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Rolling Xinjiang: Video

In April 2015 a group of Factory Five riders embarked on a journey across the Autonomous Xinjiang Region of Northwestern China.

Covering 450km in four days they rode across the UNESCO Tianshan Mountain range south of Urumqi to the Taklamakan Desert surrounding Turpan.

It was a ride which would take them from minus 10c and snow, up 3,000 metres of climbing and down to the baking desert 100 metres below sea level.

Studio 191 Party Recap

Friday night we hosted Studio 191 for their monthly photo exhibition, this time revolving around the theme 'cycling'. With over 30 submissions and a selection of photos from our Xinjiang trip on display, there was quite the turnout. Lots of eye candy, beer and sausages - we partied late into the night. Big thanks to everyone who rolled through and to 老外张飞 for putting together this little video!

 

Red Hook Criterium & The PACK

This upcoming Saturday, April 25th is the 2015 Red Hook Criterium in Brooklyn, NY. The Pack has been training hard and stands a good chance at an impressive finish this year. Photographer Gophrette Power went out with the team to snap some shots during this past weekends training session. Rocking their custom F550s framesets and Omnilattice cranksets, the Pack is looking good! They will start out in qualifying group number 4, so if you're out at the race this weekend be sure to cheer them on!

F5 Pista: John

Rolling back to our very first F5 Pista build, John's throwback trackbike is nothing short of beautiful. Classic components paired with our lugged frame - absolutely stunning. Gran Compe, H Plus Son, MKS, BROOKS and even the gumwall tyres really bring this bike together. Catch it on the streets of LA!

Rolling Across Xinjiang Day Two

Only in the bright morning light did we see where we were and what we had slept in. At the end of day one, seven exhausted bodies had dropped like stones into Yu Er Gou's second best hotel. The first best was under renovation. We thanked the spiders and the bed bugs and checked out... after buying the owner a few new towels to replace the ones now covered in Tianshan's finest thawed soil. Our bikes were definitely now cleaner than we were.

Yu Er Gou is a tiny industrial town at the southern foot of the mountains. It is famous in the region for having a high-speed rail train station direct to Beijing. For a moment, as we stepped out into the bracing 3ºC air with that mountain range on the horizon, we considered escape. Of course not. Today was going to be different.

And different it was.  Our route took us 125km in an almost straight line East on a constant downhill. We dropped from 1600m to minus 100m, an average of 13 meters of descent for every kilometer travelled. It's not much, but with the wind on our backs and a smooth road it felt like we were the Xinjiang Express.

The Xinjiang Express chugged through mile after mile of heavy industry. These were some of the the most gargantuan oil refineries and power stations we had ever seen, like great big mechanical monsters endlessly placated by lines of comparatively ant-like trucks. It felt like we were sliding alongside a post apocalyptic world of evil production.

We took the absence of eye-candy as a chance to get our heads down and consume some miles. The group split into two, the fastest forming a pace line and slipping into the distance, visible only as a hazy blur on the horizon. We re-grouped after 40km, only 90 minutes down the road. The landscape had slowly shifted around us from mountain run-off to arid stillness. We were entering the Taklamakan Desert.

At some point the transition was complete. Maybe it was after the last factory, or when the wind started to come warm from the North... or as we passed the first sandy settlements. After 50km, we turned off the desolate main road and hit a zone alive with stores and traffic and people. It felt like re-emerging into society.

From there, we traversed across the bowl of the desert, through tree-line neighborhoods of Turkic homes, cemeteries and farmland. As we hit sea-level we stopped to celebrate and were joined by curious passers by, all wearing taqiyahs and definitely not speaking any version of Chinese we recognized. It felt like we were a couple of countries away. Had we ridden west instead of east?

Back on the road and confirmed eastwards, the villages faded behind and the desert loomed ahead. Today we were only crossing a northern section, across 40km of dunes and tundra, but it gave a vivid taste of what was to come. After the blistering cold breeze of the mountains, here we were only 24 hours later facing into the arid, lip-drying suck of the desert.

