I was riding my folding bike to the farmer’s market when a Chinese man passed me on his folder, with an odd looking caboose in tow: a wheeled carry-on bag. Behind him rode a young woman on another folding bike that looked like it has been rigged too, with all sorts of cases and compartments. I followed them and when they stopped for a light, asked if I could take some pictures and find out more about their bikes.
Rebecca Li said her father Zhi-Ting didn’t speak English well, so she would translate. They were on their way to Chinatown to do their shopping (6 miles round-trip!), hence the wheely bag, her dad’s improvised version of a bike trailer. In the folding bike world, trailers are a kind of esoteric item that have to be ordered from the UK and cost upwards of $200 (I had actually considered buying one to haul my weekly grocery shopping home). Zhi-Ting’s simple, cheap, brilliant rig put them to shame.
Zhi Ting loves to customize his and his daughter’s bikes, using duct tape to secure storage bins made out of old biscuit tins or inexpensive plastic boxes that he paints or wraps in tape.He’d even made provision for their locks. A canister on Rebecca’s bike, it’s lid attached by a sturdy rubber band, stores a poncho in case she gets caught in the rain. Zhi Ting also fashioned a basket with cover and lock on the back; it doubled as a seat for Rebecca when she was young, and sat holding onto her father.
Zhi Ting managed to add all these components without compromising the bikes ability to fold.
Rebeccas said that since her father doesn’t speak English well, people don’t often notice or speak to him, so he was happy that I was interested in his invention. “The small man is the one with the big ideas” is a favorite saying of his. Rebecca emailed me that her father “always had the habit of customizing anything be bought.” I wrote back to ask for descriptions of his brilliant inventions (stay tuned).
With thanks to Rebecca and Zhi-Ting Li for stopping to talk to a stranger.