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Beijing’s “weird guys” playing retro 

In the post-World War II atmosphere, young British people began to live a simple-minded, youthful lifestyle. The Lambretta, which was almost extinct, and the Vespa, which was almost the same time, also took Europe by storm as the prototype of Italian scooters. Because World War III did not break out, a group of eccentrics in China played with retro. In the words of Lambretta and Vespa: we turned the rationale of good taste on its head on another level.

China got to the point where the economy was really booming and people started to divide into circles, which inexplicably created a very interesting phenomenon. People who listen to hiphop and hang gold chains seem to drive sports cars, people who play rock and roll with girls seem to ride Harleys, and people who dance reggae with dirty braids seem to be left with psychedelic wanderlust. Of course, there are many people who do not conform to these circles of thought and speech, and they have long been bored with the formalized industrial sense of the machine. As vintage motorcycles slowed to a romantic idealism, these weirdos birthed the New Wave. In other words, the Lambretta and the Vespa were favored by different circles, bringing a retro allure to the “new”.

What are Lambretta Motor and Vespa? I’m not trying to educate you at all. If someone asks you why you want to spend a lot of money on a beggar’s bike? Good taste doesn’t necessarily have to do with the aesthetics and values of mainstream culture, but from the reckless Mods to the thrill-seeking fringe, these weirdos with their M51s can lead the way.

The old man from Weiss Beijing

About six or seven years ago, Chang Xin introduced Lambretta and Vespa scooters to China in large numbers, and can be considered one of the oldest brothers who have contributed the most to Scooter culture. Every time I see him, he’s pouting and serving up these old timers. For Chang Xin, Lambretta rides require a special thief’s eye on the police, which is a good opportunity to exercise his multi-thinking insight into the world. These cars also often leave him on the road in a very impersonal way, which is a good way to train his patience. So selling a scooter that can’t legally go on the road and repairing a classic car that only has a few hundred units in China is a total loss-making business. If you ask Chang Xin why he loves to do this “unseemly” babysitting job, he will proudly tell you: I’m obsessed with it.

The Vespa is basically the face of the scooter, and many movies have put it on the “stage”. And because so few people know about the Lambretta, far more people buy Vespa’s than Lambretta’s. “Through the years of being involved with scooters, I’ve met an extraordinary number of people from different circles, and it’s changed the rest of my life. My job now is ‘selling fake drugs’ Monday to Friday, typical of the traditional industry. But there are friends in media, mechanics, and vintage, which gives me a lot more ideas for my usual medical business. Although living a life without weekend car repair, but more interesting than playing mahjong with the white coats for one night.” Chang Xin also did a special thief thing – he collected 14 or 15 rare and sharp vintage motorcycles – to put it bluntly, the small scooters that enthusiasts buy are either left over from his play or he can’t see.

The Lambretta is the Mercedes of cars, while the Vespa is the VW of cars, and they are very different. The Lambretta is 50% to 100% more expensive than the Vespa for the same class and the same year of collection. But this is not the reason why Chang Xin’s regular car is a Lambretta. His pure reason: the Lambretta doesn’t like to be lost. Chinese thieves don’t get it and think it’s worthless and not worth stealing at all. He gloats: “One time I got drunk at night and left my Lambretta there. After a few days, I think how I have a car missing in the basement ah. Then my aunt took the bus and told me she saw this car parked on the side of the three bad roads. For days, it wasn’t stolen and it didn’t get a sticker, how nice!”

When carrying out the grocery business, the Lambretta was a particularly friendly mode of transportation for Chang Xin: “Carrying the groceries, I still had to think about shifting gears and putting my foot on the brake, and its fuel-saving principle was enough for me to make 100 trips. The sense of accomplishment of driving such a car is far greater than what it means in vain.”

The second brother who wins in chaos

The lurching approach of Zeng Xiao driving the Lambretta from afar is like the Monkey King floating over on clouds, giving me the illusion that I am watching Journey to the West. His innate wisdom and foolishness made people feel that it was unjustifiable not to flirt with him.

“How does it feel to ride Lambretta in a military coat?”

“Old cold legs. Ha!”

That was a good start. Given my illogical way of speaking, the interview also turned into a random conversation in the panhandle. We pushed the bike to the Big Willow Market to get together, and many people complimented him on the beauty of his bike, and he turned back to me and said, “This bike is from 1963, and it’s safe to say I’m not an owner yet, because I don’t appreciate the Lambretta culture stuff at all right now, I just ride it out of my attitude.”

“This bike is bigger than you!”

“Yeah.” Watching him wander through the market with particular familiarity, I suddenly thought of a line from The Who’s song “My generation”: “Why do people turn their noses up at me, it’s because we scurry around.” But I think Zeng Xiao has become one with the Big Willow Market. He went on to say, “People’s senses are outward looking, so people can see others clearly, but cannot know themselves easily. When I couldn’t find my way in life, Lambretta would correct me and let me perceive what is good to explore. I needed such a positive culture to tell me what the roots are.”

In 2007, Zeng Xiao rode his first used red Mulan, which he collected for over $600, all over Beijing, telling me, “At that time, when I wore a suit to talk about business, I could get to where I wanted to go quickly. Of course, driving is fine, but sitting in a car, you’re just a passive spectator. On a motorcycle you feel like nature is a wonderland and feel that freedom of having the ability to not do anything if you don’t want to.”

Men may have a special preference in their bones for going in all directions. The relaxed, less messy pedal culture has taken Zeng Xiao from Beijing to Southeast Asia, and he has his own philosophy on temperament and motorcycle maintenance: “Since you choose an old guy from the 60s and 70s, you have to find a way to live in harmony with it. Even though it can sometimes have problems, it’s really about developing your patience. Serve it well so you can enjoy it.”

Zeng Xiao is a strange guy who shy away from words, but when it comes to Scorpio, he’s all about putting gold on his face: “Although I don’t really believe in astrology, I think Scorpio is something that is isolated at the edge of the universe and encompasses the whole universe. It’s like I don’t belong to any one circle, but I’m actually included in many.” He smokes one cigarette after another and says one thing after another: “I want to understand the culture of various circles and then form a value of my own. This allows me to understand more quickly what the other person wants to feel in many things.”

I asked, “Why didn’t you buy a Vespa instead of a Lambretta?”

“If something is good, it must not be very good. It’s becoming a trend, but I don’t want to be a trend.”

“Hahahaha!”

Zeng Xiao has set up his own studio called DATESE STUDIO, which shoots music festivals, music videos and shows, and he says that his craftsman-like working conditions are exactly what Lambretta feels like to him – down-to-earth, without all the electronic stuff. “I wanted to establish the style and use a new process and standard to get the job done.”

What is Lambretta? This Scooter Boy isn’t wearing a narrow suit, an American military coat or a French over-ear haircut, but he is Lambretta.

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