The only climb of the day came 15km before the end. The gates to Turpan stand atop a steep 200m hill and we blasted up it with a sense of the oasis to come. Riding through this ancient, silk-road outpost we truly experienced for the first time the curious mix of cultural influences in Xinjiang. We rolled past mosques, markets, manufacturers, wafts of grilled meat and vineyards. Then we looped slightly lost through the same vineyard a few times before finally landing on our lodge.

After 125km and another 8 hours of riding, it felt like a bejeweled oasis inside an oasis town. Our frostbitten ears and sunburnt noses were eclipsed by beaming smiles. Now the fun could really begin.

 

Rider Profile: Jerry Tang 唐静心

Being a teenager isn't easy, but teen life can be pretty sweet on two wheels. We sat down with Jerry (a regular here at F5) to talk about his first year riding fixed in the busiest city on the planet.

name: Jerry Tang 唐静心
age: 19
hometown: Shanghai
profession: Student

Q: Nice F5 bike! How did you build it up?

A: I bought this F550 over a year ago. Since then I've slowly upgraded almost all of my components. Now I've got H Plus Son SL42 rims laced to Gran Compe hubs, Sugino Messenger crankset, Prologo EVO PAS saddle, MKS pedals and Restrap straps. 

Q: When did you get into fixed gear riding?

A: It's been close to a year and a half now. I remember my first big trip was with my friends when we decided to ride to Hangzhou. Back then I thought it was impossible! We actually had to stop half way and take the car.. But now that's something I can completely manage!

Q: Being from Shanghai, what do you like most about riding here?

A: For me Shanghai is the perfect blend of Western and Asian cultures. I've done some travelling through Europe and USA, and still nothing compares to Shanghai. I'll be one of the first to admit though, I don't really like riding here. The roads are so aggressive! Everyday a new conflict, sometimes you feel like you're fighting for your life. If you want to commute peacefully in Shanghai you better take the metro.. but that's just my opinion.

Q: So then why do you ride the Shanghai streets:

A: Ultimately the metro closes at 10:30pm and I usually don't leave my school until after that, so I haven't got a choice! I try to spend most of my time riding out in Hongqiao or Gubei, it's much less hectic than downtown inside the inner ring road.

Q: Whenever you come into the shop you've got your headphones on. What do you usually listen to?

A: Haha! Pretty much everything. Jazz, country, rock - I like it all! I've got to have music in my ears while I ride..

Q: What else are you into besides cycling?

A: Photography! I've always got a camera with me. On weekends there's nothing better than riding out into the countryside and playing with new camera gear. I've recently gotten into film and it's opened up a whole new world for me.

Q: Besides F5, where do you get all your cycling accessories from?

A: Most unique things I can only find at F5. But smaller, more common things I buy from various Taobao shops. But I've got to say, after 1 year my bike still rides like it's brand new!

Q: Any last comments?

A: Big shout out to F5! The first track bike shop in Shanghai and the only ones who do their own development of frames and components, and the only ones organizing events. Good job guys!

 

 

Rolling across Xinjiang Day One

Last week we rolled across Xinjiang. We started on the outskirts of Wulumuqi and rode across the snowy Tianshan mountains into the desert surrounding Turpan. It was, in a word, EPIC. Too big to describe in one mouthful. This is the first of our recaps on the trip... Day One.

Electric storms in Shanghai meant our plane took off late. Very late. Six hours late. We landed at 5am, three hours before we were due to be on the road, so we skipped the beds and went straight for breakfast. What follows on this first day, please keep in mind as you read this, happened on two hours of sleep.

It was minus 7ºC in Wulumuqi. Some of us had packed for the poles, others the beach. It didn't matter. Everybody felt underprepared as we assembled our bikes in a few inches of snow. Above us towered a 3km wall of pristinely white peaks. Our route started 50km outside of Wulumuqi, at the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains. It's one of the largest ranges in the world, reaching up to 7500 meters. We would weave our way up and over a relatively modest segment, covering 90km and 2500m of altitude.

It started beautiful. Bracing and beautiful. We climbed through breathtaking valleys rising into the blue sky covered in untouched layers of sparkling snow. Compared with the flatness of Shanghai, this felt like a crisp and beautifully rendered 3D model. The road, however, was definitely touched. Heavily trodden by the march of China's industrial progress, it had been churned into a quagmire of gravel and mud by a thousand dumper trucks.

