Sidecars in Shanghai

Meeting a sidecar 

This is a short story about my journey (excuse the pun) with sidecars in China. It starts on a Spring day last year, I’m walking to work as usual and waiting for the lights to change to cross over towards my workplace and there, right in front of me, idling at the lights is a bright red vintage looking motorcycle and sidecar. I cross the road and see that the rider is a foreigner, so I just blurt out “nice bike! ChangJiang750, right?” I’d read about this bike a lot.


Enter the ChangJiang 750

The weird motorcycle license endorsement

Now let’s go back seven or eight months to when I was attending the driving license test centre to get my Chinese license. The young lady behind the counter says that my license is for three-wheeled motorcycles, I thought “no! There’s been a mistake. I wanted a motorcycle license, I haven’t done all this just to get some moto-taxi license have I?” The English speaking lady then explained to me that my new license INCLUDES sidecars – the top level of license “okay I thought, nice addition, but…”

Back to the red sidecar

So I’m stood in front of the sidecar and I say “ I have a license to ride that!” The driver explained that this bike belonged to a tour company which gives motorcycle sidecar tours around Shanghai and they are looking for new drivers. When the lights change, he pulls over and takes my contact details.

Some weeks later, after having a telephone conversation with the CEO of that company and having met the lead trainer and marketing manager, I’m in the bucket of a sidecar to be taken for training. Over the next few weeks, after learning the differences in handling with a sidecar (you drive a sidecar and ride a bike) compared to two-wheeled bikes and improving my skills, the trainer, Arthur, from France takes me to some locations around Shanghai.

Me riding on a day out for a kids charity.

Riding in and driving sidecars

From the very first stop, it was like someone lifting the lid on Shanghai. I had lived here for more than two years and thought I knew the city, but no… hidden away were old colonial mansions, industrial relics and crumbling housing estates, all with a story detailing Shanghai’s decadent and sometimes dangerous past.

I started to go out with the company on rides and taking passengers, people who’d just arrived in the country and sharing this new (old) side of Shanghai with them. It was fresh and exciting. I got to learn the character of this old bike and see this flourishing city with new eyes.

So, by chance- having been given a rather rare endorsement on my driving license. And then, suddenly, being presented with an opportunity in the shape of a bright red motorcycle, my recent passion for motorcycles took form, gave me so much and a chance to share as well.

The Astrid Apartments. Shanghai is full of Art deco architecture.

To take an extraordinary glimpse of Shanghai or get an unforgettable gift for a relative or friend, contact insiders experiences and mention this blog for a 5% discount on their sidecar tours. You can also do jeep tours in China’s interior with them.

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