Shanghai to Hangzhou:
deadline, pouring rain, and Friday rush
July 4, 2014, 182 km (113 miles)
Got up early, (not a morning person) ate
breakfast, packed my lunch and I was off at around 7am.
Traffic starting getting ugly around 8am and I finally
got out of the tangled web of morning commuter traffic
by 9am. Then I hit my first snag. The Songzheng road
bridge just past Songjiang town on the route is under
construction. I've encountered this situation many times
before in Shanghai and often times it is just closed to
motor vehicles, usually there is a way to walk across,
however this bridge had absolutely no way of crossing
it, except by crane.
bit frustrated, I found another crossing to the south on
Minta highway, perhaps a 3km detour that probably ended
up being closer to 10km because of a few wrong turns.
After crossing the bridge, I felt relieved and had my
first break around 10:30am. I discovered a rest stop
near the southwest corner of Zhangjiagangong road and
Guangan road. Functional toilets, a small hole in the
wall store to buy water, and most importantly, very
quiet and peaceful.
Arrived in Jiaxing around 12pm. It started to rain. I
stopped at gas station near Chengdong road and Dongsheng
east road, took another break, refilled on water, and
thought about my situation. My wife booked a hotel in
Hangzhou for me via Ctrip (a popular Chinese travel
website) that had a 6pm check in deadline. With dry
weather, this would have been easy to accomplish. I
chose to continue on, however the rain made it
impossible to use my mobile phone to confirm I was on
route. I had printed out a cuesheet, however this became
useless outside of Shanghai, as most of the streets are
unmarked or have different names. I eventually found my
way out of Jiaxing after a few wrong turns, and a bit of
backtracking. I then proceeded southwest on the G320
The rain got worse, and turned into a downpour. The bike
lane on the G320 was a real mess, flooded out, massive
potholes, overgrown bushes, with many scooters using the
highway which resulted in total traffic chaos. This
highway, like most major highways in China, has lots of
noisy heavy truck traffic, with air horns blasting
constantly. I followed a three wheeled electric truck in
the right lane for a few km until he turned off, and
then continued very slowly down the rough muddy bike
lane, not willing to risk mixing with traffic in the
This downpour was relentless, so strong at this point
that most of the bus stops were crowded with stopped
motorcycles waiting for the rain to stop. I joined them
and started to realize there was no way I was going to
make it to the hotel by 6pm. I sent a message to my wife
around 5pm updating her on my status, luckily they
extended the check in time to 7pm. So now having an
extra hour and with just 28km to go I felt I could make
Bad luck struck again as I felt my back tire going soft.
I rolled into to another gas station just before it went
flat, pulled out some glass that was very difficult to
find because of all the mud, and put in my spare tube.
It was now 6pm and quite dark. I turned on all my
lights, continued on, and finally made it to the turnoff
onto Xucun road. There were flooded roads here too, my
feet were often underwater, sometimes approaching hub
depth. I passed through a surprisingly wealthy farmer
village, and made a few more wrong turns, then arrived
on the outskirts of Hangzhou.
This was an amazing contrast from the G320 highway
previously. People actually obeyed the traffic rules,
passed carefully, and were not shouting "LAOWAI!" every
few minutes. I finally arrived at the hotel at 7:30pm,
covered head to toe in mud with a smile knowing that I
made it halfway to Ningbo. The friendly hotel staff were
aware of my situation thanks to my wife. I wheeled my
bicycle onto the elevator and checked into my room on
the tenth floor. I immediately took a shower, changed
into clean dry clothes, and felt human again.
Hangzhou to Ningbo:
July 5, 2014, 171 km (106 miles)
Massive heat, friendly locals, and a race
against a thunderstorm.
