OOPS! I Just Broke Your Bike

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Jan 25, 2016

Greetings Uncle Dave,

As you may have gathered from the subject, someone just broke my bike. The person in question and I play on an ultimate Frisbee team together. We’re not close but, he expressed interest in going for a ride so I obliged. I’ve got a few extra bikes in the shed and do what I can to spread the love.

So, we suited up and headed for my local XC loop. After a bit of the basics and an endo or two, he was starting to find his rhythm and some of the blood had returned to his knuckles. Then about 1/2 way into the ride, he miss-shifted and ripped the rear mech off the bike twisting up the cage and snapping the bottom pulley in two. We walked out the mountain, got rescued by my wife (who had other plans) and dropped him off at his house. As we pulled up, he thanked me for taking him out and apologized for breaking the bike. Then he smiled and jumped out of the van. I saw him over the weekend and hinted at the $100 (or more) it’ll take to get the bike back on the trail. It felt overly passive aggressive so I left it at that, but it got me thinking, what is the proper etiquette in situations like this? Since he didn’t offer any, would you ask him for money? Or do I offer up the broken mech and hanger as sacrifice to the mtb gods?

Scratching my head,
High and Dry


Dear Hydra:

In some ways, I’m a tremendously selfish bastard. Okay. In many ways, I’m a tremendously selfish bastard. If I could put my finger on it, I’d say that once I own something, I have a really hard time giving it up. If it’s just money we’re talking about, that’s no big deal. That is to say I’m more likely to buy you dinner than to let you take fries off my plate. And I’m probably not the guy you should come to if you want to borrow something. A book? If you provide a detailed plan and timeline for its return, maybe. My truck? Oh man…I don’t know. A bike or a pair of skis? I don’t think anybody that has a passing familiarity with me as a person would ever ask such a thing.*

Of course, this is not just me. Well, maybe the tremendous extents to which I take it are, but most people inherently place more value on the things that they own over the things that they don’t. This is known as the endowment effect, and is why when we sell something on Craigslist, we end up cursing the jackass lowballer while he shakes his head at our delusional and inflated asking price. And why a borrower will never care about our bike as much as we do.

Another factor is that most non-cyclists, such as Ultimate man, have no idea how valuable our bikes are. They don’t believe you when you tell them that your bike cost thousands of dollars. Your “friend” probably thinks it is a really funny joke that you keep telling him that small piece of metal that he broke is worth $100. I mean, the whole bike can’t be worth more than a few hundred bucks, right? He’s probably starting to wish that you had a larger repertoire of humour.

And hold on a second. What is a “miss-shift”? How does it result in the rear derailleur exploding? I’ve cycled for 25+ years and I’ve had precisely one rear derailleur explode during shifting and it was because the hangar was bent and the limit screws weren’t adjusted properly and the derailleur shifted into the spokes and I’m an idiot for letting it happen but I was only fourteen so I think I’ve finally come to terms with this mistake. Was it user error that caused your problem, or did you unknowingly hand this guy a poorly tuned time bomb?

And hold on another second. Are you seriously telling us that you play Ultimate? Perhaps even lying to us about playing Ultimate? Every Vancouverite, just through osmosis, knows that using the word “Frisbee” is a punishable offense in Ultimate circles. “It’s a disc!” said the kind of person who won’t pay you back when they break something that they don’t own. Most reasonable, non-Ultimate playing humans will politely offer to pay for a repair, to which you can politely decline, starting a cascading back-and-forth of civilized payment insistence. Maybe that’s just Canadians, though? Regardless, I am not surprised that you are footing the bill, but your “friend” skipped a few steps and sounds like an uncivilized jackass. Your only recourse is to quietly bad-mouth him behind his back until everybody he has ever met knows that he is an uncouth cheapskate, and think about new off-the-bike activities.

Now, to swing this sucker back onto a tangent approaching “practical advice”…there’s really only three ways you can handle this in the future:

  1. Never lend anybody anything.
  2. Lend away, but learn to suck it up when people trash your stuff.
  3. Lay out expectations via a frank discussion with the borrower ahead of time. A borrowing pre-nup, as it were. That way, if something happens, you’re not left hating the person because they acted in a way that you judge as inappropriate.

