Damn Near Lost My Fr8 Bike

Reenactment of the scene of the crime that could have but didn’t happen… except that P1 is happy in this photo instead of P2 going full-on tantrum boneless.

To cut to the chase I allllmost lost our beloved Workcycles Fr8 bike. In most every other alternate universe it would have been stolen.

Monday morning I couldn’t find the Fr8’s keys. I never, ever lose keys, so of course I assumed it must have been the fault of “she who misplaces keys”. We checked all the likely jacket pockets but with four year old already ambivalent about going out to play and quickly losing patience I just grabbed the Cargobike keys instead. But just before heading downstairs I looked outside to see who rode the Fr8 last. We park it in one of several racks in front of our house, usually where it is in the photo below.

bike racks outside our home in amsterdam.
Two of the five bike racks in front of our home. Fr8 is in the upper left of the image (with light blue carriers).

But wait, I could see from the window that the saddle was adjusted for me, not for “she who sometimes misplaces keys”. I was thus the last one to ride the bike so its keys are wherever I put/left them a few days ago when the Fr8 was last ridden a few days ago. The plot thickens. P1 and I go the three flights downstairs to the outside world and before unlocking the bakfiets we check the Fr8. Could he who never, ever loses keys actually have left the keys in the bike? Yep, there they were just hanging in the rear wheel lock. The (very protective when actually locked) Abus Granit City Chain was still wrapped in its bundle around the child saddle frame. It’s the perfect place to keep your chain lock by the way. So there it is: I left the keys in my €1500 bike for several days in the middle of Amsterdam, one of the bike theft capitals of the world… and nobody took it. I’m guessing nobody noticed it.

How could I pull such a boneheaded move? Well, firstly I’m just a bonehead sometimes. Just ask the trainer at our Wednesday evening track racing classes. But also anybody with young kids understands the general scenario: You’ve just arrived home with 2 year old daughter who you picked up at daycare after work. It’s the Friday before the Christmas vacation so the kids are partied and danced out. On the way home we stop at the grocery store to pick up some needed items. Maybe papa refuses to buy some strategically placed holiday item that little girl wants, or perhaps little girl is just hungry and tired. In any case little girl does just what any self respecting two year old does when they don’t get their way: Tantrum! Turn instantly into a desperate, crying, writhing, wriggling invertebrate creature. After succeeding in wrestling the writhing, now screaming invertebrate two year old into her bike seat you ride the couple minutes home in the driving rain hoping she won’t somehow manage to Houdini her way out of the five point harness. Needless to say the child saddle behind the handlebar is NOT appropriate under such conditions.

Upon arriving home you find an empty spot in the bike racks, carefully release the now frantic storm of a child from her seat, holding her securely around the middle. You grab your bag and the groceries from the bike’s bin and dash inside, out of the rain, of course carefully picking your way across the bike path thick with the evening’s bike and scooter traffic. You get inside warm home, remove wet clothes and shoes and two year old usually snaps seamlessly back into normal child mode. Family sits down for dinner and all is fine. Except that your bike is unlocked outside with the keys hanging in the lock.

I assume this sounds familiar to most every parent because I hear it all the time at Workcycles, usually while discussing the details for a new bike to replace the stolen one. People say “It was my own fault; I left the keys in the bike.” No, that’s total BS. Keys in the bike or not it was stolen. Yes, you made the job much easier but the asshole who took your bike is still a thief. An honest person would leave it alone. A good Samaritan would find a way to help you, perhaps locking the bike and leaving a note with their phone number or email.

Anyhow I’m tremendously relieved that we still have our Fr8.

18 Responses to “Damn Near Lost My Fr8 Bike”

  1. Todd Edelman Says:

    1 – I thought that Dutch law requires that your house keys and bike keys are on the same key ring.

    2 – Perhaps there is no way to prove it, but perhaps someone borrowed your bike and returned it to the same spot!

  2. henry Says:

    It’s also possible that aliens took it to another galaxy, forgot about it for thousands of years, then found it and made a special trip through space and time to return it, relieving the crushing guilt their society had lived with the entire time as a result of the theft. But I doubt it.

  3. Mark Stosberg Says:

    Been there, done that.

