The Phone Call of Shame

11.15.2005 | 12:32 pm

The Phone Call of Shame

I was really looking forward to my ride last Saturday. It was the first time in several weeks I’d be able to ditch my fenderized, light-laden, geared bike —in favor of my fixie, my current favorite bike.

When all your riding has been your commute, you start to forget how free a bike can feel. You forget that bike rides don’t have to go anywhere. You forget what it’s like to just carry what you need for the ride, instead of having to pack clothes and food for the day. You forget what it feels like to go riding without a messenger bag slung over your shoulder. You forget what it’s like to ride in daylight, if you live far enough north.


So, around 10:00a.m., I checked my air pressure, stuffed a Clif bar into my left jersey pocket (the one I can get into most easily), a phone into the right (I have a tough time getting into that pocket; I’ve separated my shoulder so many times it’s ruined my range of motion), and a water bottle in the middle pocket. I loaded up the new seat bag I got for this bike (thanks, Banjo Brothers) with a tube and a 16g CO2 cartridge and a twist-on valve. I had everything I needed for my ride.

Or so I thought.

Raise your hand if you already know what I was missing.

OK, put it down. I was just kidding. You look silly with your hand in the air like that.

That said, you for sure don’t look as silly as I was about to feel.

The Joy of Riding in Solitude

Not everyone likes riding alone. I do. Riding’s when good ideas come to me, or, when I’m lucky, when I stop having ideas at all. I don’t have an MP3 player; for me riding and music don’t mix.

So after a quick couple miles of descending from the Sammamish plateau, I was in farmland, riding the quiet country roads of Sammamish, Carnation, Fall City and Snoqualmie. It’s perfect terrain for fixies: fairly flat, with occasional climbs and descents to keep things interesting. The requirement of keeping a smooth cadence occupies you just enough that you start spinning smoothly, and soon you stop having the cranks reminding you that coasting is strictly against the rules.

Bliss, Interrupted

I was enjoying the independence of riding alone — exploring the area, picking turns at random, going where I wanted to go at the pace that felt right for the moment — when the rear wheel went flat.

“I need to change out these tires for Armadillos,” I thought, as I rolled to a stop. There’s so much debris on the road this time of year. I unzipped my bag and got out the tube, air cartridge, and valve.

I wasn’t upset; changing out a tube on a road bike is a quick, easy task.

Except there was one slight problem: I didn’t have a wrench.

As a rider who has never had anything but quick release skewers, making a wrench a part of my tube-change kit hadn’t even occurred to me.

In short, I had a flat, in the middle of nowhere, without any way to fix the flat.

To the Rescue

I just stood there for a minute, unable to believe my stupidity. Here I was in a beautiful place to go ride, at a beautiful time to ride, with a beautiful bike for riding. And I could not ride my bike.

That just seemed wrong.

And also, I hated myself.

Not having a MacGuyver gene, though, I couldn’t see a way around it. My ride was done, just as it was getting good. I got out my phone and called my wife.

Now, I should say that I normally really enjoy talking to my wife on the phone. We have plenty to say to each other. But whenever I’ve had to call to say I need rescuing, she knows the conversation is not going to contain lots of cheerful banter, because I am simultaneously doing the following:

  • Admitting I have not prepared adequately
  • Confessing I am a poor mechanic
  • Showing that I am not the self-sufficient, independent soul I like to imagine myself being while I am on the bike
  • Losing brownie points by the truckload, because not only am I not contributing to the care and feeding of the children at that moment, I am being yet another needy child who needs her help.

Suffice it to say: making the call for help is not my favorite thing to do.

Imagine my joy, then, when as I was talking with my wife — trying to explain the complex series of turns I had made to get onto this particular farm road — another cyclist rolled to a stop beside me and asked if I needed any help.

“Do you have a wrench?” I asked doubtfully, pointing toward my rear wheel’s axle.

He did. He did!

“I’ll call you back in a minute,” I told my wife.

Thanks, Alex

The helpful cyclist’s name is Alex, from the Netherlands. As we both worked on my first fixie tube change — which went smoothly, to my relief — he told me he’s getting ready to do an IronMan in New Zealand this March. It’ll be his first non-sprint-length tri. Good luck, Alex, and thanks for use of the wrench.