I do applaud you for being a tremendously selfless person who generously introduced somebody to our sport, even though you seem foreign and strange and have terrible judgement in humans. I thank you for proving that my selfish policies are well thought out and thoroughly justified. You’re free to go with Option 2 or 3, but I’m sticking with number 1.

Sorry,
Uncle Dave

*On a somewhat related note, I have a similar policy on theft. It goes something like “If you leave something out where it could be stolen, at some point it will be stolen.” For this reason I try not to leave anything in my car, I never leave a bicycle unattended, and I get a bit antsy if I’ve left a lawn chair in the front yard and somebody walks by with their dog. Whenever I talk about this people inevitably say something like “Wow, that’s really pessimistic.” To which I generally respond “Well, you’re the one complaining to me about your car getting broken into.”


Congratulations Hydra, you’re this week’s winner. You have won a pair of Race Face’s brand new Chester Pedals. With a nylon composite body, fully serviceable sealed bearing and bushing system and cromo axles, they look like a great place to put your feet. While riding. As long as you’re wearing shoes.

4-Chester-Pedal-Colourway

Got a question for dear, sweet Uncle Dave? Fire it over here and you could win a prize. Or at the very least be ridiculed publicly.

Trending on NSMB

Comments

andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - Jan. 28, 2016, 8:14 a.m.

The rule is "you break it you own it" which means they are paying market value to disown it ie sell it back to you. That said I am well aware that most people consider an estimate of an expensive bike to be $800-1000 so it might be worth a conversation about what "you break it you own it" might entail before the event.

Reply

shrockie
0
Shrockie  - Jan. 27, 2016, 2:28 p.m.

How do you mis-shift and explode a derailleur? Sounds like it got sucked into the spokes, or hit a rock?.. hmm.

Reply

gasket-jeff
0
Gasket-Jeff  - Jan. 27, 2016, 12:59 p.m.

I have a policy for just such an indecent. I always tell ppl upfront man I would love to ride with you (am always trying to get my non biking friends out there) you can ride my expensive bikes, but if you break anything you have to replace it, you do not need to do or pay for the repair i can do that my self but any broken parts your on the hook for. it works.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 26, 2016, 3:23 p.m.

I have a friend who borrowed a bike from me but I guess he didn't realize he was borrowing it. And he kept it. It was a square-tubed, dual-crowned hardtail that weighed over 40 lbs - but it had a Chris King Steelset, Purple Hayes brakes and Razor Rock levers and I still liked it. Eventually I just accepted the fact that he wasn't giving it back and I even helped him warranty the frame. But since that time, even though I was never really upset about this, he hasn't kept in touch or returned calls. I think he even got married and didn't invite me - but I'm not sure. I was at his first wedding and he was at mine. Maybe this is unrelated to borrowing my bike forever (not wanting to be my friend isn't unreasonable) but I have a sneaking suspicion he's kind of embarrassed about it, and that's why I never see him.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 27, 2016, 8:41 a.m.

But seriously, thanks for helping me with that warranty claim, buddy.

Reply

powderturns
0
Mike  - Jan. 29, 2016, 5:25 p.m.

i have a buddy in hawaii that this happened with. He lives there, and I would visit, usually between jobs, and over the course of 5 years, I bet I spent 6 months in Hawaii, 2-3 weeks at a time. It was awesome. Anyway, I quickly learned that owning a board was going to be cheaper than renting, and that I would also have a nicer board, so I bought one. He was suitably impressed with my purchase (a Jimmy Lewis 8′), and I said if he could store it, he was free to use it. Obviously it was mine when I was theret. Pass another 6 months and I've come to acquire a sweet Stretch 7'2″ that he expresses similar lust for. I offer the same deal and he accepts. But the next time I come to visit, a year later, he sort of refuses to give me the Stretch. I figure this is fine - I haven't surfed in a while, and the other board is much easier to surf (I suck). But I never really get the board back. Sure, I bought it very cheap, but it has real value and is frankly, damn nice. Anyway, I let it go, because he's always been awesome to me, and made my Hawaii trips so much better, but it never sat well with me… He actually folded the board last year, but by that point I was resigned to the fact that it wasn't my board anymore… Anyway, to Uncle Dave's advice, I would not only have a conversation about expectations around loans, but I would send it in an email… It sounds crazy, but as my case shows, it can happen. Peoples understandings and expectations drift… I just wish I were a better surfer.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 26, 2016, 3:13 p.m.

