Natooke in New York Times Article

März 5th, 2013

It is great to find this recent New York Times article mentioning the cool new Chinese in tight jeans riding fixed gear bikes hanging out at Wudaoying Hutong and coming to Natooke fixie bike store. Click here for the full article called “A streak of Brooklyn in Beijing”.

It is a nice short article mentioning some of the cooler shops in the traditional hutongs of Beijing. If you ever come by Beijing you should stop at some of these and definitely come to our Natooke bike store.

Bike Polo in Chengdu

März 1st, 2013

Finally I came to Chengdu mainly to see how the Natooke Chengdu shop is doing and see what is happening here in the cycling scene. It was easy to spontaneously convince the Larry and Jake to play a little bit of bike polo today – even though it was a Friday and it was in the daytime. Unfortunately Jake had to stay in the shop take care of it. We did not post this polo meet up anywhere so just a few people came, but we were enough to play polo.

Chengdu Spontaneous Bike Polo

The average age of the Chinese people that showed up was slightly higher than in Beijing.

Chengdu Chinese Woman Bike Polo

Chinese Old Style Bike for Bike Polo

Amazing Chinese Woman Playing Bike Polo

She actually was just passing by and found the game interesting. She then stopped and chatted with us. So we gave her the mallet and she right away jumped on her bike to try it out. But after a while she understood that she might first need to get some practice with the mallet and ball but not riding a bike. So she started running around the court getting the feeling for the mallet.

Chinese Woman Practicing Polo

I asked her how old she was and she answered that she is getting younger every day. She had amazing energy and ball handling skills.

Elderly Woman Excited about Bike Polo

Respro Mask Filter Change

Februar 21st, 2013

I finally changed the filter of my Respro anti-pollution mask. Here is a picture:

Respro Techno Anti Pollution Mask and Filter

The air pollution levels have been high and low and very high and low again and often very high for a few days for the past weeks. I think I used my Respro Techno filter for about 40 hours of use. It is quite obvious which one is the used one.

Thank you Respro for helping me protect myself from all this pollution! And if you want to quit making masks, then just make big ventilators that we could install here in Beijing to blow all the pollution away. Like the Beijing wind always does…

Respro Techno Gold Air Pollution Filter after Usage in Beijing

Spring Festival Pollution Bike Polo

Februar 13th, 2013

Our Beijing bike polo coach Tom arranged a special bike polo session during this Spring Festival holiday. So today we met up at the usual winter time of 2pm at our usual spot at the West side of the Worker’s Gymnasium as every weekend.

Coach Tom invites for Spring Festival Bike Polo in Beijing

As it is Chinese New Year most of our Chinese bike polo players were celebrating with their families or otherwise engaged. So except for Honghong only foreigners showed up.

Beijing Pollution Bike Polo Meet-Up

Bike Polo in Beijing despite the high level of Air Pollution 2013

Actually another reason why only 8 people came could be the hazardous pollution level we had again in Beijing.

Beijing Air Pollution Index for Today

We had an air pollution maximum of over 400 just when we started playing! I was happy because of course I have my great Respro anti-pollution mask designed for urban use and sports to protect myself from all the particles down to the PM10, PM2.5 and even sub micron size. Actually most of us use Respro anti-pollution masks. My Respro Techno mask is in the so called “Ines” pink color.

Respro Techno in Ines Pink and Ribcap Helmet Cap

I also had my Ribcap helmet cap which is so great for bike polo. Here are pictures of two Beijing Natooke bikes and the Beijing pollution haze.

Gabriel’s Flying Banana Polo Bike from Natooke

Ben’s Flying Banana Polo Bike from Natooke

After polo we packed up to go to a restaurant bar and have oven baked pizza and fresh waffles with loads of maple sirup, chocolate and whipped cream. Here is a creative way of carrying 2 bike polo mallets (the Respro mask and the green Ribcap fit well):

Beijing Bike Polo Ninja

Top 5% Most Viewed LinkedIn Profiles

Februar 13th, 2013

I just received an email from LinkedIn stating that I have one of the top 5% most viewed @Linkedin profiles for 2012. Thank you to anybody who has viewed my profile on LinkedIn. This gives me pressure to actually do more on LinkedIn…

Overnight in a Hot Spring

Februar 12th, 2013

We actually managed to stay overnight in the hot spring. I have heard of this before, but never done it. I always heard that you can stay for 24 hours in the SPA. As they close the doors to the room with all the baths at 11pm I went for a quick soak at around 10pm. I was actually happy to see that all the smaller basins were already empty and the staff was scrubbing and cleaning them. The hot water late at night made me really sleepy.

