Bicycle repairman finds the right gear

Updated: 2012-01-12 07:22

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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BEIJING - On a chilly Wednesday, a man wearing a dirty glove was changing a bicycle chain in front of his repair shop at Tsinghua University.

Compared to the surrounding buildings of China's top university, his 3-sq-m shop looks quite small and shabby. But the owner shows his pride, saying, "With my shop, I can repair bicycles for students. Furthermore, with the experience and money I get here, I will manufacture my own bicycles with lower prices but superior quality for them."

Students in Tsinghua dub him "the guy with courage" after reading his profiles on, a popular website among students in China.

Bicycle repairman finds the right gear
Ren Yuhua, a bicycle repair shop owner at Tsinghua University, has recently moved many students after writing an online post about his experience of work and life in Beijing. Liu Guanguan / China News Service

Ren Yuhua, 29, left his village in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province some 12 years ago after graduating from middle school.

"I decided to work to support my poor family," Ren said. "I went to Beijing alone without hesitation and found temporary shelter with a fellow from my town who was working at a canteen in Tsinghua University."

He had tried many odd jobs only to find his big city dream difficult to realize.

He once worked as a porter at a construction site but gave up two days afterwards. He was accepted as an apprentice by an old man who owned a bicycle shop at Tsinghua and he stayed there for three years.

"I quit because my monthly salary was quite low. It was about 600 yuan ($95) at most in 2002. And the job always made me dirty," he said with great disappointment.

"I wanted to do some exciting jobs, which could make great money."

However, he gained nothing but more frustrations. He used up all his savings and borrowed some more to buy a car to provide underground "black taxi" services, but failed due to his unfamiliarity with the roads.

"My wife divorced me after a series of career failures hit me in 2005. I had no money at all. But my pride didn't allow me to go back to my hometown," he said with a low voice and stopped talking for a while. "Then I decided to commit suicide."

In the winter of 2005, he hung himself at his rented apartment. Luckily, the rope broke and he fell onto a stove.

"At that time, I totally lost my mind, like a crashed computer. My parents sent me to the hospital to treat me for mental disease."

Following his recovery his mother died of cancer. "That was the darkest time in my life," he said.

Ren has been living near Tsinghua campus and has made friends with some students and staff. "People coming from Tsinghua University should do the best at whatever they do. Instead of chasing money, you should be the top at repairing bikes," Peng Tao, a post-graduate student and a friend for 10 years, told him.

Ren took in his words and started his small business repairing bicycles at the campus in 2008.

Peng said he is different from other bicycle repairers. He has the ambition to learn more about this industry and has strong innovative abilities.

"He assembled an automatic platform which can raise the bicycle so that he doesn't need to bend over to fix it. It's really impressive," he said.

Ren thought he should pay back the university. "I found many students complained a lot about their hardships. I think my stories can give them an indication that their lives are much better."

His posting on Dec 3 that encouraged students to be stronger and move forward has received thousands of comments.

"I was shocked. I can't believe such an optimistic man, who always likes to make friends with us, has that sad past. Then I feel guilty about wasting my life and should learn from his strong mind," said Cai Xinshan, a student who forwarded Ren's posting.

Ren also participated in the campus' psychology association in 2011 to help anyone in need on and off the campus.

"I know someone needs my help from my experience and I will help them as much as I can," he said.

Ren's dream is to build his own brand of bicycles and donate them to students in need. A company in Jiangsu province offered to cooperate with him to produce his renovated bicycle in December. But the company owner did not come to visit Ren as he had promised.

"I'm very disappointed. But I'll never give up," he said firmly.