First published on 9 Nov 2012. Updated on 16 Apr 2014.
139 Liaoyuan Xi Lu, near Dahushan Lu
You can pick up Shanghai classic Yongjiu (Forever) bikes in lots of places, but you get a wider selection of models in the converted factory that used to make them. Founded in 1940, the Yongjiu brand swiftly became a Shanghai staple, though today the company focuses more on modern bikes such as fold-ups (388RMB) or mountain bikes (548RMB).
But it’s difficult not to lust after the retro version’s sturdy steel 26- or 28-inch frame, rodoperated brakes and brown-leather spring saddle. They have the classic black (458RMB) with tan leather saddle, curved metal handlebar and bell, and you can get a green number plate for 12RMB. But the retro model also comes in China post green (550RMB) and pillar-box red (458RMB), and each carries a tag with the date it was made – so even if it looks like it belongs in 1955, you can see it was made in February.
Building 2, 1384-12 Wanhangdu Lu, near Huayang Lu, www.chainssprockets.com.
Chain's Sprocket is a destination for serious bike geeks. Their shop is tucked away in a group of renovated warehouses, and features beanbags where you can watch biking DVDs or flick through specialist magazines. There’s a dazzling array of top-notch racing bikes: a carbon-frame Cervelo S2, 3T costs 20,000RMB for the frame alone (approximately 40,000 for a whole bike, depending on the parts), and a carbon Wilier Triestina costs about the same.
For something slightly easier on the wallet, try the aluminium Cannondale CAAD 8 (8,198RMB). Once you’ve got your bike you’ll need some accessories: helmets range from 700-2200RMB, and they’ve got a good range of bike shoes, including sexy silver Sidi Ergo Carbon 2 shoes for 2,980RMB.
912 Jiangning Lu, near Anyuan Lu, www.devilbikes.net.
Finding an elegant bike for pottering around town is tricky in Shanghai, but fortunately Devil Bikes stocks a tidy selection. We love their range of Dunlops in white with curved metal handlebars and sloping frame (650RMB, also in electric blue and black), and the low seat and high handlebars will make you sit like a lady.
These are made in China but then sold in Europe (hence the domestic prices) and have a small Union Jack on the seat tube. For imported brands, they have classy Keep Up family bikes in blue, red and black (1,500RMB), and Japanese-made four-speed Shinmano's in cream (2,180RMB) – all you need then is a wicker basket.
268 Shuicheng Nan Lu,near Yanan Xi Lu.
Carrefour is still the place to go for a cheap set of wheels, with hundreds of bikes at prices cheaper than you’ll get at most local bike shops. The best of the basic models are the modern Forever bikes at 299RMB in smart baby blue blue, silver and black. Or they stock slightly classier silver ladies Forevers with elegantly curved frames (349RMB) and a dark blue retro mens’ version (389RMB).
It also has one of the best ranges of fold-up bikes in town, starting at 198RMB for basic but decent quality Vogue bikes and going up to 649RMB for super-hip Yeah brand fold-ups in bright red, white and orange with rear suspension. You can get a wide if uncool range of electric bikes from 1,099RMB and a chrome blue Merida racing bike for 839RMB, as well as a good range of locks (34-50RMB for permanent locks, 48RMB for heavy duty chain locks).
620 Quyang Lu,near Chifeng Lu.
In appearance this branch of Phoenix Bicycles, also known as the Phoenix Graveyard, looks more like a cross between a janitor's office and a dungeon than it does a legitimate bike shop. Brave souls who seek it can find the store within a sprawling housing complex on Quyang Lu. Enter and head for the tower on the right adorned with a faded red 620 sign; round the corner from the block's main gated entrance you'll notice an innocuous door and stairs leading down.
The basement must qualify as one of Shanghai’s least glamourous showrooms and although in yesteryear they used to sell some seriously sexy racing green China Post bikes, this is sadly no longer the case. Nonetheless, the rest of the basement remains choc-a-bloc with cool Phoenix bikes, a brand which has been making bikes since 1958 (and was reportedly given as gifts to world leaders on visits to China). They have plenty of modern models – basic mountain bikes cost 388RMB; Phoenix Beauty bikes (a good option for the vertically challenged, as they have small wheels and smaller frames) in pretty pink or baby blue are 418RMB; and standard fold-ups are 398RMB. There’re lots of suave models, such as a men’s black retro-style bike with spring leather seat (418RMB) or a fetching ’70s-style orange road bike with sloping frame and curved handlebars for 348RMB.
221 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu, www.specialized.com.
Specialized is a one-stop shop for all things bike, stocking every variety – mountain, racing, commuting, fixed-gear, kids – and all the gear you could want to go with it. The brands are imported, something reflected in the price tags. Here a fold-up Dahon Matrix 7005 will cost you 2,890RMB, while a Specialized Allez Elite costs 14,490RMB in Shanghai, though it’s only the equivalent of 10,580RMB in the US.
But for quality biking gear, Specialized do it best. The wall is lined with helmets ranging from 570-1690RMB and gloves averaging around 300RMB. Lightweight and weatherproof jackets for men and women (589RMB-1590RMB) with nifty technology and features such as removable sleeves and reflective material make them suitable for professional riders. There’s a large range of footwear, such as the S-Works Road Shoe, which justifies the 2,490RMB price tag by being ‘based on three dimensional studies of pedaling motion'. Specialised indeed.
876 Jiangsu Lu, near Huashan Lu.
For those with a fixed gear fixation, the bikes at Factory Five are sex-on-wheels. Devotees flock there to drool over vintage frames, tinker with tools for free or just drink Vedett. Housed on Jiangsu Lu, the space has recycled old China brands (3,500RMB/bike plus service), including Forever (Yongjiu) and Phoenix (Fenghuang) frames, turning them into single or fixed gear, customisable cruisers. A fixed China Post bike costs 3,800RMB though for the real deal, head to Phoenix Bikes. You can also order online at http://wearefactoryfive.com