Realizing my bicycle was stolen a few weeks ago was a familiar sinking feeling followed by impotent rage.
I have a special attachment to my main mode of transportation.
I only got a driver license because my wife demanded it before having a baby.
She was not reassured by my suggestion of strapping her to a bike trailer. I held back on suggesting she could just pedal herself.
I’ve been pedaling as long as I can remember.
I remember when I first rode without training wheels. I remember when I somehow survived the first time down our steep cinder covered driveway. Eyes closed no hands, I missed the telephone pole and crashed in the weeds.
Year after year, decade after decade.
I remember watching my peers drive by while I pedaled to our high-school and being the only one to ride a bicycle to a party.
I remember finding staples in the tire from someone wanting to be funny. And, I remember the first time I had a bike stolen.
Taco Bell employed me for a summer. I made burritos for myself. Gave food away for free at the drive-thru and listened to the manager talk about wasted lettuce equaling pennies down the drain. I took my breaks when others skipped them for lack of supervision and a misplaced work ethic, and I counted the dollars adding up an hour at a time.
I rode a racing quality (low end) red mountain bike to work that I kept locked within their fenced dumpster area. The steep cost of the bicycle had been doubled by my parents in an attempt to dissuade purchase. I was stubborn enough to earn it all, and half was set aside in a savings account I couldn’t touch.
It was taken while I worked.
I raged around town looking for my two wheeled treasure. I ran through people’s yards. I roared. I yelled. I got peers who I’d never have had the social courage to connect with otherwise help me search, perhaps out of sympathy, or maybe just to appease me.
I got my bicycle back. There was an anonymous call and I picked it up in perfect condition all alone in a public place.
Car or college. I couldn’t afford both.
I went to college the day after I turned eighteen. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have had a place to live. A war of wills prevented an extended stay.
A car of my own wasn’t in the cards. I was delivered to my new home with my bicycle and no license. This was a new one, blue instead of red, but basically the same. Another mountain bike I was going to be riding in the city. Slow, but I knew it could go anywhere.
It got stolen from my dorm, but this time I didn’t rage. At least not like before. I had a feeling about who took it, a klepto student who’s dad was a professor and who’d been handing out sodas he’d finagled with a coat hanger out of the dorm’s machine.
I left a message at his parents asking if he’d seen my bicycle. It was returned the next morning.
A college degree but no money.
That same bicycle was stolen again, this time out of the endless party loft that was my Salem home. This time I just let it go. I had a credit card now and went with a coworker from the start up, that wasn’t paying us yet, to buy a new one.
We each got a Specialized Rock hopper. I still have the remains of it in my basement.
For the first time I mountain biked.
My heart has never beat so hard as when I was pedaling up switchbacks, and I’ve rarely felt a rush as intense as going down a hill so steep and long that I had to give up on breaks and just steer like I’m riding a cross between a motorcycle and a horse.
It seems crazy that this was my third expensive mountain bike, but only the first one I used as intended. I can only rationalize with how I rode through city and town, over curbs, dirt roads, and paths that weren’t meant to exist. With it I commuted in straight lines.
A mountain bike is useful to have when you are living in a place where everyone else has a car. I’d rather take longer than a road bike sharing the road by going through the grass and rocks to the side. I’d learned to never trust a driver’s awareness or intention.
In Portland things got better.
It was (even more so now) a city renowned as bicycle friendly. I wasn’t satisfied, and I had a lot of stored anger towards drivers. Years of eating exhaust and generally being bullied by four wheels defined me.
I went to Critical Mass rides and would yell:
Parks, not parking lots! One less suit! One more bike! You, a car zombie!
I would sometimes wear an actual iron mask a friend made for a samurai costume. Once, some teenagers called me a “tree hugger” from the entrance of a Taco Bell as we rode by.
I stopped and charged up to them. They stepped aside, eyes downcast. I savored their fear, then I said for all to hear, “Go home and eat a home cooked meal! This is not food!” Then I rode the wrong way through the drive-thru and rejoined the ride.
