www.fatcyclist.com 03.27.2012 | 10:49 am
How to Borrow a Bicycle by: www.fatcyclist.com
As the owner of a bicycle, you are no doubt aware of how personal a bike becomes. You adjust the seat height. You adjust the seat position. You adjust the seat angle. You probably replace the seat itself.
You swap on your pedals. You change the stem to suit your body length. You adjust the angle of the handlebar, the position of the grips, the brakes, the shifters.
You figure out exactly what tires you like best for where you live, and at what pressure you like those tires.
So Sure, it starts out as just one of thousands of identical bikes. But as you ride it you make it yours.
But — and trust me on this, because I promise it is true — someday you will need to borrow a bike from someone. Maybe you’re traveling. Maybe your bike is in the shop. Maybe you’re interested in getting a similar bike and would like to take a nice, extended test ride to help you decide whether to pull the trigger.
These are only some of the possibilities.
Before Borrowing the Bike
When you take delivery of the bicycle, it’s important that both you and the person you are borrowing the bike from have a clearly-stated and agreed-upon understanding of your responsibilities regarding the bike.
First of all, assure your friend (for now, we’ll assume the person you’re borrowing the bike from is a friend, though — let’s face it — that probably won’t be the case after you return the bike) that you’ll take care of the bike as if it were your own. Although if you’re borrowing the bike because you broke your own by ghostriding it off a cliff, that may not be the most reassuring thing you could say.
You may want to provide additional reassurance that while the bike is in your care, you assume complete responsibility for it, and you will return the bike in as-good or better condition than when you borrowed the bike. This will give your “friend” confidence in your upstanding citizen-ness and responsibility and stuff. Which is really great and stuff.
What you should not tell your “friend” are the following caveats, because while they are all true, they are not reassuring:
- You are not responsible for stuff that would have broken anyway. Suppose, as you’re Just Riding Along, that the rear derailleur breaks. Just up and breaks on you. Should you be responsible for buying a new, very expensive part for this bike? Especially when it obviously had been close to breaking for some time now, and you just happened to be the person on the bike when it decided to go. Is it really fair that you should replace what was obviously a worn out derailleur? Is it? Well, is it? (As you can tell by my repeated asking of this question, the answer is clearly “no.”)
- You are not responsible for theft. Suppose the bike gets stolen while it’s in your care. Did you ask for it to get stolen? No. Did you take reasonable precautions against its theft? Of course. So is it your fault it got stolen? Heck no. It could have just as easily gotten stolen the last time your so-called “friend” took it out and then went into Taco Bell. Would it have been your fault it got stolen then, too?
- You are not responsible for reasonable wear and tear. Your “friend” knew you were going to actually go out and ride the bike, right? Like, he wasn’t under some misapprehension that you were buying it so you could take it home to spend the day cleaning and buffing it to a high shine, right? So of course the chain’s going to come back a little dirty. Of course the tires are going to be a little more worn. Of course there’ll be a few new chips in the paint job and maybe some scratch marks from where the rack clamps held on to it. Sheesh, it’s a bike, not a freaking Monet.
Again, take these as understood, and do not bring them up until / unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e., when you return the bike).
Next, it’s very important you inspect the bike, just to make sure your “friend” hasn’t pulled a fast one on you. Take photos of obvious dings and dents, and make note of any problems that you think your friend might hold you accountable for as new damage when you return the bike.
Remember, those bike-lending “friends” can be sneaky, and may well just be out to make a quick buck off you. Don’t trust them for a second.
Preparing the Bike
Once you have acquired the bike you will be borrowing, take the time to adjust it properly. You can safely assume that the person you have borrowed the bike from has adequately documented every change he’s made to the bike, so feel free to tweak it to suit your own preferences.
First, adjust the seat post. Set it to the height you need. Don’t worry about marking the original seat height; you can be sure that the bike owner took care of that or has recorded the proper height or something.
Next, set the saddle up for your preferences. Adjust the saddle angle and position to your liking . Or, better still, remove the owner’s saddle entirely and put your own saddle on. While this negates the months and quite possibly years the bike owner might have put into finding exactly the correct position for himself, you can be sure he’ll have no trouble finding it again.
You should probably also adjust the angle of the handlebars. And move the grips or hoods so they fit your hands more comfortably. Might not be a bad idea to change the angle of the brake levers and shifters so they feel just right.
Hey, you don’t want to compromise your riding experience.
Ideally, the friend who loaned you the bike will come along for the ride. He probably — up until this point — thought it was a really great bike, so this will be an excellent opportunity for him to learn about all the problems it has.
I recommend starting the ride by riding the bike into a wall, or the sharp edge of a curb. Just to ensure that the wheels have good structural integrity.
Then, once you begin the ride itself, listen very closely for sounds. The brakes might make noise. The chain might make noise. The suspension might make noise. Honestly, since there’s no such thing as zero-friction surface, something is bound to make noise on the bike. Be sure to point it out, and comment that your own bike doesn’t make this noise. It’s probably a good idea to ask — make a serious face as you ask this — if your friend has looked into it.
Next, consider the brakes. Note that they are either “kinda grabby” or “a little soft.” It’s best to make these observations in the form of a question, however: “Do you think your brakes are a little grabby?” Or “Do your brakes feel kind of soft?”
Observe that the cranks are a little “flexy,” because this cannot be proven nor disproven.
If you’re buying a mountain bike, pay special attention to the suspension. Especially rear suspension. There wouldn’t be a million kinds of suspension out there if one in particular were objectively and provably the best kind. So, do your homework, then talk about how it kind of bobs a bit. Or that maybe it sticks. Or that the frame seems kind of loose.
Believe me, you’ll find something.
At the end of the ride, though, be sure to say something nice to the person you borrowed the bike from, so they’ll know how much you appreciate the loan. For example, “Thanks for loaning me the bike” is a nice thing to say.
If your friend has the gall to follow up with your generous statement of thanks with a question like, “Well, what do you think of the bike,” have a reply ready: “It’s a pretty nice bike” should be just about perfect.
Dont’ say it convincingly, though.
And if, for some reason, the friend who loaned you the bike isn’t with you when you ride, be sure to store all this valuable information up, so you can share it with him afterward.
He will be very grateful.
After the Ride
Before you return the bike, you should be sure to do the following:
- Clean the bike: Take it to a car wash and hose it down with the high pressure rinse. If you’re feeling generous, maybe do a hot wax cycle.
- If you got a flat and used the CO2 and tube in the loaned bike’s seat pack, be sure to let your friend know he needs to replace them. If you remember to, I mean. If not, don’t worry about it.
- If you got a second flat, so now one of the tires is flat, be sure to let your friend know that his tire is flat. As a courtesy.
- If you break a significant part (like the suspension or the frame) while playing “home mechanic” with the bike, be sure to return the bike when your friend is not home, hopefully under cover of darkness.
Oh, and one final tip: if you like the bike you borrowed, try to borrow it again as soon as possible. There’s a reasonable chance your friend won’t have gotten around to messing up the improvements you made to the bike