How to Borrow a Bicycle

03.27.2012 | 10:49 am

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: Between the weight loss challenge stuff (which I think you’ll find interesting even if you’re not doing the weight loss challenge) and the main story in today’s post, this sucker’s long. I recommend you read half today and half tomorrow, because tomorrow (i.e., Wednesday) I will not be posting.

A Note from Fatty about the Weight Loss Challenge: The FatCyclist Weight Loss Challenge is now in high gear, with more than 160 people signed up for the challenge, and 130 people checking in for the first week’s weigh-in!

And — luckily for everyone — I am not the one who is doing the results tabulating. Because, honestly, it just would never get done if I were.

Instead, I’ve asked one of the contestants — Dave V, who makes a living as an auditor and who possesses otherworldly number-crunching skills — and for some reason wants to spend even more time with spreadsheets, to be in charge of that. So now I have, in addition to just a winner to report, actual interesting data to share.

  • The Winner: ClydeinKs lost a whopping 13.8 pounds between his initial weigh-in and the first week weigh-in, making for a loss of 5.62%. Incredible! He’ll be getting a box of Honey Stinger Waffles for that remarkable show of discipline. Which really makes sense, when you think about it. Only someone with as much discipline as this should be presented with a box of Honey Stingers. The rest of us would just eat them all in one sitting. Congratulations, ClydeinKs!
  • The Most Weight Lost: While ClydeinKs lost the most weight by percentage — which is the metric this contest is judging by — Adam_Bowes dropped 14.4 pounds last week; that’s the most total weight lost. Kudos go out to Adam for a remarkable achievement.
  • Boys vs. Girls. Of those who identified their gender, girls won the weight loss challenge this week, losing on average 1.9%, as opposed to 1.64% for boys. Congratulations girls (and boys: I’ll try to not drag you down next week, I promise). Those who did not identify their gender did the worst, with an average weight loss of 1.22%. So there’s a lesson there for you. No, wait. I guess there isn’t.
  • U.S. vs. Them. Contestants outside the U.S. did better on average than those inside the U.S., with an average weight loss of 2.43%. Within the U.S., the Midwest did the best, with an average of 1.85%.
  • Levi Lost the Most: Contestants were asked to identify their favorite pro cyclist. The pro cyclist who lost the mos weight was Levi Leipheimer, who lost 54.4 pounds. Honestly, he didn’t look like he had that much to lose to begin with.
  • The Grand Totals: Of those who checked in after the first week, we dropped from 26,538 pounds to 26,093 pounds: a loss of 445 pounds, with an average weight loss of 1.68%. Not bad for the first week!
  • The Most Random: The lucky random winner of the Twin Six gift certificate is AndersMr8, who lost 3.5 pounds. Nice work!

Everyone who is doing the challenge, keep it up. The next weigh-in will start this Thursday; watch for the reminder on my blog then.

And now, let’s get on with the topic at hand, which has the accurate and interesting title of…

How to Borrow a Bicycle

As the owner of a bicycle, you are no doubt aware of how personal a bike becomes. You adjust the seat height. You adjust the seat position. You adjust the seat angle. You probably replace the seat itself.

You swap on your pedals. You change the stem to suit your body length. You adjust the angle of the handlebar, the position of the grips, the brakes, the shifters.

You figure out exactly what tires you like best for where you live, and at what pressure you like those tires.

So Sure, it starts out as just one of thousands of identical bikes. But as you ride it you make it yours.

But — and trust me on this, because I promise it is true — someday you will need to borrow a bike from someone. Maybe you’re traveling. Maybe your bike is in the shop. Maybe you’re interested in getting a similar bike and would like to take a nice, extended test ride to help you decide whether to pull the trigger.

These are only some of the possibilities.

Before Borrowing the Bike

When you take delivery of the bicycle, it’s important that both you and the person you are borrowing the bike from have a clearly-stated and agreed-upon understanding of your responsibilities regarding the bike.

First of all, assure your friend (for now, we’ll assume the person you’re borrowing the bike from is a friend, though — let’s face it — that probably won’t be the case after you return the bike) that you’ll take care of the bike as if it were your own. Although if you’re borrowing the bike because you broke your own by ghostriding it off a cliff, that may not be the most reassuring thing you could say.

You may want to provide additional reassurance that while the bike is in your care, you assume complete responsibility for it, and you will return the bike in as-good or better condition than when you borrowed the bike. This will give your “friend” confidence in your upstanding citizen-ness and responsibility and stuff. Which is really great and stuff.

