Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Tale of the Pink Bike

Today is bicycle day, at least if you ask the good people of Theme Thursday. And you are in luck, because it just so happens that I am an expert on bicycles. Especially on pink bicycles with a tendency to break. It is also kind of creepy that today would be bicycle day, because yesterday while I was driving Muschu to the store, I stopped for a girl on a bike, but the car in the other lane didn’t. He hit the girl going 50 km/h, she crashed into his windshield, breaking it, the bike fell into parts and the girl was thrown onto the ground in front of my car. We called the ambulance, and helped the girl, but luckily she seemed to be fine. Just a few scratches and bruises. Which is pretty amazing considering she wasn’t wearing a helmet.

I’ve never been in a bad car crash, and while I have drawn blood when crashing with my bicycle, I haven’t had any major accidents. Knock on wood. This is not to say that I haven’t been close. For about 10 years, I was the proud owner to a pink bicycle who did everything in its power to kill me. Or itself. To this day I still don’t know if that bike was just self-destructive, or homicidal.

See, I loved that pink bike. I rode it every single day and we became best friends. I could almost make the 2 kilometers from my home to school without touching the handlebar once. It was my trusted companion for many years. After high school I moved away from home and went off to college in another city. I got an apartment not too far from the university I was attending and brought my bike with me so I could ride it to school.

And that’s when everything changed. During the next 4 years my bike would suffer horrible and often completely inexplicable damage, until finally meeting its demise on a cold September night. People will often not believe me when I tell them the story of my bike, and will say things like “No way that actually happened” or “They did what??” I have a new bike now that has two flat tires serves me well, but it’s fun to occasionally look back and remember that poor bike and have a good laugh or two.

I think growing up in a quiet place out in the archipelago left my bike unprepared for the real world and unable to defend itself. All the big city bikes knew how to take care of themselves and opened a can of whoop ass if someone messed with them. This is the only possible reason I can think of to explain how my bike would let someone saw off a vital part of its anatomy without saying a thing. Which leads me to believe that everything is my own fault. As a responsible parent to an adolescent bike I should have educated my bike on the hazards of strangers wielding chain saws. I was naïve.

My pink bicycle looked like this. Except it was pink, obviously. And another make. Also, it’s not exactly the same model, but other than that, it looked exactly like this.

When I left for the big city, my bike had a broken lock and needed a new one. I figured, why not get a padlock. No one would ever try to break a padlock. That was the first time things went wrong. Because they did try. Someone tried to take the bike while it was standing outside my apartment building. And in the process they managed to bend the padlock beyond recognition. It couldn’t even be opened with the key. But at least they didn’t get the bike. This, however, meant that for the first time ever I had to send for my dad to get the bike.

Like a knight in shining armor, he rode in on his white horse and took the bike away to his castle. Or mostly, he just drove to my rescue in his dark van and took my bike away to his garage. I wasn’t there when he parked outside my apartment and grabbed the locked bike, but afterwards he told me that quite a few people stopped and looked at what he was doing. He said he felt like a criminal and wanted to tell everyone that it was his daughter’s bike and that he wasn’t stealing it. I’m sure they wouldn’t have believed him anyway. Good thing Finns are introvert. No one would dream of interfering in anyone else’s business. In Finland, if you see someone walking around with a locked bike, you’re likely to think to yourself: “Goddamn thieves…” and then go about your business. And this is what the people did when they saw dad picking up my bike. Dad then used a bolt cutter to get rid of the ruined lock and brought the bike back to me a little worse for wear, but still very much functioning.

I continued to use that bike almost every day. I bought a new lock. It wasn’t expensive, but I figured it would do. It didn’t. One day I rode my bike to the grocery store and shopped. It must have been the weekend or something, because I swear, I bought the entire store. I had two huge bags of groceries and I was going to hang them on the handlebar while I rode the bike home. I remember thinking that I was going to have a hard time balancing with that much weight hanging off the handlebars, but it turned out I didn’t have to worry about that.

When I got back outside to the bike, I tried to open the lock, but instead of turning in the lock, the key broke into two pieces, leaving half the key inside the lock. No matter how hard I stared at the lock, the key didn’t magically fall out of there. I had no way of unlocking the bike and resorted to walking home with my groceries. By the time I came home, I was sure my arms would fall off. The last few hundred meters I had to stop ten times to let my arms and hands rest. I was miserable and swore I would leave my bike at the store for someone to take.