Total 353 km (219 miles)
I woke up around 8am and
tried in vain to restore my bicycle to the condition
that it was in when I left Shanghai. Most of the
cables were seized, sandy grit was everywhere. Indexed
shifting was no longer an option, so I switched to
friction mode. Seriously high friction mode, that
required full hand strength to shift, not just your
thumb. Luckily my front dérailleur was mostly
functional, and I was able to get the rear to work
somewhat. The front brake cable was still operational,
the rear was a bit stiff, and both sets of brake pads
were worn to the point of needing replacement. The
chain was bone dry and rusted, it looked like it had
been sitting outside for years. I had cleaned and
oiled it the night before I left Shanghai.
Resupplied at the nearby supermarket. I bought ham,
cheese, bread, bananas, roasted almonds, cookies and
water. I checked out at 10AM, a bit worried about the
mess from all the dirt that was everywhere in the
room. The housekeeping staff said it was no problem
and I was on the road around 10:30am.
it was already quite warm, about 32C, sunny and very
humid. I started to realize this could be more
difficult than the day before as I rolled away. I was
a bit disappointed because the gears were skipping,
and the brakes were a bit sluggish. I crossed the
Jiangdong bridge by using the elevator that brought us
to the bridge deck. There was only room for three
motorcycles in the elevator. Had to wait in line for
my turn. I was thinking to myself, in a typical
Shanghai rush hour this system would take hours. You
could swim across the river faster. I was thankful to
get across because the path is narrow, it would be all
too easy to get clipped by a careless motorcyclist, be
mangled by the guard rail and/or ejected into the
highway traffic or into the river below.
After the bridge I was in need of a toilet. I made
point to drink as much water as possible, so I stopped
at the first fuel station only to discover they had no
public toilet, or even water that I could buy. The
chain was squeaking, grinding and making all kinds of
nasty noises, so I was on the lookout for a small
motorcycle repair shop. Turned east onto Hongshiwu
highway, there was a strong tailwind combined with the
rush of traffic allowed for effortless speeds around
30-35km/hr, too much of I good thing I thought. I was
correct, the bike lane is directed off the highway
after a few km.
rerouted to Weilao line to the south, and found
everything I needed. I spotted a repair shop that had
a blue and yellow can of WD40 on the work bench, I
pulled a u-turn and pointed at the can and pointed at
my chain, the two young women standing there gestured
that it was OK for me to use. I offered to pay
whatever they wanted, they refused. I rode off giving
them a big smile and thumbs up as I could feel my
tired bike coming back to life again. Just past the
repair stand I saw another gas station. I used the
toilet, refilled on water, ate a banana and some
cookies. The temperature was at least 35C at this
point, but my confidence had been completely restored.
continued following the intended route, which has a
variety of small towns that transitioned into an
industrial district closer to the Cao'e river. This
stretch of road was gorgeous, although it was too hot
to stop and admire the scenery. At last I found some
shade under the G92 bridge, that doubled as a bus
stop. It was not a pretty place with piles of trash
everywhere. It was around the halfway point, and I
figured it was time to eat. I ate the ham and bread
that I bought, the cheese had melted and was quite
soft, so I didn't open the package. By the time I
finished my last banana, there were a few people
waiting for the bus.
I am starting to pack up my things, the person sitting
next to me asks, Hey man, where are you going? I say,
"Ningbo coming from Hangzhou". He replied, "That's
cool, I think you are about half way!" I asked him
where he is from and what he does for work, he replied
he is from the local area and works in manufacturing.
I asked him who he practices English with, he said he
learns mostly from books and listening to English
material, and speaks with anyone he can. I start
riding again and had to make another detour, as Google
expects me to cross the Cao'e river by using the
railway bridge. I chose to take the G329 highway
bridge across, since it is part of the route. At that
time, I was feeling quite strong, the break I took was
very much needed.
crossed the G92 highway again, and was coming down a
bridge incline towards X514 intersection, when I spot
a car coming up quickly in the right lane behind me in
my helmet mirror. The light is green, the highway
traffic is stopped and the bike lane is clear. I'm
coasting at about 35km/hr as the car continues to try
to get ahead of me even though traffic in front of him
is stopped, He snaps his car to the right towards me
while directly looking at me, forcing me to brake,
then he cuts left back into traffic and proceeds to
take a left turn at the next intersection. I was
livid. There is no way that was an accidental move, it
was pure aggression on his part. I kept pointing at
him to stop, and I rolled into the gas station near
the intersection thinking he might be stupid enough to
drive over and get out of his car, lucky for him, he
After cooling down, I felt grateful that I had enough
awareness of that situation to avoid an accident.
