Joining the Bike Armies of Tianjin

bikearmysmall.JPGSaturday I went with a nice guy named James to the local bike market to buy my first creaking, black Chinese bike and ascend to my place amidst the bike armies of Tianjin.

There are different ways to buy a bike here. You can go to big supermarkets, you can go to the bike market, or you can stand around at a certain intersection where someone will walk up and offer to sell you (probably stolen) used ones. Probably stolen use ones are the cheapest, of course, and plentiful. I have yet to meet anyone who has not had at least one bike stolen (many people have lost two or more). As a soon-to-be bike owner, encouraging the local bike theiving fest didn’t come across as the most astute choice, so we headed for the bike market.

DSCN4473small.JPGOriginally they forcasted snow but there was a cold drizzle instead, and the market was not too lively. Still, James has been here 6 years and knows some of the shop keepers who still sell used bikes (most only sell new). We found exactly what I was looking for in about 2 minutes: big(ger) size, old, dirty, squeaky, black, but still in good(ish) shape, says “Flying Pigeon” on it, and cost 130 RMB (about $17). New it would have been about 400 RMB (about $53). The idea is to get a bike that won’t be the first (or 10th) choice of bike thieves, and one that won’t cost too much to lose if/when it does get stolen. I road it back about 10km from the bike market to our apartment. It’s not too hard to ride safe, but left turns are a little tricky. I just picked someone to follow, trying to make sure there’s no room for a taxi to nudge in between us, and that seemed to work. We’ll see.

Right now it’s literally freezing… it snowed all day Sunday and the sidewalks are caked in ice.

7 thoughts on “Joining the Bike Armies of Tianjin”

  1. I kept thinking of Queen’s “Bicycle Race” song when I read your post. Maybe you should sing that in your head while riding… or maybe that’s to dangerous.

  2. I’ve always been suspicious of that Queen song (surely there’s a double entendre in there that I’m too sheltered to know about). Never played it backward though.

    Brian – we never even considered bikes when we were in Yonghe. Work and shopping is so close to the apartment that a bike would only save you a minute or two. And for stuff like day hikes or non-local night markets, you’d have to take the MRT (subway) anyway. I supposed you could bike between the apt. and the MRT station or the local night market. We always enjoyed the walking though (hard to hold hands when you’re on bikes!). I have no idea what they’d cost. Scooters are more popular than bikes in Taibei.

    How long ’til you arrive?

  3. Brian, usually I’d never recommend to our staff to consider anything with only two wheels. I’ve heard enough stories of accidents over the past years.

    One of our staff’s (Cara’s) neighbor got himself into a very serious scooter accident. He is now on wheelchair.

    I’d suggest that you consider the combination of walking, MRT, buses, and cabs! MRT is such a convenient way to get around town!


  4. Joel and Jessica,
    Greetings. Glad things are going well. We had tons of good Chinese bikes in Ghana. Your blog brings back many memories. I suppose Tianjin has more bikes than all of Ghana since 1950 combined. Hope your studies are going well. Thoughts are always with you and for you. Steve A. and I will be meeting Friday on some paperwork for your partners here. Any ideas, please pass along.
    Love and peace,

  5. Ha, yeah, I remember the black Chinese bikes in Uganda… solid steel if I remember. We have the same kind, I think. It’s actually kind of fun biking during rush hour – I console myself with the idea that everyone is moving so slow that you probably have a good chance of surviving the inevitable tumble. I could have leaned on a bus the other day. I can’t wait until I have better Mandarin… there’s a fair bit of conversation happening in those bike armies sometimes. It’ll be great fun to practice Mandarin on people in the bike lanes.

    Mingdaw – are you referring to Bas? (I never knew how to spell his name). That’s terrible! Does this mean Cara is having second thoughts about her motorbike?

  6. Love your posts. More examples of rich Chinese Culture find their way (and a new home) in America. This week, Tampa, Florida hosted the Dragon Boat Racing International Championships.Oh,the Drums,the Drums! RichFromTampa

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