Once the tire was on, I inflated it in 2.2 seconds — I really, really love CO2 — and he took off in the other direction. I called my wife and told her that my ride had been salvaged.


It was starting to rain, but not hard: more like a humidifier set on super-duper-high. The nice thing about the flat I just had was that it happened at the highest point of the ride; I was able to get up to speed and into a biking groove fairly quickly. I cruised through farmland, spun through the town of Carnation and then through Carnation Marsh, looking for the bald eagle I sometimes see there. Not today.

Finally, I got back to Highway 202. I could turn left and head toward Snoqualmie Falls; that’s a beautiful ride. Or I could go straight and ride along Issaquah/Fall City Road. That’s steep, but another great ride. Or I could turn right and head home. I turned left; I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that much climbing in a fixie today.

And that’s when I got my second flat.

With no wrench, no CO2 cartridge, and no tube, this time my ride was over.

I could see no way out of it. It was time to make The Phone Call of Shame. I called my wife and told her I was stranded. She told me she was out shopping with the kids, but would cut it short and come get me. Which means that in addition to the other things I hate about making this call, I now got to deal with the fact that I was actually making her rejigger her schedule stop doing something productive (well, technically it was more consumptive than productive, but it needed doing) to come and rescue my sorry, helpless self.

The Theory

It would be about 45 minutes ‘til my wife would get from where she was to where I was, during which I had time to think: I haven’t always had a mobile phone. What would I have done with this situation if I didn’t have the mobile phone crutch? Walk all the way home? Maybe. Knock on a door and call my wife from there? Maybe, but it wouldn’t have done any good — in the pre-mobile phone scenario, my wife would have still been out shopping.

Or would I, perhaps, maybe been better prepared? I mean, it’s not like this was some crazy, impossible-to-anticipate emergency. A double flat on scree-rich roads is not unheard of.

Yeah, that’s probably the answer. I’ve replaced bike tools with a phone, and now I was dealing with the consequences: instead of riding, I was taking my bike for a walk. It’s not a dignified picture: a middle-aged guy in tights, walking beside his bike awkwardly because of his stiff-soled shoes and monster-sized cleats (I use Speedplays on my road bike, which are great when you’re riding and terrible when you’re walking).

The Resolution and Questions

Today, I’m buying a toolkit (including a wrench) and Armadillos for the track bike. I don’t want to have to make The Phone Call of Shame again anytime soon.

I’m sure, of course, that I’m the only one who’s had to make The Phone Call of Shame, and doubly certain that I’m the only one who’s had to make it for such a lame reason. And I’m absolutely sure that I’m the only one who has seriously mixed feelings about having a phone along for the ride at all.


PS: OK, now go vote for me.


Pro Cyclist Returns Clean Blood Sample!

11.14.2005 | 3:20 pm

When, last week, I read that Roberto Heras had been suspended for EPO use, I was not at all shocked. This is not because I suspected he was doping. Rather, it’s because at this point I am no longer shocked to find that any pro cyclist is doping. In fact, the question that popped into my mind was, “So is there even one cyclist out there that isn’t doping?” Then I thought, “What if the answer to that question were — literally — ‘yes?’” Over the weekend, I wrote a new satire piece for Cyclingnews. Here’s a sneak peek at an excerpt of this story.


Professional Cyclist Returns Clean Blood Sample!

Lombardia, Italy, November 15 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – The cycling world was rocked today when WADA chief Dick Pound, in conjunction with Lampre-Caffita Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Saronni, announced that David Loosli is — according to all currently available tests — clean.

“David Loosli is a bright beacon of hope to the world of professional cycling,” said Pound. “If it is possible for one cyclist to be clean, can the day where we see as many as five or ten clean riders be far off?”

“I am both humbled and honored,” added Mr. Saronni, “to have David Loosli on our team. We believe that he has a great future as a non-doping cyclist, and hope to help him continue to be the pre-eminent non-doper in the cycling world.”

“Or only non-doper in the cycling world,” Saronni corrected himself. “Same thing.”


