Pipe Dreams: Between a Rack and a hard place

You can tell everything you need to know about someone by watching them extract a cycle from a crowded bike shed. The temptation is to barge and kick. Crack a few spokes here and there. Fling that fixie across the sea of handlebars. Hump your Giant out from the racks with abandon. But then a sinking sensation hits: you realise your beloved bike ain’t exempt from such cruelty. If a generally sweet and kind person such as yourself morphs into a velo-vandal when shuffling past a few dodgily locked BMXs, you don’t want to know how the average punter treats your sleek ride.

Wondering whether your new belle or beau is risk-averse or a mad fucker? Facebook can yield some clues, but is easily manipulated. No, what you need to do is find out where they park their bike. Right at the back of the shed, out of the way of any shenanigans? Spouse material. They’ll sacrifice their convenience for your comfort. This guy or gal won’t forget little Milly at the pub. They can change a lightbulb. Ideal.

Bike jauntily balanced against the front rack, in the firing line? A bit sketchy, but marvellous fun. They might have a shocker sometimes, but that’s the payoff when you live the fast life. He’ll throw you a surprise cocktail party (forgetting your essay is due in 12 hours’ time). She’ll whisk you off for a romantic weekend in Rome (make sure you check the passports are in date). But don’t fret, they always land on their feet.

The one you really have to watch out for is the mid-racker. This specimen is sometimes dreary, often a whinger, and always utterly mediocre. Not bold enough to make a grab for the supremely convenient front rack, yet too lazy to bother with the secluded rear reaches. They’re the sort to complain about your personal hygiene and then slobber all over your toothbrush. They’ll remember your birthday but not the fact that an M&S voucher is a symbol of undying indifference. They will produce tiresome offspring.

I kid the mid-rackers: at times we have no choice but to brave the treacherous centre of a congested shed. The real villain of the piece is the snooty commuter. You see, you might not realise, but the bike rack is the new epicentre of class war. Carbon road machines that cost more than your tuition fees look down their aero handlebars at rusty mountain bikes with two working gears. Glinting Shimano gear mechanisms snigger at the tired steel frames and thinning tyres. The racing bikes stick together. You might think that parking your wheels next to a sexy Specialized or a custom Cannondale guarantees that a certain amount of care will be taken in the locality. The owner of such a wondrous machine wouldn’t tread on the toes (or knock the spokes) of a fellow velocipedist?

Were the picture so rosy. If only Ferrari drivers dropped friendly winks to eccentrics in Morris Minors. If only the super-rich would distribute some of their fortuitous wealth among the rest of the world’s population. Whoops, got a bit political there, my apologies. In any case, don’t bother invading the racers’ spaces. You might return to find your bike slumped in a pool of oil, the recipient of a good hiding for daring to place its panniers in the vicinity of rack royalty.