Rambling Different Trails: At The Bike Shop.

It’s aggravating not speaking Chinese, and needing to go to the bike shop while not speaking Chinese is even worse. I can say a few phrases and get us home in a taxi, but explaining my need for a new chain and cassette and probably the bottom bracket? It’s rough. I know there must be better translation apps out there than what I’ve found but when you get into specialized vocabulary like this, it comes down to sign language and making funny sounds.

Steve and Mr. Li on Steve’s new bike day.

My bike mechanic, Mr. Li, has as much frustration as I do trying to get a message across. Luckily today I was able to call our trusty traveling companion and general lifesaver Bamboo to save the day but to know all the names for parts in Chinese is asking a lot. I thought totaling up the mileage on the bike would give Mr. Li an idea of what would need replacing (6,647 km). I had gone to the shop after 1,600km, when I would usually replace a chain (I’m hard on them) but he looked at me like I must be joking. Today I found out why. Here they don’t even think about changing them until about 6,000 km. He didn’t even think the cassette would necessarily need replacing but I’ve tried that before and there was no way I wanted to live with the slipping that would have ensued.

Goats are a common sight on the levee roads.

In all fairness riding on flat land and pavement here, until discovering the levee roads anyway, I probably hadn’t chewed it up and spit it out like I do to chains around Lincoln. I was surprised it wasn’t in worse shape than it was. Replacing them didn’t solve all the problems that had come up though, and I think the source of my problem now is the bottom bracket.

Typical campus bike.

People here mainly ride slow, heavy bikes of dubious quality when they ride at all, so I don’t really think the bike shops around here get as much of this kind of work as they do in Lincoln. Mr Li does his repairs on the sidewalk in front of the shop, as the inside is taken up with bikes sales. He keeps his stands and tool cart outside and just rolls it all in in the evening. There is so little theft he doesn’t worry about it.

Sidewalk bike shop.

Steve says there are notably fewer bike shops now than two years ago, showing electric scooters and cars are still pushing down bike usage. Those stores have been replaced by pet shops. For simple fixes there are sidewalk bike mechanics around the market, only they can’t be counted on to air presta valves. After my umpteenth flat today I continue to wonder why you can’t find tire liners or slime anywhere. At least I provide entertainment for the local population while I fix it.

Mr. Li test riding my bike at his sidewalk work area in front of his shop.

As daunting as it can be to deal with repairs here, when I read accounts of people bike touring and having mechanical issues in the middle of nowhere I am reminded how easy I really have it. I usually have interpreters when I need them, a good mechanic and a (generally) safe place to ride.