Friday Group Ride #325

Friday Group Ride #325

My friend Lloyd had his bike stolen. He went out for lunch, leaned his bike against the wall, went into the burrito place, stood in line, texted his wife, ordered his food, paid, and walked out the door. No bike. A guy standing nearby said, “A couple of kids ran off with it.” He stood there, disbelieving, feeling that urgent need to do something, but not knowing what, a tragic resignation blooming in his head. He called me, told me, said he was walking back.

This isn’t a story about stolen bikes or bike thieves.

This is a story about that feeling you get when something outside of you (the bike), something you care a lot about, disappears suddenly. There is anger, self-righteous rage, sadness, a tinge of humiliation (you did, after all, leave the bike there). You move through the various stages of grief.

If you are reading and relating to this, then we have made the leap I was hoping to make. Normally, the sort of response we have to a bike being stolen is similar in most emotional respects to bereavement. It is, if you can indulge me, something like a spiritual experience. I define the word spiritual pretty secularly here, which is to say a feeling of non-physical connection to something outside yourself.

We love our bikes, real love that produces real feelings of longing, love and, at some point loss.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how many bikes have you had this sort of connection with? What were/are they? And how many have you lost?  Or, am I crazy? Is it zero? It would be pretty ironic, a guy who calls himself Robot, writing a thing like this and discovering that nobody else has these feelings. That would be magnificent in some pretty weird sorts of ways.


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  1. Barry Adam Johnson

    I’ve had many bicycle theft losses but the two most poignant were my Azuki 6 speed which I scrimped and saved for during the summer after 6th grade (1976) and one of the first rides was to the first day of school. After school, no bike, just the cheesy tumbler combination lock lying there.

    More emotional was my 2004 Lemond Tete de Course, Ti and Carbon spine framed bike kitted with Record 9 speed and Ksyrium SL wheels. Fit me like a glove ( I have a tough time finding 59’s with the geometry I like) and I had 50k+ miles on it when my wife left the garage door up for 5 minutes one morning. They must have been waiting. Insurance took care of me but no bike has ever been the same. I gave up road riding for a bit bouncing between Cross and Mtb but now I want to get back into it and I look forward to having even a bit of that fit magic with my new ride. I’m now building up a Ritchey Logic with Record 11 Mechanical and I am chomping at the bit to ride it…Chainset, please clear Customs!

  2. Scott

    My Hampsten custom steel bike. It wa destroyed a month ago on the Saturday Morning ride. My friend who was ahead of me got his front wheel chopped by a non-regular who moved left about 3-4ft without looking over his shoulder. My friend went down causing a chain reaction of damaged bodies and bikes. The Hampsten ride like it was a part of me. I miss it. Best bike I’ve ever ridden.

  3. hoshie99

    Interesting – I think theft brings up other feelings as well.

    On bikes, I like my bikes but after one accident that unwound me (since I was SO attached to the bike that got crunched), I just don’t have the same attachment to bikes as I used to. I like them, but it’s not devastating either.

    Too many great bikes – plenty of fish in that ocean!


  4. john

    1983 Schwinn Scrambler stolen from my college apartment garage in 1993. That bike took me from skids to power slides to curb endos and to poorly constructed ramps and then eventually took me from Bio class to Calc a decade later. By 1993 there were no brakes other than me jamming my foot in between the tire and frame. Still had the original Tuff Wheel II on the front and some random free wheel on the back. Then, some douche took her from me. She was replaced by a Mongoose Rockadile that remains my ride around town bike in 2016, with nothing original other than the frame. Yes, I’m still emotional about the Scrambler. She was taken away too soon.

  5. roger

    I had my mountain bike (only bike at the time) stolen from the back of the record store I worked at in 1994. It sucked, Loved that bike a GT Karakoram I got my junior year of high school. BUT. If that bike hadn’t been stolen I wouldn’t have bought a road bike the next year. I wouldn’t have heard the words “cyclo-cross” and I, probably, wouldn’t be posting here.
    I still think about that bike and how it just got ripped out of my life.

  6. Scott G.

    I’ve had one bike stolen from a hotel garage, which resulted in an interesting time with the French
    police filling out a report, my limited French w/their limited English, I still have the
    report. Followed by several months of correspondence with the hotel director,
    M. Rodger Hum, who was felt the honor of the hotel had been besmirched.
    He pursued a claim with the insurance for 5 months, successfully.
    I used the proceeds for a Chris Kvale, so no I don’t miss the Atlantis
    that was stolen. I got a good story and an excellent bike.

