The time I reclaimed my stolen bicycle
Sometimes in life you get a premonition, a dreadful feeling in the pit of your stomach that you can’t explain. You just know that shit is about to go down. Well, this was one of those times.
One week earlier and my beautiful trusty steed, the Trek bicycle had been stolen. Now you have to understand this wasn’t just any ordinary bike. We had a special connection and would do everything together. From trips to local food markets, to challenging uphill excursions, there was nothing this hybrid wasn’t up for. One time we went off road and she got a puncture, oh how we laughed!
It was a day that will haunt me forever, the middle of the afternoon in Victoria Park on Christmas Eve. I’d left her alone but safe, D-locked to the nines on a bike rail. Surely no-one in their right mind would steal a bike on such an auspicious occasion? One hour later and my optimistic faith in the Christmas spirit would prove to be fatally wrong. She was gone, not even a goodbye letter. My heart was broken. Merry fucking Christmas.
For the next week I was glued to Gumtree.com. For those outside the UK, Gumtree is like a shittier version of Ebay, where thieves post stolen bikes for sale at knock down prices. Day after day I thought I spotted her, only for it to be a false alarm, as another bike with similar looks but lacking her panache jumped out the screen. How is she doing, are they looking after, do they ride her better? These were just some of the questions tormenting me.
I wondered whether we would we be reunited and if not would I ever feel the same love for another bike again? The answer was obviously no, she was my one true love, the real deal on wheels. At night I would have recurring dreams of her tyres being pumped by another man and wake up drenched in sweat.
Then one day when I had almost given up hope, there she was, my Trek. I was so happy I thought I could cry and OK, I did shed a couple of tears, nothing too dramatic though. I knew it was her, as only two days before she was kidnapped, I’d changed her handlebar grip to a very distinctive red. She looked a million dollars, a cut above the rest.
It was time to take action because nobody puts baby on Gumtree. I messaged Simon the seller, whose profile told me he had a five year history of selling bikes. I knew then that I was dealing with a pro and had to take precautionary measures. Upon proclaiming my interest in the merchandise, we agreed on a time and place because fortune favours the brave. I then immediately called the largest friend I knew, and explained the situation, telling him that I needed backup. A phrase I hadn’t used since Colin Eker stole my CD’s at a house party in 98.
Two days later and the day of reckoning had arrived. I got to the rendezvous fifteen minutes early where my back up the Jellyman was supposed to meet me. In case you’re wondering the Jellyman got his nickname from our Friday night poker games. Every time he had a good hand his face would wobble like jelly, it was the perfect tell and over the years I won a lot of money off him. Perhaps that was why the Jellyman was running late, fuelled by years of resentment, he had decided to let me stew in the lions den.
As I began taking in my surroundings, I noticed a suspicious looking man hovering at the exit of a car park opposite the agreed meeting point. A lookout I thought to myself, incase I turn up armed. Clever but also concerning, had I bitten off more than I could chew? I decided to approach him and play it dumb. ‘Are you Simon’? ‘No’ he said ‘are you Vikesh’? ‘Erm no, are you selling a bike’? ‘No are you selling weed’? It was either a mixup or more likely, he was a plant. Either way my feathers were ruffled. I then looked over at the meeting spot and there was another dodgy looking man standing on the street corner. Again I approached and asked if he was selling a bike. ‘I don’t speak English’ he said in perfectly good English. He then turned his back to me and made a call. I tried to overhear what he was saying but alas, it wasn’t in English. Either way, things weren’t looking good.
At that moment the Jellyman arrived in his Skoda Octavia, a reliable car, unlike its owner. As I gave the Jellyman the lowdown I received a text from Simon: ‘I’m here, wru?’ I looked across the road at the meeting point and there were three thuggish looking men dressed in shell suits. One of them had red splattered on his trousers, paint or blood from another martyr trying to retrieve their bicycle? Realising that I might be out my depth, I replied ‘I’m 5 mins away’. The shell suited men proceeded to walk away, more lookouts perhaps? And more importantly where were they hiding her?
I needed to see her, to know that she was ok and being treated well. It was at this point that I finally did the sensible thing and called the police. But despite explaining that she was different and not like the other bikes out there, the police didn’t agree with my sentiment, that this was a hostage situation. It was down to me and the Jellyman, who by this point had started to shit himself.
I got in the Jellyman’s car and we drove around the block, past the dodgy man looking to buy weed, past the other dodgy man who said he didn’t speak English in perfectly good English and past the three thuggish looking men in shell suits. As we drove round, I spotted a man taking a bike out of the boot of his car. Not just any bike, my bike, it was her! The car screeched to a halt and I jumped out. ‘Simon’? I asked in a not so measured voice. Simon turned round and smiled, ‘you must be Steve’? His genteel demeanour was a classic manoeuvre to disarm me. ‘Simon I hate to do this because you seem like a lovely guy, but that’s my bike’. He froze for a moment before reaching for his phone and then in the most intimidating voice I could muster, I said ‘don’t even think about calling anyone, I’ve got backup’. At that point we both turned to look at the Jellyman filming proceedings on his phone, in his Skoda Octavia.
Simon very convincingly assured me that this had never happened to him before. But I had the ace up my sleeve, a copy of the serial number. Not that I needed to cross reference of course. It was the same Trek Domaine AL2 Hybrid in all its pomp, with the red grip and marks of all the adventures we had together. Oh it was her alright. Nonetheless, I gently turned her upside down, all the while whispering that everything would be ok. But what I saw next took my breath away. I was stunned, surely not? Alas, she had a different serial number, it wasn’t her and my fragile heart once again shattered into a million pieces. Now I had a difficult decision to make, would I up and leave knowing that this bike was most certainly kidnapped, it just wasn’t MY bike. Or would I calculate the time and effort it had taken to get this far and pretend it was her anyway? I chose the later.
By now I realised that the dodgy men I had encountered were not Simon’s foot soldiers after all, but in fact random dodgy men who just happened to be hanging out in a random dodgy area. Knowing that I was safe, I relieved the Jellyman of his backup duties and it was now just me and Simon, man to man. But Simon was clearly rattled and made a fatal error. He didn’t ask to check my serial number, advantage Steve. I could now take the bike on the basis that it was mine and Simon, knowing that it was stolen, could do nothing about it. But deep down inside I knew that if I took it, then I would be just as bad as the thief who stole the bike, that stole my heart. So Simon and I came to an agreement, he showed me proof of the price he paid for it, in the form of an email and I transferred the money into his account via Paypal. Everyone was a winner, well except my stolen bike and the original owner of this one.
So off we went, just me and her back together again. Ok so it wasn’t her, but as good as. She might even be an upgrade, smoother and more self assured, a bit like how I felt having defeated a mastermind criminal. And I’m sure wherever she is, she is having a really great time. Because you never know, a new experience could turn into the ride of your life.