Tuesday, December 18, 2007

12/19/07 Can Somebody Give Me a Ride to the Arcade?

I'm currently having a small dilemma. A bicycle dilemma. When I first arrived in Ashikaga, there was a nasty little bicycle waiting for me at my apartment. For the next week or so, I played hermit crab, trading my junky bike for other people's less junky bikes. Teachers and friends were nice enough to swap me. Us foreign English teachers are very temporary by nature, and it seems we leave a trail of beaten bikes in our wake. So I finally worked my way up to a bike that was tall enough for me to ride and wasn't all rusty and gross. That trusty little trooper lasted until about a month ago. I was riding down a hill when one of the brakes gave out, in a scary but failed assassination attempt. The next day, as I was riding my one-braked bike to school, one of the tires gave out.

I figured enough was enough so I took it to a bike shop. This shop is pretty much on the opposite side of town, but its the biggest bike store I've seen and I figured that they would best understand the art of two-wheeled conveyance. Once the bike mechanic gentlemen finished telling me how much everything would cost, it seemed like just getting a brand new bike was the best option for me. I picked out a fairly low cost shiny one and that was that. Me and my bike went everywhere together, and things were great.

The honeymoon was a short one. The right peddle soon developed an oval-shaped orbit, which got so bad that eventually the peddle scraped up against the side of the bike with every revolution. Not only did this condition make it quite inconvenient to ride, the clanking sound was quite unattractive as well. In the bike's defense, I may have made some contact with a fence post, but I didn't feel like I hit anything hard enough to deserve such punishment.

So I rode the clanker all the way back out to the bike shop. They "fixed" it for me by bending it back into place. Not perfect, but quite satisfactory, and it got rid of the feeling that I was riding a bike with square wheels. Maybe a week later, I found myself back at the shop with the same problem.

When I asked him if I was just too heavy for the poor thing, and that`s why it was degenerating, he said something along the lines that I was putting too much force of the pedals. Then he suggested that maybe my leg muscles were just too powerful for my own good(I ignored this theory as it sounded suspiciously like empty flattery to make me forget about the lemon they sold me.). He also made the unfortunate comment that even if I was to get the bike repaired, its possible that the same thing might develop.

So here`s the deal. I have a bike with an unfortunate condition. The parts and labor to get the one pedal`s mechanics replaced is almost half the price of the whole bike. They won`t take my used bike in trade for a new one, and I am afraid to buy the same bike for fear that this will happen again. Do I buy the cheapest bike I can with the understanding that it will just get destroyed anyway, or invest in a better one that can withstand my incredible hulkiness? Choices, choices.


Along with the usual arcade fare of shooting things and punching other things, lately the crew has become interested in the games of skill. You know what I mean, the claw games. While in the US claw games are mostly just the sad little glass boxes with loads of unwinnable (often unwantable) dusty stuffed animals, in Japan they are quite a bit more classy. The prizes are flashy, the games seem a bit more winnable, and they are so popular that I have seen several entire establishments where the mighty claw is the only thing you can play.

Well last night I won a huge candy bar after just two tries. Tung went into a fit of chocolate-flavored jealously, putting coin after coin into another machine, softly cursing to himself after each failed attempt. I tried to help, but to no avail. The trick is to pick your targets wisely. Only go after the prizes that some other poor soul has already worked on winning.

Eventually Tung needed the candy just to get the taste of defeat out of his mouth.

Me gloating with my huge prize. I think I`ll eat it for dinner tonight.

Too bad there aren`t any bicycles in these machines....


  1. I don't know about the "force" theory. I've had a lot of crappy bikes in Japan and never seen that sort of issue develop for either my husband or I. If the seat height is too low for your leg length, maybe you're pushing down too hard trying to pedal, but it sounds pretty suspicious...like the bike is poor quality and he doesn't want to admit it.

    I'd buy another cheap bike, but I'd get one from a different vendor and of a different make.

  2. Yeah, I tend to agree. Its sad because I was pretty happy with the old one before it completely melted down. I think I probably will just get a new junky one and not worry about it. Thanks!

  3. Unless bikes in Japan are extremely crappy, which they might be from the ones I have seen, you should not be having problems like this.

    Is it the pedal that is bending or is it the crank arm that attaches to the bike bending? Either way, neither should be bending even for a cheap bike. Also, the leg strength excuse by the mechanic is obsurd.

    Me thinks it is defective.

    Sometimes with new bikes during the break-in period, the crank arm will start to come loose from the bike where it attaches to what is called the Bottom Bracket and it just needs to be tightened a few times. If that happens, you do not want to keep riding it until it is tightened or it will damage the crank arm and they would need to be replaced.

    If you have any other bike questions, let me know as I am pretty experienced with bikes.

  4. Tornados28,

    Yes, it does seem like you know quite a bit more about bikes than I do. The crank arm itself is bending, which I find a bit incredible. The metal seems like it should be fairly sturdy. I am sick of dealing with this bike store in particular, so next time I have a problem I am just going to get rid of it and buy a cheapy one someplace else. I use my bicycle so often that this is super annoying.

  5. Although your bike may be fairly cheap, it sounds like all you need is a new crank arm rather than an entire new bike. Yes, I recommend taking it somewhere else and replacing the existing cranks with a new set, both left and right. They generally are sold in sets anyways.

  6. Hey this might seem like a stretch, but maybe if u cut back on eating ginormous candybars for dinner you might find a bike that could support your "hulkiness".

  7. Hey, man. A Hulk's gotta eat.