  7. Jan

    My basic 10 speed got stolen while I was in college, locked outside a friend’s apartment one night. It sucked. (I went to UC Davis, so having a bike was pretty necessary.) (about 1980)

    Then I borrowed my brother’s bike, another 10 speed, and for some reason, that bike had the best balance and ride of any I’ve ridden. When I graduated, I joined the Peace Corps and left the bike in my parents’ garage. Supposedly a neighbor borrowed it and cannibalized it for parts. I’ll never understand how anyone would think it was okay to take apart someone else’s bike for parts. But I never saw it again. (That was more heartbreaking than having my bike stolen.)

    I have a road bike now, more gears, but not the smooth balance of that old bike. (I wish I could remember what kind it was!)

  8. Fausto

    Had my racing bike stolen around 1985 or so. Leaned it against a bike shop wall and gone 5 minutes later. Some high school scum had a habit of taking from shops, including breaking into one to get some race bikes. Shop owners kid knew who they were, grabbed some friends and a baseball bat. Drove to the crappy neighborhood and they opened the door with grease on their hands and denied everything. So wanted to use the bat on them but had that light bulb go off that said “this isn’t you, it’s just a bike”. My friends were ready to fight and find the bike and I just walked away empty handed but knew I had made the right choice. Home owners insurance got me $1500 which got me my first car. I was no longer a bike racer at that point, all the miles/dreams/tears gone just like that. Started the last year of college like a normal person instead of a roadie desperate for upgrade points. But, never did not think about riding every day till I got back into it ten years later. Special place in hell for bike thieves, even if they change your life for a some good reasons.

  9. Jay

    There’s a bike shop in Laramie, Wyoming, called The Pedal House. Their shop bumper sticker reads, “We still hang bike thieves in Wyoming.” Yep.

  10. Michael

    Getting back to Robot’s original question – yes, I have had that connection with many bikes. I think it just builds naturally over all the time one spends with the bike – the ride itself gets conflated with the bike. A few bikes just never seem to generate that feeling – they just never felt right I guess. Kinda like some people and their pets – most are special and some were just okay. I have never had any affection for any car I have owned, even though many have taken me to places I wanted to go. Maybe it is just that the getting there wasn’t any fun – it was inside a car – whereas getting anywhere on a bike is almost always fun. I have had bikes stolen, and some recovered, but perhaps the one I most miss is one I sold to my brother when I needed money for food, and 35 years later he still has it and still won’t sell it back. He knows bikes too well. My advice is never sell a bike to someone who truly appreciates the bike, unless you don’t want to see it again!

  11. Peter Leach

    Like Michael above, I’ve had a spiritual connection with several of my bikes. In fact, I think all of them. And I appreciate the irony, Robot 🙂
    I have only [touch wood, grab a lucky rabbit’s foot, kiss a baby’s tummy or whatever you like to do for good luck] had only one bike stolen – and of course it was one that I had a strong connection too. It was a custom-built [not for me, but it fit like it could have been] alloy Alchemy that was built for a local crit racer. It was my first serious bike when I got serious about cycling. I loved both the bike and its provenance, but it was as rough as guts on the road, so I eventually took the carbon frame road and the Alchemy went up on the wall. Some time later, with my regular race bike waiting for parts after a fall, I took the Alchemy down off the wall for a while – and discovered just how much fun crit racing could be on a bike that was built for it.
    Sadly, the Alchemy disappeared from my son’s garage when it was on loan to him. Yes, he left the door open. After all, he was inside the house at the time.
    Sometimes I wish that I lived in Wyoming – rather than New South Wales 🙂
    It was several years ago, but if anyone comes across a deep red alloy Alchemy with a Columbus Muscle fork, Shimano Ultegra 6500 9-speed groupset and R80 wheels, let me know and I’ll get the sheriff to round up a posse.
    Ride forever …

  12. Stephen Barner

    While I have a “connection” to most of my bikes, I learned long ago not to love something that doesn’t have the capability of responding to that sentment, or doesn’t even know that the feeling is there. With that said, every bike I have fills some niche in my life, be it a specific type of riding, or some connection I have with, or special appreciation for its manufacturer. Thus, even though he has no idea who I am, I really value my Richard Sachs. At one time, I coveted and eventually purchased an early ’70s racing Paramount from the Schwinn shop where I worked. Years later, I bought another, just to be able to relive the experience of a great riding bike with a derailleur system that provides limited gear selection and makes every shift an adventure. Every bike I have has some back story that no one but me fully appreciates.

