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A lesson in bicycle security

A happy man on his trusty bike

Since coming to China, John has fallen in love with cycling. He bought a second-hand bike, with a loose chain, from a colleague and it became Silver to his Lone Ranger.

Even though he cycles to and from work everyday, he still likes nothing better than to zoom off for a ride in the evening or at the weekend, especially now Spring is well and truly here. No trip is too short or too long to go by bike.

Despite this love, he has been very lax about bicycle security. He says that this is because Wuxi people are generally honest, so it won’t get stolen. I wondered whether the real reason was that he didn’t like to keep his trusty friend in chains.

Yesterday the worst happened: He left home to go to the shops and there was no sign of his bike. Usually, it is parked immediately outside our apartment, next to my bike. My bike was still there (safely locked up), but it looked pretty lonely.

We searched everywhere in case the someone had just moved the bike. We even looked in the spooky basement of our building. The basement is a dusty, last resting place for every imaginable type of bike, but John’s wasn’t there. In the end, John came to accept his bike was gone and sadly set off for the shops on foot.

When he reached the security guards’ office at the gate of our area, he suddenly spotted his beloved bike. The guards had taken it in the night to give John a lesson in bicycle security. He muttered something about how they should have better things to do, but I noticed this morning his bike was safely secured.

Bicycle bu hao

John bought a second-hand bicycle shortly after arriving in Wuxi and he loves zooming about on it. It uses it everyday to get to and from work; on days he isn’t working he suffers bicycle withdrawal symptoms (restlessness, involuntary leg movements etc.)

John is now convinced that I need my own bicycle. Really, I am very happy travelling by bus. I have a transportation card so most journeys cost about 1.2 RMB (12p) and the buses are pretty reliable. However, for the sake of marital harmony the other day I agreed to get a bike.

I wanted a second hand bike, so it wouldn’t look too attractive to would-be thieves, but we can’t find the used bicycle market in Wuxi. We know there is one, but due to all the building work ongoing for the new Metro system, when we follow directions given to us by ‘people in the know’ we just end up at a hole in the ground.

In the end, we went to a market attached to a branch of Carrefour in the city centre. There was a range of bike and e-bikes on offer, so after careful consideration we decided on the cheapest one in the shop. The sales assistant told us this bike was “bu hao (not good)”. I cynically assumed she just wanted us to buy a  more expensive one, so I insisted we would take the cheap bike.

After a tentative start, my bike riding skills came back to me (it’s a bit like riding a bike..) and we set off in the direction of the park next to Lake Li. Travelling over the bridge I realised my pedal had fallen off. A piece of plastic that should hold it on had broken, so I had to pedal in a lop-sided way. I thought we could probably get it fixed at one of the many road-side bicycle repair places.

We travelled a bit further before I realised the front brake was broken. My new bike was falling apart! We were quite some way from home, so decided to cut our losses and abandon the bike by the side of the road. Someone would no doubt pick it up, patch it up and perhaps sell it on to another unsuspecting dupe.

As I boarded the bus for the journey home, I thought that my cheap bike was an expensive lesson in paying attention when the sales assistant says ‘bu hao’.