It was thrilling to be at the front and sometimes steer the crowd behind. It was thrilling to race towards oncoming traffic to force them to stop. It was thrilling to be chased by cops and never successfully arrested. It wasn’t so thrilling when karma caught up.
The motorcycle cop yanked on the biker’s backpack.
It slipped through his fingers and the cop crashed. We were traveling up hill. None of use were going fast. The chaos that ensued seemed sort of in slow motion.
The cops sprayed chemicals and gathered like a pack of wolves. Their motorcycles matched their riders, bulky and overweight.
I had overheard them say it was time to forcibly end the ride that had already gone on for two plus hours crisscrossing Portland. I remember the pretty lights of the cars lined up behind as far as the eye could see down Hawthorne all the way back to the bridge.
A cop shoved around my bicycle. I got between it and him, and he knocked me back over it. I twisted and caught myself bad. I got up with a broken arm and said, “Motherfucker I will kick your ass with one arm.” He was taller and easily outweighed me by a hundred pounds. A stupid fearlessness had a strangle hold of me.
I squeezed out just enough sense to demand his badge number, which was like water on the wicked witch. He disappeared to be replaced with another, who protected his identity with a show of ignorance.
Then I traveled to far away lands and returned.
I missed my Rockhopper in Japan. I could only get a poor replacement for the year I was there. When I came back I saw chain rusted from being left out in the rain. We missed each other.
I repaired and replaced parts. Then not long after the back wheel was stolen during a Last Thursday. Impotent indignation had me yelling and cursing as I carried my gimped bike the miles back home.
I got a cheap wheel replacement that I forced to fit. It effectively dropped to a three geared bicycle, and I finally started thinking about a hybrid.
Sorry brother, um, it was actually your bicycle.
My brother and I got a matching pair of hybrids. We rode them for years. He left his in our basement when he ran off to Colorado.
Started riding my brother’s until it and another bike were stolen from our premises. I don’t expect either one will sell for much. Good luck ****er(s).
My Aerobie also went missing that same day. My son assured me it wasn’t him, though he did keep glancing at rooftops during his interrogation.
I’m on the lookout, but I have no realistic expectation to get my brother’s bicycle back. Hopefully it wasn’t a neighbor. Nothing on craigslist.
I find some satisfaction imagining the frame breaking at an especially inconvenient time.
I’m liking my new ride. I’m sitting the whole way. I’m shaving twenty to thirty percent off my commuting time and my disc breaks work really really well.
My ass cheeks took a week to tough up after being spoiled by the cushion of the Crosstown.
Hopefully the gully in the middle will prevent the erectile dysfunction issue. If not I’ve been married long enough that my wife probably wouldn’t mind a few less nights pestering about “special special” or at least redefining it to a foot massage and doing dishes.
I had disc breaks decades ago on a children’s bicycle. These are better. I’ve been warned not to squeeze with the wheel gone or they’ll get stuck and need a tool to fix, which is intimidating for travel.
The whole bike comes across as a finely honed machine. It’s exciting to throw caution to the wind because of the hydraulic disc super stopping power.
I also have a computer. I resisted at first, but my model came with a secret space for it. I succumbed to gadget fever. Now I can watch how fast I’m going instead of what’s in front of me, especially when I’m blazing downhill at a thrilling twenty five miles per hour (favorite part of my work commute).
I’m hopeful he improves his braking skills. So far going downhill, I’m his main source of stopping power.
He’s growing up in a big city on a street busy twenty four hours of every day. I won’t let him have the freedom I was given. But, with wheels of his own, how can I keep a hold of him? A bicycle is freedom.
Message for the thief.
Let me vaguely say that it would be a bad idea now to leave concrete for grass around my house at night. I have made use of bamboo and string and maybe other things. I might even be waiting nearly naked with machete and spear.
I’m a pacifist intellectually, but physically pragmatic and generally don’t feel guilt.
In other words. If I catch you stealing my shit, there’s a decent chance I will dismember you in self-defense and not be sorry.
So, whoever has my brother’s bicycle and my ex-roommate’s friend’s bike, I hope you enjoy it, but more likely they’ve already failed you because of my uber voodoo.