bike pedaler

Mr. Dung’s shop is waiting for me, again.

I pass it every day. And every day I vow to go to another shop, a place where I might get better parts, better prices. But, when I think about it, probably not better service.

Nestled quietly between the temple and the most impossible tiny corner store (more on that later), his shop is not always open.

When it is, this tiny patch of sidewalk arrays second-, third-, and fourth-hand bikes of all colors, shapes, sizes, and states of disrepair. Greasy, remodeled, eyeing potential buyers like puppies, they cry out for love.

Pick me

His prices vary. For me, an obvious visitor, they go up. We don’t really haggle, and usually our moments end with a “too much” and I walk away. But we usually both smile.

We have an understanding.

In early days, desperate, I acquiesced and bought a second-hand mamachari – black basket, sturdy back rack, and twinkle bell adorned with an “I love Hanoi” sticker. It’s my sweet, sweet ride, and I probably paid too much.

Nah, I definitely paid too much.

These days, my red Klein is decked out with pro clips, fitted for sturdy bike shoes, way too technical for me. I grabbed it off the Want Ads at a good price. It’s designed for a real rider, someone who wants to lean in, to go pro, to fly by.

That’s not me. But like I said, the price was right. And now I need pedals, cause I sure don’t have the shoes.

I type ‘pedal clips’ in and click to find an image to show him.

Do you have these?

I ask, in perfect English.

He shakes his head, says something along the lines of “nah, none of those, sorry”, in flawless Vietnamese.

He retreats behind the green, corrugated wall featuring an extreme variety of pegs, chains, tires, sprockets, locks, and who knows what else from the world of bikes. All of it ancient, full of grime, hanging, forever.

He returns, a couple pedals in hand. No clips, but they’ll do in a pinch.

He swings the wrench around with flair. The pedals are on in a heartbeat. He services my chain, charges me way too much

And smiles because he knows I’ll be back.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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  1. Why is it that you can get amazing service from most of the small “Mom and Pop” shops, that often overcharge? But, there are those times when its not worth going to the big box stores. The prices may be lower, but you are often stuck with what they have and every has the get what they have. I really enjoyed reading this story. It brought back memories of living in Hawaii. My favorite pizza place was owned by a family with the last name Dung.


  2. What an interesting relationship you are developing. I believe as much as you are using his expertise and paying too much you believe you are helping him too. Very descriptive piece, through that you are exposing many traits of yourself and the new friend.”These days, my red Klein is decked out with pro clips, fitted for sturdy bike shoes, way too technical for me.”


  3. You really capture these small social navigations that are actually quite important, I think. They are part of living in another place, language, culture. They take courage and humor, and a little extra cash in order to pay too much!
    I love the image of the bicycles like puppies, crying out for a home ❤


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