I changed my mind a few days later and once again sent my dad to get my bike. By then someone had already tried to take it, of course, and the front wheel was bent in a pretty 90-degree angle. Dad said that this time he wasn’t as bothered by people staring, pointing at him and calling the cops while he picked up the bike into his big dark van.

It’s a good thing dad loves me, because he did an awesome job fixing my little pink bike. He fixed my wheel and brought the bike back to as good as new. Well, almost. I went out and got a new lock. This time I paid top dollar for my lock. My new industrial grade, super strength lock would hold anything and would never break. This was the kind of lock they used to secure Titanic to the dock with, the kind of lock I had to bring an extra bag for just to tote it around. The kind of lock I eventually hired little third world children to carry for me.

I also tried this approach, but despite what you might think, it wasn’t very practical at all.

All was well for a while. I rode the bike and only occasionally would someone try to steal it. But one early morning after I had worked through the night at a bar, I made to go home and found my bike lying on the side on the ground. The reason it wasn’t standing up was that someone had bent the stand. It was jutting out on the side, making it useless to lean the bike on. It also made it impossible to pedal and impossible for the back wheel to spin. It was 8 am and I had to half lead, half carry the bike home. I was silently praying that the next time someone would actually succeed in taking the goddamn bike so I wouldn’t have to fix it anymore.

Daddy once again came through for me and he helped me get rid of the old mangled stand and mount a new one. But I should have known things were only going to get worse. With a brand new stand that worked perfectly, I was riding the bike every day. And then one day it stopped dead in its tracks. The brakes suffered a catastrophic failure, but instead of just stop working, they locked completely, making it impossible to move the bike even an inch.

The first time it happened I was in the middle of a busy intersection. I had a green light and I was cruising through when the brakes suddenly slammed on. I was thrown against the handlebar when the bike came to a dead stop in the middle of the street, cars everywhere. I tried shuffling the bike forward a little, but the brakes were clamped down on the wheel so hard I couldn’t move it at all. I had to get off the bike and carry it from the intersection. Cars were blazing past, drivers giving me the finger, horns blaring. I later realized I probably should have been afraid carrying a bike through a busy intersection, but at the time all I could think of were the unspeakably evil things I wanted to do to my bike when I got home. I won’t say anything, but my fantasies included a chainsaw, a tub of acid and a clown.

From that day on, whenever I was in a particular hurry, the brakes on my bike would malfunction, always leaving me stranded in the middle of an intersection. Often I would leave my bike somewhere after the brakes malfunctioned, only to pick it up a day or two later. And always, I was disappointed when the bike was still there.

As if someone had listened to my prayers, not long after my brakes broke for the first time, someone DID take a saw to my bike. I had left my bike outside the door to my apartment building, in the same place where I always left it. I was headed for class and grabbed my bike. I remember vaguely thinking something was off with the way it looked. I rode the bike to school, got off and proceeded to try to fold down the brand new stand I had mounted on the bike after the first one was bent and rendered useless. This morning, however, the stand was not only rendered useless. It was gone. I took a closer look and realized it wasn’t entirely gone. It had been SAWED off at the base. My brand new stand had been sawed off, leaving me with a little part of it dangling uselessly from the side of the bike.

I realize, of course, that the person who did it probably was in dire need of half a bicycle stand and he simply couldn’t get it from anywhere else, especially it being in the middle of the night. He was probably very sorry to have to chop off my stand and probably intended to leave me a note, apologizing, but was interrupted. Yes, chopping off someone’s stand made perfect sense to me. Cause if you wanted to vandalize a bike, why do something easy and predictable like emptying the tires when you could spend 2 hours in the middle of the night trying to take off half a stand. Also, taking the stand at the base where it was fastened with two bolts you could easily open with a screwdriver was too easy. After this I recognized the whole stand idea as completely worthless and tried telling myself it made much more sense to leave the bike lying on the ground whenever I left it somewhere. By then, what had started as love for my bicycle, had slowly turned into contempt and disgust.

