Rice Paddy of the Shrine

An excerpt from Tales of a Boy and His Bike

Due to be released in the 1st quarter of 2017 ISBN 978-0-9953161-3-3

How to lose a bike

If you live in Toronto and you lock your bike anywhere but in your living room or handcuffed to your wrist, the odds are good that, one day, you’re going to get your bike lifted. It’s almost inevitable. You make your best effort with locks and chains, but they were made to be busted, keys and locks just can’t be trusted. Even the venerable “U” locks have been cracked. What’s a boy to do?

All cups are made broken. Stay with me here. That is to say, when a cup is made, it’s inevitably going to get broken. Someone is going to drop it, knock it off a table, elbow it off the corner of the armchair. It might simply get misplaced or stolen, You need to recognize that one way or another, it’s going to leave you. With a bit of luck, it might not break in your lifetime, but it will depart.

We also need to recognize that it’s only a cup, just a thing. We don’t want to become too attached to it, since we know it will get broken or maybe lost or stolen. Having anxiety over a cup is a little over the top n’est ce-pas?

So it is with all things. We tend to get too attached to things and have anxiety and remorse when we lose them, or they break or they are taken away. So it is with bicycles. So it was with me.

I had just returned to Toronto, after having lived in Calgary for five years and I needed a new bike. I had grown from a trouble-making teen into a relatively stable young man by this time. I went to see my friend Gary Duke at Duke’s Cycle and Sports.

Mountain bikes were just becoming all the rage and Gary had a nice selection of machines. In the end, we landed on a Miyata, a nice Japanese machine with middle of the road pricing, about $600. I was told that Miyata means Rice Paddy of the Shrine, in Japanese. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that it’s a popular last name in some regions of Japan.

This machine was equipped with an upper end Suntour gruppo di componenti, and nice gnarly all terrain tires. It used high tensile steel tubing, beautifully brazed lugs and oversized fork tubes. All black with white lettering. To be sure it was heavy, weighing in at 28 pounds, compared to the Supercorsa which tipped the scales at a shade over 20 pounds. All in all, though it was a very nice machine, tough and durable.

It became my daily ride for a couple of years, until it disappeared one fine afternoon in September.

I was at Ryerson, looking into some part time courses and I had locked the Miyata to a “No Parking” sign. In this case, it was a sign sitting at the top of an eight foot steel pole, stuck in the sidewalk. I used one of the early Kryptonite U locks which was sold with some sort of guarantee against theft, not that it would have helped much as the thieves didn’t break the lock. As it turns out, the steel post was inserted into a steel collar, itself imbedded in the sidewalk. The collar was immovable, but the sign post could be pulled out of the collar. The thieves just rolled up, lifted out the sign post, slid out my bike and replaced the post.

When I came out of the building, and onto the street, my bike just wasn’t there. It was quite a stomach punch. At first I felt violated, then I felt disappointment. That was soon followed with despair and then anger and finally betrayal. I asked around if anyone had seen anything. Nope. No one had seen a thing. How could no one have seen anything!? It was the middle of the day!

I made my down to 52 Division at Dundas and McCaul to report both the theft of my bike and the sketchy sign post. The officer at the desk seemed, uninterested, to say the least. Without even making eye contact he hands over a form, “Fill this out,” he says with a few taps of his finger. I feel my pockets for a pen. He seems to notice this and tosses out a Bic extra fine.

I dutifully and sadly sit down on one of the hard plastic chairs and, like Will Smith in Men in Black, struggle to fill out the form on my lap. It becomes quickly apparent, that without the serial number, nothing is going to happen. I leave with the form and take the subway home to Castleview manor, bike helmet trailing along behind me like a lost cat following me home.

I related the tale to my neighbour Mike and he tells me about a couple of his bikes that were stolen. I ask him if the cops did anything. “Maybe, but I didn’t get either of the bikes back and I never heard from the cops.”

He goes on to say that bike theft is almost the perfect crime to commit if you’re so inclined. The cops don’t treat the crime as serious, and view bicycles as toys. The bicycle itself isn’t the end game for the thief, since they are often taken by drug users who only want to sell the bike for their next fix. Any professional bike theft ring would have the stolen bikes shipped quickly to another province in the back of a cube van or quickly dismantled for the value of their components - which aren’t stamped with serial numbers and are therefore unidentifiable.

Then, even if a thief gets caught, good luck getting a judge who has any interest in a conviction for some drug addict stealing toys. It just isn’t worth them worrying about.

According to a 2014 University of McGill study, only about 2.4% of bikes are recovered of the 2,000 reported stolen in Montreal. - and those are the reported cases. The study suggests that some 20,000 bikes are taken every year. The majority of people don’t bother to report their bike stolen as they know it isn’t worth their time and effort. Astonishingly, something like 7.5% of the people who have their bikes stolen, are despondent and simply give up riding completely.