Once one of four symbols of modern living in China, alongside wristwatches, sewing machines and radios, the bicycle’s position as a status symbol took a battering with the advent of widespread car ownership. Its fall from grace was illustrated in 2010 by dating show contestant Ma Nuo’s infamous words to an unemployed suitor: “I’d rather cry in a BMW than laugh on the back of [your] bicycle.” But, as Reuters reports, high-end bikes have become prestigious once again as nostalgia-infused symbols of health and wealth.
Yu Yiqun, the creative director at an advertising company in the Chinese capital, cycles to work on his favorite bike – a 100,000 yuan ($16,000) hand-made Alex Moulton.
“It might be the only one in Beijing. It’s like the Rolls-Royce of bicycles. Very classical, purely hand-made,” said the 40-year-old Yu, who has about 35 high-end bikes.
“I remember my father used to ride me to the city in the winter – about 40 km and minus 30 degrees centigrade. Back then, it was a means of transport that fulfilled your dream of travelling afar, which was relatively cheap but required brawn.”
[…] “Demand for mainstream luxury items such as premium cars, watches has come to a point of saturation. High-income groups now turn to high-end bikes to show off the uniqueness in taste and healthy lifestyle,” said Zhou Jiannong, general manager of Rbike Networks Ltd in China.
The phenomenon is not entirely new: Malcolm Moore reported on cycling’s fashion resurrection at The Telegraph in 2011.