Wheels Gone: Bike-Stealing Season

A forlorn, abandoned bike, sprawled in the ditch, wheels akimbo, handlebars twisted. It’s a common sight along the trails around Yellowknife, especially as spring turns to summer. “Where did you come from?” you might idly wonder as you pass by one these rusted, trashed victims.

The moment I found out my own bicycle had been stolen, however, an indignant rage consumed me. I posted a ranting ad on YKTrader, starting with “BIKE STOLEN — HUGE REWARD OFFERED.” I ended it with something like “There is no reward offered, I just wanted you to read this so I could say, F*** you, you A**hole.” I can’t remember all the details, but between that opening and closing I delivered a ranting spiel about how they had just stolen my infant child’s summer bike rides. I admit: I was a tad over the top. But in my defense I had just woken up, after a night of broken sleep thanks to the aforementioned baby, and my partner had just told me that my bike been stolen.

***

The RCMP have no statistics on stolen bikes in Yellowknife. They categorize stolen items by value, not type. But how can we really value a stolen bike? Sure, in monetary terms, you could take the original cost — my invoice from 2007 says $250. But what about the cost of fuel saved by cycling to work every day, the cost of cabs saved by cycling home after a night out, the cost of public transport, renting a car on holidays — even owning a car. For some, their bike does it all.

Then you get to the even more intangible stuff, like my partner’s much-loved two-wheeler, stolen last autumn after a thousands-of-kilometres cycle through South America. What’s the price on the bike that won you victory in hard-fought races, took on the ice road in -25 C, transported you around new cities, waited for you faithfully in the luggage hall in new countries? And how about the health benefits of cycling, the burning of calories, the toning of muscles, the releasing of dopamine?

There are even future, yet-to-unfold adventures to account for — in my case, those lost summer cycles with my baby in tow. That one is connected to past memories of my sister and me, one on the crossbar, one on the back, cycling through the countryside with my dad.

***

So what to do when your bike gets stolen? Does posting a reward just encourage more bike thievery, or is it a sure way to get your ride back? One friend posted a $200 reward for her two-wheeler when it was nabbed from outside her workplace last year. She had recently splashed out on a beautiful custom-built bike intended for long-distance travel in exotic places, and it was worth a lot of money. What was another $200 to get it back?

Her plan worked. A guy met her and handed it over, damaged but salvageable, for the wad of cash. It cost even more money to repair, but at the end of the day she did have her bike back.

Another friend was on the other end of this scenario once. He noticed a trashed bike on his way home from work one day, thrown in a heap in the usual style of abandoned bikes. Upon closer inspection, he recognized it at once as a bike that had been reported stolen that morning. Heck, he even knew where the owner lived. Excited to help out, he proudly delivered it back — and distinctly felt under suspicion that he had stolen it himself.

***

I took down my ad after it hit 1000 views, and after I had received an equally indignant response to it: “I am neither a thief nor an A**hole,” it went. “I just clicked on this ad because I wanted to help a fellow human being.” They went on to suggest checking behind the RCMP building (where there’s a small rack of rescued bikes). I did, with no luck, but thanks for the advice, and sorry you had to read my angry ad.

My bike is still missing, and I’m still wondering what to say to the RCMP when they asked me about its value. Where to start? It was five years old with a bit of rust, needed tuning… I found the invoice from 5 years ago in my email — the wonder of the internet. The bike was $250. The little retro bell I bought tacked on another $25. When I moved up here, I got winter tires — add another $50. Oh, and a water bottle holder… hmmm, maybe another $25… But at the end of the day, it’s like that cheesy credit card ad that encourages everyone to go wildly into debt every Christmas says: priceless.

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