We slept in the resting room with a Chinese elderly couple. it was actually very comfortable. We slept until 10am. We slowly got up and had breakfast. We planned on soaking in some hot springs, then getting a wine therapy massage and then back into the baths until about 2pm. Of course I was counting the German way: Yesterday we arrived at 4pm so that means we can stay until today at 3:59pm, right?No. They said we have to leave before 12 noon, it does not matter at what time we came the day before. So then no wine massage, only soaking in the different hot springs.

Then we decided to find a restaurant for lunch. It was not so easy even in the town of Huailai. Most of the businesses and shops and even restaurants were closed for Chinese New Year. After some searching we finally found a street with a few open restaurants.The first 3 we went in were all reserved and packed with big families. We were about to give up when we found a small restaurant that still had some space.

After we ordered a few dished the drunk owner offered a small plate with a mix of cold dishes for free. He asked us where we are from. Soon after he offered us pickled garlic and asked if can give work to his sister.We said no, finished our lunch, had to do poses for the family on the table next to us for pictures with their son. And then we headed back to Beijing.

Dolomiti Skiing and Hot Springs

Februar 11th, 2013

Third day of our holiday and we tried a third skiing resort: Italian Dolomiti. I always heard about this resort because they were said to have the fastest chair lift. Their ski lift is the kind that detaches plus it has a bubble cover to protect from the wind. That is of course much nicer than the old slow open chair lifts in Wanlong, but the issue is the other two lifts in Dolomiti are just single t-bar lifts in German called “Tellerlift”. A “Tellerlift” is usually only used for beginners or in very old ski resorts. They are slow and only transport people one by one.

In this resort the view around was nice with natural snow also on the surrounding mountains.

Dolomiti Ski Resort in Chongli China

Natural Snow on Mountians surrounding Dolmiti in China

The “Tellerlift” for accessing 3 advanced slopes only opened at 11am. We immediately went there. The lift attendant stopped us and said we need to be wearing helmets to be able to take this lift. We said we are wearing helmets and he said no, a cap does not count. I insisted that my Ribcap helmet cap is a skiing helmet. He was very skeptical, touched and squeezed the Ribcap and finally said yes, we can go. I love my Ribcap!

Ribcap Helmet Caps in the Skiing Lodge Locker in China

Today we only skied half a day as we wanted to also go to a public hot spring. We had lunch at Dolomiti. I thought it would be best to take Italian food so I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese which turned out to be “Penne” Bolognese but still tasted good.

I also chatted with the Italian manager who told me about the history of Skiing in China. I was seeing the increasing amount of ski resorts as a sign that the market is growing. But maybe this development is a bit to fast for the market. Also the infrastructure is only partially developed. Here are some impressions of the partially dirt road leading to this ski resort and the farmer houses.

Dirt on Road to Dolomiti

Farmer Houses near Chongli

Poor Countryside in China

The main thing why the air was not so clear around here was the Zijin Mining Factory.

Zijin Mining Factory

Major Factory in the Countryside

One of the Factory Chimneys

All in all I think it is a long way until the Chongli area with all the ski resorts will deserve a name like “Davos of the East” which they are trying to use already today. But actually already the prices for 1 day skiing are 588.-RMB. That is higher than in almost any of the European ski resorts.

We then headed to Huailai for the Diman Hot Springs. Their website looked impressive and made me chose this hot spring rather than any other one in the area. I already expected many people in this public hot spring as it is already the second day of the New Year and many people might go out with their families. But I did not expect the venue just to one big open room with different baths and many people. Of course we were the only foreigners. The Chinese people would sit in the water and smoke despite the non-smoking signs. Others would spit into the water. And of course the noise level was high.

But it was nice to sit in a green tea hot bath or a red wine hot bath. Each pool had a different temperature. I was confused because I had seen pictures of outdoor pools and jacuzzi but I could not find them. I asked the staff and one lady just kept shaking her head, but that was probably just her thinking “oh my god, a foreigner with a long nose is talking to me and I do not speak English” despite the fact that I was asking in pure Mandarin. I asked another person and she said yes, we just need to go out and all the way towards the direction of the front gate. I thought she was kidding.

I had heard that we could book a room so I started my quest on how to book. I turns out that can only be done in an office at the entrance gate to the whole area containing many buildings and a hotel and parking lots and stuff. It did not make any sense to me, but that was how it was. We asked if we can go out and come back in on the same ticket and they said yes, but only for 2 hours and we need to inform the staff.

When we wanted to go to the hotel restaurant we told the staff we wanted to go out and they said yes sure, go. We asked for our shoes and they said no, we will only get them after we leave and pay. So we went out in the flipflops they provided.

[Here is a suggestion for anybody wanting to go to this hot spring and having no money. Just find a pair of shoes that you want to throw away, the hot spring takes your shoes in exchange for their flipflops, but that is all they have. They have no name or contact detail or car number or anything. You can spend a full day inside from 8am to almost 11pm and indulge yourself in massages and all sorts of stuff. When you want to leave you just walk out with the flipflops but you will have to sacrifice your shoes.]

