Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Scooter Scene in Shanghai, China

I recently visited Shanghai and was very surprised to see a thriving scooter scene. I wouldn't say scooters are as prevalent as they are in other asian countries (think Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, etc.), but they are definitely a popular means of transportation. However, there are some notable differences with the scooters in Shanghai than in other parts of the world (that I've experienced atleast).

1. I would say more than 25% of the scooters are electric. I was in Beijing earlier this year and saw the same type of scooters there - however, they were much more prevalent in Beijing, comprising what seemed to be 90% or more of all scooters on the street. I did not recognize a consistent brand, but then again, I didn't stare at any close up. Also, the labeling of the scooters makes it hard to tell what the exact maker is - "Super scooter 100", doesn't really tell me its made by X company" (and some of the scooters looked to be unbranded). Further, these electric scooters are much smaller in profile than the the typical 125cc gas scooter - they are much slimmer, and the tires are considerably smaller, looking halfway between a bike tire and a scooter tire. How do you tell if a scooter is electric? The dead giveaway is the size, but also the lack of muffler. One more thing to note - I almost was hit by an electric scooter as I did not hear it approach - they are dead quiet! With the street noise of cars, etc., they are very hard to hear - be warned!

2. Less than half the people wear helmets. Very common to see people riding around with just a jacket on - no eye protection (maybe glasses), no helmet, etc. And strange as it may sound, the farther you get away from the city, the more helmets you see. I went to a town about 40 miles west of Shanghai city, and was surprised to see more riders wearing helmets - and this is on wide open, non-crowded roads. Shouldn't it be the other way? Perhaps more open --> greater speed --> wear helmet?

3. Profile of scooter users is pretty broad - woman, men, old, young, etc. No real theme here. I saw a woman, who must of been in her 40s/50s, riding along one of the busiest streets in Shanghai like it was no big deal (no helmet either).

4. Bicycles are still very popular in China. Many people still bike around on vintage looking bicycles (think one gear) - pretty cool. Also, mo-peds are popular as well (think bicycle with tiny engine).

5. In the rural areas, not uncommon to see 3 or 4 people on one scooter. Wife, husband, and two kids often ride around.

6. Gas is cheap in Shanghai, due to government subsidies. I think the gas prices were 50% or less of what the US consumers pay. Interesting to note, but China has banned gas motorcycles/scooters in many provinces, saying it contributes to the smog/pollution (which is horrible in China, Beijing and Shanghai especially). I find that odd as most of the pollution in China is due to industry factories, not scooters!

Can you see pollution?

Gas Scooter!

Police Motorycycle

Close Parking



Chinese Helmet (Helicopter Helmet?)

40-Miles Outside Shanghai

NSR (Not Scooter Related)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Canyon Ride

Since moving to LA, I have joined up with a couple scooter groups. There are two in the LA/Greater LA area that seem to be the most prominent and organized, an LA group and a group out of Long Beach. As you all probably guessed, the LA group usually organizes rides in the LA area, and well, Long beach...yeah - you get it. Anyways, the LA group organized a ride last weekend through the canyons just north west of Los Angeles. The canyon area is just north of Malibu, and they are spectacular. Imagine twisting (almost 90 degree turns) in succession, climbing mountains with spectacular views. Who would imagine there is such riding only 30 minutes outside LA? While I had ridden through some of the canyons before, the ride took me through some parts that I was unfamiliar with - and the ride was pretty amazing. Apologies, but given the group ride, I really didn't have any opportunity to stop and take pictures of the scenery or the roads. Usually when I ride myself, I stop more frequently to snap pics, but the ride was pretty organized, and there was no way I was going to stop the entire group for my sake. I would of snapped pics while riding, but 1) that's how I broke my camera in the first place (in Iowa somewhere...I think) and 2) the roads were so darn twisty I needed both hands! I'll be sure to ride up there in the near future and take more pics - the scenery and roads are absolutely stunning.

As you can imagine, the canyons are very popular with motorcyclists. We stopped by a famous biker stop called "the Rock store", which had about 50 motorcyclists. Apparently, it has been a hot spot for bikers for years - dating back to the 60s(not sure, don't quote me). It was pretty cool rollin up to a 1500cc monster motorcycle on my 250cc Vespa!

On the way back to LA, we cruised down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway for those who aren't from California - it's a highway that runs down the coast) and stopped by another biker hot spot "Neptune's Net". They have pretty good food - one section serves fish and chips/chicken tenders/fries (think golden fried plate), and one section serves fresh seafood (Lobster, clams, corn, etc). It was pretty darn good I have to admit. Plus, the view of the ocean/coastline/beach was pretty amazing.

All in all, the ride was about 130+ miles, which to be honest, was a little long for me. I hadn't ridden more than 50 miles in one day since the cross country trip, so I was not exactly in "riding shape". Anyway, felt good riding for an extended time, but my back/bottom was a little stiff the next day. I took a couple pics along the way. Hope you all enjoy them.

*Disclaimer* I took some pictures from other people on the ride, and the Ventura County Ventures Scooter Crew website!

Meet-up at Starbucks at Woodland Hills, CA

The Rock Store

Gassing up Near Thousand Oaks

'Ol Reliable

Stop at the Original "Hotel California" and Meetup with the Ventura County Ventures Scooter Crew.

Neptunes on PCH