After having been stolen, recovered, abused, maimed and generally broken down one piece at a time, my bike was still working, albeit sporadically and weakly at best. But there came a day when I realized it was a lost cause and donated it to my younger brother, who would subsequently pick it apart. That day came one cold September morning. I was once again headed to class and made to grab my bike off the stand outside my apartment building. For the longest time I stood there and just looked at what was left of my bike.

During the night someone had taken the front wheel. What was left was a sad carcass of a pink bike that I had once loved dearly but now come to hate with a vengeance. The back wheel was crooked, the front wheel missing completely, the industrial strength lock was twisted, but had held whatever it had been put through during the night, and on the side hung the sawed off stump of the stand.

It looked like this. But pink.

And that’s when I said goodbye to my little pink bike. It had served me well, but I had to let it go. The big city was too big for it. One last time my dad came driving in with his big dark van to take my bike away. Our relationship was over. Thank God. *


  1. aw...poor bike...chainsaw wielding strangers...yeah...oh my...happy theme thursday!

  2. You have good bike stories. I too have been lucky to have not died on the bike. And I speak from experience for twenty years ago I was driving with a friend up out of a campground and four mountain bike racers were flying down the gravel road as we came around a corner. One of them rode head on into us. I'll never forget that. He died almost instantly. It still haunts me...

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your bike... :(
    But I am glad I found your blog! :)
    Loved your post. Happy TT! Hugs/ Jo.

    Ja, verkligen roligt att hitta en "likasinnad" här i blogosfären...! :) Kram!

  4. All Hail the Pink Bike!


    I enjoyed your story.

  5. That is the hardest hard-luck bike story I've ever heard, although not as bad as Lance Armstrong's story about losing his right and left nuts--of the testicular variety--to cancer. That's a REALLY hard-luck biking story, even though it ends pretty well, what with him winning the Tour de France seven times and getting to shack up for a little while with Cheryl Crow, who can sing me to sleep at night any day of the week. Any day of the week assuming my beautiful wife, Kerry, is dead, of course, otherwise I'll also lose my nuts, except not to cancer like Lance but as a result of a swift, angry kick to my groin. Not that my wife is an angry person, mind you, it's just that she doesn't take to the idea of me cheating on her anymore than the next woman does, especially if the next woman is Cheryl Crow, Charlize Theron or has breasts and a functional woo-woo. Or even if she doesn't have a functional woo-woo. It's the "she" part that matters. I know of a parapalegic who doesn't have a functional woo-woo, but she and her husband are remarkably frisky, although how I can only imagine how. Not that I do imagine, becauuse that would be wrong, right? Not really, really wrong, like lying or cheating on a test or stealing, and especially not as wrong as trying to steal somebody's pink bicycle. That's really wrong. What if the victims of your crime have groceries to carry home, like you did, only they couldn't because your bike was the most abused bike in the whole world and just sort of quit working or couldn't work because it was bent out of shape? It's enough to make you cry and cry hard, although not as hard as seeing a grown woman on a pink bike can make you cry. Pink? Really? It's so girly girl. Bikes shouldn't be girly girly. They should be black, or dark red, or Bianchi green, or cobalt blue or even white, although white shows dirt and grease something fierce. Anyway, it's hard to picture your cute little pink bike, especially what it looked like new because of the way you described it getting all roughed up by gangs of very bad theives in the big city. I have something in mind, though. Is this it?

  6. One more thing: You know this commentor named Järnebrand? Great name! It's like a brand name and a name name all rolled into one name. What could be better than that? Järnebrand should start a company and sell a really cool product called Järnebrand. Just sayin'.

  7. That was a great bike story. No. Saga. It was epic.

    I have a bunch of bike adventures to tell, but none of them evoke the same emotion as this one. The tears, the anger, and the clown. I'm really curious about the clown part.

  8. @MikeWJ - You need to copyright Järnebrand. Right now. I don't know what Järnebrand would sell, but the hipsters would buy it whatever it was. It's all about the umlaut.

  9. Those two little dots will push containers of merchandise through retail outlets all around the world. Maybe even pink bikes. Here's my first draft of the television ad:

    A man is riding a bike down a wet street. The pink frame stands out in sharp contrast to the black asphalt. As he pulls near the camera, he stops, removes his tam and says, "Hi, I'm Järnebrand, and this is the Järnebrand Pinkster, a bicycle that revolutionizes the way we pedal and lock up our bikes. What makes the bike different? It starts with the umlaut."

