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Pandemic fuels sports biking boom in cycling nation China

Pandemic fuels sports biking boom in cycling nation China

Members of the Qiyi bicycle club pose for a photo during a rest stop at a mountain summit near the end of a group ride…

Saturday, Aug 13

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Members of the Qiyi bicycle club pose for a photo during a rest stop at a mountain summit near the end of a group ride through the Baihe River Canyon in the northern outskirts of Beijing. BEIJING—Lindsay Mo couldn’t go to her gym after Beijing shut down indoor sports facilities in May because of a coronavirus outbreak. So she started cycling—and soon fell in love with the sport.

“I realized a racing bicycle was quite different than a regular bike,” she said. “It’s very fast and exciting, and I couldn’t stop anymore.”

Bicycles have long been a means of transport in China and once outnumbered cars on city streets. Now cycling is increasingly also seen as a sport by an urban middle class that has benefited from China’s growth into the world’s second-largest economy. What began as a niche sport about a decade ago has turned into a mini-boom.

Biking events organized by Beijing cycling club Qiyi tallied about 10,000 participants over the past year, with about 50 percent of them regulars. Nationwide, at least 20 million people are participating in the sport, according to the Chinese Cycling Association.

The pandemic has played a role, with authorities moving quickly to close non-essential businesses—including gyms—during outbreaks under a strict zero-Covid approach. Cycling, which can be done individually as well as in groups, has largely been free from restrictions that limit gatherings, especially indoors.

Rides organized by cycling clubs or individual cyclists in Beijing take enthusiasts to outlying mountainous areas or by city landmarks including Tiananmen […]

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