Saturday, June 13, 2015

Me and My Bike(s)

Back when I was “retired” I bought a bike.

I made good use of it that first year but then my office hired me back part-time and my carefree ways suddenly became restricted. Still, that second year, I managed a few rides.

Then the winter set in. Then we moved and my bike came with us, to be propped up in our assigned parking bay in the secure garage beneath or flats. I was looking forward to trying the bike in this new setting—where I have instant access to the bike path instead of having to play dodge ‘em with the cars whizzing down the busy road I had to travel to get to it—but, just as the warm weather showed promise of returning, someone stole it.

I can see now where I was a bit naïve. I just propped my bike up against the wall, thinking it was safe in the secure garage. To be fair, other bikes were propped up as well, some locked, some not. It was, however, my bike that went walkabout.

So I reported it to the police, got an incident number and the brush off, and called my insurance company.

No problem there—stolen bikes are all too common—but they had definite ideas about how they wanted to settle the claim.

“We’ll send you a new bike,” they said.

“Look,” I told them. “I haven’t used the bike in a long time, I’m working full time now so I doubt I’ll get to use it any time soon. Can I just get the settlement and I’ll buy a new bike when I can actually use one?”

“Well, yes we could arrange a settlement,” the woman said, a bit uncertainly.

Half an hour later I was called by a bike company in Swindon. “Your insurance company just told us to send you a new bike,” the man said.

“I told them I wanted the money, not a bike.”

“Well, you could have the money,” he said, a bit uncertainly, “but, you know, deductible, fees…”

“So, I can get the money, then?”

“Sure. Now what kind of bike do you want?”

Three days and 200 quid later (deductible, fees, etc.) a delivery van appeared with a bike in a box. I assembled it, bought a sturdy lock and secured the bike to the ring bolted in the wall at the end of our parking bay put there for just that reason.

Two days later the bike, and the lock, were gone.

This time, I went down to the police station to report it so I could get the brush-off in person.

“You’re not really going to look for the bikes, are you?” I asked as she handed me my incident number, assured me they would look into it and told me to go away, um, I mean, have a good day.

“No,” she said.

"And what's your fucking problem...I mean, how can I help you?"
So I called my insurance company. Again. Not surprisingly, there was a bit of confusion and consternation but, after a few phone interviews wherein I was subject to rigorous interrogation to ascertain if I was a compulsive liar, incredibly negligent or just plain unlucky, they consented to send me another new bike.

“Can’t I just have the money?” I pleaded.

“Well, you could have the money, I suppose…” she said, a bit uncertainly.

“You know they’re just going to steal this one, too?”

“Most likely,” she agreed.

Half an hour later I got a phone call from Swindon.

“We sent you a bike last week,” the man said. “Was there some problem with the order?”

“No,” I told him. “They stole it.”

“Oh. So what kind of bike do you want?”

To their credit, they suggested a really sturdy lock, one that would take an hour or more to get through.

“Well, it’s in a secure garage,” I said. “Once they get in, they pretty much have all night.”

I bought the lock anyway.

Three days and 200 quid later, another bike-in-a-box arrived. This time, I dragged the box up the two flights of stairs, down the corridor, across the catwalk and up two more flights of stairs to our flat. There, I left the box in the hallway (after asking my one and only neighbor if they minded) and tried to think of something more permanent to do with it.

I wanted to sell it, but in order to recoup the amount of money it had cost me, I would have to sell it for nearly the retail cost, and no one wants to pay that much for a used bicycle, even one that hasn’t been taken out of the box.

This is what my current bike looks like.
I could have sold it cheap and taken the loss but if I was going to do that, I figured I might as well just stick it out in the town square with a sign reading, “Steal me” on it.

And so, after a week of indecision, it is still in the box, propped up in the hallway, a testament to the tenacity of the local thieves and my refusal to hand another bike over to them.

I expect it will be there for some time to come.

For the record, this is what my original bike looks like.

And this is what my second bike looks like.


  1. It sounds like there is a whole system in place based on thievery--report stolen bike, get police report of same, file insurance claim, receive replacement bike--and repeat. I wonder how long this cycle would be allowed to continue before the insurance company pulled the plug!

    1. Actually, when I told this story to a friend of mine who happens to be in the insurance business, he told me that this is a common practice--thieves will target a place, steal what they want, wait a week or two and then come back for the new stuff.

      That's why I won't put the new, new bike back in the garage--they're probably just waiting to see if I'm that stupid. And I really don't want to have to call the insurance company. Again.