In terms of the weather, the period from September to November may arguably be the best time to be in Beijing. Summers are too hot and humid, springs have that sandstorm and winters are too cold. But fall is just awesome. Also, the government does all it can to make sure the weather is nice for the National Holiday at the beginning of October. And because you cannot just order 7 days of sunshine for the first October week a positive externality of these efforts is nice weather most of the time.
Your trusted bike fixing dude
Get a bike
The best way to take advantage of the beautiful days is to get a bike and ride it into the sunset. No matter where you live, I promise that exploring Beijing by bike is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Reliable second hand bikes come from 100 RMB and upwards. The great thing about an old school bike is that it does not get stolen so you can get a really ordinary lock and still be fine. If, however, you opt for some brand new Giant version you may end up losing it the next time you leave it on the street – no matter how strong your lock. My personal favorites are the old school bikes from Forever and Flying Pigeon which both just seem to never break. Sure, you will have to change a tube or the break every once in a while but, firstly, it’s dirt cheap to fix and, secondly, such operations do not challenge the integrity of the bike as a whole. Generally, your bike repair man on the corner of the street can be trusted as long as he does not charge you more than 50 RMB because I have not yet come across a single occasion of something costing more than 50 RMB there. Also, with that money you can almost get a new second hand bike.
As a reference some prices:
- new pedal 8-10 RMB
- cheap bike lock 10 RMB
- new tube 15-25 RMB depending on the quality of the tube
- second hand bike 100+ RMB
- changing the chain ca. 40 RMB
The bikes are not just standing there for show
As soon as you have a reliable bike you can go about mapping out your tour. Just visit map.baidu.com and have a look at your options. The Hutongs within the Second Ring Road are always a great choice but you can also experience some genuine Beijing life situations outside of it, such as 798, the southern parts of Beijing (for being not as developed as the northern part), the Fragrant Hills in the west and the Olympic Park area.
Even if you have been to a certain place before, taking a bike there and appreciating the trip will give you a whole new experience. What is really great about a bike ride is how flexible you are: Wanna stop for some chuan’r and cold beer? Go for it. Wanna check out that old school chess game? Be my guest. Wanna just chill by the side of the road? Well, you catch my drift.
With Beijing traffic being as congested as it is, riding a bike may be the fastest and at the same time chillest mode of transportation. Add in the health benefits and you should be sold.
Word of warning: Beijing traffic can be crazy so be careful. People will ride their bikes on both sides of the street or come darting out of side roads at high speed. The funniest thing is that, if something happens, it always seems to be someone else’s fault so try to keep your cool.