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Riding High


Jianwei, an agriculture-based mountain county in Sichuan, has lured outside eyes because of its preservation of the world’s only operational rails for old-fashioned narrow-gauge steam locomotives, which have been pushing development of local tourism. The steam locomotive is now considered a “living fossil of the industrial revolution,” and although the rail in Jianwei was originally constructed for coal transportation, it now primarily moves passengers. In recent years, fascinated by its reputation, numerous train enthusiasts both from home and abroad have visited. In 2006, the county government dubbed the railway an industrial heritage to be protected.

While delighting in the locomotive and soaking up the beautiful surrounding landscapes, many travelers also realized that the winding roads and paths seemed ideal for mountain biking. According to a tourist bus driver, increasing numbers of cyclists have been visiting, including many who pedaled from outside the county just to see the locomotives.

Mr. Wang, 26, and his five friends came from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, with their bicycles. Their plan was to spend a weekend riding through the picturesque scenery. “The bicycle is not just an exercise device, it has also become a symbol of a fashionable and green lifestyle,” Wang asserts. “We all love cycling through the suburbs, which has become our favorite holiday activity.”

Wang frequents cycling websites to stay current on the hobby. “I’m now preparing to co-found a cycling club with my friends,” he reveals. “Today, if you search for “leisure cycling” on the net, you’ll get tens of thousands of pages from cycling clubs and myriad forum posts about the sport. Cycling gives you a feeling of freedom and allows you to ride to any destination while enjoying the view en route and even making new friends.”

Mountain bikers in Jianwei often find it hard to forget the enchanting golden canola blossoms as they race through the mountains. The bright hue of the flower is so appealing that it has been known to drive away depression and other negative effects of months of chilly winter weather, making the otherwise ordinary oil-producing flower almost synonymous with spring. Unlike most other places where the canola blooms in flat fields, Jianwei’s flowers grow in narrow mountainside patches, composing a singular beauty that can be appreciated by adventure seekers on pedals.?

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