What you should not tell your “friend” are the following caveats, because while they are all true, they are not reassuring:

  • You are not responsible for stuff that would have broken anyway. Suppose, as you’re Just Riding Along, that the rear derailleur breaks. Just up and breaks on you. Should you be responsible for buying a new, very expensive part for this bike? Especially when it obviously had been close to breaking for some time now, and you just happened to be the person on the bike when it decided to go. Is it really fair that you should replace what was obviously a worn out derailleur? Is it? Well, is it? (As you can tell by my repeated asking of this question, the answer is clearly “no.”)
  • You are not responsible for theft. Suppose the bike gets stolen while it’s in your care. Did you ask for it to get stolen? No. Did you take reasonable precautions against its theft? Of course. So is it your fault it got stolen? Heck no. It could have just as easily gotten stolen the last time your so-called “friend” took it out and then went into Taco Bell. Would it have been your fault it got stolen then, too?
  • You are not responsible for reasonable wear and tear. Your “friend” knew you were going to actually go out and ride the bike, right? Like, he wasn’t under some misapprehension that you were buying it so you could take it home to spend the day cleaning and buffing it to a high shine, right? So of course the chain’s going to come back a little dirty. Of course the tires are going to be a little more worn. Of course there’ll be a few new chips in the paint job and maybe some scratch marks from where the rack clamps held on to it. Sheesh, it’s a bike, not a freaking Monet.

Again, take these as understood, and do not bring them up until / unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e., when you return the bike).

Next, it’s very important you inspect the bike, just to make sure your “friend” hasn’t pulled a fast one on you. Take photos of obvious dings and dents, and make note of any problems that you think your friend might hold you accountable for as new damage when you return the bike.

Remember, those bike-lending “friends” can be sneaky, and may well just be out to make a quick buck off you. Don’t trust them for a second.

Preparing the Bike

Once you have acquired the bike you will be borrowing, take the time to adjust it properly. You can safely assume that the person you have borrowed the bike from has adequately documented every change he’s made to the bike, so feel free to tweak it to suit your own preferences.

First, adjust the seat post. Set it to the height you need. Don’t worry about marking the original seat height; you can be sure that the bike owner took care of that or has recorded the proper height or something.

Next, set the saddle up for your preferences. Adjust the saddle angle and position to your liking . Or, better still, remove the owner’s saddle entirely and put your own saddle on. While this negates the months and quite possibly years the bike owner might have put into finding exactly the correct position for himself, you can be sure he’ll have no trouble finding it again.

You should probably also adjust the angle of the handlebars. And move the grips or hoods so they fit your hands more comfortably. Might not be a bad idea to change the angle of the brake levers and shifters so they feel just right.

Hey, you don’t want to compromise your riding experience.

The Ride

Ideally, the friend who loaned you the bike will come along for the ride. He probably — up until this point — thought it was a really great bike, so this will be an excellent opportunity for him to learn about all the problems it has.

I recommend starting the ride by riding the bike into a wall, or the sharp edge of a curb. Just to ensure that the wheels have good structural integrity.

Then, once you begin the ride itself, listen very closely for sounds. The brakes might make noise. The chain might make noise. The suspension might make noise. Honestly, since there’s no such thing as zero-friction surface, something is bound to make noise on the bike. Be sure to point it out, and comment that your own bike doesn’t make this noise. It’s probably a good idea to ask — make a serious face as you ask this — if your friend has looked into it.

Next, consider the brakes. Note that they are either “kinda grabby” or “a little soft.” It’s best to make these observations in the form of a question, however: “Do you think your brakes are a little grabby?” Or “Do your brakes feel kind of soft?”

Observe that the cranks are a little “flexy,” because this cannot be proven nor disproven.

If you’re buying a mountain bike, pay special attention to the suspension. Especially rear suspension. There wouldn’t be a million kinds of suspension out there if one in particular were objectively and provably the best kind. So, do your homework, then talk about how it kind of bobs a bit. Or that maybe it sticks. Or that the frame seems kind of loose.

Believe me, you’ll find something.

At the end of the ride, though, be sure to say something nice to the person you borrowed the bike from, so they’ll know how much you appreciate the loan. For example, “Thanks for loaning me the bike” is a nice thing to say.

If your friend has the gall to follow up with your generous statement of thanks with a question like, “Well, what do you think of the bike,” have a reply ready: “It’s a pretty nice bike” should be just about perfect.

Dont’ say it convincingly, though.

