Out of the Well: A Frogs-Eye-View of China and the World

Random Jottings on China, History, Culture, and Life as seen by an American student in Beijing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Sportsman; or the secret history of a Beijing bicycle

Its origins were obscure. The Sportsman came into my life when american-roommate-Jed went looking for a theftproof bike. Two very expensive bikes had come into and out of his possession in the previous two weeks and he had decided that he needed a bike no one wanted. The bike dealer had offered him a variety of very nice used bikes but Jed was adamant. He only wanted the absolute worst bike in stock. The man thought for a moment and went around back. After a few moments he returned with a medium sized "woman's style" bike. Black with touches of read that looked like they were hastily added with spraypaint.

The shopkeeper pointed at the downtube sticker which read Sportsman USA, "its made in America", he promised. "10dollars*." In the end Jed got it for seven on the condition that the man remove the broken basket on the front.

The sportsman passed into my possession when Jed left Beijing to return to the sunny beaches of Florida. I put some money into it, replacing the pedals and the seat. For about one dollar I had the breaks repaired the day I slid into traffic on my way to school. In the end it still looked like a piece of crap, but it rode pretty well and I have taken it many places the last few months, exploring little corners of Haidian District.

I last saw it last night when I came home from dinner with some friends. I locked it up just like any night, but this morning it was gone. No one in this city really "owns" a bike. Bikes get stolen everyday and as a result they are cheap. I don't know anyone who has ever sold a bike, but the shops are full of second hand models.

The Sportsman had a secret history. I am sure it had many owners before me, and I bet it will have many after whoever gets in next. I hope they enjoy it.

*all monetary units converted for the readers convenience.


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