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The factory offices lobby
The factory offices lobby

When It All Starts To Come Full Circle

Days 129-132; Nov. 24th-27th; Yunlonggu, Fujian – Jianou, Fujian – Lishui, Zhejiang – Ningbo, Zhejiang – Hangzhou, Zhejiang; 28,393km-29,537km

The days from Fujian, through Zhejiang province, and all the way into Shanghai are a bit of a blur. A blur of milestones, of new and old friends, a blur involving alcohol, and a blur of fund raising events. Those few days were also a bit of a shock because it really marked the beginning of the final leg of this crazy adventure of ours around China. For more than four months of feeling like this trip could go on forever, the end was finally within sight…

The Deluge

Rain... Endless rain...

Rain… Endless rain…

The morning we woke up at our campsite (luckily not being visited by any apparitions or farmer spirits during the night) there was a beautiful mist covering the rows of crops and farmhouses in the valley. A relaxing and calming contrast to sounds of a Chinese city we typically wake up to. There was also supposed to be rain hitting Fujian province that day and we didn’t want to be caught with our pants down. So we got packed up before we could get caught in the rain.

It started as a light sprinkle just as we were hitting the road but then built up into a crescendo of relentless downpour that continued throughout the whole day. Looking back on the day of riding after we had made it to a hotel that night I had a feeling the roads made for some great riding but I couldn’t really be sure. When riding for about 8 hours or so of rain like that, boots fully saturated and hands numb from cold, you sort of just get into a zen state of motorcycling, your mind entirely focused on the road ahead, a tunnel vision only interrupted by the occasional obstacle in the road (puddle, stray dog, electric scooter, chickens. The usual). I couldn’t remember much of any construction, and my muscles seemed to have the memory of some gentle winding around hillsides and lakes, so that night in the hotel I could only come to the conclusion that the roads, absent rain, would have been a lot of fun to ride.

Enter Zhejiang

Photo with Jon after crossing the 29,035km mark

Photo with Jon after crossing the 29,035km mark

The next day though the skies had cleared and I could confirm with much more certainty that the roads we were on continuing east into our next province, Zhejiang, were indeed superb. We finished in good time coming out of the hills and into Lishui where we met up with another acquaintance of “Bikerdoc”. Jon was British by birth but moved to New Zealand in his youth and had most recently been living in Ningbo, Zhejiang for the past 18 years running his own factory there. As it seemed all of Bikerdoc’s friends are, Jon was a fellow motorcycle fanatic first becoming famous with the locals not just for being one of the only foreigners in the area but also because of his crazy notion of traveling around the Zhejiang countryside visiting factories and villages on his Chinese made sidecar motorcycle.

The three of us went out for beers that night swapping China and motorcycle “war stories” (both riding motorcycles and living as an expat in China come with a certain amount of implied comradery) and the next morning were up bright and early for a ride back to his home in Ningbo.

Always nice to be riding with a local. No need for Amy to worry about the GPS as we could just follow Jon. He was riding along on a dual-sport 400c Suzuki, much more nimble compared to our fully packed up 650TR, but we more or less kept pace as we went through some really fantastic twisting roads, the surrounding foliage marking the change into Autumn. Nothing like passing through a tunnel of orange, yellow, red, brown, and green at 80km/h on a motorcycle.

Oh yeah, and on this stretch we passed the actual distance of the current world record, 29,034km! Not a bad milestone really.

Jon was nice enough to put us up in his home in Ningbo where we met his wife (local Ningbonese) and his 8 year old son. More drinks after an amazing homemade seafood paella. Jon took us to the downtown area of Ningbo called Laowai Town (foreigner town) that was an old trading area/foreign concession but had recently been converted into… what else but a bar street!

(Edit: Thanks to Chris in the comments for pointing out that the name of the area isn’t actually Laowai Town but Laowai Tan or foreigner beach which evolved from Wai Tain, 外滩,which just translates to “Outer Beach” or “Bund”)

The Factory Where We Got Sponsorship

The factory offices lobby

The factory offices lobby

On just a few hours of sleep we were up again, ready to make our way over to the birthplace of our motorcycle, the CFMoto factory in Hangzhou. As luck would have it, there were two locals that rode also CFMotos and we would be making the trip to the factory together, Jon and none other than Bikerdoc himself! Jon had a 250cc CFMoto Jetmax and Dennis, aka Bikerdoc, had the same as us, a 650TR.

Unfortunately, all in all it was quite a miserable ride through this heavily industrialized stretch between the two cities. Aside from an amazing and unique 20km bit of road built on top of what looked like a dyke overlooking the floodplains of the Yangtze, it was all traffic, trucks, potholes, and mindless e-bikes all the way to Hangzhou.

We pulled up to the factory after finally getting through the mess of the outer city only to find the main offices seemingly abandoned. I had sent a text to let them know we were coming and so sat outside with our bikes waiting. It was an interesting opportunity to reflect on how far we’d come. Just over 6 months ago we had come for a visit to the factory. At that point though, with the temperature outside a good 20C degrees warmer (the difference between about 45F and 90F), we had no idea what the next half a year would look like. Everything looked more or less the same at the factory but back then we did not know yet whether we’d even have a bike for the trip as we anxiously prepared ourselves to make a pitch to the presidents of the company.

Visiting the factory floor all the way back in May

Visiting the factory floor all the way back in May

Now, it was a few months and nearly 30,000km later. We were on the last leg of our trip, preparing for winter and only a few provinces left to go through. We were officially partners with CFMoto and had participated in several events with them. More importantly though, as we hung around the office lobby with giant CFMoto logo in the background, I was thinking about how this trip was actually starting to wrap up. We still had a couple of weeks left but being here, somewhere familiar and somewhere that in some ways marked the beginning of the trip, really made the point sink in that every km forward now was one that was taking us closer to our homes in Beijing.

No time to think though as we were finally greeted by a bunch of the management team and staff. We dropped off our bikes (all three were getting a servicing) as I met with the marketing director about our doing a presentation in front of the company staff the next day. As the work day wrapped up, the four of us were driven to a nearby motorcycle themed restaurant and bar that wanted us to talk a bit about our trip. So some dinner and more drinks there plus a small presentation in front of the restaurants patrons and an interview with a local tv station before we were finally heading into the city for some much needed rest. Don’t remember much else aside from bee lining it to the bed.

About Buck

Buck, an American, first came to China in 2006 traveling with some friends and immediately fell in love with the country, returning frequently including a semester studying at Tsinghua University in 2009. He finally moved to Beijing after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2010. He has a passion for adventure and travel, completing numerous long distance motorcycling and hiking trips around the U.S., Canada, and China including a circumnavigation of the U.S. (13,840km) and a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (3,500km).
  • Chris

    Not sure who told you it’s called “Laowai Town”, but the actual name is 外滩 and then it got extended out to 老外滩 (Foreigner Beach, or The Bund) due to all the foreign owned/themed restaurants and bars in the area. Would have loved to come out, but I was home for Thanksgiving (USA) :P

    • Buck

      Thanks for the catch Chris! Must’ve been a case of the telephone game, translations and accents passing down towards a mis-translation. Fun play on words there though from ‘outer beach’/Bund to ‘foreigner beach’. Would’ve been fun to meet up too! I’m sure the Thanksgiving was worth it though ;)