Saturday, September 20th, 2008...8:28 am


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My bike lasted 9 days.  The night I went to visit Song Shuo’s school I came home and went straight to bed, forgetting that I had left my bike outside the office.  In the morning when Alex and I went to work it was not on the street.

We thought that perhaps the “parking authorities” there had taken it in the morning and that we could go somewhere to get it back.  Perhaps it was like getting your car towed in the US.   When we got up to the office we asked around about what we should do.  One of the staff who commuted by bike said that without a doubt it was stolen and there was nothing we could do about it.

So that left me with one option: buy another bike.  This time I was going to stick to my original plan and find a second hand bike.  After work, Jinyu agreed to take to a place she knew that sold used bicycles.  We hopped in a cab to a market area and started walking.  Jinyu didn’t know exactly where it was, so about every block we stopped to ask.  As we walked down alleys and turned corners the streets darkened.  We had left the market area and had come to a more clustered and dense residential area.  After a little bit we turned a corner into a very different type of market.

Old refrigerators lined the narrow walk way.  Each booth had racks full of some type of reclaimed household machinery.  Air conditioners, refrigerators, washer/dryers.  All notably used but apparently in working condition.  People darted back and forth around us carrying wires, circuit boards, and power tools.  A couple people were soldering electronics in their booths, some were welding or cutting metal with rotary saws.  This place was all about making stuff work again, and it brought my respect for the resourcefulness of the inhabitants of this city to a whole new level.

We arrived at a cage containing a pile of bicycles.  A man there said that the salesman had gone home and we would have to come back the next day.  We took photos of the street signs to get back to where we were and then headed home.

Friday slipped by and Alex and I decided to go back Saturday morning.  I had previously made arrangements with my friend Henry to go buy shoes together.  Henry is my friend who I met on the street vendor corner.  He had taken a special interest in me and volunteered to help me deal with the sales people.  Henry doesn’t speak any English, so spending time with him means must rely totally on my Chinese.  Saturday morning he called and I told him about my bike.  He offered to help me buy one instead of shoe shopping, so we arranged a time to meet.

We first went to a huge shopping area that sold new bicycles.  I was adamant I wanted to by a second hand one.  I explained to him that I knew a place to get used bikes and so we got in the cab together to go to the place Jinyu had showed us on Thursday.  We found the salesman out with about 10 bikes that all looked used but in really good shape.  The salesman said he wanted 300元 for the bike I was interested in, which was about twice as much as I was told I should be paying.  Henry still wanted me to buy a new bike at the shopping center, but I was pretty convinced to talk the salesman down.

As we were haggling a pair of older men approached and said in English that they have used bicycles.  We began to follow them and it turned into quite a walk, which was then further compounded by torrential rain.  We went into a back alley and they brought out one of the strangest bicycles I’ve ever seen.  It was a silver road bike but had a frame that was made out of Stainless steel and cast as if with a lathe.  It looked like someone had used steel railing banisters to build a bike.  The brakes didn’t work and Henry was sure it was stolen.  We went on our way back to the second hand salesman.

The salesman was more receptive to our bargaining the second time around.  I found a bike that I liked.  It rode better than the one I had a before, the wheels were straighter, the brakes were more solid.  We talked him down to 220 and he threw in a basket for free. This was still more than Jinyu had said I should pay, but the guy wasn’t budging and I was haggling over less than I had spent on alcohol the day prior. I was thankful that Henry was there.  These kind of conversations always go some much better when a native speaker is present.

We raised the handle bars and the seat, put the basket on and tweaked the brakes.  I rode off with my second bike. I am determined to keep this one around.


  • Quite the adventure in getting a used bike. Glad you have another one (I think). As a mother, I always am worried about your safety.

  • good deal, Jim!! Glad you got another bike, and it looks great! We’re starting to get excited about coming over - i’ve nearly finished all of he projects I felt I really needed to get done before leaving. More stuff keeps coming up every day, but i’m less concerned about these recent urgent requests than the ones that have been on my desk for weeks.

    See you soon!

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