Wednesday, February 26, 2014

China Girl at Sunset

"Usually when I see the cops, I kill the engine if it's running. They've never said a thing. This is for them probably like those farm vehicles you see cruising along. They don't know how to deal with it."

It was not very surprising to run into Russ McClay recently at a particular quiet hilltop above Taipei during the golden hour before sunset. He lives nearby, and since it was Sunday, he was out for a ride on his motorized bicycle, the China Girl. Russ built the machine himself, attaching a kit motor that he bought online from a company in China to a secondhand bicycle purchased for $20.

As the red sun descended through the haze above the factories on the Linkou plateau, the water in the Tamsui River estuary and the rice paddies of the Guandu plain shimmering like a gilded mirror, I interviewed Russ about the China Girl, his experience riding and building it, and the other cycles that he had owned.

See those stairs on the left side of the photo? They lead to the tomb of General Homer Lea, an American military strategist and confidante of Sun Yat-sen when the latter was in California raising money for the Republican revolution that ultimately led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. Lea died in 1912, just after the Republic was founded, and he was interred at the Yangming Mountain First Public Cemetery several decades ago. You can learn more about Homer here.

If you've already watched the video, you noticed the opening animation, created by Craig Stevenson. Much thanks to him for all of the effort and time he put into the project.

Finally, here's a box of the parts that were replaced when I had my engine rebuilt over the weekend, at a cost of about US$330. I dropped the bike off at 1 PM on Saturday afternoon and picked it up at 8 PM. The prior rebuilt engine lasted about 18 months, so unless my driving habits change, I expect I will need another in summer 2015.