My new bike
Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
51Trip End Jul 27, 2010
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Why take 15 minutes walking to school when you could make it there in 5? My school is an easy walking distance from where i live which is literally called a ‘teachers village’. However, it’s still far enough to make the journey a tedious walk several times everyday. Particularly if you have a lesson, then one hours break and then another lesson. Getting a bike makes a lot of sense.
For a long time I’ve intended to buy a bike. The bike is by far the most used mode of transport in all of China. The song 9 million bicycles in Beijing is wildly out-of-date and is probably more accurate to say 15 million bicycles in Beijing. And that is just one city! So, I thought I would join the Chinese and also buy a bike. Up until now my budget hasn’t allowed me to buy a bike, but since getting paid I thought I’d splash out. Bikes are amazingly cheap in China, even new ones. Jess bought a new bike for 200元 or about £20, complete with rear suspension, a bell and a comfortable seat. Hard to believe that you can get a bike for so cheap brand new. But, for my budget and indeed by Chinese standards that’s a little too expensive for a poorly paid teacher like me. I wanted to go even cheaper!
The final motive for me to buy a new bike was last Sunday when Jess bought herself a new bike. I couldn’t be left bikeless, so that evening I set out with a teacher, and a good friend, Amanda to help me get a new bike. Jess was working that evening, and I was slightly annoyed that she had bought a bike without me. Amanda (or her Chinese name is Ting Ting!) has been a fantastic help to us. Kind, resourceful and rather beautiful if i may say so; Amanda always takes us to the best places in the local town for whatever we need. I figured that if was going to buy a cheap bike, Amanda would be the best person to help me.
First Amanda took me to a wonderful street restaurant (I suppose, like a Chinese equivalent to a greasy spoon) where I ate a big bowl of Guangxi style noodles and two bottles of coke. We then set off to find a bike to buy. After walking around and being quite unsuccessful for an hour or so I was beginning to give up hope. In a desperate attempt, we strayed off the main road and seeked smaller more local bike shops to find second hand bikes. No where seemed to sell second hand bikes, which striked me as quite odd at the time. Even the run down garage type bike shops only sold shiney new bikes. Things were not looking good.
As we were about to give up hope I pointed at a lonesome bike outside an unsuspecting shop, one that i had noticed earlier, but wasn’t an obviously advertised bike for sale. There was a sign with Chinese written on it,
“Does that say ‘bike for sale’ by any chance?” I asked Amanda
Amanda walked closer for confirmation
“Ah yes it is!” she replied, and I think at this point we were both quite relieved!
“Sorry for not seeing it earlier, i don’t know why i didn’t mention it”
“Don’t worry it’s Ok, we found a bike!” i said with a smile.
I was confused why Amanda was apologising for not seeing the sign, because it would have been very hard for her to see it when we had been walking from earlier in the opposite direction. It was not her fault. Striked me as quite English at that point, apologising and saying “sorry” for things that are not even their own ones fault.
The bike was a beaut’ if i may say so myself. It is black and in a very old traditional style. No gears, heavy as shit and a brake design so old i have no idea what to classify them as. In fact I would say it was about as typical as you could get for a Chinese communist style bike, which was backed up at the time with Amanda’s words “a workers bike”. The bike is very old, must be at least 15 years old, but i like to imagine could be 20. With something so old, and in such a colourful country; it makes me wonder what stories the bike has to tell. How many owners has the bike had? Who built it? How many miles has its wheels taken it? Has it been a major part in a Chinese revolt? Would Chairman Mao be proud of the great Chinese engineering involved?! -Of course he would, its a beast!
Not only does the bike have great character, but it was also very cheap. £6 it cost me, which I was told was very good. Happy with the thought I owned a bike in China I now feel a bit more like a local, not just your average Westerner who nine times out of ten is a tourist in China. I am now a worker! I no long get ripped off when i visit my local baked potato dealer, the children literally cheer when i cycle to school (i assure you i am not exaggerating) and best of all: It takes me 5 minutes to get to school instead of 15.
A couple of weeks later..
Although this blog does suggest that I literally loved my bike. It didn’t last a long time. I think the enthusiasm I had for my bike died off quite quickly, just because it wasn’t actually a great bike. It was heavy, dirty and worst of all was littered with problems. I think the worst thing about it was the buckled wheels, which caused a slight wobble when moving, and once you picked up some speed it was like taking a roller coster to school every day. The back wheel rims were also shagged, with metal sticking out. Actually, it was this problem that caused my bike to die..
I was going down the hill from school, it’s like a long promenade which creates a ‘grand entrance’ feel when you enter the school. It’s quite cool, and often I would see my classes doing their gym stretches there.
I was flying down the hill, as I always did. Aware that the brakes on the bike were awful (like I said, I’ve never seen such a design for brakes before) I started to brake early. The next thing I knew I heard a great bang, and at that point I knew I things were not good. Looking behind me to see what the problem was I could see pieces of the bike flying off. Looking back on this memory I have, I imagine it like a star wars movie when the space ship is breaking apart, but is still hurtling at tremendous speed. That was me. I quickly realised what has happened was my back brake had failed on me, and exploded because of those dodgy wheel rims I described earlier. What was worse, was that the front brake probably operated at 10% efficiency, so I had to pull it hard, and got little braking power from it. I was still flying down the hill, but eventually I stopped.
The guards at the front gate were stood there laughing at me, and they found it hilarious. I didn’t because if the front brake hadn’t of worked, I would have gone straight into a busy highway (at the entrance of my school).
I left this bike in the underground carpark underneath my apartment. I left it there when I left my school too. I wouldn’t actually be surprised if it was still there, as who is going to remove something that is not theirs?