Science Community Weighs In

While it is still unclear to the general public how a professional cyclist is somehow not doping, Scientists and nutritionists from around the globe have been dispatched to study Loosli. Asked what he thought of this phenomenon, Dr. Richard P. Kelly, one of the world’s foremost nutritionists, responded, “I have long believed that if one trained, ate, and rested properly, it would be — theoretically — possible to race as a professional cyclist without doping. Here, at last, we have proof.”

Other scientists, however, remain skeptical. “Of course I am gladdened that David Loosli appears to not be doping,” said American Screening Institute representative Sammakko Miyasaki. “This, however, does not constitute final proof that Loosli has definitively not been doping. We believe the safest course of action is to — for the time being — refer to Mr. Loosli as an ‘alleged non-doper,’ until we have developed additional tests over the course of the next five years, which we shall then run on his current blood, saliva, and urine samples.”

Miyasaki continued: "At that point, we believe we should be able to say, with 72% confidence, that Loosli either is or is not doping at this moment in time.”

“Also,” concluded Miyasaki, “We’re going to need a lock of his hair, a 4-inch-square sample of his skin, and one of his kidneys for our tests. Just to be safe.”


Racers React

As one would expect, the tight-knit community of professional cyclists is abuzz with the news that one of their own is not doping.

“I am very, very happy for Mr. Loosli, who I have never heard of before today,” said currently-suspended four-time Vuelta winner Roberto Heras. “I wish him great success in the future as he races on the…the…excuse me, what team did you say he races on?”


The full story will be published on Cyclingnews soon. I’ll be sure to post a link.
PS: Why’d I pick David Loosli? I just thought to myself, "I’ll just go with whoever took 100th overall in last year’s Tour de France." How lucky for him!

Wattage Testing For Dorks

11.11.2005 | 8:02 pm

Today, I have some great news, some good news, and some more good news.


Great News

About two years ago, my wife found out she had breast cancer. About a year ago, she finished up her treatment: surgery and chemo. Yesterday afternoon, she got back the results of her 1-year followup appointment.

She’s clean!

Of course, she’s still high risk for the next four years or so, but decreasingly so. I hate to say we’re out of the woods, but it sure feels like it.



Good News

My wife’s actually feeling a little under the weather today, so I took the day off for her to rest and recover, and for me to play with the kids.

Later this afternoon, she’ll probably go to see the new Sense and Sensibility movie with a friend.

Why is this good news? Well, since I’ll be watching the kids, I don’t have to go see Sense and Sensibility, of course: I get brownie points for being a good husband and  I get to avoid a movie I desperately want to not see.


More Good News

The only thing is, I’m not going to have time to write the Fat Cyclist entry I had planned for today. Luckily, yesterday Dug sent me an email talking about finding out what his wattage output is. I think that most cyclists — and especially anyone who has read Lance Armstrong’s War (recommended, by the way) — have wondered what their wattage is, so I was interested in what the test was like.

Plus, Dug’s a good writer, in spite of his churlish nature. And when I asked him nicely, he even cleaned it up, adding proper capitalization and punctuation.

Take it away, Dug.


Wattage Testing For Dorks

When Lance Armstrong won the Alpe de Huez time trial a few years ago, he maintained a sustained wattage output of over 400 watts, for something like 32 minutes. The rest of the top 20 in the elite pro peloton average about 10 percent less. I only mention this as a way of pointing out that you and I both suck. It doesn’t matter how much better than me you are, or how much better than you I am. Comparatively speaking, we all suck. But sometimes we forget. Well, I do anyway.

Last night, I was forcibly reminded.

My wife signed us up for a 4 month winter spin class at her gym. I’ve never been one for structured classes or exercise, but this was something we could do together, and would help me maintain some fitness through the winter. Plus, she has just finished some kind of personal trainer workout/eating program, and she is taking great delight in the fact that her body fat percentage is lower than mine. So I agreed to this spin class, knowing they’d test us for wattage, and I’d be able to lord my wattage numbers over her.

I’m pathetic.

I hate tests. When they made me swim a mile at scout camp, they had to throw me in the lake and guard the dock so I wouldn’t get out of the water; I did the sidestroke, just so they’d have to stand there for entire two hours while I swam. But this wattage test was also something I could email to Fatty, and tell him I had more voltage — or ohms, or amperes, or whatever — than he has.