We trudged through, slipping, sliding and falling in the sludge, covering only 10km in two hours. This was going to be more than a challenge, it would take faith. The thought of turning back crossed all of our minds at some point. But as we sat shaking the life back into our toes and fingers, in a solitary gas station halfway up, we laughed at Xinjiang's extreme springtime harshness. We hosed the frozen mud off our bikes and cranked up the bluetooth on our Beats Pill speaker. Little did we know the worst was yet to come.

 

The worst was not to come before we reached the first summit... or the second. The road surface smoothed, the climb steepened and even the snow found nowhere to shelter from the wind. Pumping excess volumes of heat and energy with every stroke, the wind was on our backs and we smashed two 20km climbs back to back. It was all worth it for the views at the blisteringly cold peaks. With the range stretching out in all directions across huge mountain-top meadows, this felt like cycling to another world.

Then came the descent. we'd seen the elevation map beforehand and it looked joyous. Nothing could prepare us for a fast 60km downhill in the freezing cold. We were chasing the clock. It was already 7pm, two hours behind schedule. The sun would be gone by 8:30pm and from the top, the next town to come would be ours. Only one way down - a bone chilling, race against time.

40km/h downhill at minus 5ºC is enough to freeze the water in our bidons. The coldness numbs your toes and makes pedaling bone shattering. It sucks the life out of your hands and makes feathering the brakes feel like torture. You want to close your eyes and tuck into a ball and let your nose guide you to the warmth, wherever it is, anywhere. But you can't. The road is thin, it's bumpy as hell and around the next corner the shadows are looming.

We stopped halfway down the mountain to beg the hotel to send a van. With 35km to go and the last of the light dwindling, we knew there was only one option. Spare socks on our hands.

Mountain temperatures increase 0.75ºC for every 100m you drop towards the valley, but somehow it seemed to be warming up a degree with every pedal stroke. We could barely believe it. As the road flattened and the mining town of Drewghur (Yu Er Gou) approached, we knew we had made it out of Tianshan alive - on two hours of sleep.

What we didn't realize was that the warm front we had just felt was the start of the Taklamakan Desert. This would be tomorrow's challenge.

Workshop Wednesday: Wheels 101

We're launching a new series of classes on bicycle maintenance. The classes will start with the basics and consist of simple fixes you can easily do at home. Don't miss this opportunity to be self sufficient on the road! There's nothing more annoying than trying to flag down a cab or lugging your bike to the shop.

The class will begin at 8:00pm on April 15th and should last about an hour. We'll be covering all steps involved to repair a puncture and change a tire. We'll have snacks and off course and beers on tap. Here are a few things you'll learn:

  • Getting a tire on and off
  • Using a puncture repair kit
  • Types of punctures and how they occur
  • Taking your wheel on and off

You'll need basic tools to participate in this class, so bring your own or buy them from us.

  • Innertubes (¥30)
  • Tire levers (¥20)
  • Patch kits (¥20)

Please send us an email to RSVP for the class to guarantee use of tools. (shoutout@wearefactoryfive.com).

F5 Movie Night: Tonight at 8pm

Come over to Factory Five Thursday (April 9th) and join us for a movie. We're draping the curtains and showing a cartoon this time. Come by for beers and snacks.

We'll be showing The Triplets of Belleville, an animated comedy about a rider that is captured during the Tour de France. 

From IMDB: "When her grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters--an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire--to rescue him."

The movie starts at 20h00, let us know if you're coming by shooting us an RSVP to shoutout@wearefactoryfive.com

 

F550s Custom: Laurance

A rear triangle inner flash combined with slick fork detailing, and F550s to die for. This custom painted track bike build for Laurance is sleek, elegant and flashy all at the same time. Built with H Plus Son rims, our Omnilattice crankset, Nitto RB 010 bullhorn bars, MKS pedals and everything else 'murdered' out. Australia's got another new serious contender for 'track bike of the year'. Enjoy, Laurance!