A Very Chinese Motorcycle Repair Experience


After nearly a month of suffering through having to push start my Jincheng 250 anytime I wanted to ride, no easy task particularly when you’re dressed for winter riding weather, I finally found the time to locate a motorcycle repair shop in Beijing. Actually what happened first was that I spent a significant amount of time texting back and forth in Chinese with the guy who sold me the motorcycle trying to explain to him the problem. Here’s a quick summary of this exchange (entirely in Chinese):

1) I explained in detail what was going on and my conclusion that it was a battery/alternator issue. I included in my explanation how I knew that it wasn’t an issue with the cold weather

2) His response: it was the cold weather.

3) I repeated my explanation.

4) He told me the battery was new and should last a year.

5) I told him that regardless of what he said, the battery was having problems.

6) He told me I just didn’t know how to ride then (I actually laughed out loud at this).

Unfortunately, this all happened right before the Chinese New Year, during which time we were both out of the city. After I came back and texted him again he said it was probably a battery issue (welcome to China!) and that I should take it to a repair guy because he was still on holiday. Apparently it should only cost 100 RMB (approx. US $15). I made a point to tell him that this was contrary to what he said, but then agreed to go find a place.

So I got a recommendation from a friend that I knew had motorcycles in China as well and recommended me to a place that was nearby to my work, and this past Monday, I push started my bike one more time to ride it to work and bring it by during my lunch.

The place itself was very classic Chinese. It clearly doubled as these guys’ apartment. They also had quite an impressive collection of motorcycles including an almost brand new Honda CB400, an 1100 Kawasaki, a Honda Magna that was torn apart, and a Honda Valkerie (which has a crazy looking 6 cylinder engine!). When I pulled up there were two guys in a traditional Chinese squat fixing some piece of equipment. I briefly explained my problem, the one guy checked it out, confirmed it was the battery and went off to get a new one. As it turns out, the battery I was given with the bike was Chinese and only meant to last half a year at best. So for 300 RMB (3x what I was told, but of course that guy wasn’t the best judge of batteries) I got a new battery that has worked like a charm so far. I also had a problem with my “rectifier” as it turns out (which I think is another word for alternator), and that ran me 100 RMB. But overall I got a good deal as I didn’t have to pay a service fee and they even fixed some loose wiring with my horn.

For reference, the Chinese word for battery is 电池 (dian chi, “electricity pool”) or 电瓶 (dian ping, “electricity bottle”) and the word for rectifier is 整流器 (zheng liu qi) and alternator is 发电机 (fa dian ji, which literally means send electricity machine). There are still some issues I’m experiencing with the bike here and there. Though there’s still a sense of anticipation every time I go to start it that it just won’t click, it’s quite a relief to not have had to push start this past week.

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