Of course they have no way to monitor how long we stay outside so we had a long dinner with Spanish wine that I had received as a Christmas present in Europe.

Dinner with Wine in China

New Year’s Day Skiing

Februar 10th, 2013

First day of the Chinese New Year – the year of the Water Snake – and we are woken up by fire crackers that are right outside our window. 5 minutes later the hotel room phone rings and they ask when we want to have breakfast or if they should bring it to us. We said we will be right there. It was 7:30am and anyway the time our alarm clock rang.

Today we were definitely the only guests in the whole hotel. There was not even coffee because they knew we did not drink any yesterday. They had 3 small bags of milk because yesterday we drank 3 bags. In that sense the hotel does feel like 5 star. You get a very personal service and exclusive feeling.

Today we went to the older but bigger ski resort Wanlong. We were hoping to find still a lot of powder snow in this resort.

Wanlong Ski Resort Mountain View

It was a nice morning with blue sky. At least where we were. Actually if you look closely you can see the smog and air pollution in the South – the direction of Beijing – hanging as a band over the mountains.

Air Pollution over Beijing while the North is nice

After a full day of skiing I had frozen toes and fingers which took a while to defrost as this older resort does not have the convenient floor heating. On New Year’s Day most shops and even restaurants are closed but the most trendy place in Chongli village seems to still be the Popland serving ice cream and Taiwanese style drinks. We got a milk tea to warm up and to cover the time until dinner. We found an International Hotel that had a restaurant which was open and had many local families having big dinners together and taking family pictures.

Skiing in China

Februar 9th, 2013

Chinese New Year or also known as Spring Festival is a very big holiday in China. In mainland everything shuts down, most companies are closed fro 7 days and everybody goes to celebrate with their families. Natooke shop is also closed for 7 days. So I have time to go skiing.

We booked a supposedly 5 star hotel Yalong Bay for 288.-RMB per night that has a SPA and swimming pool, sauna and all the other things a 5 star hotel should have. We drove the 300km North-West of Beijing yesterday night and arrived a an almost dark hotel with 1 car parked outside. The only lady at the reception said that we need to drive up the hill to where our room was. I asked what time the swimming pool closes and she just looked at me and said those things were only open in summer. Aha.

So we drove up the hill to find a brick 3 story building that looked more like a 3 star hotel. A lady was already expecting us and showed us our room. The room was warm and clean with floor heating. We had to laugh because we knew it could not be a real 5 star hotel for that price.

But the nice thing was that we were almost the only guests. We had an almost continental style breakfast with freshly fried bacon and sausages and coffee. We asked for tea but they did not have any. Only when were finished a family of three came. And counting the yoghourt or milk packages us 5 were the only guests.

We went to a newly open ski resort called Genting. The Genting Grand hotel (unbelievably massive) was still half under construction and there were no cars on any of the 5 huge parking lots. So we parked right in front of the ski lodge and asked if they were open. She said yes.

Ines in Genting Ski Resort

And the great thing was there was powder snow! it was so nice and fluffy! That is the great part of having such dry and cold air. The snow stayed fluffy all day and as there were not so many people we had loads of untouched snow.

Powder Snow in China

Birch Forest with Natural Snow in Genting China

It was really nice. Of course the hills here around Beijing are more rolling hills and not extremely steep, but the summit of the resort was over 2000m high. The surrounding mountains also were covered in snow (which is not so usual around here) making it a really enjoyable experience.

Beijing Northern Mountains in Snow

Huge Fields of Powder Snow in Chongli near Beijing

It was nice that the ski lodge had floor heating everywhere. It is so nice to take off the ski shoes after skiing at -15 degrees all day and then warming the frozen toes on a warm ground.

We then drove back to our hotel to find a chain and lock around the entrance to the part where are room was located. There was no other entrance door.

Chongli Hotel Locked

After seeing that we already had the feeling that the hotel restaurant might no be able to offer us a New Year’s Eve dinner.There was nobody at the reception. But in a side building we found a lady that actually had a key yo the lock.

We went to Chongli village to have an early dinner in a more real 5 star hotel and then relaxed in their spa.

Natooke Fixed Gear Bike & Juggling Shop

Dezember 16th, 2012

Ted Baumhauer came for a visit to Beijing. He is a speaker and trainer in the areas of leadership, supervision and team building since 1982. Juggler and performer since 1994. Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Vermont. Author of the book Little Blue Penguins: Tales for Making the Transition to Leadership. He performed at the Waterbury (VT) Comedy Festival 2009, 2010, & 2011 and the 33rd RIT Spring Juggle-In in 2010. Winner of the 5 ball endurance and best trick at the 2004 Cornell University Big Red Juggling Festival.

