Archive for May, 2012

Bicycle Theft

May 26, 2012

I had another bike nicked last week.  That’s the third bike I’ve lost in China (assuming you include the first bike I bought when I arrived that l left unlocked in the hope someone would take it) Options were limited when I purchased it and it was so small my knees came up past the handlebars on the upstroke.  I also gave away two more because the quality was so bad – the first I picked up second hand and, like Windows XP required weekly updates.  The second I bought new and it lasted less time than the former and if I was to continue with the Windows analogy, it would be my Windows ME, every fix seemed to make things slightly worse.  It turned into a heap of rust in over the course of three months and I ended up handing it to a migrant worker on the street who approached me for money.  I suspect he would have preferred the cash. 


If I ignore the three bikes I abandoned (one in a bike shed in Beijing and two more second hand jobs that cost 6 quid each) I’m ahead compared to when I was a student in Manchester and lost 6 bikes in three years, two of which were very expensive and one of which was stolen from inside the house by a local boy climbing in through an upstairs lavatory window.  But, unlike Manchester they go beyond the token slap on the wrist in China and kick the shit out of bicycle thieves at the local nick before requiring them to pay a fine.  I’m not sure where the money (or the collection of recovered bikes) goes. I suspect they sell them back to the thieves for a cut of the proceeds.


But a year ago, I decided I had enough of substandard subsized rides and went upmarket.  Not too much upmarket, just enough to get me something that better fitted my height, offered a selection of gears and weighed in under 50lbs.  It set me back just over 50 quid and I kept it inside the apartment building behind a locked front door and attached to an abandoned electric bicycle.  Not my abandoned bike for once, my wife’s.  Once someone lifted the saddle she kind of lost interest.


It was fine until some guys came by to remodel the downstairs flat.  I was heading out to the airport in the afternoon to fly to Beijing so arrived back at the house at noon, ate some lunch.  At two pm I came back downstairs to get a taxi and the bike was gone.


I always seem to go through the same ridiculous set of motions.  First of all I make sure it’s not inside the cardboard box in the corner or behind the other bikes.  Then I check outside just incase it somehow got detached from the other bike or for some reason this was the one day I forgot to lock it up indoors.  To be honest, the amount of effort I spend looking for it is proportional to my estimate of its worth.  When I lost the first bike in Wuhan, I figured it was worth about 6 quid and didn’t even break stride as I walked up the road to buy another secondhand bicycle to get me home (equivalent to the cost of taking a taxi).


I got back from Beijing on the Monday, took the bus to work, and in the afternoon walked back over to the upmarket bike shop. 


They still had the identical model but as I was walking over there I realized that simply by riding into work every day (rather than taking the bus) I had recuperated the cost of the bike over the course of the year I had owned it.  There was a shiny red one next to it with quick release hubs and bigger gears.  It was slightly more and still weighed in just under 50lbs.  Now I carry it up to the second floor (I live on the fifth), remove the front tyre and saddle, lock the remainder to the railing on the stairwell and carry what’s left up to the flat.  Hopefully an axle grinder would be too conspicuous even for a Chinese bicycle thief, but I’m not holding my breath.