Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Bike Polo in Chengdu

Freitag, 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

Donnerstag, 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

Overnight in a Hot Spring

Dienstag, 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

Montag, 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

Sonntag, 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

Samstag, 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

Sonntag, 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.


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.



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:

To see her performing visit:

For videos of Fede visit:

Global Times Social Mobility

Mittwoch, November 28th, 2012

Here is an article published by Global Times in the Beijing section of the newspaper about social mobility. I also copied the full article into my blog:

Social mobility

By Hannah Leung


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Indoor stationary bike races help pass the time until spring comes. Photos: Courtesy of Shannon Bufton



Indoor stationary bike races help pass the time until spring comes. Photos: Courtesy of Shannon Bufton

Bikers are cool, but actually riding a bicycle takes more energy or motivation than some of us have.  But luckily, winter is a prime time to infiltrate the biking community and meet those fit, fun and athletic people without having to mount a saddle.

Winter biking activities are a gateway into fun events, socializing and progressive ideas, so take advantage of the sub-zero temperature to warm up to the biking niche without breaking a sweat. Whether it’s visiting multifunctional bike venues like Serk or Natooke or participating in indoor events, get the social wheels rolling without chilly pedals testing your mettle.

All year cheer

Biking while drinking is a bad idea. But taken separately, what better place to have a drink then a venue where fit people tend to congregate? Serk, discretely located in Beixinqiao, houses coffee, drinks and bikes in a streamlined, open space with high ceilings.

„Biking in the winter is a big concern which is why we decided to have something other than bikes,“ said owner Shannon Bufton, who runs the space with his wife, a Beijing native. The husband and wife duo are also co-founders of Smarter than Car, an aptly named platform that favors greener alternatives.

At the front is the bar and cabin-esque café; look high for the assortment of bicycles hanging above. The gear and supplies are packed efficiently in the back. Novices can peruse through biking and outdoor adventure magazines on the side shelves, while serious bikers phase in and out.

„Serk is a very flexible space. We have a workshops for bikes in the back,“ Bufton said.  „People may put their bikes away in the winter, but they can still learn how to keep their bikes up in the summer.“

Active activities 

For those hoping to do more than sit around and take in the scene, winter biking options are surprisingly expansive. Serk is holding a thrice-occurring indoor bike competition in December, January, and March, called JISU PK. The event has two competitors race on stationary bikes for 30-seconds, an event fueled by alcohol.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Beijing Bunch Ride is a group that rides all the way through winter. Organized by TriBeijing and Serk, the group meets early Sunday mornings at Serk, before heading out.

Natooke, which customizes fixed gear bikes, has already become, well, a fixture in Wudaoying Hutong, holding many events at all times of the year.

Owner Ines Brunn, originally from Germany, first visited Beijing in 2001 and witnessed first hand the progression of a city cycling culture upturned by a car society. This has fortunately shifted in the past two years, with the emergence of a younger generation of bikers.

On Saturday, Natooke held a Mini Fixed Gear Revolution, a winter indoor event at Long Art Space in the 798 District that featured indoor racing and relay races. All levels of bikers were welcomed.

„I thought it would be good to have a counter event to summer activities, [one] less competitive and more focused on having fun in the winter,“ said Brunn.

Despite being winter, there seemed no shortage of bikers, evident from the dozen enthused, well-dressed and mostly young Chinese locals that showed up around 11 am outside the shop prior to the event to ride up together.

Other events just require basic bike riding skills and a lot of zeal, including the Big Dirty ride on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, better known as the day foreigners dress like Santa and attract attention from locals.

„We’ll have a costume ride, like we had for Halloween. We’ll meet here at 8 pm and find Santa costumes for people who do not have them, then we’ll ride,“ said Brunn.

Mind the elements

One obvious way to get involved is to treat the bicycle as it was intended, as a mode of green transportation. Don’t be deterred from starting now.

„I’m always confused when people say, ‚I don’t cycle anymore in the winter because it’s cold,‘ and then they take the subway and walk forever. I find it much colder when you’re [waiting] for a bus or taxi for 20 minutes,“ said Brunn.

Novices and experts agree on dressing well.

„You can put bags over your socks, [which] stops the wind from going in,“ said Bufton, recommending sticking hot pouches (available at any convenience store) inside gloves and on top of the toes. „Always cover your ears,“ Bufton added, knowing the value of keeping warm, after his feet started to go numb a few years ago from winter riding.

And unless you want to counterweigh the benefits of biking, wear a face mask to shield against pollution.

