Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Bicycle

My bicycle and I are beginning to have a long, and some might say sordid, relationship together. I got it for 1500 NT (New Taiwan Dollars), or about $50, which I thought was a good deal. When I first got it I was very excited about it, despite how small it was (while riding my knees came to within about 3 inches of the ends of the handle bars). It had a bell and stickers with pink flowers, and it was such a vast improvement over walking everywhere. However, it didn't take it long to loose the bell (I think the bike got hit by a car while it was parked), the flower stickers started to fade, the basket got messed up, the hubs started to rust, the breaks started to get sketchy, and the wheels started to get more dented than the outside of a pineapple.

One day while I was riding to class the chain broke, so I grabbed it and put in my basket, then sat down on my bike and pushed it, just like the Flintstones, the rest of the way to class. It was a little demoralizing, but also hilarious, so I think it worked out OK. After class I went to get the chain fixed, and it was 200 NT for a new one.

My next bike breaking while I'm riding it adventure happened one Saturday night when I was riding to meet Luke at the subway. We had just had dinner, and I had ridden it home as quickly as possible, which involves standing up and wrenching back on the handle bars, in order to put maximum force on the pedals. I was only at home for a little bit, then Luke texted me and told me to meet him at the metro. So I rushed out, grabbed my bike, and proceeded to sprint away on it. I think I made it to my metro station in under a minute, which is really good time. However, while I was riding I started to notice that the bike handle bars were a little loose. I assumed the nuts were loosening a little bit, and that I could sort it out later. After I got to the metro station, I realized I didn't have my pass with me so I decided to rush one station further up to meet Luke before he got on, and borrow his pass. I jumped back on my bike and sprinted away again. The handle bars seemed a little looser, but I didn't think anything about it. I had to stop for a crosswalk, and as soon as my light turned green, I started wrenching on the handlebars to try to get up to speed again. I guess I wrenched a little too hard because I tore the handle bars off. I could no longer steer and, fortunately I hadn't gotten up too much speed, so the bike quickly fell over. I ended up standing and unhurt because while I'm riding my feet are only about 6 inches away from the ground. I looked around to see if anyone had seen me, which, of course, people had. Then I went to pick up my bike and see what had happened. I had indeed torn the handle bars free from the frame, but they were still bolted into the front stem. So while they were attached to the bike, they were completely useless for their main purpose of guiding the bicycle. So I stashed it and ran on to meet Luke. It was 300 NT for a new handle bar, raising the overall amount of money I'd put into fixing the bike up to 1/3 of its original value.

After I tore off the handle bars I thought the worst was over. However, as you may guess, I was wrong. Alonzo got here about 2 weeks ago, and last Friday I gave him a ride on the back of my bike. All bikes either have a rear rack or pegs, and most people take full advantage of these tools to ferry their friends around. I wanted to be able to ferry my friends around too, so when I bought my bike I asked if the back stand was strong enough to hold a friend. Naturally the salesman said it was, and I believed him. To make a long story short, Alonzo was sitting on the back, and we hit a curb wrong and the back tire bent up like a taco. Neither of us were hurt, and the situation was initially very funny, though possibly more so to Alonzo than to me. Alonzo carried the back end, I steered the front, and we headed off for the bike shop. When I'd bought my bike they told me I got free labor there, so always to bring my bike back to them if anything happened. Ben had also bought his bike here, and he had had a very poor experience with the owner, so I was a little dubious about the place, however, aside from the chain breaking, I had taken my bike there for a couple other small things, and they'd always been helpful to me, so I decided to take my bike there. Apparently it was going to be 600 NT for a new wheel. That seemed a little steep, and I wasn't ready to fork over that much money without a fight, so I went back on campus and stole another bike.

