I’ve had my bike stolen and it feels like I’ve lost a friend or at least a favourite pet.
So this is what happened; I’m on a week long course in offices on King Street in the centre of Manchester and yesterday I locked her up at the front of the office. I had asked the security man in reception where the secure cycle parking was (in a more sarcastic than hopeful tone) and he pointed me to the nearest lamp post. After a day fretting about her (I checked her at lunchtime) I decided today to park her around the side of the building at a point where I could at least see her through the training room window. I found a place against railings outside Bang & Olufsen. Admittedly there were less people walking through this pedestrian area but yesterday the only ner-do-wells I had spotted were 4 guys sharing a bottle of sherry. I was only using a flexy lock; my regular D lock had been left at the office and although I have a second one I could have carried cable locks are more flexible and allow you to secure to a variety of objects. I guess the nearest Sheffield stand would have been at the junction of King Street and Cross Street.
I couldn’t help but look out of the window every 10 minutes to check her, and can therefore pin-point when she was taken. At 14:40 we took a break for coffee and as I returned to the training room I saw she’d gone. I ran out and hunted around the adjacent streets. I found the lock which they had discarded after cutting it through and I asked a few workmen if they had seen anything but already I sensed the trail was running cold. Then a guy from DTZ gave me his business card and said he saw 2 guys with a duffle bag and bolt-cutters taking the bike. He thought he might be able to identify them but I knew the chances of her return would still be slim. As soon as the course ended I went into B&O and asked if they had any CCTV cameras, although their camera would be no help to me they directed me to the office block on 55 King Street and sure enough camera 15 was trained on the railing where my bike was. Data protection act prevented old footage from being reviewed without a police request so the next step was to report the incident at Bootle St. I had plenty of info to give them so they were quite interested in the crime and whilst in there a friendly local football hooligan (who was popping in to ensure he was nowhere near Switzerland) spotted my lock and said he’d just seen a bike being stolen. I thought he might be winding me up so I let him provide the detail rather than let him agree with my tale. He had seen 3 ‘crackheads’ with a boltcutter taking a bike around Portland Street. One was already on a bike which had a ‘lock around the saddle’ – this I think was the mechanism I had mounted below the seat in order to secure a child bike seat.
I left the station and wandered up towards Piccadilly Gardens just in case they were still around; maybe the 3rd guy wanted to ‘find’ a bike as well? I thought about what I might do if I met them. I had my pannier to knock the perp to the ground but then what? I realised that with my cleats on the wet Manchester streets I was less mobile than usual and other than the element of suprise in an attack, I couldn’t back this up with anything ‘effective’ and even if I knew what I was doing 3 scrotes against 1 normally law-abiding upstanding member of the community would not make good odds. Satisfied that I had at least made a token effort to hunt her down I waited for a 135 bus which took twice as long to return me 5 miles home than it should have taken. Not angry and bitter, but feeling more foolish and mostly sad.
I now have redundant front and rear lights and trip computer that have no anchor points (I remove them from the bike through the day to make it less attractive to thieves!) I have a child bike seat with no means of securing (and it’s actually on loan to me) and 2 panniers with no pannier frame to secure them. Bike cost me about £250 direct from my salary through the Bike to Work scheme. Cost of replacing would be £425 + £100 on mudguards, tyres, pannier rack, frame bag, lights, trip computer and of course the kickstand.
Police might recognise and catch the toe-rags but the chance of getting the bike back will be very slim. I don’t think they would get more than £20 or £30 for her. She doesn’t look that flash, they aren’t going to coo over the puncture resistance of the £45 worth of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, the functional kickstand or the handy frame bag (mostly containing lemony KFC hand wipes).
I’m going to miss Tracey Trek and no other bike will be quite the same. Yes my Princess Principia is faster and I’ve had wilder adventures on Candy Cannondale but Tracey was always my favourite. We’d been together over 2 years and ridden more than 4,000 miles together. In our time we’d seen first light at the top of Holcombe Hill together, been knocked down and fallen down together, kicked ass in a sprint triathlon (overtaking TT bikes) and attacked badly behaved motorists. We’d ridden 50 miles before breakfast, and climbed to the highest cafe in England (altitude 1903ft). Not bad going for a hybrid with full mud guards, a pannier rack and a honky horn – everyone will miss that honky horn.