My Bike Is Was Hot

July 24th, 2008 · 26 Comments


Lakeview, Chicago

:: :: I wrote a post about my bike a few months ago but haven’t published that post yet. Now I have something else to share about my bike. It’s very long, but if you go to the end you can see my original post. It’s kind of sad in hindsight. :: ::
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Last Thursday my bike was stolen. I wanted to talk about it earlier here, but at first I couldn’t bring myself to look at this older photo of it and I knew I wanted to include this photo in the post. And then I wrote this all out and couldn’t bear to look at it again. But I just need to write this down and if you think it’s dumb, then you think it’s dumb. I just need to get it out.

Starting last Thursday, I was dog sitting for Brian and Jill’s dog, Vegas, and was using their car. I came home at 7:15 p.m. and saw that I’d left my bike out in our courtyard between the stairs to our apartment and the door to our downstairs neighbor’s apartment. I made a mental note to put my bike in our basement when I left to go back and hang out with Vegas more. I picked up a little in the house and made something to eat. When I went downstairs at 8:45 p.m., my bike was gone. Panic!

I checked with all the tenants on our property and no one had seen or heard anything. We looked all around, but it was no where to be found. After the neighbors went back in their houses I sort of freaked out. I tried to call Dallas and couldn’t get him. He was at a friend’s house. I called our landlords and somewhat bitched about how the gates are never locked. And how the basement door was wide open when I walked outside and no one was down there. I was pretty upset so I called Jess and started to tell her what happened. I was outside and I saw a police car go by. By the time it registered that I should report the robbery, their car was already down the block. It came by again, but this time it stopped and two officers came out. I hung up on Jess and ran down by them. I said, “I don’t know what you’re doing here, but my bike just got stolen.” They were in the neighborhood looking for a burglar. A theft had just been reported. Go figure. So either someone was ripping things off all over our block, or the thief had stolen something from someone, was on the run from the cops, and used my bike as a get-away.

The police filed a report for me, but not without such kind, comforting words as “don’t plan on getting your bike back, it’s probably on the south side by now” and “you thought you were moving to a safe neighborhood? sucker!” Great. They also seriously asked me if I had a Google t-shirt they could have after they asked where I worked. What the hell? At least I finally had a report.

I was somewhat amused to think of some thug pedaling his heart out on a pink bike with a basket on the front. Not that amused, though. I was mostly pissed off and heartbroken. I still couldn’t get Dallas on the phone and I called Jess back and cried for about an hour. I don’t know why I was so abnormally attached to that bike. It was like my pet died or something. I was thinking about all the places I’d been with the bike. I thought about the dent I put in the back fender right after I bought it and incorrectly attached it to a bike rack in front of Robey’s while getting dinner salads for Dallas and I once. I noticed that dent a lot while riding the bike and thought how someday it would rust and I’d always remember how it got there. Now I’ll never see it rust. I remembered all the trips to the grocery stores and all the errands I wouldn’t have been able to run without it. I remembered how when I bought it I hated the color, but grew to really love it. Pink!

I know it’s pretty pathetic and I was acting like a 6-year-old, but I was pretty distraught. It’s just a bike. But it was my bike and it meant a lot to me. I think there were a mix of a lot of things going on. I was really very mad at myself for not putting the bike away right when I noticed it was out and instead going upstairs for dinner. I’m very responsible about putting my bike away and this one time I wasn’t I paid. I was mad that I’ve been very lax about making sure our gates are locked. And that our fellow tenants also are. I beat myself up a lot over it how I thought it was all my fault.

I was angry that I thought we’d moved to a safe neighborhood and in the end the same thing happened as when I lived in the up-and-coming neighborhood. Back then my apartment was broken into, but I felt the same sort of violation this time. If my bike was stolen off some random street in Chicago, that’s one thing, but this was my home. I was upstairs eating a veggie wrap while at the bottom of the stairs, 100 feet away from me, someone was taking my property from my “safe” place. I was embarrassed that I always brag to everyone about how great and safe my neighborhood is and then this.

I was sad to have lost something that has given me so much freedom and contributed to a healthier lifestyle. Not to mention fun. At the end of the day, someone basically stole my car. I know this is more of the feeling that the bike gave me, rather than the bike itself, but I really loved the bike itself too. I was proud of it. People knew I loved it. Other people loved it. I had an awesome bike, and I knew it.

Finally, there was the monetary investment I made into it. It was a big splurge for me. I never imagined I’d ever spend that much on a bike, but it was worth every penny. It was the perfect bike for me. I knew what I wanted and I paid to get it. I justified the expense by not having car or car insurance or gas payments. So there was that, too.

