Anxious to see more of this huge city, we bought two bikes at Carrefour yesterday, costing about 300 yuan = 30 euro each! For 30 euro you get a frame, two wheels, two brakes, steering, pedals, and a nice basket. No lights (nobody has them) and no gears (obviously).
Today we took our new bikes for a ride. Immediately, Ine’s bike had a flat tire. The pump we had bought proved up to the task and in no-time we were on our way. First stop: a bicycle repair man, to get the saddles altered. Fortunately, there’s a bicycle repair man on every street corner and apparently it costs 2 yuan to get your saddle adjusted.
After a nice ride to the last remains of Beijing’s city wall (and a short stop for one last adjustment to my saddle, another 2 yuan) Ine’s front tire went flat again and it was soon clear that pumping air in it was not going to fix the problem. The quest for another repair man began, this time on foot, through a shady Russian neighborhood (mink furs, anyone?). After a 30 minute walk we found our bicycle repair man, the third one today. The inner tube had to be replaced, bringing the total of this repair job to 50 yuan.
We were riding again, but soon it was my bike’s turn for some attention. The rear wheel started to make a loud ticking sound and suddenly gave up altogether, leaving us stranded in a hutong. Turns out, a hutong is the place you want to be in when your bike breaks down. The rear gear (the clutch thingie) had to be replaced and our (fourth) bicycle repair man showed us the bad quality of the original brake and replaced that as well. Price: 64 yuan.
In Romania we’ve often joked that cheap products should be bought in pairs: one for immediate use, and one for spare parts. And now we wish we had bought one extra bike; we could have shared its parts.
(more pictures on Ine’s picasa page)