|Yang Yang, manager of Beijing Golden Bike, is riding the wave of enthusiasm for expensive bicycles. Photo: Li Hao/GT|
Among the bustle and hustle of the capital's rush-hour commuters, 32-year-old Zhang Yanbo is a little bit different. He rides on a distinctive two-wheeler - an Alex Moulton bicycle worth almost 100,000 yuan ($16,000), a price equivalent to an entry-level automobile in China.
His small-wheeled, lightweight bicycle achieved great popularity in European countries during a wave of enthusiasm in the 1960s. "It always wows true bike lovers on the road," says Zhang, a bank employee.
"I wouldn't say my bike is too expensive," he adds. "The value of a product is better reflected by the way it is being used rather than its price," he explains. "I cycle to work every day and make friends from all different walks of life through biking circles, so it is worth it."
Zhang's fascination with cycling dates back to his childhood, when he had to stand on his toes to reach the pedals of his parents' giant black 28-inch wheeled Forever bike to cycle.
In China's metropolises, the availability of fashionable high-end bicycles, combined with urbanities' demands for a healthier lifestyle and nostalgia for the past, are coming together to form a popular trend. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, when the country was dubbed the Bicycle Kingdom, and bikes were a family necessity, the new bicycle culture is elite. Wealthy and health-conscious consumers are willing to pay a fortune to upgrade their pair of wheels. They treat bikes as tool for keeping fit, and also as a possession that symbolizes their high quality of life and social status.