State of the Art Facility

Kim and I went to the trainer’s house for the test: me with my Cannondale RX2000, Kim with a friend’s Bianchi Pantani special, and our new heart rate monitors (still in the box). They oooh’d and aaaah’d over the Bianchi…until they realized it was borrowed. And too big for Kim. They took Kim downstairs, and put me in the laundry room. They had a trainer set up (next to the dirty clothes hamper), hooked to a laptop (which was resting on the Maytag washing machine).

Really elegant, very professional.

Coach put my bike in the stand, hooked a backup heart rate monitor to my earlobe, and told me to warm up. While I was spinning, he asked if I’d done any racing lately, and I told him I’d done the Snowbird hillclimb in September. Based on my finish time, he guessed I could do about 290 watts. I had no reference for this number, except Lance Armstrong’s numbers on Alpe de Huez, which didn’t really make me feel good.


All Is Vanity

I got set up in the right gear, big ring, about 5 down in the back, and coach told me to spin at 16mph (the laptop on his washing machine in front of me gave the speed). I found myself trying to control the mph minutely, embarrassingly trying to impress the coach with my ability to spin at the exact speed he wanted, and I also attempted to keep my heart rate really low, and still maintain the pace.

He paid no attention at all.

Every 60 seconds, he told me to increase my speed by .5 mph, and would periodically ask me to rate my perceived exertion, which I faked as “very comfortable” every time.

At around 21mph, I found myself looking around for a place to blow my nose. On a typical ride in the canyon, I think I expel several quarts of mucous, but I wasn’t ready to foul his laundry room — yet. Clearl, he had been waiting for this, since he immediately handed me a tissue. I guess all cyclists are alike in this regard.


The Test

When we got to 25mph, I was starting to breathe pretty heavily, and was losing my form on the bike, bobbing and weaving like a dork, my heart rate up around 185. In other words, pretty standard for me. He had me pedal at 25mph for about a minute, and just as I was prepping to up the pace to 25.5mph, he told me to gear down and cool off. I protested that I still had plenty in the tank, that I could go longer, faster. He just smiled, and said, “I’ve done thousands of these, believe me, you’re done.”

“But I haven’t even gotten out of the saddle yet, I can go faster,” I pleaded.

That’s when he explained that he was measuring maximum sustained output, not just maximum output. What you can do for about 15 seconds in a sprint isn’t the kind of fitness being measured in the wattage test. It’s what you can do over a long climb — or into a headwind — that counts.

I felt a little let down, since I’d expected to go so hard I would throw up and fall off the trainer, and need to be resuscitated. I expected drama. I expected to really show how I could push myself into dangerous territory. This was all so…genteel.

Or as genteel as it could be in a laundry room.


For My Next Feat of Strength, I Shall Challenge My Kids to an Arm Wrestling Match

But I got the payoff. Kim came upstairs, and the woman with her was gushing about how well she did (Kim’s never ridden a road bike before: only mountain biking, recreationally), and how great she looked. “Yeah, but what was your wattage?” I asked.

“175. What’s yours?”

“287.” (I snickered, but only to myself—I’m not completely insane.)

“That’s great,” Kim said with a yawn. “Hey, can we get going? I’m a little light-headed; I did the test without using my asthma medication.”

I swear, I could have done 295. I swear.

You People are Insane.

11.10.2005 | 9:21 pm

I learned a lot from the comments posted yesterday. Specifically, I learned that:

  • Of all the places in the world from which a bike can be stolen, a bike rack seems to be the least common.
  • If you steal a bike, the bike will do its utmost to kill you and return to its rightful owner.
  • You people get distressed over the loss of a bike in much the same way most people get distressed over the loss of a beloved friend. Which makes total sense to me, by the way.

Truthfully, yesterday’s comments on bike theft were uniformly outstanding. Except BotchedExperiment’s, who needs a little work on his begging skills. So, while I can only give a messenger bag to one person, I’d like to hand out several honorable mentions, which are as heartfelt as they are non-negotiable.


Grand Prize

The Banjo Brothers Messenger Bag winner is Al Maviva, with his story of theft, rage, revenge, triumph, and a bunch of crying.


Hell Hath No Fury Like a 10-Year-Old Who Has Just Had His Bike Stolen

When I was a little kid, 10 years old or so, we lived in a semi-rural area on a road that was bordered by forest and corn fields. A lot of teenagers would drive up our road, park and get stoned. We weren’t supposed to ride on the road.

