1.3 billion bicycles not enough...

Just a short post on a humorous experience I had the other day. The mall near my university (well, the largest and most Western-style mall...along with 1.3 billion people and 1.3 billion bicycles, there are also 1.3 billion shopping malls) called "Cloud Nine Shopping Center" is a bit of taste of home for me (seen top right): Haagen Daaz, Starbucks, and Cold Stone are right next to each other, and directly below is a large Carrefour (kind of like a French/Chinese Wal-Mart) and Ajisan, one of my favorite Japanese chain restaurants. I made my way over there for dinner the other day, and as I entered the mall, the usual loud buzz of the bustling Chinese crowds was drowned out by techno music, and people were crowded on the balconies of the second floor watching the source of such loud music on the first floor. The center of the mall on the first floor, which was usually empty (although one time Dreyers was giving out free samples of ice cream), was now filled with people on exercise bikes. In addition, a make-shift stage held 5 athletic trainers shouting commands from their own exercise bikes. I immediately recognized this as a public spinning class, a class I really enjoyed while I was at IUP (seen mid right).

However, spinning class in China I found quite humorous for a number of reasons. First of all, at my local gym in Colorado, the told me they had canceled spinning classes for the summer because too many people wanted to ride their bicycles outside, so spinning was really moot (why bicycle inside when you could bicycle outside, right?) Apparently, such a deterrent did not exist in China. While in Colorado, I may have seen maybe 4-5 people total bicycling around town (and as a state, we really do have a love affair with bicycles in comparison with the rest of America), whereas in China, I get nearly run over by thousands (literally no exaggeration) of bicycles a day (I posted a picture of the bicycles on the road to the right, but this by no means captures the sheer mass of bicycles I dodge everyday). They are THE major mode of transportation here. But that is not enough for the healthy Chinese; spinning classes must supplement the hours that cannot be spent on a bicycle riding around town. Similarly humorous is the way that the Chinese people in this class were approaching spinning. Spinning classes are infamous in America for causing a person to sweat buckets, a really difficult workout. But the Chinese people, not following commands or the beat of the music and lazily peddling their exercise bikes with no resistance, barely broke a sweat. Seeing these people in the local gym at IUP, I always thought "why bother?" My immediate reaction is to think that this is just an attempt to copy Western methods of staying healthy...perhaps it is more complex than that, I don't know.

With the 1.3 billion bicycles in China, spinning classes are still double the size they were at IUP...oh the irony...

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