When Dallas got home at about midnight or so he of course gave me a big hug and tried to share some kind words but I just started crying again. A week’s time has given me prospective. It’s a bike. It’s a thing. It can be replaced. No one was hurt. In a city where people are shot and killed every day, this is minor. I have enough money to buy a new bike. It’s not the end of the world. But I can’t get the image out of my head of the last time I saw my bike and I can’t help but to have this naive hope that one day I will open the gate, round the corner, and my bike will be where I left it. Dallas keeps telling me every day just to let it go. Today I did call my bike shop and inquire about replacements. I’m feeling better and I know I need a replacement soon. We’ll see what happens. I really can’t explain what my attachment to my bike was, but it is definitely leaving going to take some time for me to get over the loss.

Some fond bike memories on rachelleb.com:

- I Have a Bike!
- The Commute
- A Day At Montrose Beach
- Alternate Bike Commute
- On the Bike Path Over the Summer
- Olive Park
- Google Bike to Work Day
- Public Enemies Filming

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:: :: Original Post Below :: ::

I ride my bike just about every day, many days more than once a day. I can’t even imagine not having it now. Being carless for about 7 years now, having a bike has allowed me a lot of freedom and convenience that has made my life easier, more enjoyable and healthier.

I took this photo back in May. I rode my bike to the salon to get my hair cut. I was waiting a few minutes for my stylist to come out and I looked outside and thought “Man, I love my bike. And, look how cute it is!” I get compliments while I’m riding it all the time. Once, I was checking out at a store and one cashier wistfully looked outside and said to the other, “Oh, it’s such a nice day outside. I wish I could be out there. And look at that awesome pink bike!” I was just putting my wallet back into my purse, I picked up my bike helmet and proudly said “It’s mine!” as I walked out the door.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • tien

    for what it’s worth, i don’t think bike theft means a neighborhood is unsafe. if you leave your bike unlocked in the safest area, it’s going to get stolen.

    not that it doesn’t suck though.

  • Hixx

    Oh you’re breaking my heart. And I don’t think its trivial or silly or anything. I love my bike, if someone took my bike I would be really upset, and not just because someone stole something, but because my bike, MY bike, one of my favorite things I own, was taken. You totally should grieve for your bike. I hope you get a really new pretty one.

  • tina

    yeah, i’m with hixx. this seems like a totally normal reaction to me. i can’t even imagine how upset i would be if my bike was stolen. really sorry to hear about this. your bike was adorable!

  • RachelleB

    Thanks guys. I was getting kind of embarrassed that I was overreacting… but I was SO upset. Plus, I think I was like PMSing so extra emotional. It took me a whole week before I could even look at a photo of my bike!

  • Robin

    Agreed. I had a very similar reaction over my car when it was broken into (and it wasn’t even stolen). Sometimes we just get attached to *things* and there’s no logic with how we feel about them.

    Sorry about your bike. My boyfriend (who has a similar attachment to his bike) learned almost immediately upon moving here that you can’t leave your bike unlocked ANYWHERE…even on your second floor back porch (with an iron gate around the back yard).

  • jt

    I’m really sorry about your bike, I moved to Roscoe Village from an “unsafe” up and coming neighborhood, too (although unlike you, nothing had ever happened to me in my “unsafe” neighborhood). Within six months of moving to Roscoe Village, my place was broken into and they stole a couple thousand dollars worth of stuff, including, bizarrely, some personal photos I had hanging on the wall. This stuff happens everywhere–Roscoe Village is great and all, but it is still in a big city and it has big city problems.

  • Ray

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. At least YOU weren’t involved (i.e., you weren’t riding it and someone bike-jacked you) and didn’t get hurt.

    It’s much worse when someone you trust to be in your home steals from you — I had a housekeeper (when I lived in Carmel, IN) who had an assistant that stole cash from me, FROM INSIDE A LOCKED SAFE (the key for which was kept in a non-descript, discreet, hidden location in a different room frod said safe).

    Also, instead of spending your own money, maybe you can claim this on your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance (under comprehensive)?

  • RachelleB

    thanks, guys. sharing your stories reminds me that i’m not the only one. of course i’m not the only one.. it’s just nice to hear. commiserate!

    ray – i’m following up with my renter’s insurance but my deductible is probably going to eat up most of the value of the bike, but maybe not all. i don’t think i mentioned this, but my bike also had an after-market basket which held two bike locks and my helmet, which were also stolen.

  • Ray

    WTH is wrong with people? Again, I’m terribly sorry.

  • Nan

    ohmigod, i’m SO sorry! i agree with tien that it doesn’t mean your neighborhood is unsafe. people are just stupid.

    so last night, (in a rush), i had a sitter for the kids, went and dropped of josh at the airport, then sped downtown minneapolis to participate in a 5k run. parked my car in a ramp 5 blocks from the starting point AT the starting time, 7:30pm. thinking, i’d still be able to run – even if i was in the middle of the “walkers.” nope. i felt like you. pmsing and like a 6-year old i had this lump in my throat because i MISSED the race. obviously small, by the time i ran to the start every single person was gone. i couldn’t even see the tail end of it to attempt to catch up.

    of course, now that it’s been a day, i’m fine. no big loss. i run 3 miles every other night. if it was a marathon and i had “trained” for it, THEN i’d have a right to be upset for missing it. but still… it was the principle of really really wanting to participate.

    not the same, i know. but i felt ripped off and sad too.

    you know you can always call me to cry/vent too. the kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves and i can chat.

    miss you!
    take care!

