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
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. *