Buying a bike in Chungju was a big step for me.
I first went looking for a bike with Brandon and Daniel. They took me to a used bike store where I saw this red, rusted out thing. But I was low on money and had a few weeks to go until my next pay check. So I told the shop owner I would come back with no intention of actually returning.
Later I decided to look for a bike at a different shop. I wasn’t a big fan of the cruiser since I was planning on using my bike for longer trips (like 10 miles). I went to a new bike shop on my own. The owner was a very pushy woman who immediately sent me to look at the most expensive cruisers in the shop. I told her I wanted a mountain bike. She insisted that I had to buy a cruiser because I’m a woman. Then I looked at the price tag and at 120,000 won I decided to take my chances on the used bike shop
I walked back down the street to the used bike shop. The shop owner remembered me. He told me to take the cruiser. But I was still set on a mountain bike. So I grabbed one nearby and said, “I want this one.” He answered, “No, you can’t. You’re woman, you need this one.” And picked up the pink cruiser. We went through this three more times with me grabbing different mountain bikes, him telling me I’m a lady so I have to take a cruiser than offering me increasingly expensive bikes.
I finally gave up and decided I could deal with a cruiser. I pointed at the red rusted thing I had first seen. He pulled the bike off the rack once I made up my mind. And for 20,000 won he repaired the bike in front of me, covered it in oil and threw on a bike lock. Next he asked me to take it for a test ride.
I was nervous about taking my first hesitant ride in front of the bike shop. Since our exchange had garnered a small audience of three older Chungju men. I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 12 or so and I was confident I would fall off.
I carefully pedaled my way to the corner. Realized the cliche is true and took off for the park around the corner. The joy of riding a bike is akin to Saturday morning cartoons–warm, fuzzy memories of childhood. I successfully rode the bike back to the shop–accident free and proudly grinning.
I might be riding the most ghetto bike this side of the Han, but I love my red rusted beauty. I can’t wait to see where she takes me.