And then we got this…

Greetings Uncle Dave:

I've got a frisbee playing buddy who is always going on about how great mountain biking is, and telling us that we've 'got to try it'. I like to change the subject and talk about civilized pastimes, but the guy is persistent. I figured, to quiet him up, I'd take him up on his offer and go for a ride with him. So last wekend, I meet him at his house, guy loans me his old bike and off we go. Half way into the ride, I'm merrily trundling along, shift gears, and bamm. His rear derailleur explodes like a Wal-Mart lamp. Total piece of old junk. We're force on a long walk out. My wife has to change her plans and come rescue us, but she does help us out.

A few days later, I see the guy again and he is strongly implying that I need to pay to replace his shite old derailleur. I did nothing wrong, used the bike for 40 minutes total, made a simple gear change and the old piece of junk fell apart. It was going to happen the next time anyone used rode the bike. Guy uses it for years, gets full value for it, and then wants ME to pay for it after just minutes of normal use? wtf???

Scratching my head,
Worthless Old Junk

Reply

rvoi
0
rvoi  - Jan. 26, 2016, 11:14 a.m.

A friend borrowed an aluminum canoe one day…. brought it back a few days later crumpled like a beer can and nearly folded in half. It was an awkward moment. Never loan anything to anyone.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Jan. 26, 2016, 3:23 p.m.

Did he pay for it?

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rvoi
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rvoi  - Jan. 27, 2016, 7:29 a.m.

No, there was no offer for payment or repair. The response was, "Sorry about your old canoe." He felt fine about the deal since it was physically returned instead of left in the river wrapped around a rock. It doesn't relate to the letter writer's situation other than expect the unexpected when you do loan something and don't loan anything that you really care about.

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shrockie
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Shrockie  - Jan. 27, 2016, 2:30 p.m.

ooff. lame. un-friend.

At Downieville they say "big boy rules: try not to beat it up, a scratch is okay, but if you break something you need to replace it. "

Reply

david-mills
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David Mills  - Jan. 26, 2016, 7:58 a.m.

I never lend out a bike that I don't consider somewhat expendable, with older but serviceable components that I want to upgrade but haven't been able to justify shelling out cash for. Or they get the bike that's hard to ride - folks seldom ask twice for the SS road bike geared at 53×17 with 38C tires. I also tend not to lend things to people who break stuff.
Them: "Oh hell, I totally folded my wheel on that step-down! You still have that spare kicking around?"
Me: "Um… bearings are toast. It's out of true. There was a terrible flood. Locusts! Sorry man!" [hides pristine wheel behind couch]
That said, I have given entire bikes to people with no expectation other than they pay it forward. If I have old parts I'm not using, like saddles, bars, stems, forks, etc., I'll give them away to those in need, or trade them for a pint. Beer > 135mm quill stem or 26.8 seatpost.

Reply

powderturns
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Mike  - Jan. 29, 2016, 5:27 p.m.

can we talk about that 26.8 seatpost?

Reply

david-mills
0
David Mills  - Jan. 29, 2016, 5:58 p.m.

Long gone, my good chum…

Reply

hbelly13
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Raymond Epstein  - Jan. 26, 2016, 5:20 a.m.

I'm with you 100% on this. Conversely, if you lend something to someone as the author did then you assume responsibility for any issues that occur barring the recipient doing something egregious. The simple fact that this "friend" did not offer to pay for the repair speaks volumes. It's likely best to stand by the X-files quote: "Trust no one" since it's back on.

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qduffy
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qduffy  - Jan. 26, 2016, 1:19 p.m.

X-Files is back on?!

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 27, 2016, 8:40 a.m.

Yes. It started up again last week. And they're filming in Vancouver again, too.

Reply

CraigH
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Craig Hunt  - Jan. 27, 2016, 4:27 p.m.

Actually started Sunday night, second episode was Monday night. (I guess we can debate is Sunday last week or this week…)

Reply

qduffy
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qduffy  - Jan. 28, 2016, 9:47 a.m.

Is it one of those things where once I miss an episode, I might as well skip it? 🙂

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