A Very Chinese Motorcycle Repair Experience

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After nearly a month of suffering through having to push start my Jincheng 250 anytime I wanted to ride, no easy task particularly when you’re dressed for winter riding weather, I finally found the time to locate a motorcycle repair shop in Beijing. Actually what happened first was that I spent a significant amount of time texting back and forth in Chinese with the guy who sold me the motorcycle trying to explain to him the problem. Here’s a quick summary of this exchange (entirely in Chinese):

1) I explained in detail what was going on and my conclusion that it was a battery/alternator issue. I included in my explanation how I knew that it wasn’t an issue with the cold weather

2) His response: it was the cold weather.

3) I repeated my explanation.

4) He told me the battery was new and should last a year.

5) I told him that regardless of what he said, the battery was having problems.

6) He told me I just didn’t know how to ride then (I actually laughed out loud at this).

Unfortunately, this all happened right before the Chinese New Year, during which time we were both out of the city. After I came back and texted him again he said it was probably a battery issue (welcome to China!) and that I should take it to a repair guy because he was still on holiday. Apparently it should only cost 100 RMB (approx. US $15). I made a point to tell him that this was contrary to what he said, but then agreed to go find a place.

So I got a recommendation from a friend that I knew had motorcycles in China as well and recommended me to a place that was nearby to my work, and this past Monday, I push started my bike one more time to ride it to work and bring it by during my lunch.

The place itself was very classic Chinese. It clearly doubled as these guys’ apartment. They also had quite an impressive collection of motorcycles including an almost brand new Honda CB400, an 1100 Kawasaki, a Honda Magna that was torn apart, and a Honda Valkerie (which has a crazy looking 6 cylinder engine!). When I pulled up there were two guys in a traditional Chinese squat fixing some piece of equipment. I briefly explained my problem, the one guy checked it out, confirmed it was the battery and went off to get a new one. As it turns out, the battery I was given with the bike was Chinese and only meant to last half a year at best. So for 300 RMB (3x what I was told, but of course that guy wasn’t the best judge of batteries) I got a new battery that has worked like a charm so far. I also had a problem with my “rectifier” as it turns out (which I think is another word for alternator), and that ran me 100 RMB. But overall I got a good deal as I didn’t have to pay a service fee and they even fixed some loose wiring with my horn.

For reference, the Chinese word for battery is 电池 (dian chi, “electricity pool”) or 电瓶 (dian ping, “electricity bottle”) and the word for rectifier is 整流器 (zheng liu qi) and alternator is 发电机 (fa dian ji, which literally means send electricity machine). There are still some issues I’m experiencing with the bike here and there. Though there’s still a sense of anticipation every time I go to start it that it just won’t click, it’s quite a relief to not have had to push start this past week.

“Armies” of Migrant Workers Ride Home by Motorcycle for the Chinese New Year

Every year for the Chinese New Year, hundreds of millions of people engage in what is the largest yearly mass migration of people in the world. Over 230 million people (larger than the population of Brazil and more than two-thirds of the U.S.) set out on holiday, on vacation from working in factories or big cities, and go back home to visit family. The country all but completely shuts down during what I can only describe as a U.S. Thanksgiving on steroids.

A friend clued me in to this really amazing story about armies of workers that set out on their motorcycles despite the cold wet weather, all to see their family in Jiangxi during what is likely their only opportunity to do so all year. For many, this is the only way left to travel as many train tickets can sell out extremely quickly as the infrastructure, despite recent massive improvements, is still unable to support that many people. It seems like quite a journey, and you can only praise their determination. No expensive body armor or heated gear for these bikers!

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Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐!

This is about a week late as I was on holiday for the past week, but I thought I’d wish people a happy year of the Rabbit.

I got to experience my very first genuine Chinese New Year this February now that I’m living in Beijing, and I have to say it was one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles I’ve ever experienced. Fireworks stands started springing up all around the city about a week before the turn of the (lunar) year. The fireworks around the city of 20+ million people started to slowly build through the week until turning into an almost constant drone in the background the night of new years eve. Then once midnight actually rolled around, it was just the most unbelievable thing that I had ever seen. Literally, as far as the eye could see, there were fireworks going off. It seemed everyone in the city had gotten their hands on some and were setting them off. Within about 20 minutes, visibility had been cut in half just from the haze created from the gunpowder residue in the air. It was quite a sight of just the pure power of a large native population of people all celebrating at the same time. The crazy thing is… the celebration is still going on as a week later I can still hear the explosions outside my window.

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