(from Rodale’s Mountain Bike Magazine, June 2009, page 32)
BEING ADAM MARKOVIC(H)
A little more than a year ago, I stole a mountain bike. Or saved it. By Ron S. Doyle.
Every city has bike cemeteries, racks where tall grass weaves into the spokes of neglected or abandoned rides. My buddy Gabe—a teacher who refurbishes old bikes and donates them to his at-risk students—lives near one of these urban graveyards in Glendale, Colorado. When he first pedaled past it, noting the rack’s ramshackle inventory, one bike stood out: an unlocked 1994 Marin Eldridge Grade, paralyzed by flat tires and a devastated rear wheel. For a year, the bike went untouched.
I needed it. I was bike-commuting more than 100 miles each week and wanted a knobby-tired addition to my fleet. My last mountain bike, a 1995 limited-edition Gary Fisher Grateful Dead Hoo Koo E Koo, had been stolen in 2006, leaving me to navigate icy winter mornings on a cyclocross bike.
And, well, I must confess—I had wanted that Marin for ages.
I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico—known for its extraterrestrial activity but not for its singletrack. As a kid, I lurked around Roswell Schwinn, the only shop in town, pretending to be a gearhead. One Marin Eldridge Grade graced the sales floor, with its champagne-colored chromoly frame, anodized red accents, stubby bar ends, and that little Marin bear on the downtube. I loved it but couldn’t afford it.
I recognized the graveyard Marin immediately. Upon inspection, I found a registration tag from the Telluride Marshal’s Department. I called and learned the owner’s name: Adam Markovich.
I dialed the phone number the officer gave me. Disconnected. I Googled “Adam Markovich.” Nada. I paid for a person search, found an Adam Markovich in Denver, and visited his address. No one was home
I took the bike. I told myself someone would eventually take it anyway; if it was me, I rationalized, the Marin would be protected. If Adam showed up, I’d gladly return it. And sure enough: a few weeks later, the building’s landlord hauled off the entire graveyard.
Vindicated, I declared myself the bike’s guardian. Aside from replacing seized pedals and that trashed rear wheel, I kept the bike in its original condition. I even left the foam grips from 1994. I nicknamed the bike “Markovich.”
For a while, I was content. I had the bike of my boyhood dreams.
My first official ride was a giddy blur that left my face sore from smiling. But there was one problem: I’m not a boy anymore. The 17.5” frame would have fit me in 1994, but today it’s too small. Like a lover blind to a bad relationship, I ignored the problem, but after several hundred miles my throbbing lower back insisted I stop riding the bike so often. Because the bike isn’t really mine, I can’t sell it or give it away. I still ride Markovich occasionally, but now I can’t settle in the saddle without the eerie feeling I’m riding in someone else’s skin.
Over the last year, I’ve searched stolen-bike registries, phoned, e-mailed, Twittered, and blogged. My sleuthing uncovered one Adam Markovich in Arizona who e-mailed me (“Not my bike, thx”) and a Serbian church bulletin from Chicago that bore his name on a prayer list.
In March, I spoke with the Telluride Marshal’s Department again. Since the registration predated computer records, Detective John Wontrobski rechecked the original file:
“M-A-R-K-O-V-I-C,” he said.
“No ‘H’ on the end?” I asked.
I hopped online, dropped thirty bucks, and quickly found Adam T. Markovic, a man who once lived in Telluride and Denver. His latest address placed him in Kirksville, Missouri. I called 1450 KIRX, Kirksville’s AM radio station. ShaeRae Sears, a honey-throated news reporter, recorded my plea and ran a story throughout the following day.
That was three months ago, and still no reply. Maybe Markovic doesn’t want to be found. Did he abandon the bike for a reason? Did he steal it himself? Is he a Serbian refugee running from the Croatian mob?
In mountain biking, the difference between success and failure often lies in one’s ability to commit. I have far more scars from bailing than from staying upright and holding on tight. I can’t ditch this bike—or my guilt—where I found it, so the search must continue. Wish me luck—and if you know Adam, please ask him to call me.