Factory 5: Shanghai’s first fixie home
Think of a beer garden for bicyclists and you’ve got the newly opened Factory 5.
This bike shop-cum-boutique on an alley off Donghu Lu is Shanghai’s first-ever community bike space. It opened to the public on May 5, celebrating its arrival with a front yard filled with bikes, booze and fixie enthusiasts.
“[The space turned out] amazing, just as I hoped it would,” says Chris Trees, director of MGT Engineering and Shanghai bike enthusiast, who works closely with Factory 5 and has followed the project from the start.
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“It’s unique," he says. "The concept is great and it fits with the majority of people who are into the fixie scene in Shanghai -- we're all fairly laid-back.”
For those not up on their biking terms, simply put, fixies are bicycles that can’t coast. The pedals are always in motion. And in China, these bikes are skyrocketing in popularity.
This is where Factory 5 comes in.
Factory 5 is very much a first of its kind in China, a community bike space where people can come and hang out.— Tyler Bowa, Shanghai biking enthusiast and co-founder of Factory 5
Factory 5 community
“Five of us got together to build Factory 5 because we're design-focused and this allows us to pursue our passion, which is bikes,” says Jeff Liu, Factory 5 co-founder and Shanghai resident, who grew up in New Orleans.
In the last few years this core group of bike lovers has organized non-profit events like Shanghai Alleycat, and fellow Factory 5 founders Tyler Bowa and Karl Ke started one of the first China-based biking websites, www.peoplesbike.com.
Now, with this project, they’re extending their reach even more.
Liu and Bowa, a Canadian, run a design company, www.polarbearsoul.com, from the Factory 5 site, which means that there’s always someone around the space. The tools, advice and all-round relaxed atmosphere are free to enjoy. The only things you’ll have to pay for are parts, and a few kuai for the beer.
“For us it’s a chance to give back to the community that’s always come to our events and helped us do cool things,” Bowa says.
“We’ve used the excess money from our past events to fund buying all the tools at Factory 5 for community to use,” he adds. “Factory 5 is very much a first of its kind in China, a community bike space where people can come and hang out.”
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Plus, it’s a mellow spot for locals and foreigners to mingle.
“They have four foreigners and one Chinese guy so there will be a mix of cultures here,” says Shanghai native Samuel Chen (陈超). “It’s very special. They have a lot of good things there -- good designers, good times.”
Those things could be a huge push for the already growing fixie community in Shanghai. Chen, who writes for a network of Shanghai-based biking websites and blogs, says students in particular are getting into the sport because “they like cool things.”
Even Liu and Bowa say they’ve seen the fixie and single-speed scene explode in China in just the few years since they’ve been here.
“It's a style thing,” Liu says. “Shanghai is a very style-conscious city and everybody wants to be in on it. For me, I don’t care about the style or whatever, as long as we get more people on bikes, it’s perfect.”
While Bowa says he wants to see biking grow throughout China, he adds that commercial success is not their ultimate goal, but supporting the current grassroots movement.
“What we’ve done in Shanghai has always been organic, there’s never been anything forced about it. We want to continue to grow the scene exactly that way.”
No. 43, Lane 56 Donghu Lu