While I was using the toilet, a lady that was standing
outside talking on the phone walks up to my bike, when
I came out she walked away, I assumed she was just
curious, however as I left I realized my bicycle
computer stopped responding. It was loose in the
mounting bracket, and the wheel magnet was loose as
well. I had to laugh, its not that expensive, 100RMB
($16USD) or so, her phone costs waaaay more than that,
but then again, maybe she didn't pay for it?
this point I was looking forward to getting on the
back roads again, busy highways seem to make everyone
crazy, including myself. Turned off the G329, at
Yuexing road, back onto a countryside road. I smelled
a pig farm and just as I got close I heard tiny piglet
squeal as it took off at top speed away from the road.
As I stopped to check the map, I heard thunder booming
away off in the distance. I turned around and saw it
was quite close. Not wanting a repeat experience of
pouring rain, I pressed on. I turned east onto the
S319 and started to feel the wind at my back, with the
storm clouds getting closer. There were a few
lightning strikes and a cool rush of air as the storm
Apparently I wasn't the only one who wanted to try and
outrun the storm. Everyone was going at top speed,
even the other bicycles. It started getting really
dark. I turned on my lights and I got behind a 3
wheeled electric truck that had a windshield, which
provided a perfect draft. He frantically maxed out his
machine at speeds up to 50km/hr while nervously
checking his rear view mirror. I'm not sure if he was
afraid of the storm or me, every time there was a bump
in the road his little truck would bounce off the
ground, it looked like it was hard to control. After
maybe 10km or so, it was time for me to turn south and
cut through Yuyao city.
Just outside of Yuyao, I started to feel my back tire
going soft again, I stopped under a huge electric
transformer that is supported by two utility poles and
patched the puncture, as there was just enough light
from sunset to see clearly. Lots of people walked by,
checked to see if I was OK, and then kept going. When
this happens in Shanghai, it always draws a crowd of
onlookers that stand around and point and laugh like
its a circus attraction.
followed the Guzha line, which had a wide bike lane,
but it was wet from a previous rainstorm. There was
not much traffic so I used the right lane that was
dry, quite comfortably during most of this stretch. As
it got darker the road started to climb and descend
and curve a bit, nothing too extreme, just some
foothills, this was a beautiful way to enter Ningbo.
It was now about 7:45pm, the battery on my phone was
almost out of power. I stopped at another gas station,
this time for about 30 minutes, ate some cookies and
refilled my water bottles for the last time while I
tried to recharge just enough to finish my route.
made my way through Ningbo, for about an hour, and of
course the battery died again about 10km away from the
hotel. I pulled out my spare phone and called my wife,
telling her I was close, but it might be awhile before
I find the hotel without GPS. She came to my location
with her cousins husband who picked me up with his car
and drove us back to the hotel, and we finally arrived
at 10:30pm. I was a bit annoyed with myself for not
bringing a spare battery. As I stated in the
beginning, this is all new to me, and quite the
Sunday July 6, 2014
Ride time was about 8 hours each day
with an average speed of 20km/hr.
I spent the rest of my time checking the map, resting,
and waiting for stoplights.
preference is the countryside, or big cities.
areas and busy highways are best avoided.
fenders may have helped in a rainstorm,
however it would be better to avoid or wait out the storm.
oil, spare derailleur and brake cables, and an extra
battery for the phone.
I was happy with China Mobile 4G coverage,
much better than in some places in Shanghai.
seems to have the best English maps of China.
(requires a VPN though)
Durano tires are great on dry roads,
but they are easily punctured on wet roads.
importantly, I should take a rest day if I ride more
Also, I admire those who take
the time to write detailed journals,
they make it look so easy.