How I learned to protect my precious Hula Hoops against thieves

For years, I’ve been aware of a young man in my neighbourhood, frequently outside the Venice Bicycle Shop, replacing his swiped Hula Hoops from KFC.

So when the store owner handed me a phone number with a Toronto area code I bought the keys. What I did next had been well rehearsed.

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When my bike was stolen early Wednesday morning, the thief already moved on to a new target. He tried to hit their house, too.

This time, however, the bicycle guy I called got back to me. And as soon as I told him about the house crime, he changed the locks on my Hula Hoops.

It wasn’t the first time I’d hounded the shop owner for these bikes. Every week or so, someone’s stolen them. We’d call our daughters and then I’d tell them to hide the Hula Hoops from the child predators. I’d tell myself that the best way to protect my daughters was to protect them from me.

But the Hula Hoops are my thing. They’re like cars: Collect them, have them, be able to wear them.

My bike has been to the Expo and the Skatepark, twice. Never far from the sun. And when I get home on my bike, I go straight to the pizza-restaurant bathroom to warm it up in my down jacket.

That’s my thing. That’s for biking and riding. Not to cruise in places; I don’t do that.

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But for the most part, I’ve been a “geek.”

I’ve been to every ice-rink, concert and Easter egg hunt that Toronto has had, bagging skateboards, skates and bikes for 15 years now.

And if you’ve ever asked me, “Can you name my bike?” I can. I can name all my bikes. All. My. Bike. No doubt, there are some items that “differed” – mostly because I never really owned all my bikes. (Too many weren’t mine.)

But as I’ve moved into college and later, work, my bike has mattered more. And almost always, it’s been the one thing – the thing that really mattered to me – that got stolen.

I moved to a new town, trying to open a restaurant with friend and former bike guy. I was training for a race in one of the most cycling-friendly provinces in the nation – a place that’s for cyclists, not tourists.

The bike I was expecting wasn’t there. That was the year the famous Hapaluto pro cycling team abandoned North American road races, losing the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent training its riders.

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I brought in a used bike – a new idea for me. While struggling to open a restaurant, I didn’t have much time for biking. I found an old light bike, which was six to eight years old. I’d been trying to get a smaller bike as it was hard to lock up. So I took a bike that didn’t really do any work that I needed on a daily basis.

The first week after we opened, he took the bike out of the washroom and laid down there. My friends were old enough to know better. He warned me he’d bring the bike into work so I could catch it. He knew what he was doing, I thought. I walked into work. It was gone. The bike was gone.

I was devastated. But this is Toronto. It’s very easy to get used to these things, to adapt to the unthinkable. Of course the bike has been stolen. That would be normal.

But I find myself looking over my shoulder every day. To be on the safe side of things, I put my bike in the wash. I take it to the bike shop to be repaired.

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