Bicycling, Mexico, Spotlight, Travel

Thank You Bici Burro

Me at Bici Burro. Viva la bicicleta!

Me at Bici Burro. Viva la bicicleta!

Last time I covered my week in San Miguel de Allende: beautiful buildings, an incredible homestay family, and the most formal Spanish training I’ve ever had. But before I move on to the next leg of the journey, I wanted to take a moment to call out a particularly amazing act of kindness.

As ongoing readers know, my bicycle had suffered some unfortunate problems earlier in the Adventure. I’d fixed some of them, but the back wheel still wasn’t true and had a dangerous wobble. I wasn’t going to leave San Miguel without fixing it.

Enter Alberto Martínez, aka Beto. Beto is the owner of Bici Burro, a combination bicycle repair shop/tour company. Bici Burro literally means “Bike Mule” which sounds a lot better in Spanish. I’ve met several people who’ve taken his tours, tough but breathtaking jaunts on mountain bikes into the surrounding villages, often on cobblestone streets.

One of these, a traveler friend, had recommended I meet Beto when I reach San Miguel. Naturally, he came to mind after my near-breakdown in the desert. I found Beto’s his website and emailed him in Spanish; he replied in English. I was hoping he might have a replacement tire for me—I still wasn’t sure if the damaged one was any good—and sadly he did not. But he offered suggestions and put up with my repeated questions, and I could tell he was a real professional.

So once I reached San Miguel I made it a point to visit the Burro and ask him for a tune up. I figured he could true the wheel, diagnose any deeper causes of the wobble, and make the needed repairs.

I showed up one afternoon during comida, the late-afternoon meal break. Some shops close during this period and I was dismayed to see the door of Bici Burro shut tight. Timidly, I knocked on its ancient timbers.

I didn’t realize at first that the man who opened the door was Beto, nor did he realize I was the guy who’d emailed him about 28 times. But he looked over the bike while I struggled to figure out a phrase that might mean “tune-up”. He got the idea and offered the word revista (“a review”). He was happy to help. He told me to come back the next day—just not during comida.

I respected the horario and returned during non-meal hours. Sure enough, less than 24 hours later, the Giant was ready. Beto and his gigantic but sweet-tempered dog walked me around to the shop entrance.

With the Giant up on the cradle, Beto spun the wheel to show me how true it was and adjusted the brakes to my liking. What a relief.

I asked him how much I owed him. He hadn’t committed to a firm price beforehand because it depended on what the problem was. I hadn’t pushed, and frankly I expected to overpay. This guy had the skills I needed, making him one in a thousand in the refaccionerías of Mexico. I didn’t have any other options for bringing my bike back up to professional standards.

But asked the price, Beto demurred a moment longer. Then, in Spanish:

“This is something I want to do for you as a gift.”

I blinked, and made sure I’d heard him correctly.

“Yes, it’s a gift,” he repeated, then switched to English. “Because you are following a dream.”

I was humbled. I thanked Beto, who downplayed it (“For me, this is what I enjoy doing. It’s like playing around.”) I tried to think of something I could do in return, but there was nothing. It was an act of generosity and solidarity. Thank you, Beto.

In the moment, I totally forgot to ask if I could snap his picture, so I hope he won’t mind if I borrow one from his site:

Bici Burro.

If you ever find yourself in San Miguel de Allende, consider renting a bike from Beto. All of his machines are in the best of shape and I believe he’ll take good care of you. And if you do meet him, tell him the dream is still alive.

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10 thoughts on “Thank You Bici Burro

  1. Calluna says:

    PS. Happy Imbolc and Lá Fhéile Bríde! Although I am imagining it seems less coming-of-spring when you are in the tropics. :) But happy to you all the same.

    • It was actually a great night. I did celebrate it and made offerings to Brighid. Spent some time reading polytheist philosophy and had a sort of experience. Something I’m still working with.

      It wasn’t too odd to be in the tropics, especially since Imbolc is supposed to be the beginning of the warm half of the year, where the weather is ruled by Brighid rather than Cailleach. The warm, clear night and shining moon seemed appropriate…

  2. jean richardson says:

    My husband and I took a bike tour with Berto during our most recent trip to San Miguel. Because my husband is 6’4″ and rides a XXL bike he was apprehensive. Berto was the best. The bike was not a perfect fit – but very good. We are looking forward to taking another tour with him during our next trip to SMA.

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