It was near midnight. I'm speeding home along a Beijing bike track beside a broad roadway more than a football field wide. Full of homemade noodles, sauteed eggplant and basted tofu, I'm absorbing the cool night air, enjoying the feeling of my body slowly warming--one revolution at a time.
As I approach a construction zone, I can hear the sounds of jackhammers and generators. Flashing directional arrows and florescent clad roadworkers warn against the upcoming detour. Hugging the rightside curb, the pounding of concrete eating machines seems to be aimed perfectly at my brain. Passing through it all, grateful to be emerging from the madness, I tilt my head to have a look at the squeaky drive train approaching on my left.
A mid-twenties Chinese man, pedaling for his life, lines himself up beside me--bottom bracket to bottom bracket. He steals a look at me.
I stay focused on the road ahead, remaining politely disinterested. Then I think: this fella has ridden beside me for a good 500 meters. None of the Chinese folk ride this fast...I make a quick check on the make of his bike out the corner of my eye: Giant. Not entirely surprising; there are heaps of Giants in China. Still, most folk here ride no name jet black Flying Pigeons.
He steals another look at me. I look at my legs and think about my cadence: it's a bit slow. I'm pushing a hard gear, but pushing it too slowly. I increase my cadence. My new road partner has a look at me, and then steps up his own pace.
Then, I realize he's trying his hardest to keep up with me. And his looks are coming more quickly now, alternating between my thin road bike tires and my widening grin. Soon, I've got the biggest, goofiest grin on my face. I'm amazed that this guy is so unabashedly trying to keep up with me on his Giant cruiser bike with a front basket and rear rack. Then I see he's grinning too. Then I laugh. And can't stop. He laughs too. We speed up.
We catch two green lights in a row. Rolling at a steady clip now, I've got a mind to give him a thumbs up. As my turn approaches and I look to the left, I notice he's gone. With a speed matched only by his emergence my pedaling friend had disappeared.
The guy loved to pedal his bike. Maybe he felt keen to beat the Western dude in an all out two block sprint. Whatever. He was enjoying himself on that bike, and so was I. And for a couple Beijing blocks, we shared that love with the open night.