I’ve got quite used to losing bikes. It’s been a theme in my life for the past 25 years. I’ve left a bike in Balloch after a meeting and only realised when I was getting off a train in Edinburgh; I’ve lost more than one bike after a night out at university because I forgot where, in a vast array of parked bikes, I’d left it; I’ve had many stolen – mainly through leaving them unlocked- and one I’d locked up and someone just picked up and walked off with.
But that was the old days, now I have a Brompton and I don’t let it out of my sight. It really is the apple of my eye, long wished-for over many years for its ability to fold up. I can take it onto any train, even those that only accept bike bookings, and on buses and even into shops. (Though obviously you wouldn’t need to take it into a shop if they weren’t so sodding valuable- you’d just lock it outside).
But the joys of having a folding bike are slightly tempered by the challenges: imagine ‘Mr Bean’s Brimpton Bike Commute’ and you’ve pretty much got the picture of my daily struggles. There’s a strict order to do all the folds, rather like origami but without the easy-to-use instructions. If you do something wrong it just doesn’t work and you have to fold it up and start again. So if I’m in a rush, feel like I have an audience, or in mid-conversation I inevitably do it wrong.
A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend in Edinburgh and we walked together into town, me pushing the Brompton and chatting away. Just at the top of the Mound we parted company and as I prepared to get on the bike she asked where my helmet was. “Oh dear I must have left it in Glasgow,” I said, “but don’t worry, you only really need a helmet if you’re a total idiot and fall off, because if you get run into by a bus or a lorry you’d just be dead anyway and a helmet won’t help you”
“Right. Ok then” said Jo uncertainly as she turned to wave goodbye “be careful!”
I waited for the dense crowds on the Royal Mile to clear and then mounted my bike to take to the steep hill down the Mound. I pressed gently down on the right pedal to start and then the handlebars collapsed over the front of the bike and the front wheel folded around at right angles to the direction I wanted to go in. I went flying over the folded handlebars, hit the road and rolled over.
Scrambling out of the tangle, part bike part human, some horrified German tourists helped me out of the path of the oncoming traffic. They seemed a bit traumatized and extremely concerned for my wellbeing while I, on the other hand, was more concerned to check whether Jo had seen the incident. Once I was sure she was’t doubled over laughing at my famous last words and posting it all to Facebook, I turned back to the Germans. No I wasn’t hurt (only a little), yes I was fine, no I didn’t need to go to hospital, yes the bike is supposed to do that (just not when I’m riding on it). Then I asked them the all important question “So what did it look like?”
“You flew through the air” said the German woman “like a stunt man”.
Reassured that I was more Mr Bond than Mr Bean, I reassembled the bike, tightening the joints I had failed to in the excitement of chat with a friend, and cycled off.
But this blog is supposed to be about losing bikes, not falling off bikes so back to the subject.
Despite the care and attention I’d given my beloved Brompton since I bought it second hand from a bloke at Hamilton Station, my tireless folding and unfolding to take it into work, shops, meetings, my attention somehow lapsed and I ended up leaving it on a train. In my defence I was distracted with ravenous hunger and an altercation with a vending machine at Dundee station. It wasn’t until I was home that I realised it was still on the train. The horror. The realization that I had, yet again, lost a bike. The heavy sighs and rolling of the eyes of long-suffering husband.
A check of the timetables suggested the bike was now well on the way to Edinburgh and there was no point to returning to the station. It was also nearly midnight.
So what does a girl do? I called lost property but it was, of course, shut. I could have gone to bed and thought about it in the morning but it was my BROMPTON. I tweeted a desperate tweet into the twitterverse.
I didn’t expect to hear anything. I just couldn’t face the ‘not another bike’ face of the very long suffering husband (who has lived through double figures of lost bikes over the years).
Then, suddenly and against all the odds, a tweet arrived. “I’ve got your bike” it said. I hardly believed it. It turned out to be the guard on the train I’d been on and she would pass the bike to a colleague coming back to Glasgow. I could pick my bike up from him at 2:10am. It was too good to be true. I raced around the house looking for wine or chocolates to give to the guard but could only found a pack of macaroons hidden behind a box in a kitchen cupboard. I set my alarm for 130am and had an hour of fitful sleep.
When I arrived at Queen street having negotiated Sauchiehall street at 145am, dodging between hundreds of taxis and trying not to run over drunken revellers spilling all over the street, the station was all shut up. I wandered around until I found a sliding door I could prise open and found the station deserted except for two police officers.
“How did you get in here?” said a burly station employee who appeared as the train drew in “you managed to pry open a door? An’ with the Polis here an aw”
And all of a sudden I was joyfully reunited with my bike. I tried to hand over the macaroons but the guard refused to take them. I tweeted profuse thanks to the Dundee train guard who was now off-shift and headed home.
The next day Ruedi was extremely surprised that I had actually managed to retrieve my bike but rather perturbed at the loss of some macaroons he has secreted away. I directed him to the car, “The guard wouldn’t accept them” I explained.
“Oh” he said, a little puzzled, fetching them and handing them back to me. “Happy Anniversary.”