One day I was out with one of my sisters, who was about 7, tooling around on the road on my little red and white Schwinn with coaster brakes and 16” hard rubber tires. This green stationwagon with about 5 teenagers in it pulled up, and a couple kids got out while two or three stayed in the car. One kid blocked my forward progress, and the other knocked me off my bike and then rode away.

My sister started crying and screaming, I started crying and screaming, and I was pissed and scared and totally freaking out, in an enormous hysterical rage. Taking isn’t nice, I guess.

Just then, I noticed these big rocks about the size of bread loaves or a little larger just off the side of the road, adjacent to the cornfield. In a total Hulk fit, I hoisted a good sized rock and threw it — soccer throw-in style — over my head with two hands, onto the hood of the car. It bounced across the hood leaving a basketball-sized dent and some scratches.

The two or three teens in the car started freaking out. While they discussed the situation and shouted to their bike thief friend, I kept screaming and crying, and I hoisted another big rock and heaved it, putting another huge dent in the hood.

The teens were shouting at each other. Meanwhile, I hoisted this enormous rock that was almost too big for me to lift. I was still crying and screaming and blubbering, “I hate you I’m gonna tell on you I hate you,” and so forth.

I staggered over to the car holding the enormous rock, getting ready to take out the windshield. The kid driving the car gets out of the car and I noticed he’s crying. “This is my father’s car! He’s going to kill me! Stop! Please! Stop!” So I blubber, “Gimme my bike back,” and stood there with the rock over my head, basically holding the windshield hostage.

The thief finally saw what was happening, and started riding back to the car. I backed off a couple steps, the teenagers started getting into the car and yelling to the thief, “That little kid is &%$@ing crazy, give him back his bike.” The thief threw the bike past me into the field and jumped into the car, and they peeled away, and I eventually dropped the big rock.

When I finally stopped crying and freaking out and hyperventilating, my sister and I agreed to never speak of this to our parents.


Honorable Mentions

There were lots of good stories, and the only reason I’m not including more of them is because at some point it’d just start to look like all I did today is copy and paste the comments section from yesterday’s post.

Which I guess is what I did, but I’m also adding this clever introduction, not to mention witty award titles. Hey, cut me a little slack, would you?


The "I Had No Idea My Brother-in-Law Is So Bizarre" Award

I have this riding friend who, in an effort to upgrade his lackluster skills, upgraded his lackluster bike. Actually, he bought the Specialized S-Works Enduro in 2003—the whiz-bang super cool anodized one with the Talas fork and the "itch-switch™." Price tag: $5,300.

Geez, it was a nice bike. And geez, he wouldn’t stop yacking about it. So, when he went on vacation for a week, leaving said bike alone at home, I slinked into his garage (actually, I had the super skinny 9 year-old slide under the cat-sized opening for…well…the cat, in the garage door) and I stole the bike.

After he returned, I had it in my home for three days before he noticed that it was gone, and before he noticed the ransom note taped to his front door, replete with disturbing photographs of the bike, bound and gagged with me cleverly disguised as a terrorist with a hacksaw preparing to lop off some critical parts.

The ransom demands were simple: A block of sharp cheddar cheese, a Metallica CD, a copy Mein Kampf, and $25. He thought that I was kidding—obstinate fool. He held out for a week until he realized I was serious. He delivered the goods, all but the block of cheese.

"No bike, monkey boy—not until ALL of the demands have been met."

Later that day I ate cheese, had a good read [editor's note: ?!?!] , and some head bangin,’ whilst he got re-acquainted with his now-tainted aluminum buddy.


Award for Most Secure Bike Ever

I have never had a bike stolen, but I have a good reason why. I put my bike in the company bike rack like everyone else, and I don’t even lock it up. However, I do sit about fifteen feet from the bike rack where I occupy my post as a security officer. We are required to carry a firearm for work, so I figured I can skip the lock.

— uncadan8 

Karma Award

I had put my road bike on my bike rack one day after a ride and, due to the ride-induced malfunction of my brain, forgot to lock it. I went to run an errand and came out of the store after being away from the car for 10-15 minutes max. Not only was my bike gone – but my rack had also been stolen. It was not a particularly valuable bike – but it was what I could afford at the time – and I was ripped.

