November 26, 2006

In Beijing, expats find camaraderie at their side

BEIJING — Each Sunday, weather and fussy engines permitting, the Beijing Dragons Motorcycle Club roars out of Starbucks and onto the open road, riding three-wheeled bikes that look like they were stolen from the frames of "The Great Escape" or a Laurel and Hardy reel.

Aboard retro sidecar motorcycles reminiscent of those on the road in Chairman Mao's day, the riders usually head for the mountains north of the city, where the fishing is good and the stone ribbon of the Great Wall stretches across the hillsides.

"Working and living in Beijing isn't the easiest thing," said Jim Bryant, the group's semiofficial leader. "There's stress and traffic.

"But this is one of the great upsides. You can see sights you only see in Chinese paintings."

The sidecars have become a signature feature of expatriate life here, binding together the growing numbers of transplanted Americans and Europeans who call China's sprawling capital home

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