The car was where I’d left it the night before but there was no hole in the rear window, no shards of tinted glass scattered around. There was a bike in the car last night; there wasn’t one there this morning.
My bike was gone. I called 911, I filed a police report, I called the Toyota dealership, I called Geico, I called another glass repair shop, I took the car in, I dropped it off. Glass crinkled off the window as I drove, people stared.
It was just a bike. Whoever took it left my golf clubs, some random other things. The shattered window was upsetting. But it was my lost bike that hurt the most.
I bought it in Austin one day in the fall of 2008. A guy was selling it because he wasn’t using it as much as he wanted to; the hills around his home were too steep. I took the beautiful white Fuji Crosscomp for a short ride, marveling at the taut suspension, the exceptional road feel. It had two sets of brakes, one on the drop handlebars and another on the flat bar to ride more upright. The tires were narrow but more rugged than road tires to allow for some rougher riding. It was perfect, exactly what I wanted. I bought it, we went to a nearby ATM, I withdrew all the money and paid him, took off the front wheel and somehow stuffed it into my two-door Acura.
As good as it looked along the wall in my living room, it rode so much better. But it was held back by my inexperience, my lack of confidence on two wheels. It had been years since I’d ridden much and I wasn’t comfortable riding with traffic. Where I lived in Austin, I had few options to get far without dealing with much traffic, so I used to just cruise around Travis Heights behind my apartment complex. Simple rides at sunset after long days at work were much of its workload. I took a couple of more ambitious ones too, following a coworker once on his road bike through Westlake for a few miles, flying down a few hills, struggling up a few slopes.
My bike was also an ideal to me. It was a truer sense of freedom than a car could ever bring. No engine, no cabin. Just me, the road, the wind. I remember how much more vivid the road became after that first ride – every crack, every shift in the surface, all the lane markers. Each one matters on two wheels. Inclines mattered, sounds were audible again. Dogs barked, kids played, the wind rustled. My bike became an escape from the small, constricted, unyielding world I lived in at the time. On it, the world was big again. I had so much I wanted to explore on it, and these ambitions mattered as much as the bike itself. The figure of a rider, arched back and streamlined form, cutting seamlessly, quietly through the wind – that could have been me, was me. It held a piece of my childhood, memories of neighborhoods in India, Omaha being torn down, conquered under my unstoppable wheels.
I wanted to bring it with me on my road trip, knowing that this could happen. It was an obvious target in my car but I knew all the things I wanted to do on it. I wanted to ride across the Golden Gate with it, cruise up into Marin, down into Sausalito. I wanted to explore Seattle on it and ride around in Vancouver.
Today, I lost my bike. Someone else has it, and even took the locks I’d just bought and my helmet. My car’s tinted window couldn’t hide its promise, and whether it was for the same ideal or just a tidy profit on a quick sale, it’s no longer with me. Barring some miracle, I’ll never see it again. I may succumb someday and buy another one but this one gave me a taste of freedom when I didn’t have it, the thrill of excitement when my life was dull. I never lived up to its potential, I didn’t get to take it all the places I wanted to.
I’ll miss my bike; it looks like I’ll be leaving it in San Francisco.