by James “Pranky” Ramsay
There are so many ways to play tricks on other cyclists, and none of us should feel limited to having fun at another’s expense from time to time. But there’s something extra special about a well-executed practical joke delivered to one of your riding friends.
Herewith, then, three of my favourite cycling-related pranks – two that I’ve perpetrated on others, and one in which I was the gullible victim. All you’ll need to make these work is a set of Allen keys, a crank puller, some glue, a cardboard tube, ball bearings, a devious mind, an accomplice and an unwitting target. Let the fun begin.
The single crankarm rotation
This is a classic trick I invented in 1990 when I shared a house with my oldest friend, Leon. Leon’s two favourite things were sleeping late on weekdays and riding his bike to work. He was always in a mad scramble to get out of the house. One night, I decided I would make his commute more exciting. I removed one of his crankarms and reattached it at a 90-degree angle to the other arm. The result was truly comic as I watched him lurch down the road, trying in vain to get his Birkenstocks into the toeclips.
His confusion was surpassed only by his rage when he discovered what was wrong. I lied and told him his jealous bike-messenger girlfriend, Venus, had done it. He thanked me for my loyalty and dumped her the next day. She hasn’t been seen since she came to pick up her skateboard, tattoo gun and Minor Threat LPs. Leon and I are still best friends.
The stolen bike that wasn’t
This one wasn’t funny at all for me, as I was the victim. But the perpetrators still become paralyzed with laughter today when they tell the story. I had bought a new (and very expensive) road bike. At the start of a ride, I stopped in at my local bike shop to pick up a couple of gels. I brought my bike into the shop and leaned it off to one side near a clothing display. With my back to the bike, I chatted for a few minutes with Ennis, one of the owners. I was unaware that behind me, Karl, the other owner, had picked up my bike and tiptoed upstairs with it. I turned around to find my bike had vanished. I panicked. Both Karl and Ennis looked at me with textbook poker faces. Karl actually managed to go a little pale as he said, “Jimmy, there was a guy in here. I saw him looking at your bike…”
I ran out of the store, skidding on my cleats as I burst onto the street, frantically looking for the thief, my heart pounding in my chest. With neither bike nor absconder in sight, I walked back into the shop, heartbroken. Both Ennis and Karl were doubled over in hysterics, unable to speak. No longer remotely pale, Karl’s face was now bright red with joy as he sputtered about what a fool I was. He finally calmed down enough to bring my bike back downstairs. I still shop there, but I haven’t turned my back on either one of them since.
The great equalizer
We all have a riding partner who can climb faster than the rest of us. Generally, such a soul is to be admired, setting an inspiring example for the group. The exception, however, is that nimble climber who is too cocky, too smug and too full of pride. Cosmic justice is needed there – and we can bring it to bear by hindering the climber’s progress.
We all know that a high power-to-weight ratio is the key to climbing fast. To dispense cosmic justice, we have to move one of those two levers. While the truly dedicated prankster may pursue a campaign involving a slow poisoning to rob the jackrabbit of his speed, the more practical among us will simply choose to make him heavier. And while it’s hard to do this to a person’s body without the rider noticing, it’s surprisingly easy to do to it to a bike. Here’s how it works. First, buy a large bag of steel ball bearings. Take the cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll and duct tape one end shut. Fill the tube with ball bearings. Next, pour in a quantity of white glue or other sticky paste. (Leftover steel-cut oats will do in a pinch.) Let dry overnight. The next day, have an accomplice distract your victim while you remove the seatpost and slide the homemade weight down into the frame.
Your target will not immediately notice that the bike is heavier, but will feel a bit sluggish going uphill. When he complains, tell him it’s probably drag from the drivetrain. Convince him to get ceramic bearings installed. And when he takes the bike to the shop to have that done, pay the mechanic to add another homemade weight. Repeat this process until the rider gives up cycling entirely and offers to sell you the bike at 30 cents on the dollar.
So there you have it – three ways to amuse yourselves on April 1. But be on guard. It’s highly likely that your intended victim has read this column, too.