  10. I love it. Then we can have artistic shots of disembodied umlauts riding bikes, sipping cappuccino, and raving it up on the dance floor. It's brilliant actually.

  11. Brian - Yeah, those chainsaw wielding strangers are really a piece of work. Watch out for them. Happy theme thursday.

    VE - It's very easy to forget how vulnerable we are and how fast everything can go wrong. At least I didn't have the whole going too fast problem with my pink bike. It was more of a question of whether it would roll at all, or just stand still.

    Jo - It seems the people on my blog are really loving your last name (I assume it is your last name.) If I were you, I be careful, they'll be stealing your identity in no time. Happy TT, I'm glad you enjoyed my story of woe. :)

    ReformingGeek - All Hail the Pink Bike! I'm going to make that my new slogan.

    MikeWJ - In all fairness, Lance's hard-luck bike story only beat mine on acount of I don't have testicles that can fall off. So yeah, he's not so great after all. And my bike wasn't Barbie pink. It was hot pink, bordering on purple. And in my defence, I was 12 when I got it. I wasn't as dark then as I am now. Something clearly went wrong between then and now.

    Mike - When we meet in Sweden, with lots of wine, I shall tell you all about the clown.

    Mikes - Your fascination with Järnebrand is fascinating. And you will be even more amazed when I tell you that Järnebrand is Swedish for Iron fire. AND, M has one of those dot thingies you call umlauts, but aren't really umlauts in Swedish, because they're actual letters, in his last name. S*****ö. There you have it.

  12. Wow, M's last name is S*****ö? In the english language a * represents a star, or the multiplication sign. We also use it to let people know that there is some really teeny tiny condition we don't really want them to know about at the bottom of the contract we've conned them into signing. What other strange letters do you have in your alphabet? How do you pronounce *? And is it normal to have so many of them in a row?

    Mike is lying about not having a great bike story. When you guys meet in Sweden (BTW, I'm so jealous!)get him to tell you the story of how he kept leaving his bike out in the street but it was so evil thieves kept returning it to him.

  13. Holy crap! Nicky, I forgot about that one. That was the same bike that i broke in half when I plowed into that station wagon. I was such an idiot to ride that thing without brakes.

  14. Nicky - I'm glad you asked, because we have a bunch of strange letters in our language, and we're very proud of them all. Å is a vowel, often used next to a consonant, but sometimes next to a vowel, and sometimes even next to a vowel on one side and a consonant on the other. It's a very versatile letter. Å is also a word in itself, meaning a smallish river, with or without a bridge over it, and sometimes with boats in it. Ä is another good letter. Ö is yet another, meaning island.

    *, however, is not a letter. In this case I used it as substitue for real letters in M's name. He's real big in the computer world and doesn't want his name associated with a silly blog like mine. But S*****ö would be a terrific name, don't you think? And I'm pretty sure the pronounciation would be something akin to Sgjorkaydseö.

    Mike - You're a nut. You can't ride a bike without brakes. You need to take off the handlebars as well, otherwise there's no challenge.

  15. Ziva, you managed to make tears fall in my coffee this morning. Such a sad tale of bliss, love, good, evil, pathos, depravity, and loss of trust. I truly felt tears rolling down my face when I looked at the battered little pink bike. Do the Fins have a particular hatred for pink? Is it like serial killers always choosing skinny brunets? Who is the miscreant who would savage that poor little pink bike in such a foul way? Do you have capital punishment in Finland? I'm just sayin...

  16. Finland -- bad for pink bikes. Good for pink bike vandals. Great story and visuals!

  17. Linda - Finns have a particular hatred for everything that isn't alcohol. Sadly, our deep adherence to human rights has eliminated the capital punishment, but I'm pretty sure there's a special place in hell reserved for people who violate pink bikes.

    Lauren - Finland - providing pink bike vandals with job opportunities since 2004.

  18. I know it wasn't funny then but it is funny now. Poor bike - it served you well.
    I've been thru quite a few bikes but never dealt with stolen bikes. Mine looked like yours cuz I wrecked them

    gosh you have pink story for this next TT

    mine TT is

  19. Leslie - That pink bike has definitely given me something to laugh about later, even though I struggled to see the funny in it back then. I'm lucky, though, because at least I've never wrecked a bike.



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