June 23, 2016


Sometimes, like when he stood atop the Tour de Suisse podium last week, 22-year-old Colombian cyclist Miguel Ángel López looks more like a schoolboy who thinks he has died and gone to heaven than a force to be reckoned with.

Photo: Tim De Waele

López did more to earn his nickname "Superman," though, than win prestigious stage races or soldier on in spandex, precipitation be damned. 

Five years ago López was ambushed on a training ride by a pair of would-be bike thieves. The brigands got more than they'd bargained for with the 5'6", 143-pound López, however. The cyclist fought the men off, sustaining two stab wounds before disarming his assailants—and retaining his bike, of course.  

"Anyone would have defended themselves, wouldn't they?" López says of the episode.

Maybe so, Superman, but few would have done so so successfully.

Thanks to Tom and Karen Carter for bringing López's story to my attention, and to Rafael Michelena for translation assistance.

June 22, 2016

"I'll whup him"

Spalding University president Tori Murden McClure suspended
a red Schwinn—not Clay's, which was never recovered—from the
university's main building as a tribute to Ali after his June 3 death.
Some people, when their bikes get stolen, start blogs. Others parlay their theft-induced animus into legendary boxing careers.

But perhaps I've misleadingly used the plural there. That second course of events has only unfolded once, that I know of: in the case of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., better known today as Muhammed Ali.

In 1954, 12-year-old Cassius rode his brand new red-and-white Schwinn to a business expo in downtown Louisville's Columbia Auditorium, now the Spalding University Center. By the time he came out to pedal home, his bike was gone—and he was livid.

Someone told Cassius that there was a policeman in the Columbia Gym in the auditorium's basement, and that he could report the theft to him.

"I ran downstairs, crying," Ali wrote in his autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story, "but the sights and sounds and the smell of the boxing gym excited me so much that I almost forgot about the bike."

Maybe that's how Ali remembered it, but in most tellings of the story the first words out of young Cassius's mouth when he met Sergeant Joe Martin expressed his intent to "whup" whoever had made off with his Schwinn.

"You better learn to fight before you start fightin'," Martin replied.

And Cassius did. He began training in the rec center Martin ran in the Columbia Gym and by 1960 had learned the ropes well enough to win the light heavyweight gold at the Summer Olympics in Rome.

And the rest is history: Clay's bike was never recovered, but man was there some whupping.

June 13, 2016

"Not every day you get to rope somebody that did something bad"

The story has been picked up by outlets from The Guardian to New York Magazine, so perhaps you've already heard: A rancher, astride a horse and handy with a lasso, took down a would-be bike thief in a Walmart parking lot in Oregon last week.

When Robert Borba, loading dog food into his truck, heard a woman cry that someone was making off with her bike, he didn't hesitate. Borba let his horse—Long John—out of the cattle trailer attached to his truck, and together the two of them pursued the thief, who, struggling with the bike's gearing, ditched the two-wheeler and attempted to make a getaway on foot.

Not on Borba's watch. The rancher and former rodeo regular brought down the fleeing man with a lasso around the legs and then dragged him to the end of the parking lot. The would-be thief grabbed a tree and tried to free himself, but Borba (1) kept the rope taut, (2) called 911, and (3) waited 15 minutes for the Eagle Point, Oregon, police to arrive.

"We've never had anyone lassoed and held until we got there," said Eagle Point Sergeant Darin May. "That's a first for me."

To read more or watch Borba describe the parking lot throw down, check out the Medford Mail Tribune's coverage of the incident.

June 8, 2016

Total Peace of Mind?

Looks like Boston-based Fortified Bicycle has some competition in the guaranteed-against-theft bike market.

You'll perhaps recall from its December Kickstarter campaign that Fortified promises to replace—within 24 hours, no less!—any one of its Invincible bicycles that thieves manage to steal or plunder for parts.

Well now Amsterdam's VanMoof is pledging to ship its city-ready cycles with a comparable helping of peace of mind.

"The VanMoof SmartBike is unlike any other bike," claims the company's website.
Not only will it ship with anti-theft parts and tracking that make it terrifying to bike thieves. If a thief is brilliant enough to get past all that, we promise to get your stolen bike back to you in two weeks, or we'll replace it.
The SmartBike costs more than the Invincible (early-bird prices of $1098/$1398 versus $399/$649), and is more tech-heavy, but the idea behind both offerings is the same: Bring to market a ride optimized not for setting speed records or shredding single-track, but for getting around the city.

Both bikes are now available for pre-order.

June 7, 2016

Up, Over, and Off

Lest you doubt, dear bike owner, that two-wheelers ever get lifted up, over, and off of the signposts they're locked to, know this: It happened on Washington, D.C.'s L Street on April 23, at 8:41 in the morning. And there's security video to prove it:

Yes it's tempting in this world of too few bike racks to loop your big ole lock around a signpost and hope for the best, but keep in mind that the worst does happen. Don't let it happen to you!