Function to Fashion: China Embraces the Bicycle as Latest Haute Accessory

Formally perceived as simply a means to an end in China, the bicycle is transforming in to the newest fashion accessory for many.

For decades the Chinese viewed bicycles as simply a workhorse and alternative to driving through gridlocked city streets. But now, colorful, custom-made bikes have emerged in advertisements and shop windows of Shanghai’s trendiest boutiques. Over the past six months, even magazines have caught on to the new fad, with nearly half featuring a bike on the front cover. Groups of Chinese bike enthusiasts have also started organized midnight rides through cities when traffic is significantly lighter.

New perceptions of owning a bike are also emerging, and for men, it’s equivalent to a woman owning a designer handbag – it completes their outfit. Luxury bicycles are of course very popular in China, with Ferrari and Lamborghini leading the high-end pack. According to Xie Jian, a regional sales manager for Qida, the Chinese importer of the two brands, said that at least one £34,000 Lamborghini bicycle sells each month in the wealthy southeastern city of Wenzhou.

As with many trends, it’s likely that as it expands and becomes more commonplace, people will stop thinking of bicycles as cheap and start perceiving them as a healthy and fashionable option.

In the southern parts of China, there are already several thousands miles of green bike paths that connect cities and make for great weekend cycling adventures. Some are also taking up racing on bikes as hobby, taking their sports bikes for monthly races in the city’s suburbs.

In the 1950s, China was known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles” by the Communist party. Bicycles were seem as a low-cost solution to packed public transportation and actually make them one of the three “must-haves” of every household, along with a sewing machine and watch. Up until the 1980s, a good bike was a much sought-after status symbol and getting the best brands, such as Flying Pigeon, Phoenix and Forever, required connections. In the 1990s, however, the Chinese fell in love with cars and one in four bicycles being turned out by the state-controlled factories went unsold. As we approach 2012, it seems the tide has turned once again and bicycles are making a serious, and fashionable, comeback.

Source: The Telegraph