn immediately set off with us in hot pursuit. We were told to keep up with them and for a while it was a bit of a free for all as this involved weaving in and out of the queues of speeding traffic on the expressway. I’m enjoying it, but I know some of the group are a bit nervous. For me the adrenaline starts to flow once I’m in busy foreign cities and surrounded by vehicles, knowing that I’m on a bike that can accelerate much faster than any of them is always a thrill as I pick my way through doing cheeky little manoeuvres that I wouldn’t get away with in England.

The word was spread through our unruly convoy to slow down and so we did though I could see the local guys itching to show us how they usually handle the congestion. We eventully pulled up at the front of BMW Beijing to find a gala reception awaiting us with a big stage, banners, music and dancing girls (actually I’m joking about the dancing girls but it sounded good). Even better than that was the shopping trolley loaded with cold beers, eyes were gleaming as we spotted it. Eyes were also gleaming for a very different reason, this was the final destination for our bikes. We all grabbed the opportunity for group photos and congratulated one another on having successfully made it on what is one of the world’s most perilous journeys.