More incredible food, beautiful weather, and vintage motorcycles…..it all added up to a great fun-filled Saturday as Nancy and I were introduced to the world of Chang Jiang 750cc sidecar motorcycles. Since we moved here, I have been checking out these things on the internet as a potential move to a bigger bike but did not think they could be licensed/registered in Wuhan. The city passed laws in the late 90s that prevent the licensing of larger motorcycles. However, I have since found out from my new-found friends/dealers/restorers that they can be registered and licensed though a nearby town and then are legal to ride here. These bikes have a long history () and are basically 1938 technology! Today, they have a cult following inside China and around the world and the sky’s the limit as far as restoration and accessories goes.
Originally, we were supposed to go on an overnight camping trip to have a chance to test-drive a CJ. However, it turned into a one-day adventure when one of the guys decided he couldn’t spare his Sunday because he had too much to do.
We met Jhon at a local restaurant on Saturday morning and chatted as
Relaxing in the sidecar
This is the one that is soon to be ours.
we waited for his friend to finish up some university work that he had to complete. We compared stories and got a kick out of some of his experiences in traveling around the province. He described to us that there is an informal “price list” for any animals you hit with your motorcycle while touring through the countryside. Chickens will cost you a small amount but a dog can be as much as 2000RMB because they can be used as guard dogs and also as food. Cattle will cost you as much as 20,000RMB (on top of the damage you do to yourself!!). He went on to explain that the farmers will argue that you have killed several generations of animals by injuring or killing one! Hopefully, we will never be in a situation where we need to refer to the list but it is good to know the mindset ahead of time!
Fox arrived a bit late and we took off to his apartment complex, yet another of hundreds in the city. I was given a quick tour of the machine and then took it on a little spin around the complex a couple of times to get
the hang of it. Let’s just say it was not the same as riding my good old Kawasaki Nomad! When you sit on one of these bikes, it is a trip back in time but the basic stuff is all in the same place; brakes, clutch, signals, etc. Getting used to the side car is gonna take awhile but they are definitely a kick to ride. Once they decided I has some control of the thing, they took us out to a fairly empty stretch of highway in the city for some wide-open practice.
A CJ750 is a cross between a jeep and a motorcycle! They are high enough to go anywhere, pretty much indestructible and despite the low 32 horsepower can carry an awesome load. One of them actually took eight passengers for a local trip once! Going across stretches of grass and rocks and over high curbs to get to the road was no problem. After this lesson, and allowing me to drive around the city a bit, they came to the conclusion that I had very good basic motorcycle skills. The worst and best was yet to come!!
We zipped over to a local “country”
restaurant for lunch. Eating out here is always a treat, especially if you are with people who can order for you. This restaurant did not have a fixed menu but served food that was in season on a weekly basis. You choose what you wanted from a large chalkboard outside before you enter. As always, the meal was incredible and the beer was cheap!
After lunch, we headed for Jiefeng Forest Park on the outskirts of Wuhan. Technically, I think it is still inside the Wuhan city limits. We turned off the main highway onto a smaller, concrete secondary road that wound its way up the side of a small mountain through some beautiful forest. We then turned off onto a good vehicle trail that continued up the hillside deeper into the bush. Soon, the woods opened up to a small lake called the Mayi Reservoir. There were no more than half a dozen people here swimming and sunbathing on the side of the lake. This was definitely a China we had not seen up until now. The water was crystal clear because it was in a large park as well as being at the top of a “mountain”.
Lesson 1...using the kickstart
I had to learn how to use the kickstart before they would allow me to use the electric start:) All the bikes have both.
We lazed around on the side of the reservoir for a bit and went for a swim before heading out again for some off-roading experience.
This would be about as far as you would be able to go with a small car. From this point on, the trail became very rutty, muddy, and there was a pretty good drop-off on one side of the trail in places. I have covered a lot of highway and secondary roads on our motorcycle in the last few years but I have to tell you that the next ten minutes of riding on this rutted, muddy trail was the most difficult thing I have done on two (or I should say) three wheels. Within five minutes of starting to climb up the hill, I veered off the edge of the trail and into a tree. If the sidecar had not connected with the tree, I think we would have had a pretty good ride down the hill, but not the same way we came up! I was almost stopped by the time tree and I were formally introduced so there was no damage done to the bike but Nancy’s heart (she was in
the sidecar) is probably still recuperating.
Jhon and Fox, who by that time were way ahead, came back to help us pull the thing back on to the trail, gave me a few pointers and then sent me off on my way again. I soon realized that I was not up to the task, handed the controls back to Jhon and jumped onto the back seat. Manoevring a 750 pound motorcycle up the side of a mountain over a muddy trail was not something I could learn to do in ten minutes! As we rode along, he shouted out more instructions on how to control the beast on a trail such as this. They both made it look so easy as they sped up the hill over rocks, through water and mud, and said that with a little practice, I would be just as confident.
After returning to the city, Nancy and I realized we were hooked! These bikes are made for China and its roads. They can be used as an off-road vehicle to access places we would not be able to see otherwise and they come with a built-in network of other bikers just as crazy
as us! We were told we would definitely be invited to join them on summer trips they take around the province, which would be a great way to see the countryside. They are also toying with the idea of a trip to Tibet at some point down the road.
Soooo, I told them I would buy the Navigator, the one we used on Saturday. It is pretty basic but if we are gonna be following these two and their crew around, a flashy paint job would not last very long! Oh, and did I mention that the thing has four huge built in speakers that turn it into a traveling boom box when the mood hits. The music was cranked as rode back from the park. Well, that is enough for now. Stay tuned for more crazy adventures once we get this new toy on the road!!
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