I’m a nurse and had to be in to work that night – and was assigned to work in the ER. My 3rd patient of the evening was a young guy in his 20’s who came in with a fractured collarbone and quite a few scrapes. We got to talking about biking and the rides we had both enjoyed in the area. At that point, he told me that he’d had a bike vs. motor vehicle encounter that had brought him into the ER.

His girlfriend says "You’ve got to see the bike – it’s on the rack but it’s totally messed up!" I went out to the parking lot – and of course, it was my bike, my rack, and my helmet – which I hadn’t even realized was missing!! Guess that vehicle was one of those newfangled karmas…

— Joanie

Award for Most Shameless Plea for a Bike Bag

Can I PLEASE have the bag? I’ve had 2 bikes stolen. One from university rack, other from car in university parking lot.


Award for Laziest Entry

Can I PLEASE have the bag? I’ve had 2 bikes stolen. One from university rack, other from car in university parking lot.


Award for Most Un-Stolen Bike

I had a properly locked superbe pro/columbus slx road bike go missing from the university racks in 1985. I put in a report with campus security and the police. About a week later I saw a bike suspiciously like mine in the rack behind the science labs. I sidled over and had a look.

I recognised the scratch on the down tube. Then I recognised the lock. Then I remembered that I had visited a friend on the way to lectures on that fateful day. And had arrived from a different direction, and used a different bike rack, and had a memory like a sieve.

—BIG Mike

The "You Traded it for What?" Award

This one is visceral for me. When I was a lad of 8, my Mom bought me my big person’s bike; a new Raleigh Gazelle. I rode my Gazelle throughout the neighborhood in the early mornings and thus established a deep and life long habit of early morning rides that is attached at my core and I follow to this day. One day, I was at the "gully" in our neighborhood finding lead pieces (treasure) from a target shooter long past, when I heard a couple of big kids laughing. I looked up and noticed that the bike they were riding (away from me quickly) looked familiar. It was my Gazelle.

Needless to say, my existence was , well, shattered. I eventually resigned myself to the loss and got back on my 20" Schwinn hand-me-down. Many weeks later my big brother spotted what he thought was the Gazelle in the bike racks at the junior high he attended. He noted the serial number and indeed it was my bike. The police and my brother and my father all waited for the thief to come to the bike and confronted him. I got it back, fenders missing and the handle bars turned upside down. It was cool. I was happy to have my bike back.

I rode it for years and eventually traded it for banjo lessons when I was sixteen. I wish I hadn’t. I miss my Gazelle to this day and I sometimes think I should find another one for old time’s sake. Nowadays, I only leave my bike unattended outside of grocery stores in small towns where I have stopped for treats. I haven’t had any problems. 


The "If It’s Not Locked Up, It Must Not Be Worth Stealing" Reverse-Psychology Award

After 30+ years of riding bikes ive noticed if i lock up a bike, it gets stolen. If i dont lock it up, it stays. Ive never figured it out but it just works for me like that. Andits always the cheap bikes i own that always get stolen. My K-mart special, gone. my discount Diamondback, gone. My Cannondales and S-works, never move. Even all my bmx bikes never got stolen if i left em sitting around, but the minute i locked em up, Gone. 

—Donald Carter 

The "Dude, the Stolen Bike Was the Least of Your Problems" Award

I have a story of a stolen bike but it is, alas, deeply sad. The first real bike, a Trek 320 or some such number, a tourer with the nifty shifters in the drops, champagne. Bought it with my high school graduation money in 1979, rode it everywhere, moved in with a girl I thought I loved, possibly drank too much and certainly engaged in mild drug abuse. Wandered out of the apartment to drink too much, left the door ajar, returned to an emptied out shell of a place.


Note to Thieves: Please Do Not Steal My Bike. Thanks.

11.9.2005 | 4:38 pm

Once my boss’s boss’s back gets better, he’s considering doing some bike commuting. He’s getting a light setup, already has a good rain bike, and definitely has the fitness. As part of figuring out the logistics for the bike commute, he asked me where I keep my bike.

“Locked up at the bike rack by the locker room,” I said.

