04 February 2008

Beijing January 2005 - Part 1

Have you ever faced a Texas Blue Norther? Has your face ever been instantly freeze-dried?

The doors from the terminal to the car-park at Beijing's International Airport opened and I instantly knew the antithesis of the opening of a blast furnace!

I had been met by Clay and Gerald, who guided me to where Alpha was parked in the car-park. No, that's not a typo; it was not an Alfa; it was "Alpha."

Alpha (fine-weather photo at top right) is a 1959 Chang Jiang motorbike and sidecar which had been meticulously restored by Gerald, not as a museum piece (although it is well worthy of display as one), but as his everyday ride-to-work vehicle. Flat army green in colour, the bike represents one of the very first made-in-China sidecar outfits built after the production line had been moved from Russia in a 1957 Technology Exchange. In fact, Alpha has several Russian parts left over from the train-loads of parts that had been shipped as part of that exchange. The tank badges on Alpha are genuine Russian "IMZ" badges, for example.

I hopped into the sidecar, Gerald mounted the bike and Clay perched himself on the pillion. Alpha started with the first kick, as any well-prepared motorbike ought to. We paid the Shroff and accelerated out onto the Airport Motorway.

Now I was well rugged up clothing wise, but had no helmet, only a white cotton cricket hat. It was -2ºC (US = 28.4ºF) in Beijing and I saw Alpha's speedo sitting on 80 km/h (US = 50 mph) so the wind chill factor made it seem very much colder: -13ºC (US = 9ºF). The trouble was, I didn't want to miss any of the sights, so I alternately held the sidecar's canvas tonneau cover over my face, and then kept peeping above it to enjoy the scenery. I kept also scrutineering every part of the bike as we sped along; I had ridden this model bike before, but this was my first experience riding in a CJ sidecar. What a freezing introduction! But soon we would be at the warm hotel I had booked through Zuji Travel - a really great and easy to use online booking system that finds incredibly cheap flights and hotels. CLICK HERE for Zuji Travel
We shall post more on this ride later . . .

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