Of course, not all run-of-the-mill bikers are convinced, though aesthetics play a convincing factor.

„All the international kids in the area, especially Koreans, have cool looking fixed gear bikes…I’m sure that pretty bikes are a great conversation starter,“ said Theresa Tong, a 26-year-old Australian studying in Wudaokou.

„But harsh wind is not my friend,“ Tong said, with no plans of using the bike as a social tool to sneak into the cool – no make that freezing cold – biking subculture.

Donnerstag, April 12th, 2012

Here is an interview done by Joshua Samuel Brown during the Taipei Cycle Exhibition 2012 and published in the Bicycle Times magazine. I copied the text, but for the article with pictures please click the following link:

An interview with Ines Brunn, bicycle acrobat

By Joshua Samuel Brown

Hailing from Bavaria by way of Beijing, Ines Brunn has performed track bike gymnastics at bike shows and events around the globe. Our Correspondent in Asia caught up with Brunn following one of her performances at this year’s Taipei International Cycle Show.

How long have you been doing bicycle acrobatics, and how did you get started?

23 years. I was a competitive gymnast and wasn’t getting along with the Barvarian state coach and decided to leave the team. By coincidence I saw a lady who did tricks on a bike, and just got hooked.

What brought you to Beijing?

I’d been working a high paying job in telecommunications based in China and doing bicycle shows on the side. I found that working a full-time gig made scheduling performances difficult, so in 2008 I quit to open up a bike store in Beijing. My co-workers thought I was crazy! Now I sell bicycles from my shop in Beijing and perform whenever I want.

What’s your weapon of choice for the streets of Beijing?

A track bike with 48-14 gearing; one brake. What can I say, I like to ride fast. Road racing is kind of new in China, and it’s fun to ride a road bike race on a fixed gear. The road bike riders try to pedal into corners after watching me and hit their pedals on the ground.

Is Beijing a good city for track bikes?

It’s great. Flat as a pancake and bike lanes everywhere. Also, people are used to seeing bicyclists, so as chaotic as things get people are looking out for you. And the weather is completely dry for three quarters of the year!

What’s the fixed gear scene like in Beijing?

They’re catching on. I started a fixed gear club in 2007, the first in China. We had two members to start, and we grew to seven after I put the word out to all the bike shops to call me if they saw anyone riding a fixed gear. Now there are at least 800 fixed gear riders in Beijing.

Tell me a bit about bicycle acrobatics.

Well, I started doing bicycle acrobatics in Germany, where it is a rather technical sport. You need to tell the judges exactly what you plan to do in advance. It’s very precise over there, very…German! What I do at shows is more what I like to call artistic cycling, more of a free-form choreography which is a pretty new thing. The sport doesn’t exist in Taiwan or Mainland China, so people tend to be quite amazed here.

What’s it like performing in the States?

When I perform in San Fran and NYC I get a lot of bike messengers in the crowd, and they just go wild. Sometimes I think they’d be less impressed if I were a man.And the woman love that fact that some of the badass hard core male riders can’t even do the majority of my tricks.

What’s the overall vibe at bicycle shows?

People can sometimes be rather serious at bicycle shows. I mean, cycling is supposed to be fun, right? Yet at the business level it can be all so somber. I try to use my performances to inject some festivity into what rightly should be a very festive atmosphere. It makes me happy that people watching me perform have smiles on their faces, even if the smiles only last until it’s time for them to get back to business.

Is there anyplace else you’d like to perform?

I’d love to perform at Interbike, and I haven’t performed at Eurobike yet.

Final Words?

I believe that only things that give happiness are self sustaining, and I’m convinced that cycling is definitely one of these things. Cycling is not only good for the environment, but good for the world because it makes those who do it happy. This is basically the philosophy at the heart of everything I do.

In Beijing? Visit Natooke, Ines’s fixed gear shop at Wudaoying Hutong 19-1 (near Lama Temple subway) Dongcheng District, Beijing 100007, China.


Mittwoch, März 7th, 2012


Natooke Logo

Our shop has been open for 3 years already. I cannot believe it. We started Natooke shop on March 7th 2009 in the center of Beijing. It has grown very big but we are still in the same traditional hutong building.

Natooke Shop Outside

We soon after started a Chinese twitter site. There are almost 5000 people following our daily updates in Chinese. Of course we organize many events and are happy to have so many people join.

Bikes in front of Natooke

We just started the Chinese Ebay (called Taobao) . There we are selling parts and bikes to people who do not want to come to the shop or live somewhere else. But still we have so much stuff in the shop.

Natooke inside