“Are you serious?” he replied. “I would never put a several-thousand-dollar bike out where someone could just steal it.”

Thanks a lot, Mr. Boss’s Boss. Now I’m totally convinced every day when I go to the bike rack to go home that my bike will be gone.

I still leave it locked up at the bike rack, though.


Why I Use the Bike Rack

Here are the reasons I have for locking my bike up at the bike rack, along with my best attempt to grade how rational each reason is.

  • The bike rack is in a high traffic area. Thieves would be foolish to try to steal a bike from that rack, because they are likely to be discovered. I give this reason a C-. The rack is in fact in a spot that every car must pass in order to enter or leave the parking garage, but how many people in cars look over at the bike racks as they go by, checking to make sure nothing is amiss? And for those who do look, can they tell the difference between the guy who is opening his lock legitimately and the guy who is picking the lock with a ballpoint pen? After all, once when I lost the keys to a lock, I had my wife drive over with the bolt cutters, at which point I cut the lock to my bike. Nobody stopped me, nobody asked any questions. Still, a visible, public area for a bike rack is a lot better than a secluded spot. It’s bound to make thieves jumpy.
  • I’d rather assume people are good and leave the bike in a rack than assume people are bad and live with the logistical nuisance of portaging my bike up to my office every day. This is my noble, philosophical reason for leaving my bike in the rack, and it deserves an F. It’s great to think of humanity as basically good, but that’s no excuse for ignoring the reality that there are a lot of exceptions. This reason is so laughably bad that I shouldn’t have even typed it. The problem is, I actually think this way. I’m a fool.
  • I’m lazy, and the bike rack is the closest place to the locker room that is at least kind of secure. OK, this reason deserves a B for honesty, since this is in fact the primary reason I put the bike there.
  • I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve been leaving my bike locked up at one bike rack or another for a year and change now, and nobody’s stolen my bike yet. Every day as I lock up my bike, I at least briefly consider the possibility that someone might steal it. Then I just think to myself, “Yes, but today is not that day.” Nothing wrong with that logic. A+++!
  • My bike isn’t the nicest looking bike in the rack. This is actually a double reason. First: there’s safety in numbers. This would be a good reason if the bikes protected each other (D+). Second: Thieves will go for nicer bikes, instead of mine. This is a great reason, provided we live in a Bizarro univers where thieves are capable of stealing only one thing at a time (D-). Combined grade: D.
  • I’ve never heard of bikes getting stolen here. This is actually a pretty good point. But then again, I’ve never gone out of my way to find out whether bikes often get stolen here. B+.


OK, now that I’ve vetted my reasons for continuing to use the bike rack and found them lacking, what do I do?

Well, I expect to continue to use the bike rack. I’m just not willing to start going to the extra effort of moving my bike into my office every day. Especially during the winter, when a slush-soaked bike wheeled down the office hall might cause a few problems of its own.

And besides, I’m reasonably certain my homeowner’s insurance policy covers my bike, even when it’s not at home. Hmmmm, maybe I better check on that.


Neglect as a Strategy

Here’s the thing: The only bike I’ve ever had stolen was the one I left sitting out front in my yard for three or four days after my first big crash on my first mountain bike ride. I wanted someone to steal that bike.

Since I’ve been riding seriously, though, I’ve accidentally left my bike unlocked on my car rack probably fifty times. I’ve never had a bike stolen.

I think it’s possible that “not getting my bike stolen” is my super power. I’m thinking of buying a cape.


The Big Banjo Brothers Questions of the Week

So, here are the things I’m wondering:

  • Have you ever had a bike stolen? If so, was it locked up when it was stolen? Bonus points if you have an amusing anecdote about the theft, and double bonus points if you have a story about how you cleverly recovered the bike.
  • Do you lock your bike up at bike racks, or do you consider bike racks shopping malls for bike thieves?
  • Do you have a strategy or learned wisdom for keeping your bike from being stolen?

Of course, I don’t expect you to answer all these questions.  Just tell me about your bike theft advice and / or experience.


Tell Them What They Can Win, Johnny.

The super-cool Banjo Brothers have got a messenger bag (not the super-big one they’ve been letting me test, a normal-sized one) for the winner of today’s comment contest. The Banjo Brothers rule.

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