It is a crucial breakthrough in student’s life, comparable hardly with anything other than the purchase of the first one’s own cooking pot: Looking out of the window immediately draws attention to a shiny new (yes, alright it is second hand) bike, securely locked up with a massive D-lock. It is big enough, in a working condition, ideal for furious last minute rides through a city combusted with traffic and tourism.

That all definitely cannot be taken for granted. Basic principles of supply and demand sharply handicap anyone, who would naively decide to fundamentally change his or her mobility exactly at the moment when the number of potential customers of bike shops in town increases by a solid few thousand freshers. It doesn’t come as a big surprise to an observant reader that most of them do not need a full year of running sweating to the lab or the Sport’s Centre to come to the same conclusion that they need a bike.

What follows, at least for a sufficiently resilient individual, is a series of never-ending, still pedestrian trips to the most remote bike retailers, fuelled by hopes that they have not yet been hit by the bike-madness. This premise turns out to be completely wrong. All seems to be lost, but there comes the option of last resort. The internet. Here, the range of offers is quite broad, options of quality check not so much. Despite that, a little bit of bravery gets us to the desired situation from the first paragraph.

That is just the beginning though. As our new double-wheeled friend is British, he demands permanent attention. Else, he is just going to stop cooperating. So, there is no option other than to calmly accept regular component-chasing trips and to get fascinated by the number of constituent parts of a bicycle, all of which are capable of breaking.

With such a great decision also comes a great responsibility. It is a question of personal pride to avoid the regrettable moments when a cyclist, accompanied by the diabolic sound of squeaking brakes and mocking looks of people passing by, stops at the red light. Especially when he or she realises that not that long ago they themselves were guilty of such looks, enviously complaining about people not caring about their bikes. But now, they come to realize that a second hand cycle purchased for an appropriately student price requires almost permanent care. Chain oil is a good start, but definitely not enough. There is always something to adjust, replace or tighten and the dream of a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride seems unreachable.

Worries about squeaking brakes are quickly substituted by fears almost existential. Their character is so severe that they could be capable of overturning general belief in the intrinsically good nature of mankind. A friend’s back wheel has been stolen from a bike parked safely at the premises of the college. Unbelievable. Also a valuable lesson that locking the bike’s frame is indeed not enough in this city. After the tsunami of excitement of the first weeks of the school year, the never-ending battle between hydraulic scissors and steel D-locks is what drives the local bike-market.

It is almost disturbing how quickly one gets used to comfort. Imagine I would have to walk everywhere again! What a horror! This image is so terrifying that I rather bravely undergo the lost fight with squeaking noises, oil the chain as much as necessary and apart from a massive D-lock I use a chain to lock my wheels too. I hope that the fight against thieves is not lost and I will never lose those extra 10 minutes saved on every journey to the labs or Sport Centre again. Dear reader, wish me luck!

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