Many thanks for your well wishes guys.
This is a very quick note to say that I arrived in Beijing this afternoon (yep I rode into the city) and am just doing a quick dump for you of the last 3 days of riding.
Firstly, I managed to get my GPS charged up, and a very useful device it has proven to be. The Garmin world map actually has a fair amount of detail of the country roads, but a major issue is that the Chinese are constantly rebuilding and moving the roads so I would often confuse myself and backtrack because I was not ON the route as per the Garmin. I eventually woke up and realised that as long as I was heading in roughly the same direction, I could be up to 10km off the route without problems.
Day 1 (1/2 day) Xian to Lingbao - 300km.
Much easier riding now that I'm back on the flat lands. Easy 1/2 day ride with no hassles except for constant roadworks and crazy truck drivers.
Day 2 Lingbao to Xinxiang - 450km.
More easy riding - great to cross the Yellow River on the G107, then at 6.10pm I feel the Haobon start to lose power (not as if it has a lot to begin with
). 2km ahead is a fuel services stop so I keep riding and then pullover. As I slow way down, something feels a little odd and I look down to confirm the rear is flat. Fortunately the services had a tyre repair centre (for cars and trucks) and they pulled the tyre to find a 2" nail and a totally shredded tube.
The repair guy went off somewhere (into town I think) and half an hour later
had a new tube, and I showed him how to remove the wheel so we could replace it. 15 minutes later I'm back on the road and pulled into Xinxiang for the night.
Day 3 to Xinxiang to Dingzhou - 450km.
A little bit tougher today as there are frequent road works and it is really bumpy and dirty in parts. Going well till around 2.30pm when all of a sudden the suspension starts to feel not quite right. Pull over to confirm my second rear puncture in two days of riding. This time I'm well away from any towns and the thought of pushing is not appealling. I discover that the little Haobon is quite comfortable up to 30kmh in 3rd even with a totally flat rear. After riding for 5km I find a little roadside bike repair centre and pull in to find the shop is owned and run by a woman. She pulls the tyre to find another nail and a stuffed tube. I get her to put the new tube in and also buy a set of crash bars off her for 35 yuan. I needed the crash bars because my derriere is red raw from 10-12 hour days on rough roads on a saddle that has maybe 10mm of cushioning on a good day. Now I can use the crash bars as highway pegs to get a little relief in my seating position.
Day 4 (1/2 day) DingZhou to Beijing - 200km. Plain and simple ride. 48km from town there is a police check point. I just slowed down, looked to see if anyone was interested in me (they were too intent on going through the buses and trucks with a fine tooth comb) and just kept on riding. I was nervous about being stopped though as there are very VERY few bikes in Beijing and I am not sure how much interest they incur from the local police. I'm now staying in the Leo hostel approx 200 metres outside the 2nd ring road (in which bikes are not allowed) and doing fine.
Total distance ridden is now 3,800kms.
Major issues have been:
1. Crazy, crazy drivers trying to kill both myself and themselves - incidentally I saw a major crash every day and have seen 3 riders cleaned up by cars (I saw one this morning which I am sure was a fatality).
2. Roadworks everywhere, meaning lots of rough roads (my poor tush!) and lots of dust and dirt.
3. Diesel fumes - especially from those 3 wheeled trucks. Combined with the dust it means me and my clothing end up filthy each day. I hate to think what the inside of my lungs look like.
Overall I can't say enough about all my other interactions with the Chinese people. Everyone has been most friendly, including all the police. They just love foreigners.
I'm off in the morning to see about getting my Mongolian visa then it's off to Ulan Bataar.
I'll try to post some photos up shortly.
Garry from Oz.