from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #72: Back on the Bike

with 5 comments

I’ve started riding again. The first time I took the bike out after the accident was actually a couple of months ago, but I haven’t ridden much since then. The problem is that I have nerve damage in my left leg and I couldn’t raise my foot to change gears. I took the bike out to my mechanic and I was in first gear the entire time.

In the months since, I’ve regained very little strength but it’s enough now that I can change gears by tightening my ankle and lifting with my leg. It’s not ideal, but it’s manageable. I don’t know if I’ll ever regain enough function to change gears normally but I’m learning to deal with it. (The doctor who administered my nerve exam told me that the nerves might recover some day but he was very noncommittal.)

This bike isn’t the bike I was riding when I got into the accident. That bike was totaled, which saddens me because it was a beautiful bike. My current bike is the same make and model but it’s like buying the same breed of dog after your previous dog has died. It’s just not the same.


The bike I was riding when I got in the accident/the aftermath (I don’t know where the red paint on the fender came from but all that damage on the gas tank and covers is where my leg was)

I bought this bike while I was still hospitalized. I still had a cast on my leg and had to use my crutches to make it to Suwon to take a look at it. It wasn’t smart—I normally would never buy a bike unless I could take it out on a test ride—but this strong desire to get back on a bike clouded my judgment. After the cast came off, I was going to jump on the bike and ride off into the sunset. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Some of my friends think I’m crazy to be riding again. They don’t understand because they don’t ride. There’s just something about being on a motorcycle. There is a freedom of movement, the visceral experience of the speed, the leaning into turns. Traffic is not an issue. You don’t have to worry about the asshole in the next lane letting you in. The road is yours for the taking and the cars are only obstacles to make the course more interesting.

If anything, the accident has made me even more determined to ride and to follow through with my plan to complete the cross-country trip I wasn’t able to finish in 2006. This bike was previously owned by a college kid with awful taste and a lack of concern for maintenance so I’ve been working on it over the past couple weeks, taking it apart, repairing or replacing worn or rusty parts, re-doing the wiring, and getting it painted. If I hadn’t been the same kid with awful taste and a lack of concern for maintenance back then, maybe I would’ve been able to make it all the way to Seattle.


Before and after pictures of my new bike (It doesn’t look like I did much but he welded a lot of the stuff on and fucked with the wiring so he could put on these tacky LEDs)

Not that I’m completely unaffected by my accident, but I’ve never been one to let a bad experience control my life. If I did, I’d be a very bored and boring person. I have sensed that I tighten up slightly when I ride through the intersection where the accident happened, that intersection—it’s an intersection I pass through daily—but it only serves to make me more cautious of the ever-present assholes who run red lights with abandon.

Today, instead of taking the bike to Nakseongdae, where I usually write, I took it all the way to Gangnam. I’m now sitting in a coffee shop, on the second floor, next to the window with a full view of my bike. It’s sitting there pretty on the street, beckoning me to take her out again.

I’m at the coffee shop trying to get back on the bike again with my writing. It’s September, the summer has come and gone, and I’m still working on these first six chapters, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to turn that around soon.


5 Responses

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  1. If you ever need bike repairs again, come to my neck of the woods. I live right next to the big intersection of Dongho-ro and Toegyae-ro—the intersection with the huge CJ Building and a giant sculpture that I can only describe as Lego Man. Look over at one corner of that intersection and you’ll see a Honda sign. That neighborhood is where all the gearheads are—some bike shops, but mostly bike-repair shops.

    The intersection is close to Dongguk University’s “joong-mun” exit (right by Dongdae-ipgu Station); drive past the station and past the Ambassador hotel on your left; the hotel is at the top of the hill and the intersection I’m talking about is at the bottom. Lots of repair shops. Lots and lots.


    September 3, 2014 at 2:02 am

    • Thanks for the info, but I already have a guy and there are perks to being loyal. I’ve been going to his shop for over eight years. If it’s minor maintenance, he’ll usually do it for free, and he doesn’t mind me watching over his shoulder or asking him questions. He has also given me a discount on a more major repair because I worked on it with him, and he gives me free access to his tools. I’ve been to other shops and they’ve been kind of assholes even though it’s obvious I’m not the standard “fix my delivery scooter while I go play games on my phone” kind of customer.

      How’s the “new” job?


      September 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

    • I guess I shouldn’t have used quotation marks around new. It feels like I’ve been out of the blogging game for such a long time, your job wasn’t as new as it was for me to ask about it. Anyway, I know it’s only the third day of the semester but hope things are going well.


      September 3, 2014 at 11:51 am

      • Things go well at the new job. I’m very impressed with most of my kids, especially when I compare them to the duds I’d taught at Daegu Catholic. I don’t like the way Dongguk is so restrictive about curriculum planning: syllabi and grade distributions (e.g., midterm = 25%, final = 25%, etc.) are all pre-determined, which feels very disempowering to me. I do understand the need for departmental standardization, but it’d still be nice to have more pedagogical breathing room. My students will, I think, be a mitigating factor in all this: they’ll keep me sane while I chafe at the system that’s in place.

        No worries re: bike repair. It was just a thought.


        September 6, 2014 at 1:59 am

    • Sorry for the late reply. It’s getting harder and harder to visit this blog these days and I didn’t get a notification via e-mail for some reason.

      I’m glad things are going well and sorry to hear about the problems with bureaucracy. I completely agree with you–it’s the students that get me through the day. That, and working only a few hours a day.


      October 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm

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