Romanced on a Shanghai Bicycle (Almost) for Two: Cherished Memories of When My Husband ‘Picked Me up’ on His Bike

Recently, I discovered bicyclists in Beijing could no longer have an extra passenger in the back.

While I understood the safety rationale behind the move, I couldn’t help feeling it was the end of an era. After all, some of my fondest memories with Jun happened while I was riding on the back of his bicycle in Shanghai.

We dubbed the bike our “official car”, and Jun would use it to pick me up when I would arrive late in the evening from business trips outside the city. I would message him when I was about 10 or 15 minutes from the subway stop near our apartment, and then he would pedal over and wait for me. No matter how exhausted I might have been, the thought of Jun and our humble little bicycle made me bound up those subway stairs with a bounce in my step.

He would always immediately take my bags for me and place them in the basket, and then I would settle myself on the platform behind his seat, and hug him with my arms. Riding with him was like an extended embrace in a sense, and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It was romantic, but with a purpose. After all, you had to hold on to the person pedaling the bicycle for safety.

I think I liked these trips even better because, honestly, Jun didn’t need to pick me up like that. Our apartment was only about four blocks from the subway and could easily be reached in a 10 or 15 minute walk. But Jun insisted on meeting me with that bicycle, regardless. He never made any grand declarations in the process, but he didn’t have to — the whole thing was an act of love.

I understand why things have changed in Beijing. And those changes come at a critical time when motorized vehicles, including scooters, rule the roads, not bicycles.

But this reality makes those memories of riding on the back of Jun’s bicycle all the more precious to me.

Have you ever ridden on the back of someone’s bicycle? Was it ever a romantic experience to you?

Photo credit: By 齐健 from Peking, People’s Republic of China – Down the Hutong, CC BY 2.0,

8 Replies to “Romanced on a Shanghai Bicycle (Almost) for Two: Cherished Memories of When My Husband ‘Picked Me up’ on His Bike”

  1. I was reminded of a girl that I deeply loved before.

    She worked for a hospital by then and sometimes nightshifts were inevitable. Still remember that when the alarm clock went off, we had to get up and got dressed at some midnight. Winter in Nanjing was always nippy and wind piercing, I pedalled to the bus stop with her at the back of my bicycle. We stood by each other, joked and laughed, waiting for the bus to come.

    She said that I didn’t have to pedal her over, it was only 10 minute walk from our rented apartment to the bus stop. But I thought it wouldn’t be safe for a girl to walk through some streets at night, and doing something you could for the one you love was always part of happiness.

    Pity we parted our ways years later for some reasons, she was married and now the mother of a toddler.


  2. My heart hurts a little after reading this. During our first year of dating, Ming always gave me a ride on the back of his bicycle. I loved the feeling of holding him close. I had long forgotten about this and what a special time that was….

  3. This article has hit home for me too, though it is slightly bit different for me. When I was in my final year of high school I worked off the books for a Chinese supermarket chain. I drove an old, rickety beat up Mitsubishi Fuso flatbed, carting pallets of baled cardboard waste from the stores and warehouses to the local landfill. My beloved Puerto Rican sweetheart worked an internship as a receptionist in a cosmetic surgery clinic and not only the bus ride back to her apartment was long, she had to walk several long blocks from the bus stop to her residence and on winter days, she was always scared of the rapidly darkening streets. There was absolutely no way I am going to allow my love to endure that kind of daily struggle so we came up with a system where I will always drive her to work since I got out of class much earlier and by the time she had finished school, I was already on my way to the yard with the first load. And then, I would time my road schedule so I will always swing back around when she finished her work in order to drive her back to her home or on most nights, I would drive us to the storage lot, park the truck, and then take the train 3 stops to my apartment. This may take even longer than if she had just taken the bus back home but the whole time we were both elated and overjoyed that we were spending time with each other so we never minded.
    Now when I say the truck is old, it is OLD. Everything creaked and groaned. There is no AC and on hot days, the interior is near boiling with the heat blasting into the cab from the engine casing. Diesel exhaust would always blowback into the cab every time the brakes were hit. It is loud and punishing to say the least, and the passenger seat is narrow and painfully wedged up against the bulk of the gearbox and selector console. I knew that my sweetheart never really enjoyed the actual riding portion of our daily journeys. The way she closed her eyes every time the engine flew through the gears with resounding roars or the sweat that beaded her face as we both took our roasting from the metal dragon that lay just beyond the alarmingly thin floorboards. Every time I would look over at her with concern or apprehension though, she would just smile, squeeze her hand tightly around my right hand which would be over the gear selector as I fired the transmission into 1,2,3,4 etc, and any sweet words we exchanged with each other would be drowned out yet again by a resounding blast of sound. She would always tell me afterward that she didnt mind the hellish heat, the noise or the fumes, since she was with me and could hold my hand. Later on I installed a tiny electric fan in the cab and made her laugh when I said I put it up there just for her. Looking back on those times I can say that those were the best times I ever enjoyed with my sweetheart and she had said the same to me before we separated after graduation.
    Fast forward 7 years. I had just landed a job as a CDL-B driver for a large scrapping firm and I was assigned an old Mack industrial dumper that incidentally had no AC and was as rickety as an old galley on a stormy ocean. I bet my coworkers were wondering why I was smiling every time I got into that old donkey that even the veteran haulers would try to stay away from, and always glanced to my right side out of habit as I started the huge motor.

  4. When I went through this article,I was struck. My grandfather occurs to me . I missed him so much.when I was in Primary school .I had to live in school from monday to friday,due to its far away from my home .Every Monday morning,my grandfather would pedal over and send me to school. When I went to junior high school ,I was also at board school. and My grandfather would pedal over roughly and take the delicious food that cooked by my mother to me once a week ,in fact, he was elderly and easily to get tired . Every time when I got his lover food ,my classmates envyed me.But now,my grandfather passed away and not anyone can love me so much any more.

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