My Whip

During our class in the spring semester at William & Mary, Wei Laoshi mentioned to us that bicycles would be highly recommended once we got to Tsinghua. We were told it was a large campus and between our dorms, the the academic building, the cafeterias, tai chi class, and even the bus stop, a bike would most definitely make our lives easier. Now that we’re well on the downhill of this semester, with only about two weeks of Beijing left, I don’t believe there’s anyone in the group that would disagree with that advice.

I’ve never been big on bikes. When I’m at the gym, I’ll run, get on the elliptical, use the rowing machine– even do my thing on the stair stepper before I would get on an exercise bike. In addition, W&M’s campus is very small and having a bike is far from a necessity; consequently, I’ve never done too much bike riding and wasn’t super thrilled about having to do so at Tsinghua. That said, once I arrived, I embraced the fact I needed a mode of transportation and went to the bike shop. The bike “dealer” (I’m not sure what else to call him) was all smiles and seemed pretty giddy that I had come to him for my bike and was stuttering with my Mandarin haggling skills. This, after all, was my first bargaining experience. He pointed out a couple bikes, to which I would respond with “tai jiu” or a shake of my head. We finally settled on a sweet-tart green bike for 140 kuai that sported a basket, lock, and a new seat. I was happy with my purchase and peddled off while making the decision to name my new bike “The Green Ranger” in honor of one of Lil Wayne’s songs. I even took a picture of the Green Ranger and sent it to my friends in America proudly showing off “my whip.”

Unfortunately, as a group, we found the bikes were.. to say the least.. unstable. As the weeks progressed, it seemed to be every other day someone in our clan would have to wheel his or her bike back to one of the various campus dealers and end up pointing to the chain, or the seat, or the tire, muttering “huai le”.. For over a month, I thought I had lucked out with The Green Ranger. He had been a devout and loyal companion, not leaving me stranded or hurt, despite my poor cycling skills. After a long week, his basket would await my wine bottle and we’d have a moment as we made the last trip before the weekend from C-lo to Building 18.

But as luck would have it, The Green Ranger was not to go without transportation struggles. First to go was his kickstand– it no longer would stand him up unless it was set JUST RIGHT. And even then he was quite unsteady. Secondly, the mesh in his basket conveniently seemed to rust through. Next, an unhealthy click every time his back wheel made its’ cycle. Flat Tire. Then was a snap as we rounded the bend to the bus stop. Broken pedal. Fourth was an unbalanced wobble.. the NEW tire (45 kuai) hadn’t been set well…

Needless to say I’m babying The Green Ranger. He makes the trek to tai chi twice a week and occasionally we will take the trip to Dongbeimen. His biggest job is the twice or three times daily trip to C-lo– one that, on a nice day, I will just walk in order to give him a break. I have faith we can make it two more weeks, and if not, I will do more walking. I don’t think chancing another risky bike with only about 10 days of classes left is worth it. Until then, I will whisper the occasional “C’mon ole boy” to The Green Ranger if he seems to be having an unsteady day.