At 2,950 Rupees, it’s a “steel”
Mr. Raiker accepted my cash payment of Rs 2950 (about $65 CAD) for a new made-in-India Atlas bike – or “cycle” as they’re called here, since a “bike” is a motoscooter.
My Supreme DX has one speed, and comes with a rack, fenders, kickstand, lock and bell. It has a lugged steel frame, steel rims, and a steel linkage brake system. It does not come with a basket, pointed out the sales fellow when he was trying to dissuade me from looking at the lady’s version of the ubiquitous utility bike. Instead, he wanted me to take home an Atlas “Ladybird” which is pink, has cable brakes, is badly welded, and cost Rs 500 more.
I joined the crowds at the Mandovi jetty and when river ferry arrived, wheeled the cycle up with the other utility bikes which were loaded with large blue ice cream coolers.
“New cycle?” asked one of the ice cream sellers. I must have looked very proud with my shiny new bike. I nodded. I followed the bikes and cycles off the ferry at the north bank of the Mandovi River ten minutes later and pointed the one-speed up the five-kilometer hill that would take me back to Porvorim.
Less than a kilometre up, the chain gnashed and then whipped itself between the rear hub and the frame. I wheeled the cycle up to a group of men who leaned against a parked pavement roller. I could see wrenches underneath. I showed them the bike and the chain and they set to work getting the chain free. A fellow in a clean shirt and trousers crouched down, said something about the chain being loose, then loosened the horizontal dropout to pull the wheel back and create more tension on the chain.
“New bike, just now?” he asked. I nodded. I thanked all seven of them and carefully pedalled down the now-dark roadway.
A bike. I finally have a bike.