On the afternoon of a day that will be one for the history books (if there are any), I went out to fill my bike’s tires for the first time since my last ride in the autumn. Out to the building’s locked bike room, that is.
I unlocked the bike and moved it off the rack. When I started to fill the back tire, the gauge shot to 80, although usually it takes muscle, effort, and time to get it to the target of 60. Something didn’t feel right. It was similar to the scene in Star Trek‘s “That Which Survives” in which Scott says, “Mr. Spock, the ship feels wrong . . . it’s something I can’t quite put into words.”
I couldn’t spin the front tire to find the valve. When I found it by feel (most of the lights in the bike room aren’t working), it was missing the cap. The tire was flat, which was odd — my tires lose air over the winter, but they never go flat.
It was then I noticed the tires didn’t match.
And the wheels didn’t look like I remembered. The spokes were missing shine in a lot of places, and there was writing I didn’t recognize. I peeled back the front tire to find “Ritchey” underneath.
It hit me. Someone had stolen my wheels. While my bike was locked to the rack. They’d gone to the trouble of replacing them with old MTB wheels and mismatched tires. While my bike was locked to the rack. Someone with access to the building and the key to the bike room.
My beautiful heavy-duty wheels and fat Bontrager tires (to support my fat weight) — the ones that had carried me at least 400 to 500 miles. Gone. Forever.
I depend on my bike for transportation and mental health. I could have cried.
I did cry, later, when I double checked photos to make sure I wasn’t somehow mistaken.
It feels . . . wrong.
Later I went out to check both bike rooms, curious to see if my wheels had appeared on any of the other bikes. No, although they could have been out in use at the time I checked. I don’t know if I’ll have the heart to look again.
With the front wheel locked, I can’t walk it over to the Metra station to take to the bike shop in Homewood. Accessibility was part of the reason I’d chosen that shop. I’d have to ask J. for his help. If I didn’t know him, I don’t know what I’d do.
The bike shop’s site said they are open, but an appointment is required. I assumed this is to manage the number of people there and “social distancing” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I’d take an afternoon off later this week.
The woman who answered shot that down before I mentioned it. She volunteered that the next available appointment was June 18. JUNE 18. Nearly three weeks away. Three weeks of glorious spring weather away.
I made an appointment for the afternoon of June 19. I already know that if the bike can be fixed, I won’t be able to get the same wheels and tires. Sigh.
“If the bike can be fixed” is a question. I don’t know where damage was done or how much. I asked her if they have a comparable model to replace it. She came back with, “Possibly, but you may not be able to get one for quite a while. There’s a global bike shortage.”
Global. Bike. Shortage.
Later I looked it up.
In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent.Thinking of buying a bike? Get ready for a very long wait by Hilary Swift
By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a severe bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in demand.
This shouldn’t surprise me. Maybe it’s what led some lowdown varmint to steal my wheels.
My wheels from my locked bike. In a locked bike room. Behind a locked gate.
An infinitesimal thing in a world gone utterly mad. It’s going to be a long summer with who knows what at the end?