Er Ba Che bike: always in short supply
From the 1960s to the middle of 1980s, the price of an Er Ba Che bike remained at 160 yuan to 170 yuan. Of course, the trading price of the bicycle in the black market was much higher. A senior resident living in Hebei province said, he had bought a second-hand heavy Yongjiu bike for 180 yuan in the black market.
But what we must remember is that in the 1970s, people could buy one jin (roughly 1.1 pound) of pork for only 80 cents, one jin of rice for 8 cents and one jin of flour for 12 cents. That is to say for the price of one Er Ba Che one could buy 230 pounds of pork, or 1,500 pounds of flour or 2,300 pounds of rice, and that almost equaled to a whole year's income of an average Chinese household then.
Prior to the late 1980s, in addition to paying in cash, you must also have a special purchase ticket in order to buy a bike. For rather a long time after 1949 when the Communist Party took power, daily necessities were always in short supply and were distributed through special tickets for specific commodities. The bicycle ticket was a certificate meaning one had the right to buy an Er Ba Che.
How to get the precious ticket? Generally, the government administrative departments would give out a proportion of bicycle purchasing quota to different enterprises which were mostly run by the state. These enterprises would then distribute the quota in the form of bicycle ticket to the workers who had no bicycles yet. However, there were so many people who did not have a bicycle, so the Chinese people found a way to make it fair in the distribution, they drew the lots.
The staffs of city department stores had more access to the bicycle tickets, and people who worked in the transportation sector and people with higher social status or guanxi, or connections than the average people are also relatively easier could also obtain the tickets more easily. Also people working for the government department had more opportunities to get a ticket than those in the enterprises and institutions.