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September 22, 2021

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Riding high with bicycle museum

How many bicycles do you need in your life? For 67-year-old Chai Lin, the answer is 1,300 and counting.

Chai’s obsession with bicycles dates back to the 1960s when he saw some people riding the two-wheeled vehicle in his home city of Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province. “They were like flying on the streets, and my heart went flying with them,” recalled Chai. Since then, he dreamt of owning a bike.

However, in that era of scarcity, a bicycle was still a luxury for ordinary Chinese. Even when Chai started working in 1979, he had to cut back on other expenses for at least four months before he could save up for a domestic bicycle.

To get enough money sooner, Chai made use of his talent in calligraphy and painting by selling artworks on the street.

Thanks to all the efforts and “crowd-funding” in his family, Chai got his first bike, a British-made Raleigh, at the price of 880 yuan (US$116) in 1980.

After becoming a businessman and earning enough to buy fancy motorbikes and cars, Chai’s passion for bikes, however, didn’t dwindle. He began to collect bikes of various brands and ages, especially antiques, from around the world through auctions and other ways.

With his collection growing, in 2009, with the support of the Gansu provincial government, he invested 200 million yuan for a museum for his bikes.

After 10 years’ efforts, the Gansu Sanmu Bicycle Museum in Lanzhou opened to the public in January 2019 for free.


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