You walk out and it’s not there. Sometimes it takes a moment or two before you comprehend what your eyes have been telling you for far longer than it takes to read this sentence. The bike—your bike—is gone.
You look around. There’s a chance you’re wrong, that it’s locked up someplace else, that you have a memory like an Alzheimer patient. You really want to doubt yourself. We spend so much of our lives trying to be right that when we don’t see our bike where we left it we are suddenly desperate to be incorrect. We want to be saved from the obvious.
There are few things that can summon the anger and indignation, the hurt that comes with a stolen bike. A ripped-off iPhone? Not much to lose if your photos are on the cloud. Your wallet? It’s just cash and none of us look good in our driver’s license.
But your bike? They might as well have taken your skin. It’s personal. Sure the fit of the bike is for you and you alone, but what makes a bike theft such an intimate loss goes way deeper than a few changeable dimensions. A bike is a conduit to good times. How many of your favorite memories are in some way tied to a bike? Don’t bother counting. Your bike is an extension of you. While your friends might not be able to recall the last pair of pants you had on, they know your bike on sight. That is as sure a test of a bike’s link to identity as there is.
You get over the loss, eventually. But that wound lingers, the road rash that takes months to heal. You second-guess leaving your bike anywhere, no matter how well locked. You eye the unshowered differently.
Even if you recover your bike, it is forever changed. Never mind paint removal. Your relationship to it is different. That’s the bike that was stolen. The theft becomes as big a part of the bike’s history as the time it was ridden to the top of Mount Vacation.
In the aftermath you vow to buy a better lock, trust less, watch more. It’s no kind of solution. Like a breakup, you take your lumps. You take your lumps with you.
A bike stolen stays with you in a way that a bike sold does not.