After destroying my brand new inner tube last weekend by trying to use a screwdriver as a tire lever, I spent a bit of time searching around for tire tools, and learned a bit about the Beijing bicycle market during the process.
Bicycles aren’t the same ubiquitous mode of transportation in Beijing as they were in the decade after Deng Xiaoping started his economic reforms in 1978, when he said “to get rich is glorious” and when he promised that every household would have a Flying Pigeon-brand bicycle. These days, buses and subways have the greater role in shuttling the masses around this giant city, and as the Beijingnese grow wealthier, they take taxis, electric scooters and even drive their own cars. However, a great number still get around on bicycles, and the bicycle industry still thrives. Although the Flying Pigeon company has nearly quit manufacturing their classic 28″-wheel bicycles, like the one I ride, many other brands have sprung into the market, like Forever (who makes a similar classic 28″ model with enviable luggage racks that the mail carriers ride), Giant (from Taiwan), and many others. And when your bike breaks down, there is always a roadside stand within a li (a Chinese mile) or two who will sell and install new inner tubes, brake pads, pedals and cranks, and other common parts. (more…)