Bikes (自行车; zìxíngchē) are an excellent method for getting around China’s cities and tourist sights. They can also be invaluable for exploring the countryside and surrounding towns.
Hángzhōu has the world's largest bicycle-share network, with docking stations dotted around the town; however, its success (and foreigner-friendly ease of use) has only been fitfully replicated elsewhere in China. Generally, the best places to try are youth hostels, which rent out bicycles – as do many hotels, although the latter are more expensive.
Bikes can be hired by the day or by the hour; it is also possible to hire for more than one day. Rental rates vary depending on where you find yourself, but rates start at around ¥10 to ¥15 per day in cities such as Běijīng.
Cycling through China allows you to go when you want, to see what you want and at your own pace. It can also be an extremely cheap, as well as a highly authentic, way to see the land.
You will have virtually unlimited freedom of movement but, considering the size of China, you will need to combine your cycling days with trips by train, bus, boat, taxi or even planes, especially if you want to avoid particularly steep regions, or areas where the roads are poor or the climate is cold.
A basic packing list for cyclists includes a good bicycle-repair kit, sunscreen and other sun protection, waterproofs, fluorescent strips and camping equipment. Ensure you have adequate clothing, as many routes will be taking you to considerable altitude. Road maps in Chinese are essential for asking locals for directions.
BikeChina (www.bikechina.com) arranges tours and is a good source of information for cyclists coming to China.