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.
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.