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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Column: Seven stages of grief

Bad things happen to good bikers.

Two bike thefts occurring outside my front door in one week fueled my Craigslist bender, which eventually led to me becoming a cyclist for life.

Valerie, my Raleigh, and McCorkle’s loaner BMX were taken from me during finals week The frustration and grief made me swear to never be bike-less again. Since then I’ve bought, fixed and re-sold over 200 bicycles in Davis, and commonly my customers have had recent bike extraction.

When your bike is stolen, there is a myriad of emotions that must be withstood. It’s not a quick process, and a replacement bike will never supplant the memories and modifications you and your original bicycle made together.

People with a stolen bike often resort to car use, walking or other coping strategies. This can only exacerbate the feeling of lost freedom. For some, that void is never filled. I have compiled this list of grief stages mostly to humor myself, but also for healing:

(1) Shock and denial. This period is marked with numbed disbelief. It is generally brief but may last for weeks. You might see yourself walking in bicycle lanes as if you still had a bicycle. You might be standing out near the bike rack locking up nothing, out of habit. “Not my bike,” you’ll mutter. “It could never happen to me.” Well, it did. You shouldn’t have bought nice wheels. You know your friends told you to stop locking the bike to itself or the front wheel. You simply wish your bike would come back; you wouldn’t even punish whoever decided to return it.

(2) Pain and guilt. Here come guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do. It’s your fault, you’ll say. I’ve had no less than six bikes stolen in Davis and as a bad Catholic I feel the karmatic weight of each moment. Nichole, my Giant Sedona was stolen during a party in which I was flirting with a bike customer (not my girlfriend).

(3) Anger and bargaining. Frustration gives way to anger. You think about stealing bikes in retaliation. You’ll promise to never come to campus at night, or to never hang out with your friends in that shady part of town, and you’ll hold to it … for a while.

When I realized my big red cruiser was missing, I began cursing that it’s moments like these that make bright, eager, young people into libertarians.

(4) Depression and reflection. Just when your friends may think you should be moving on, memories of those paint scratches, flat tires and amazing trips will resurface. You’ll picture yourself moving as you once did, unlike now on your loaner with its too high/low/uncomfortable seat that’s slowly turning to the right.

(5) The upward turn. As you start to realign to a life without your favorite cruiser/fixie/roadie/BMX/clunker, you begin to see yourself with another bike. You are open to trying new styles. You ditch your rebound bike and begin shopping. Part of you wants to get a bike in the same color and style … but then you think about race-red, jet-black, carbon or steel. The options are endless.

(6) Improbable reunion. This is where the person/bike metaphor fails for a moment. With stolen bikes, and in Davis, there is the off-chance that your bike is found. Don’t believe me? With the exception of the Berkeley/Davis theft ring, quite a bit of bike crime in town happens by people you know.

Recently, my friend had his personalized carbon bicycle stolen from him and it turned up on Ebay. The seller apologized and drove my friend right to the house where he bought it, and my friend discovered his thief was a Davis townie everyone knew.

As someone who is super invested in the Davis community and goes to great efforts to buy bikes from their owners and restore landfill bikes (at a much lower profit margin), this act seems as vile as stealing organs. I was really disappointed to learn who it was, and it made me re-evaluate a lot of my friendships in town.

(7) Acceptance and hope. This might not happen in Davis. Maybe, once you move to some normal city, the healing really begins.  You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of biking and life. Until you are a victim of identity theft or something.CHRISTOPHER SALAM is a minister at the Davis Bicycle Collective. If you are interested in DIY bicycle repair, visit the DBC at its Bike Forth location, on L Street & 4th. (M) 1 to 5 p.m., (T-R) 4 to 8 p.m. & Saturday 12 to 6 p.m.


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