Expensive bikes just get ripped off

Get yourself a cheap bike with character and stick it to Osama bin Laden.

by John Hoff

Seven months later, I am almost over the theft of my bike. The bike, I decided, had a destiny of its own to fulfill. My little son helped me work through my feelings about the stolen bike I call BOD, the Bike of Destiny.

Although I was content to stew in my dark private rage, I didn’t want my 8-year-old to carry my grudge secondhand, so I told him the bike was off having more adventures, really. He demanded to know what kind of adventures.

The next thing I knew, it was an epic tale of talking bikes that we were writing together with me typing and my child dictating. A portion of his novel even was published in the Daily parody issue, but the story is grander, more complex, weaving in characters like Test Dummy Human (a mannequin made of tree bark so the bikes can interact with humans) and a pack of orphan mall rats that sleep in a Burger King playground at night.

My son assures me nobody checks the playground before Burger King closes. A pack of mall rats totally could stow away there. To hide in the playground with the mall rats, the bikes would have to go up the biggest slide sideways. But it could be done, handlebars bent downward. My son assures me of this in a tone of supreme confidence.

(Get a grip, John! It’s just a child’s imaginary story. Your stolen bike is not hiding in some Burger King playground with a gang of orphan mall rats.)

I have racked my brain to figure out what I could have done to keep my bike from getting stolen. It was such a nice bike. Months later, the simple truth hits me Ö that bike was too nice. In fact, it was the nicest bike I ever owned and only became my property by a series of weird, fateful twists and turns. What a person needs around this campus is a cheap bike with character, because expensive bikes just get ripped off. I have done my best to act upon this insight and help flood Dinkytown with affordable wheels.

On my mother’s farm, there are many bikes. My brother salvaged them from curbside discards, sheriff’s auctions and a few from old houses he purchased as tax forfeitures. There are dozens of bikes missing wheels, missing seats, bent at strange angles. Some have locks hanging on them like necklaces. Maybe tears were shed over their loss, or maybe somebody just rode them to death and tossed them aside. I have hauled more than a dozen such bikes to Dinkytown, simply loading up my van when I visit family and donating the bikes to a local shop.

My son came along during last week’s bike run, playing fetch with a dog at the shop which had a collar made from a bike chain. That dog knew when fetching a ball he should not run in the street, cowering visibly at the very thought of cars Ö scary, bad automobiles speeding in the street. I could see the wheels turning in my son’s little head as he watched. This is Bike Dog who helps the talking bikes, because he hates cars.

One of my donated bikes at the shop has earned the name “Beach Bike.” It’s a classic 1960s cruiser, red like the bike in “Fun With Dick and Jane.” A previous owner festooned the bike with beach-themed stickers, including a sticker from a scuba club. I didn’t recognize the sticker, but a dude at the bike shop explained its significance to me. Now fully restored, the Beach Bike can be yours for a mere $120. Part of the allure would be wondering how this unique bike with a California look and feel ended up on a farm in rural Minnesota, then hitched a ride to Dinkytown.

Last weekend I wanted to donate the most classic bikes to the repair shop, but I had to make my selections based on which ones could be pried from the frozen mud. Trailing long, brown blades of grass which had grown between the spokes, the bikes looked like bottom-feeding fish hung up on hooks for a trophy photo. One had a torn banana seat and rusting old-school handlebars. The bike dude pulled that one aside to give it restorative priority.

But I can’t flood this campus with cheap bikes all by myself. If you have bikes in bad repair that you no longer need, drop them off someplace that will fix them up and put them back on the street. President George W. Bush says this nation is addicted to oil. I certainly respect the office of the president and want to respond to such a powerful environmentalist message.

No, I can’t love President Bush the way I love (really love) that beautiful tree-hugger Julia “Butterfly” Hill but, well, it takes all kinds to make the world go around. Salvaging rusting bikes mired in frozen muck, I think, “Take that, Osama bin Laden!”

So get yourself an affordable bike with a mysterious history. Then you can ride the campus like a colorful character from a storybook, immune to thieves with your cheap, sticker-decorated bike.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]