    I’ve only had one bike stolen from me and that was one I had just finished building up from scrap parts. On the very first ride, my buddy and I left our bikes outside a store and when we came back out, they were gone. We spotted a gang of toughs from the next town across the street with the bikes and went sfter them. I grabbed his bike and held onto it in spite of taking a beating, he let mine go and emerged unscathed. I never missed that bike because I had ridden it all of two miles. A few hours with the pile of junk bikes and I had another.

    The thing that would bother me the most about losing one of my bikes today would be that the thief would lack my appreciation of the bike, would be incapable of undedstanding what makes it special, and it would likely soon meet an ignominius end. What would he do with a ’75 Carlsbad Masi, anyway? Would he give me a call to ask if I would throw in a few spare sewups and show him how to glue them on? Maybe convert in to upright bars for him and figure out how to fit a kickstand bolt into that tiny spzce in front of the chainstay bridge?

  13. Dodger

    I don’t think a machine or a tool can have a soul but my life is better for having had the right tool at hand. Doing good work is satisfying. Doing good work with a tool that suits you is especially satisfying. That’s one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning.

    I’ve never had an “off-the-shelf” bike, at least not since i discovered riding for speed and/or distance. There might be one perfectly suited to me but those aren’t the machines I obsess over. I can go a year or two or three without getting the itch (I’m fortunate to have several bikes to choose from) but when it’s time to overhaul a favorite frame or think about a really sweet project bike then I obsess about the details.

    Occasionally I get it wrong. I built a bike around a Rohloff hub. It was set up just the way i wanted but the drivetrain inefficiencies drove me crazy. Now it’s a glorified commuter and winter training bike. Riding that bike often feels like an obligation, a chore.

    My current favorite was built when i spent a lot of time on the bike. It rewards a flexible rider who can spend time out on the hoods or in the drops. When I’m out of shape and looking for a more upright position this bike is punishing. But right now i’ve got some decent form and it’s the perfect tool for the job.

  14. Tom in Albany

    My first bike. Schwinn with bright yellow banana seat and three-speed shifter on the top tube. Was stolen right out of my back yard because someone neglected to lock it up. I’d had it all of about 6 or 7 months. I’m still sad about it.

    The first bike I bought out of college in ’89 is still in my basement. Doing nothing really. But, that bike saw me believe I was a cyclist and my first few centuries as well. I bought a Mongoose MTB back in ’95 or so. Still have that one too.

  15. Greg

    The only bike I ever had stolen was a 1989 (or so) Schwinn Sierra Comp mountain bike. I had it locked overnight to the bike rack outside of my dorm with a simple chain lock. The next morning, one cool Autumn morning in 1990, all that was left was a cut lock lying on the ground. I was pretty naive back then to think that nobody would dare steal it. The worst part about it was that I had used it the previous day with the pedals off of my road racing bike since I didn’t have any proper clipless mountain bike shoes/pedals at the time. I lost my nice pair of first generation Dura-Ace Look style pedals along with my mountain bike. I’m not sure if the thief was after the bike (which was just ok) or the pedals (which were more than just ok and certainly out of place on that bike). I still remember the feeling of loss and violation the morning I found the lock lying on the ground. Lesson learned.

  16. Zvi Wolf

    The stingray that I bugged my parents for lasted less than 24 hours when a teenager took it from my friend near the Unisphere at the World’s Fair grounds. My friend claimed the thief was holding a sheathe knife, though I never saw it. I cried for the rest of the day because that was the cool bike to have when I was eleven. I never did get another one.

    I actually felt more of a loss, but shed no tears, when my used 3 speed Raleigh was stolen from the train station. The fenders and chain guard made It the perfect station bike. This was back when I wore a suit to work every day. I probably should feel silly or embarrassed about it, but I really enjoyed the couple of times that I pedaled home in the rain holding up an umbrella over my suit. I felt like an English Don.

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