  • Steve

    Welcome to Chicago, Rachelle. If you haven’t had at least one bike stolen, you’re doing something wrong.

  • RachelleB

    i guess i’ve finally arrived… 4 1/2 years later..

  • matt shobe

    Steve’s correct, I’m afraid. I’ve had two bikes stolen — one from my backyard in Wrigleyville in ’96, the other an obvious inside job, taken from a locked, underground garage storage locker in a Bucktown condo about a year later. (People with access to master keys that the building never switched out after construction finished.) Both felt like personal violations; your reaction is completely appropriate. It happens everywhere (except where I live now, which requires citizens to steal their own bikes to pad the local crime stats).

  • RachelleB

    Thank you guys. You’re making me feel better every day.

    It occurred to me that my bike is still “hot,” in the sense that it’s stolen and probably for sale somewhere.

    Also, I spoke to my insurance company and I am getting back more than double what I thought I would. Yay All State. If you don’t have renters’ insurance, you should. It’s only about a hundred bucks a year and has paid out many times that in my two robbery incidents. From an insurance standpoint, I guess it is good that my bike was stolen from my home. I don’t know if it would have been covered if it was stolen from somewhere else?

    Matt, I remember when you had to steal your own bike. Funny.

  • Ray

    So…have you thought about what kind of bike you’re gonna buy now with all of that claim money?

  • JP

    I can very much relate. I had a bike stolen 10 years ago while riding on the RAGBRAI bike ride across the state of Iowa. Both mine and my friend’s were stolen. We came out of our tents one morning and they were gone. I was devistated and mostly hurt by my loss of trust in humanity. I too filed a claim against my renter’s insurance. To this day still I always strategize just where and how I’m leaving/locking my bike and will often repeatedly have to go check on it. While in Chicago I would haul it up and down my 3 flights of stairs just because I was too paranoid to leave/lock it in the common areas. I feel your pain and although it’s just a ‘thing’ it is the attachment we had that was broken – the same as with any broken heart. I hope your old bike finds some TLC and you find a nice replacement bike and are able to move forward and fully enjoy it. Good Luck!

  • Erin

    Bummer! So sorry to hear of your bike loss! I too can relate! Since moving to Chicago 6 years ago, I’ve had 4 bikes stolen! Each time, they were locked up, either outside of my apartment, or locked to a rack on a busy city street. A fellow bike lover, I know what a crushing loss it is to suddenly not have a fun and easy way to get around on a daily basis. I hope you’re able to find a replacement soon!

  • Paul Baker

    Your bike was awesome, Rachelle. I was quite jealous of you the first time I saw it.

  • No Longer Biking

    Sorry to hear about your loss! I’ve had not one but two bikes stolen as well and have given up on biking in the city. If you do get a new bike, you could try the suggestions here:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/ugly-your-bike-tips.php

  • No Longer Biking

    And on rereading the post and the comments, I now realize that you’d left the bike unlocked! On the street!! In Chicago!!! What were you thinking….???

  • RachelleB

    hey, paul.. i think you need to paint your bike pink!

    @no longer biking – you’re right that it wasn’t locked.. but it wasn’t on the street. It was in our yard which is protected by two gates that lock. i thought it was safe there, but now i know it’s not!

  • RachelleB

    also, before you ask, the gates weren’t locked but the bike definitely couldn’t be seen from the street

  • JZ

    My bike was stolen too, in broad daylight, in front of the FeedBurner building on Randolph. I remember I took the 56 bus home, sitting there with my helmet on my lap. I was so sad.

    Sorry to hear about your bike, Rachelle.

  • RachelleB

    I remember you telling me about that. Seems so weird…. West Loop.. locked up.. no one saw it.. supposedly. That would have been sad if they left my helmet here, but they took that too. Safety first!

  • Joanna

    I’m so sorry about your bike. That’s such an awful feeling to have something stolen – such a violation. And yeah, you’re totally justified in your reaction. My friend just had her bike stolen here in Chicago too, and I sent her a link to your post to comisserate.

    When I was in high school, my bike and both my parents’ were stolen out of our garage in a “safe” suburban neighborhood. Bizarrely, my dad found his bike in a pawn shop two years later by chance. Never saw mine again though, of course.

  • Haley

    Did you ever find it? Someone just stole my husbands bike today and I am so mad and frustrated. We live in a very small town in CA (about 3 sq. miles) and figure someone walking through the neighborhood (and probably living in it) took it. I hope we run into them one day…

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