This is a tale of idiocy or brilliant resourcefulness. You decide.
You may have read that I have one of those Ridekick trailers that push the bike. (See: “Ridekick: A Nicotine Patch for Car Addiction.”) This story ends with me doing something that I’m sure the Ridekick company doesn’t ever want you to do.
So I was out running errands with my wife’s bike, geared up with the whole “marital aids” setup, and taking a shortcut through the local university. I cranked hard from a full stop, and plplplplplpl… My rear tire was rubbing against the frame. It wouldn’t budge.
The nut on the drive side of the axle must have been just a little bit loose. I had no tools on me.
I was about a mile from my workplace, where I knew I could borrow a wrench, but I would have to carry the rear end of the bike the entire way.
But I was right next to the student recreation center. Sam Hagler’s Bicycle Hub is in this building. Surely they will have a wrench — if they are open on a Sunday afternoon.
Side note 1: Sam has written a couple of guest posts for Commute by Bike.
Side note 2: The NAU Recreation Center is the only building in the entire city with escalators.
I locked my bike among dozens of student bikes in front of the building. A very nice woman at the front desk helped me. I’ll call her Ashley because she looked about 19 years old, and that means there’s a 50 percent chance that is her real name.
Ashley looked up the hours of the Bicycle Hub.
Strike one: The Bicycle Hub is closed.
Ashley tried to call the maintenance man, because certainly he would know where the University keeps its wrenches.
Strike two: The maintenance man was not around.
I thanked Ashley and went back to the bike racks. But I noticed something that gave me an idea. I turned around and went back inside.
“There’s a bike out there with a saddlebag. I’m going to see if there is a multi-tool in that bag, and if there is I’m going to borrow it. If the owner of the bike, or the campus police happen to catch me looking in that bag, will you tell them…”
“I can’t give you permission to take something from someone’s bike,” Ashley said, nicely.
“Of course you can’t. I just want you to back up my story that I came in here looking to borrow a wrench.”
“Uhh… Okay. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them that you seem like a good person who needed to borrow a tool.”
“That’s all I can ask. Thanks.”
This is wrong. You don’t need to tell me that.
The bike was a Walmart mixte. In the saddlebag was a reflector and a zip-lock bag containing something that was certainly none of my business.
Strike three: No multi-tool.
So I started towards the office, carrying the rear end of the bike. My hand started to get tired from holding up the bike by the thin tubing on my Racktime Addit Rear Rack.
I thought, Hmmm… The Ridekick has wheels. Maybe I don’t have to carry the bike.
So I unhitched the trailer, and wrapped the nylon retaining strap around the downtube near the bottom bracket. Then I hoisted the rear wheel up on top of the Ridekick.
Perfect. I pushed the bike along. I was about four blocks from my destination by this point.
And I began to wonder again, Could one balance a bike like this? No. Of course not.
I pushed the bike another block while thinking of the physics involved.
The wheel won’t rotate, but the Ridekick has a motor… Swing bikes can balance… This is at least as stable as that.
Okay you talked me into it.
I hoisted my leg over the top tube, put one foot on a pedal, and pushed the Ridekick’s throttle.
Why, yes, I can balance!
I rolled forward looking like a stunt rider with training wheels.
A voice from a house said, “Look at that guy!” I’m sure he was very impressed.
When I got to the office, it was late, but my boss was still there working. He took these photos.
I borrowed a wrench, liberated my rear wheel, then continued with my errand to the grocery store — but with a story of laziness and creativity to share.
Have you ever had to improvise to get to where you were going, and maybe look ridiculous in the process? Tell us about it.
Update 4/9/13: I rode past the Student Recreation Center again today, and, as I suspected, the bike with the saddlebag was still there. It’s a mixte, not a beach cruiser. I updated the story and took a photo.