    Here’s a photo which might help to illustrate the parenting moment:


  4. henry Says:

    Yes Mark, that photo captures the parenting moment everybody but aliens must know though P2 would go a lot more nuts than that if you refused to give her more blowfish. She’s gotten herself upside down and writhed her way out of the harness in the bakfiets, threatening to jump out and go back to whatever it was that she wanted.

  5. Mark Stosberg Says:

    Here where space is cheap, there’s an even more troubling mistake to make: We can accidentally leave the garage door open, exposing the entire family bike fleet (3 cargo bikes, one with electri, plus kid bikes).

    All it takes to open the garage door is a simple click from a remote which the children can sometimes access from inside the house. The walls are thick enough that we can’t necessarily hear if the garage door has opened.

    We’ve found the garage wide open in the morning multiple times, but the bikes have always been intact.

    But then, no one else has a bakfiets, Big Dummy or Yuba Mundo in our midwestern town, so actually riding such a stolen bike around town would soon lead to a recovery.

  6. henry Says:

    Ah yes, I remember the garage getting left open when I was a kid. At least it didn’t face toward the street and I don’t remember anything getting stolen. We kept the city bikes in there. My racing bike stayed in the house.

  7. Simon Says:

    Well, I feel with you. My youngest is also two years old and your description sounds too familiar.
    Sometimes I do not have the need for a bell. Child no. three yelling in the bak of my Bullitt is enough for clearing the bike path…

  8. Malcolm Says:

    In NY, I think the FR8 is too intimidating to be tackled by bike thieves but I haven’t tested the theory like you have!

    On an unrelated matter I couldn’t figure out how to change the rear tube using the escape hatch. Granted I’m not a mechanical genius. Any chance you could put a demo on Youtube?

    Love my bike.

  9. henry Says:

    Hmm, I grew up in NY and doubt that many things are too intimidating for the thieves there. But maybe with some luck a Fr8 is just too weird for most bike thieves.

    Just remove the hatch and pull the rollerbrake off the hub. Then you can remove/install tube or tire as needed. But for most ordinary flats we just patch anyway. No need to remove anything except the left tire bead.

  10. Mike Stead Says:

    Hi Henry, ‘pull the rollerbrake off the hub’ – er, my first (and only) time removing the escape hatch I just unhooked the brake cable – is it better / easier to pull the brake off?

  11. henry Says:

    Either is fine. Sometimes it’s easier to unhook the rollerbrake cable and sometimes the nut securing the rollerbrake to the hub. Whatever works for you in a given situation.

  12. Cargo Says:

    I ran across a bike thief who knows your Fr8. He said “I wanted steal that bike but did not like the light blue carriers. Can you at least pick a decent color so thieves like me would want to steal.”
    So there you have it…a complete story!

  13. henry Says:

    Cute. I’d half believe that if you didn’t write from a US based IP address. Nice one though.

  14. Amoeba Says:

    This may not be news to you, but I’m sure that you will have a professional interest in this.

  15. henry Says:

    Thanks. Yes, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts and their kids are great ambassadors for urban cycling aboard the Fr9 he bought at Adeline Adeline in Manhattan. They show up on the bike in the tabloids regularly, usually with stupid commentary about helmets, discomfort or other such nonsense.

  16. Rowan de Bonaire Says:

    The part of the scanario which brought me up short, was that a bicycle guru such as yourself has to leave his bike in the street. It has touched – during an evening of ‘Amsterdam Dreaming’, on the one and only downside of Dutch living. Even in a hick town in Northern England, I have a nice heated workshop/bike garage, and I would find it difficult to live with no indoor storage. Rivendells and Bob Jacksons do not live on the steet!

  17. henry Says:

    Of course we don’t leave our special bikes on the street! On the other hand I actually see it as a blessing that we can park our daily riders outside. They’re always right there in front of the house waiting for us and there’s (statistically speaking) safe parking all over the city, country actually. Just park your bike right where you need to go, anywhere in the entire country.

  18. Rowan de Bonaire Says:

    If we ever do manage to move to ‘Dam, i will just have to stop being so precious about our everyday errand bikes! The Dutch are renowned for being practical and sensible, whereas I’m just a poncy bike-nerd! My Pashley carrier bike lives outside, but they rust terribly once the catalogue-trendyness has faded (6 months here on the coast!). If I leave anything elsl outside, it just vanishes.

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