Now, I want to say, that although I did steal the bike, I'm pretty sure no one was using it. I get to school at 7:00 am everyday, so I pretty much have my choice of parking spots, and I park my bike in the same place everyday. This bike is always there and, a few days before, it had fallen over. I noticed there was not even any air in the back tire, so I just kind of pushed up against the bike rack, and left it there. It had not been touched since then. Aside from there being no air in the tires, I feel like the strongest piece of evidence that it was abandoned was that the sticker allowing it to be parked on campus was from last year. Also, not every morning, but on some mornings I see big flat bed trucks carrying away old abandoned bikes, so I figured if I didn't take it away, they would. So, overall I didn't feel to bad about taking it.

It turned out not to matter because the wheels were a different size, and not compatible anyway. This led to another decision, could the bike I'd stolen somehow be made to work, or could they somehow be combined to make one workable bike. No parts could be salvaged off of my bike to make the other bike whole, and making it whole without parts from my bike was too expensive, so I was basically in the same situation. At this point, the shop owner offered to sell me a used bike. I rode it around the block once, but it was pretty sketchy. Only one of the breaks was good, and the peddles were plastic and brittle and I was afraid they were going to break off (which was what had happened to the bike Ben bought here).

I haggled with the guy some, but could only talk him down to 800 NT (from 1000 NT) with the trade in of the two bikes, which I wasn't willing to pay. So Alonzo grabbed the stolen bike, and I grabbed my old bike and we walked away. While I was haggling with the guy, I ran into one of my classmates, and she recommended I go to the bike on campus. Apparently it was cheaper there, and they weren't as devious and cheating as this guy. So Alonzo and I headed there. Because Alonzo and I each had to steer our own bikes now, it was more difficult to walk along and steer with one hand, while holding the back tire off the ground with the other, so I (only sometimes) just pushed my bike along, while the back tire dragged. After I'd been doing this for only about 150 yards at most, Alonzo and I heard a loud hissing sound, and looked down to see the air rushing out of my back tire. Apparently dragging the bike for about 3 minutes was enough to wear through the tire and tube. After that I didn't drag it anymore.

After we got to the bike shop on campus I found out it was going to be 450 NT for a new wheel. Score. That was significantly cheaper than the other place, and these guys were nice. Then, they turned my bike over and found out that I'd need a new tire and tube also, which immediately doubled the price. Learning this was a lot like a slap in the face. 3 minutes of weakness was going to cost me about $15. IT WAS GOING TO COST ME FIFTEEN US DOLLARS FOR PUSHING MY BIKE ACROSS A WIDE STREET.

I asked if they had any used bikes. Nope. It was a hot day my backpack was heavy, and I was sweating just standing there. I decided to stash both bikes on campus, and go home. After we stashed the bikes Alonzo and I went to the Welcome, where Alonzo got a pint of ice cream and I got a beer. Then we went to a near by park, and consumed our rewards for a moderate lenght afternoon of mild stress and discomfort. I'd never drank beer in this park before, and it was actually really nice. For one thing, because I got beer from an actual grocery store instead of a convenience store, like normal, I had more options, so I got something I don't normally drink. And it was good. The park was also full of little kids playing and it was really enjoyable to watch them. They didn't have to worry about paying 15 dollars for not carrying their bike, and them not worrying helped me not to relax. After I finished my beer and Alonzo finished his ice cream, we went home and I took a nap.

I had a sort of vague plan of leaving the bikes there over the weekend and then sorting it out Monday morning. However, things sort of piled up, and I ended up leaving them there for a whole week. During that time, I decided I was just going to have to man up, and pay the 900NT. It was cheaper than buying a new bike, and it was the environmentally sustainable thing to do. So I went back today grabbed my bike, and carried it over to the bike shop. The guy said again it was going to be 900NT and asked if I could pick it up tomorrow. I said that was alright, and then, for good measure, asked if he had any second hand bikes. Apparently there was one, and after a little searching (in large clumps of standing bikes), he found it. And then I decided to buy it. It was on 700NT and was an environmentally sustainable option. And I think its bigger than my old one, and the seat is certainly more comfortable, so I think I actually came out on top of the whole deal. Everything went perfectly. And I'm going to put the bike I stole back in its place tomorrow morning, so I won't even have stolen a bike, just borrowed it for a couple days.