There were two Bontrager mountain bikes in all of New Mexico during the spring of 1996. One of those was stolen from the living room of the house where I rented a room from Elliot. It was a strange weekend. A friend had been staying with us as well as Elliot’s brother and a handful of his friends from California. We had an overcrowded house. There was road construction on the street in front of our old prison brick house. There are only a handful of buildings made out of the old prison bricks in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The rest of the town is adobe, at least on the outside, in accordance with their unique building codes meant to preserve the potency of southwest culture in the land of enchantment.
I had left my bike in the living room and someone had absconded with it because the front door of our house had been left open. I immediately called all the bike shops in the city, gave them a description of this unique machine, and asked them to call me if it turned up. Almost 48 hours later I got a phone call from Early Bird, one of the bike shops. It just so happened that the guy I had spoken to on the phone and given the information to was serendipitously the self-same person who answered the phone when an idiot lady called in asking if $500 was a good price for a Bontrager. He had her describe the bike, it was mine to a “t”. So he called me back and gave me a lead on who the idiot lady was and I did a search through the phone book and found her number. She was a regular client of the store. I called and left a message. The next day I called again and got her on the phone. She told me someone had approached her husband on The Plaza and offered to sell him a bike. I told her it was mine and that it had been stolen out of my house. She said, “oh sorry. I don’t know anything about it” and she hung up on me. I had already reported it stolen to the police so I called them back and tried to get a hold of the sergeant who took the original report. I gave them the case number, they couldn’t find it. I asked to talk to the officer who took the report, he was gone, out for training or some nonsense. I had to re-file the report and tell them that I had a lead. They said they’d look into it. I called again the next day. They lost the report again and couldn’t cross reference the case number. I was so frustrated. That bike was my most prized possession and most important form of transportation.
In the summer of 1993 I had visited the Bontrager factory in Santa Cruz, California. They no longer really made bikes there but I ordered a custom mountain bike from them anyway. What the factory had turned into was a kind of test lab for various components and I was lucky enough to get a tour of their fascinating set up. Bike companies from all over the world, mostly southeast Asia, would sent them parts like a bottom bracket or a head set. The Bontrager people would put them in their stress-test machines flip it on and the machine would simulate use, but on a more intense level. Then they would come back the next day and see where the component broke and send the engineering specs back to the bike company. This was their new business model, they were pulling back from manufacturing bikes. A few years later the Santa Cruz factory would be gone all together.
The bike was never recovered and the police never investigated even though the theft qualified as ‘grand theft’ since the bike was worth over $2k. I never got further than that one conversation with that flighty person who wouldn’t help me locate the person trying to sell it to her husband. I was devastated and ended up buying a used Rock Hopper for $300 and my biking habit suffered enormously. I wouldn’t really get back into biking until 2019 when I finally bought a decent bike. That Rock Hopper lasted a long time but was ultimately not enough to overcome the disappointment of having my Bontrager stolen. The thief stole more than just a bike. They stole my desire to continue with bicycling as a primary form of transportation and all the benefits inherent with such a mode of travel.