the joys of buying a bike



There are two main types of bike: ones people want and ones they actually need.

– page 29, The Bluffer’s Guide to Cycling

I was devastated when I got out of Nearby the Tree after a night of drinking too much beer and making out with an Austrian boy I’d met only that night to find that Sottie’s Giant bike was stolen. In my haste, I’d neglected to lock the bike to an immovable fixture, THE golden rule of locking a bike in thief-ridden Beijing.  Austrian boy and I made a cursory search in the surrounding area, knowing full well it was gone, before I resigned to the fact that I had to take a cab home.

I was inconsolable about the loss of my beginner bike, but that didn’t stop me from going out the next day to Merida and plonking down my hard-earned cash on a white Merida Duke mountain bike (MTB for short).  An MTB as defined in the Bluffer’s Guide “has 27 gears, tractor tyres, full suspension, no mudguards, disc brakes, and a big soft saddle”.  It took me a while to get used to riding with my back at a 45 degree angle to the bike, working out which gears to use when, and how sensitive the disc brakes were. But boy did I enjoy riding this MTB after riding a heavy bike with only 3 gears.

I rode my MTB everywhere everyday for 5 months before I realised I may have bought the wrong bike. For one, I rode my bike in the city most of the time. With Beijing traffic as it is, I’d be lucky to get a smooth ride with no stops along the way, whether it be for a red light or an idiot driver/biker doing a U-turn in the middle of the road.  Stopping while riding an MTB is painful for me. You can say I asked for it when I elevated my seat so high, I can only stand on tiptoes while waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. Sometimes when the lights took a while to change, I’d feel my right foot go numb. I confess to breaking almost all of Beijing’s traffic rules in the past in a bid to alleviate this discomfort and I could’ve been killed any number of times, if it wasn’t for God’s protection.

The other thing was, with no mudguards, on the rare occasion when it rains in Beijing (though it’s become less rare these days), whatever I wore while riding the MTB would be covered in mud splatters by the time I reached my destination. This was the case even when I wore raincoats.   One of my new work shirts I wore while cycling to work on a rainy day now has a stubborn mud splatter on the back even after going through a wash.

I weighed up my options,  which essentially were:

(a) only buy and wear dark clothing and pants all year round so I can ride my MTB, or

(b) buy a town bike that I can ride wearing anything I currently own.

A town bike is defined as “tall, sturdy, upright” with a “proper mudguards”, “step-through frame”, “few gears, none high” in the Bluffer’s Guide.

I decided to go with (b).  After trying out a Mongoose (7 gears, white, grey and plain), a Giant (7 gears, ugly colour and design) and a Forever C (no gear, cool pedal-powered headlights, gorgeous as you can see in the picture above), it was a no-brainer which bike I ended up buying. After riding my Forever C town bike for 2 days, a part of me wondered why I was so against buying a town bike initially, and the other part of me missed the speed, gears and disc brakes of my MTB.

My Forever C was easy to get on, went faster than I expected and wasn’t as heavy as I feared. When I stopped at the traffic lights, my right foot was practically on the ground.  I also attracted the envious stares of many pedestrians, though I didn’t care for it. Needless to say, this new relationship has gotten off on a good start.

Perhaps I might start hating my town bike after riding it in rainy weather and discovering another irremovable mud splutter on the back of my last nice blouse. Weather forecast for tomorrow: scattered showers. 🙂


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