And if, for some reason, the friend who loaned you the bike isn’t with you when you ride, be sure to store all this valuable information up, so you can share it with him afterward.

He will be very grateful.

After the Ride

Before you return the bike, you should be sure to do the following:

  1. Clean the bike: Take it to a car wash and hose it down with the high pressure rinse. If you’re feeling generous, maybe do a hot wax cycle.
  2. If you got a flat and used the CO2 and tube in the loaned bike’s seat pack, be sure to let your friend know he needs to replace them. If you remember to, I mean. If not, don’t worry about it.
  3. If you got a second flat, so now one of the tires is flat, be sure to let your friend know that his tire is flat. As a courtesy.
  4. If you break a significant part (like the suspension or the frame) while playing “home mechanic” with the bike, be sure to return the bike when your friend is not home, hopefully under cover of darkness.

Oh, and one final tip: if you like the bike you borrowed, try to borrow it again as soon as possible. There’s a reasonable chance your friend won’t have gotten around to messing up the improvements you made to the bike.


  1. Comment by Mayhemnsuz | 03.27.2012 | 10:59 am

    Way to go on the weight loss contest, everyone! The number crunching is pretty interesting stuff, big thanks to Dave V!

  2. Comment by Ospina | 03.27.2012 | 11:02 am

    Just letting you know, I’ve gained 12 lbs in 2 weeks! I’m so gonna win this. All thanks to you and the recipe section of your book

  3. Comment by TK | 03.27.2012 | 11:10 am

    Sounds like someone borrowed a bike from Fatty recently. Great post.

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.27.2012 | 11:17 am

    Fatty – This is incredible advice!

  5. Comment by ClydeinKS | 03.27.2012 | 11:27 am

    I will not check the mailbox until after 4/14, when the challenge is completed. The waffles are too tempting and must take extreme measures to avoid them, hope there aren’t bills sitting in there.

    Way to go Adam – you’re rocking this challenge!

    Could these same issues be brought up at the shop during a test-ride, and result in a few comped upgrades prior to purchase?
    Love it Fatty!!

  6. Comment by mykill | 03.27.2012 | 12:18 pm

    C’mon ClydeinKS, eat the waffles… it’s the only chance the rest of us in the pack have to catch up with you!

    And nice going to Adam too, this friendly competition has really been inspiring.

  7. Comment by Christopher | 03.27.2012 | 1:27 pm

    The humour (I’m Canadian and that’s how we spell it) is fantastic. I had to muffle my laugh several times so my co-workers wouldn’t suspect my tomfoolery. Thanks.

  8. Comment by Kenny | 03.27.2012 | 1:51 pm

    I swear those cracks in the top tube were there before I borrowed your walt works for the butte 100.

  9. Comment by roan | 03.27.2012 | 2:12 pm

    So Fatty, you have enough touch-up paint on your bikes that they do look like a Monet ? One of mine does, just trying to match the colour (not Canuck but what the heck). Thanks for the advise, I’ll Not be loaning any bikes now…like forever. Don’t want to become the ‘friend’ that becomes a ‘crank’ bent out of shape.
    I will suggest to some ‘friends’ that they should clean then lube their cassette teflon spray and not to worry about the overspray on the disc rotor on their ‘own’ bike.

  10. Comment by rich | 03.27.2012 | 2:17 pm

    great advice….and one of the reasons I have a “loaner bike”

    I tried to explain to my wife why I needed this bike and why my brother in law or one of the nephews couldn’t just ride one of my other bikes….they obviously adhere to all of your suggestions.

  11. Comment by dug | 03.27.2012 | 2:50 pm

    are you insinuating something?

  12. Comment by LidsB2 | 03.27.2012 | 3:58 pm

    Fatty – Very timely post! I’m going to be visiting the greater Provo/Orem/Lindon/Alpine metropolitan area next week, all the way from the Azores. Naturally I’ll need a bike. May I please borrow one of yours? I was thinking of the Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er. I promise to follow all of your very reasonable guidelines. What say ye?

  13. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 03.27.2012 | 5:05 pm

    @LidsB2 – I’m SURE Fatty will let you borrow the SSWSJ29ER, but just in case he’s being totally unreasonable I have a CLEAN Mtn. Tek Peak you can borrow. Oh yeah, it has 1995 original Rock Shox AND NO it’s not for sale!

  14. Comment by Susie H | 03.27.2012 | 5:18 pm

    I hereby retract my tentative offer of one our bikes for the Davis Livestrong Challenge. Thank you and goodnight.

