Why our bikes were confiscated

Not a bike lent to us, but a Bixi bike instead


By popular request, here is a post on why the bikes lent to us by our Homestay hosts in Montreal were confiscated.


It’s difficult to write about a subject like this without whingeing. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

Back in August, we were still on a great Workaway in an eco-resort in Charlevoix, planning our next move, to Montreal. It was pretty difficult to find a place to rent in Montreal that was available for several weeks but wouldn’t break the bank. Then we got lucky (so we thought). We were contacted by Nina from Homestay Montreal. She offered us a great price for a unit with its own kitchen and bathroom in the St-Henri district, right next to the Lachine Canal.

You can use the bikes

Lachine Canal bike path

Fantastic, we thought. We’ll be able to buzz around Montreal on bikes, using the bike path running along the Lachine Canal, just a few metres from our door, and the whole network. Montreal would be our oyster.


The first day, we moved in, settled in, and asked if we could borrow the bikes, as agreed.

‘Ah, sorry, they’re in the garage.’

‘OK – could we get them out of the garage?’

‘My husband has the key.’

‘OK – is he here?’

‘No, not here at the moment.’

‘Do you know when he’ll be back?’

‘No, not really.’

Cut to the next day. We get the bikes. There is a half-hour comedy segment where Nina’s husband (Mirkit? Stanley? Jacob? we’re not sure) makes sure we have a sufficiently strong padlock and matching key. Then off we cycle to a canalside yoga class. We are so freaked out by his dire warnings of bike theft that we chain them within sight, to special hoops by a bicycle maintenance shop. We talk to the bike shop staff.

‘Um .. we’re worried about these bikes. Do bikes ever get stolen here?’

(Bemused look, shake of head). ‘Nope, never had that problem here.’

Rain immobilises bikes

Over the next few days we use the bikes from time to time. They are useful. When we bring them back we chain them to a pole in the front yard, under cover. One day, it starts raining. Meercat erupts from his part of the house, on the top floor.

‘Oh my God! Now it is raining on the bikes!’

‘Yes … just a shower, I think.’

‘No, no. They are going to rust up completely, these bikes. Give me the key. I will put them in the garage. Otherwise they will be no good.’

We hand over the padlock key. They get stored in the garage, locked up, while it rains.

The next day, it’s sunny. We plan to use the bikes again, to cycle to a food market. I go up the steps to their part of the house and ask Nina if we can borrow the bikes.

‘Ah, sorry, they’re in the garage.’

‘OK – could we get them out of the garage?’

‘My husband has the key.’

‘OK – is he here?’

‘No, not here at the moment.’

‘Do you know when he’ll be back?’

‘No, not really.’

Public Domain Image: Overgrown Weeds 

A bit of pruning

The next day, we cut back some brambles that have grown completely over the path to our front door, making our access difficult. Every time we go past, I bang my head on the staircase, trying to avoid the thorns. We don’t want to bother our hosts by asking them to do it. A mistake. Nina goes bananas.


‘What you cut these plants back for? You cannot do something like this.’

‘Ah – we just thought we’d help you out. Rather than ask you to do it, we did it ourselves. Obviously they were blocking the path.’

‘I cannot believe it! Would you be happy if someone stayed in your house and a plant grew and they did this? They cut your plant?’

‘Er .. yes, that would be fine, if thorns were blocking their path.’

‘No, it is not fine! I am going to report you to Homestay. And you can’t have the bikes. You were supposed to use them just now and then. Maybe an hour at the weekend. Not all the time.’

‘OK. Fine.’

That was the last we saw of the confiscated bikes. We stayed three more weeks. The atmosphere was a little tense.

Zen and the art of bike borrowing

But as I said, I really don’t want this to be a whinge. So, with hindsight, what have I got out of this episode?

1.  I got to try out the excellent Bixi bikes – see my previous post.

2. I was reminded, yet again, that not everyone has the same values or thinks in the same way as me. A phrase like ‘use the bikes’ means different things to different people. And even if I act with the best intentions, people who don’t know me may suspect me of being incompetent, malicious or worse. Just keep zen.

3. In retrospect, it’s quite a funny story.




7 thoughts on “Why our bikes were confiscated

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