Dozens of upscale bars, restaurants and boutiques line Wudaoying Hutong in Beijing’s Dongcheng neighborhood. Sometimes billed as the capital’s Brooklyn, the narrow alleyway features a nightly mix of hip young locals and foreign expatriates. With its hot pink sign featuring a winged banana logo, Natooke matched the neighborhood’s colorful aesthetic. But its business revolves around a product that, as recently as a few years ago, would have been unthinkable in China: fixed-gear bicycles.
A neatly organized, wood-floored space, Natooke’s walls are mounted with racks of bike parts—everything from frames and wheels to hubs and handlebar grips—in a range of bold colors. Buyers, guided by the expertise of Ines Brunn, the shop’s founder, and her staff of young hipsters, select each element to create a custom-built, fixed-gear bike.
Shops like these are common in the big cities of North America and Europe, but Natooke was the first such business to arrive in China. Today, it’s the epicenter of the youth bike scene in Beijing, and its impact has been felt across the country.