Shanghai Insiders specializes in off-the-beaten-path adventures on Chinese-made, Soviet-style sidecars. // © 2013 China Cycle Tours
I’d like to think that the top cities in the U.S. that recently launched city bike programs — such as New York City and Chicago — learned a thing or two after riding around in Shanghai. One of China’s most tumultuous cities is, believe it or not, one of the most bike-friendly cities, thanks to wide bike and scooter lanes along some scenic streets. What works to Shanghai’s advantage is that the city is relatively flat, ensuring adventures on wheels are leisurely. Local vendors, Art Deco buildings and the expanding Bund area ensure that rides are thrilling.
Launched in 2008, China Cycle Tours is a Shanghai-based bicycle tourism company that specializes in guided city and countryside biking tours. Staff members are bilingual, and guides handle all logistical details including transportation, lodging, food, activities and even custom tours. Most of the company’s clients come from the U.S. market. Top tours include a half-day Old Shanghai Exploration ($70 per person for 1-2 people) and the full, one-day Shanghai Classic tour ($140 per person for 1-2 people), which includes lunch and roundtrip ferry tickets.
But bicycles are not the only wheels your clients can cruise on when touring Shanghai. Shanghai Insiders (formerly Shanghai Sideways) distinguishes itself with its sidecar tours. The driver/guide takes the visitor (in the attached sidecar) throughout off-the-beaten-path attractions in Shanghai, where they discover the city’s gems during an exciting ride. For the cheapest tour — The Catchy Ride, which is one-hour long — prices start at $130 for one person. The most popular tour is the two-hour tour with champagne ($300 for two people).
All of the guides at Shanghai Insiders are expats who have lived in Shanghai for a minimum of three years to ensure that they know the city streets well. Another draw is the motorcycles themselves. The fleet has historical value.
“The bikes are Chang Jiangs,” said general manager Shane Ullman, an expatriate from Australia. “They are Chinese-made. In 1945, the Soviets got the plans from the BMW factories in Germany and started using them in their army. Then, in the 1950s, Stalin and Mao Zedong were pretty close, so they transferred technology. The Chinese were using them in their army until 1997. My bike is from 1995 and is an old Chinese army bike but looks just like the 1930s BMWs that they are based on.”
Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai has also caught onto the buzz. Just last month, the luxury hotel along the Huangpu River promenade launched Shanghai’s first and only Segway experience. Guests scoot through the city with an experienced guide on 30-minute Riverfront tours ($65 per person).
“At Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, it is all about providing memorable guest experiences, and I personally find it fun and exciting to cruise on a Segway along the Harbour City waterfront promenade,” said general manager Pierre Barthes. “Guests will be able to enjoy the extraordinary 21st century cityscape of Pudong and the breathtaking scenery that our unique location provides.”