  15. Comment by toxic | 03.27.2012 | 6:02 pm

    I gotta disagree. At least as long as you want to remain friends with this person, I think you should foot the bill for theft. True, it COULD have been stolen at any time. A meteorite might have hit it if the owner still had it. So what? If you borrow it IMO you’re basically taking responsibility for getting it back in one place, and you are taking responsibility for the risks associated with using the bike. Sure, its not your fault, but it’s not the owners fault either. Between the two of you, the guy who was using it should probably foot the bill.

  16. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.27.2012 | 6:16 pm

    I think one of Elden’s sons asked to ‘borrow’ his bike. I bet he gave them the car keys instead.

  17. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.27.2012 | 7:32 pm

    @toxic – is this ironic?

  18. Comment by RANTWICK | 03.27.2012 | 9:12 pm

    On borrowing a bike: Fatty all of your points are bang on, if, and that’s a big if, the people you are dealing with are cyclists as well. Otherwise, to normal people (sniff of disdain) a bike is a bike is a bike. 2 wheels, check. Shifty and brakey things, check. $200 tops? Check. Now take good care of it, y’hear? Don’t you go an’ break my flat-tired ridden once never shifted right steed, OK? And oh, those brakes were like that from the store.

    Crabby, I know. I’m gonna go drink some tea or something.

  19. Comment by Jacob | 03.28.2012 | 6:27 am

    I have never had a flat that did not also involve the tire itself exploding along with the tube. Some of these tires had less than 100 miles on them.

  20. Comment by Jacob | 03.28.2012 | 6:27 am

    I’m assuming I should point out to the bike loaner that he then has an exploded tire, correct?

  21. Comment by Jeff Bike | 03.28.2012 | 8:12 am

    A point that I didn’t see was the duration of the loan. If said bike was loaned then the owner must not really need it back anytime soon. If the bike was loaned for the day than using it for a month is about right. If the loan was for a few days then the bike may be retained as long as you like.
    Storage of said loaner bike, must be in compliance with normal storage practices. If it is carbon fiber it should be piled in with the kids bikes. Under the one with the steel training wheels and on top of the lawn mower. All other types of frames should left in the back yard. Remember the rain will wash the trail dirt off and the male dog will make sure it is safe and well marked as his. This is very important for leather saddles.

  22. Comment by KM | 03.28.2012 | 10:12 am

    Yep, from reading the responses from Kenny and Dug, I can safely deduce one of them is to blame for today’s post. That or BSNYC, finally returned Fatty’s Surly Big Dummy. Thanks for the help with cruching numbers Dave V.

  23. Comment by Laurie | 03.28.2012 | 10:54 am

    Here’s another way to borrow a bike:

  24. Comment by NDE | 03.28.2012 | 10:55 am

    My wife’s family lives in SLC and I was going to see if you would take me out on some of your trails the next time we fly out (oh yeah, and if I could borrow a bike for the ride) but now I’m too afraid to ask. The best solution to these issues are for you to just buy me a new build and that way your personal preferences have not been dialed in yet.

  25. Comment by Mark | 03.29.2012 | 2:45 pm

    I have visions of similar scenarios in my life and business running through my head right now. I’ll heed the advice in this and a more general way as well. Thanks!

  26. Comment by HYG | 03.29.2012 | 9:14 pm

    That reminds me….

    I’m passing through SLC in August on a road trip. Too much trouble to bring a bike all the way from Australia. Can I borrow a bike? :P

  27. Comment by Ron | 03.31.2012 | 9:26 am

    I guess I would have to log many things about my bike if i were to loan it out. I don’t think i would be comfortable borrowing a bike from someone because of the responsibility level and knowing how i would like my bike to be treated. I think I will be renting a bike this july when I go to Florida instead.

  28. Comment by Archibald | 04.5.2012 | 3:48 pm

    Great post Fatty. I’ve been reading it regularly and it inspired me to start my own blog a while ago – – keep up the good work

  29. Comment by elcarajo | 04.10.2012 | 11:39 am

    Pefect timing! The day after I read this I borrowed a brand new Motobecane 29er from a guy. I figured the most decent thing to do would be to scuff it aup a little for him, so I endo’d at 30mph onto pavement. I bent his seat all to flinders and scraped all kinds of stuff.

    Thanks for the inspiration! We each got a new bike out of it!

  30. Comment by elcarajo | 04.10.2012 | 11:40 am

    – at my expense. (Did I do that wrong?)


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.