So of course he came to Natooke shop. He then published an article on the Juggling Magazine of the International Juggling Association. To read the full article please click here. I copied his article into my blog:

Natooke Fixed Gear Bike & Juggling Shop

Ines in front of the shop.

Nestled down in Beijing’s Wudaoying Hutong, not far from the Lama Temple and the Temple of Confucius, is China’s first juggling shop and fixed gear bike shop, Natooke. Founded in 2009 by Ines Brunn and Federico Moro, this shop offers both locals and travelers juggling props and custom made fixed gear bicycles.

Ines began her performing career in Germany as an artistic fixed gear bike acrobat. As a member of the German National Team she worked to bring more flexibility and performance into that traditional sport. But her efforts to bring more artistry and performance to the sport were not always appreciated by the official sanctioning authorities. Despite that roadblock, her skill on the bike was noticed and appreciated by others outside the sport. As her notoriety grew, she started getting calls and offers to perform her version of artistry on a bike outside of the sport competitions. At the same time her performing career began to take off, so did her career in the telecommunications industry.

Fede

Through her job, she traveled to China and eventually moved to Beijing. That is where, in 2006, she met Fede Moro a juggler and performer from Italy. That friendship led to the idea of building a community of jugglers, unicyclers and performers in China. First, they arranged for the group to get together and share their skills at a weekly juggling meeting on Monday nights. As Fede is hardly seen in Beijing, and Ines is busy with the bicycle side, the juggling get togethers are a little more sporadic now, so please call ahead to make sure of the schedule. In addition to those events, Fede has held several juggling workshops and performing classes. These include classes for students at the Canadian International School of Beijing, and corporate team building workshops for managers at several Beijing based companies.

With their focus on building interest in juggling, fixed gear bikes, and performing, they began to attract more and more members. Because juggling props were not easily available in China, and their community of jugglers was growing, there was a clear need for a shop. That was the birth of Natooke in Beijing in 2009. Ines opened a second store in October 2012 in Chengdu, China, over 1174 miles (1890 km) from Beijing. Natooke carries a selection of Italian PLAY brand juggling equipment including MMX balls, SIL-X balls, bouncing balls, stage balls, contact balls, and a selection of clubs for beginners to professionals. The store also has both standard and fire poi, torches, diabolos, flower and devil sticks, rings (junior, standard, extra big, and dual sided), rola bolas and spacers to increase their height, spinning plates, frisbees, as well as a wide selection of bean bags and acrylic balls. Natooke is also a custom built fixed gear bike shop. Fixed gear bikes are like a unicycle in that there is no coasting. When you pedal the gears move both forward and backward. Because of their simplicity, the bikes are very light, durable, and very good for fast riding. Fixies have developed a reputation in urban settings as the bike of choice. Beyond being great for commuting they also great for tricks or games like bike polo because of their maneuverability. Each bike made at Natooke is custom built and unique.

Ines performing.

According to Ines, juggling is not something typically done for pure recreation in China. While the circus performers there are some of the best in the world, ball and club juggling is not something typically seen off the stage. Occasionally you might see some older citizens playing with diabolos in parks as a form of exercise. Beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be much hobby juggling for fun. Through the efforts of Ines, Fede, and their group, that is beginning to change. Ines told me a story about one man who found his way into her store. He claimed to have taught himself to juggle and then demonstrated a five ball cascade. To his delight, Fede joined him in a five ball pattern. Seeing another person who juggled for the pure enjoyment of it brought him to tears. Through the weekly meetings, Lao Zhou, eventually found a unicycle partner named Lao Sun. The two formed a partnership and began performing in parks and at organized events around China. As a side note, the two also bicycled together from Beijing to Shanghai, over 1000 miles (1600 km); No small feat when you are 58 and 71!

In addition to running her two stores, Ines continues to perform. She describes what she does as “gymnastics on a bicycle.”  Her performances include the European (2000 and 2009) and Israeli (2011) Juggling Festivals. There is a link below to see a video of Ines performing.  a quick Google Video search of her name will get you to several of her past performances.

If you are interested in juggling or fixed gear bikes and find yourself in Beijing, it is worth a visit to stop in to say hi! If you are performing near Beijing and lose your props on the way, you now have a lifeline.

Natooke means Green Banana in Chinese and that has become the store’s mascot.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Natooke

Wudaoying Hutong No. 19-1, Lama Temple Bridge (North 2nd Ring Road), Dongcheng District, Beijing. Phone number: (+86) 010-8402 6925

The shop is 100 meters west down the first hutong south of Lama Temple bridge and is on the right hand side.

To learn more about Ines watch: http://vimeo.com/21351654

To see her performing visit: http://vimeo.com/5833283

For videos of Fede visit: http://federicomoro.net/shows/