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It’s not how it looks: all bikes can get stolen

Denise Kirchner

Fri Oct 14 2011


The bike on its first tour along the Yarra. (Photo: Denise Kirchner)

A HOMAGE to my bike:

For an international student, public transport is really important. Especially if, like me, you want to live somewhere where rent is cheap. I live just two stops outside Zone 1, so to avoid paying for another ticket I try to get on the train at Huntingdale Station. Walking there takes me 15 minutes. So, just to make it easy, I got myself a bike.

A cheap one. Hopefully also reliable, comfortable and second-hand. Having a used bike wasn’t just about the price – I figured the chance of it getting stolen would be minimised by its aged look. After a few failed attempts, I found a used bike trader.

Walking home the next day, I was excited. Would this be my last trudging walk home ever? I was sure a bike would be great.

The next day I went to the meet the trader. It wasn’t what I expected – just a house on the corner in a suburban street. Music was blaring from the house when the guy opened the door. Unshaved, he looked like his last haircut was a long time ago.

But he was nice. He led me through his feral backyard – and in between the uncut grass, were bikes. Everywhere. I had to push my way through the reeds to reach them. He’d arranged them according to price. I went to the $50 section. And there it was. It was love at first site. A green-yellow mountain bike. It had everything I was searching for: a wonderful colour, two wheels, breaks. It was so bright I thought I wouldn’t even need lights.

In case the bike had any problems, the trader gave me his business card. Yes, he had one. It had his name as ‘Guru Jim B’. He told me he makes a living from selling used bikes. His friend has a bike-shop, and when people buy a new bike they often give him the old one. I was relieved it all sounded… legal.

That same day I did my first bicycle tour along the Yarra River. I was so proud. The next months we spent great times together. There was also my first accident I shared with “Biky”. It was when I was heading home from University, a seven kilometre ride from Caulfield to Clayton, along the suburbs at dusk. I was calling my mum back home, so I was distracted. I didn’t see a puddle. My bike lost slipped and I fell. I was glad I wore shorts that day. My knee starting bleeding and the phone call to mum was disconnected.

I called mum back so she wouldn’t worry as I jumped back on the bike. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised the full extent of my accident. My leg was open, blood running from the leg into my shoes and my white socks where soaked with blood.

But Biky and I survived. I knew then we had a connection. Most days I rode to the train station with Biky, left it there locked and went to city with train. My friends and my family where more concerned about the safety of my bike than I was. When they warned me about Biky’s safety, I would say “No worries, my bike is so used and ugly – no-one will steal it”.

One day when I was coming back from the city, cycling home in the bike lane, I got stopped by a police car. They said my hat was not a real helmet. To be honest, I’m not good at bike helmets. At home in Germany, there’s no law saying you need them. The policeman gave me a fine.

I told him the truth, that it is unusual for Germans to wear helmets. I was too honest to get away from the fine. The policeman was very strict – he fined me $153. To think I could have spent that money on a better lock for my bike. But then, I’d have no story to tell.

I kept on with Biky. It was so reliable, and stayed with me for months. Until one day, a friend drove me home. I mentioned it’d be nice if they dropped me off at the station so I could pick up my bike. I went around the corner to the train station and looked at the fence where I had locked it. I saw a familiar lock and helmet. My bike had been stolen.

I walked back to my friend’s car, my lock and helmet in my hands. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry.

The next few days, I felt like I was missing something. My Biky was gone. What I thought impossible had happened.

Every bike can get stolen – no matter how thick your lock or how bright and ugly (but wonderful) your bike is. I’ll always treasure what the good and bad times I had with my bike.

But, should you see a bright old yellow-green bike in and around Melbourne, do let me know. You’d make its real owner very, very happy.