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  • Writer's pictureClotaire Mandel

The locker.

Here is my small reflection about lockers.

I realised I was carrying a locker plus a cable since over a year now. About 1,5kg during a year, for a few times I used it.

So, why not getting rid of it ? In fact, it’s the idea. As it could be useful in France, because it cost loads of money and cause end of the African journey is approaching, I keep it for now.

Which actually reveals an attachment for a useless item.

What i’m sure of is, the journey will continue with a lighter and more basic locker.

Why this sudden change ?

Not that sudden, it's a process. I think everyone starts with a locker. Obviously, we don’t want to get striped of our bike. We lock it everywhere, all the time, just in case. Then, less and less.

We go with this locker as we go with fully packed panniers. Fully packed of a bunch of things. Just in case. We fill it up. Just in case if it gets cold, or if.. Endless list.

We start with this heavy item which is, my humble opinion, as heavy and bulky as fears and apprehension.

Not necessarily ours, but fears and apprehension others are carrying and sharing. Those who contaminate us, cause generally speaking, departure’s greetings are rarely encouraging. Every traveller knows it, it’s more about : “And if…”, “Are you not afraid of…”

I wish people could just wish me a wonderful journey. I’ll take care of myself, I swear, just tell this to drivers who cross my route.

One of the reason why I leaved with just saying I’ll go straight ahead, keeping secretly my destination, who finally turns into a step and not a final destination.

So there we go with a beautiful and strong locker, nobody would leave with my bike.

And a year later, I laugh when looking at it. Keys struggles to get into the rusty mechanism. Is colour change as soon as the road’s tone changes.

So how do you do ?

Not that difficult. For me is two different cases : danger or not. And i’m the one who can judge it. Based on my instincts, my knowledge, others one, feeling and country reputation.

No danger : In this case, the bike is never far from me anyway, voluntarily hard to access and harder carry than a normal bike. And in this kind of place, you also feel that nobody would touch it. It’s not the case everywhere, and it should not prevent being attentive anyway. But I swear, is some places where I can leave the bike and be sure it’s safe as fuck.

It’s not everywhere a jungle as Paris or Grenoble could be. You can keep trusting people nowadays, yeah !

And, funny thing, it’s mostly in places who are completely demonised by tv that I can leave my bags and bike, and myself, safely.

And even more, sometimes, I don’t feel locking because I don’t want to be disrespectful to people hosting me or with who I’m hanging out. Mostly because if I stay overnight with people it’s because I feel safe, I feel good. It means that I trust them, so why should I lock it ?

Danger : So here, for me, in most cases, the problem turns as a fake problem.

In places with a particular reputation or places where people could approach it with envy, it’s also mostly overprotected, in other terms, insecurity creates security. Not always, but often.

And, if it’s a very dangerous and non protected area, the bike health will probably be the last worry you’ll have.

For exemple in Kenya, I found them so paranoid with security, who’s absolutely everywhere, that nothing could happen. Not a shop without his armed security guards in touristic places, or even in the middle of nowhere, is security guards everywhere. A smile, a please, a thank you. and your new friend is happy and proud to keep an eye on your loaded bike coming from an other planet.

Some areas are theoretically so unsafe that they got lods of security mechanisms. You just need to deflect it to your own interest.

This is obviously out of consideration for war zone and so on. You just usually don’t cycle there.

Overnight :

Sleeping outside : As i talk with my own experience and practice, Ill talk about my way to sleep outside. Namely, everything or nothing. Or everybody see me, or anybody.

So in very remote places, small chances are to find somebody who ramble overnight in the middle of nowhere. Well, is some countries highly populated where you are never far from a humain being. But still, most unlikely somebody will walk by night and who will finally decide to cycle back home with your back instead of keep walking.

In those conditions, a small locker or a bungee cord well adjusted who link your bike to your tent poles must be enough. At least, if you do it properly, the ten ill have to seriously move to get the bike out of it. And still, as humans and mostly as cyclist leaving outside, we work with feelings. If you don’t feel it but you have to sleep there anyway, you stay alert during the night.

Schools, police station, churches, mosques are good places cause nobody would dare there.

Mostly because there, somebody usually agreed to let you sleep here, and people around come to see this famous cyclist carrying a foldable house. Very unlikely somebody would come to touch your possessions. It can obviously happen, don’t get me wrong, but you feel it. And even schools, for exemple in Zambia, got a proper security guard as well.

Hotel/hostel : Same, I sleep with my bike. Even if I have to sleep on the floor and my bike comfortably laying on the bed. Well, some places are safe enough to leave it in a luggage room, or behind the region. Again, feeling. And if they have some extra space, they even park your bike in an other room is yours is way too small.

Warmshower/CS : I always precise “me and my bike” in my first message to clear the situation. It can be a plus to be a cyclist in term of story and background. So coming with a bike become obvious. Then, either people have enough space or I’ll find an other solution. Better spend 10sd for a room with my bike inside than gambling and loosing everything.

And even more than that :

- I don’t mind anymore. If I can’t get inside with the bike or having a place where I can keep an eye on it in a sketchy area, I move. Is that easy.

- And I ask. For some, cycling is a way to get closer to the world in his globally. So I look around, judging who could be a perfect bike keeper and it’s done. And again, it’s all based on instinct, for pretty much everything. The best advise ever.

- A locker can lower one’s guard. Think it’s safe now and think about something else. Best way to get robbed.

When you know the salaries of people around a quick search with the brand of the bike can be enough to attract the greeds. Greeds that I could completely understand.

- You never go far from your bike for too long. A big chain or a small locker will have the same effect. It will need tools anyway, and time. In the middle of nowhere, or in towns/countries with no special renown, people are not often carrying crowbars.

And if I can, a good part of the world believe in God existence, whatever they can call him or her or it. So them, they reassure me. Cause I think they have a temptation weaker than the others to steal.

It maybe sounds stupid, but I spent load of time in muslim countries, and my bike was always leaning on the mosques. Best locker ever.

It works with all the God’s houses, but reluctance could vary. Well, it's not wonderland either. But from here, according to where everybody ride and how everybody feels, it's up to everybody to feel the vibes and act accordingly. If I don't feel good somewhere, I moove. No way to lock the bike to a pole, it's so easy to steal a bag of a small thing dangling on the handlebar.

Finnaly, I didn’t find myself in a daily situation where I felt I had too lock the bike, not other reason than the one based on principle. I have the locker, so I should use it. And it’s not for the lack of rotten places I’v been sleeping in. But in those cases, the bike sleep close to me. As close as my future wife during the honey moon.

We create a lot of problem due to the lack of knowledge about the world, the lack of trust. Of course nobody should act stupidly. But that is very very basic. A look on both sides, left and right. A warm regard or a friendly lad around, they would be happy to keep a look upon your bike for few minutes.

And more than that, I feel safer with my bike in Africa than in France. And from far. Anyway, is never far from myself. Would be stupid to tempt fate.

Conclusion ?

To conclude, I’ll say the weight, price and bulk ratio convince me to give up this piece of gear.

And still, it’s always possible to keep yourself away far from situation where you could seriously need it.

And if you want to keep a locker anyway, not necessary to have a 2kg one. I got myself a 200 grams, light and compact, who will do the job.

But the most important is : got the piece of gear you feel confortable with, regarding to your practice and yourself.

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May 21, 2023

In Iran, when I tried to lock my bicycle for the night, a friend started tsk tsking. We sensed every posession was beyond safe. I still locked it sheepishly, because kids would ride it otherwise. Messed up gears the next morning were a clue. I was a lot more worried about my indestructible bike's as-yet unproven immortality back then.

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