I Spy: An Ebike Thriller
By A R Salvador
It was nearly midnight deep in the enemy's heartland. I was shivering behind a row of grapevines waiting for the air-drop. Then, I heard the thwop-thwop of the chopper's stealthed rotors. The yellow light blinked on my comm-phone. I pressed the "commit" button. A gentle thud, a delivery, and the chopper was gone. My transport unit should be on the drop zone.
I crept to the DZ, looked around. Still undetected. Flipped on my IR goggles and turned on the infrared light. Saw it, a slim box containing the Agency's latest spy transport unit: The Montague CX-21 electric bicycle. Or, more accurately, Rad2Go's version of it, since Montague was now simply making frames for Rad2Go, an electric vehicle company. Montague makes 'paratrooper' bikes, and the CX-21 is its civilian version.
The wind rustled. Crickets stopped. I pried the box open and beheld the psuedo-CX-21, which I dubbed the "Rad-Tague."
The Agency required its spies to check incoming gear and I noticed that the battery box differed from its specifications: A trapezoidal softbag instead of the familiar square. Puzzled, I unzipped the softbag. Inside was a metal box. Its tiny sheet-metal screws came off, too easily, with the Swiss Army knife's screwdriver: They were all loose! Made a mental note to use Loc-Tite later. The 2 X 12-volt batteries were connected together by spade connectors. If those were to come off, batteries could short. The connectors had to be wrapped with something else - but what? I opened my spy kit: The only thing that looked useful was the government issue secret-agent ("they won't see you coming") condom. That'll do it, I though. I snipped off pieces of the latex and wrapped them tightly on the spade connectors.
Assembling the Rad-tague back together quickly took only a few minutes. I dragged the shipping container into a hole pre-dug earlier, covered it with dirt, switched on the Rad-tague's battery, pressed the throttle, and I was off. Yiipii!
Dodging enemy patrols, I zig-zagged my way back into the student dorms, where my cover was, "journalism student." The Rad-Tague's nearly-silent electric drive was barely noticeable. Back in town, I pedaled several checkpoints. The streets were pitch black except for kerosene lamps. No one noticed the Rad-Tague's motor in the dim light. Parked the bike, and crept back into my quarters.
The next morning, I ambled my way back to the bike racks and was surprised to see a small crowd milling around the bike. In last night's darkness, I hadn't noticed that the bike's frame was painted a shimmering, dazzling, holographic blue. Smiling very wide, I ambled my way into the crowd of admirers, mumbled a "G'day," and pedaled off. Made a mental note to remind the dummies at HQ to paint the spy-bike a more neutral color next time.
My assignment was simple: Find out why and where previous agents had disappeared off, along with their Rad-Tagues. The Agency was puzzled and concerned about these blokes' total disappearances.
Day 2. My rear-end was aching at the end of the day. Who designed these saddles anyway? Someone's sadistic idea of involuntary male birth control? Back at the parking area, I secretly swapped the Rad-Tague's saddle with someone else's, one marked Atomic, Anatoly, Anatomic or something likewise. He, he, he, he.
Day 3. My posterior is happy with the new saddle. I was motoring to a stop by the medina, when kerchunky noises came from the rear. A flat tire! What the hell happened here, isn't this supposed to be a paratrooper 'lite' bike? Looked at the tube, and saw a seam had bust open - why did this happen, with my puny 150 lb. weight? Anyway, patch, and go .. 'nudder 3 miles, pffffttt - 'nuther flat! Grumble, grumble, patch, and go. Another 2 miles, then pfffffftttt.
What's going on???? I looked at the tube, but this time, the tube's sliced on the inside, where the rim tape seemed to be slicing and dicing an inner tube that might as well as have been made of rice paper. Patch 'n go, again. Good for about two miles, then pfffffffttt once more, this time, on the other wheel.
I suspected sabotage with these inner tubes. They flattened only on the inside - that's very odd.
I inspected the round hole, on the tube's inside, where the rim comes into contact, and was completely puzzled. So are other cyclists who had stopped by to offer help. There were no burrs or sharp points on the rim, but the rim tape seemed to be shredding the tube.I saw a bike repair shack down the road, and pushed the Rad-Tague on. The bike repairman, Pedro, seemed to be a sympathetic fellow. Pedro looks at the flat, and shakes his head sadly. Pedro also shows me a box: CCM triple-thick puncture-resistant inner tubes. I nod affirmatively, and placed ten thousand rubles into his hand.
I plug in the charging unit and charge the battery while Pedro's whistled and fixed the flat.
A few minutes later, Pedro is beaming, and the tire is fixed. Pedro gesticulates that he had taken off the rim tape and replaced it with his own, a special tape made of thick burlap dipped into melted rubber for adhesive and pedaled off.
Day 4: two goons pedaling a betjak (pedicab) are chasing me. I press the electric throttle, feel a gentle push, and gain some speed. But, something's wrong, they're gaining on me. Isn't this Rad2Go bike supposed to go 22MPH? Apparently not. I pedal, too. I'm going only 14MPH when the clutch tops out and signs off - I'm on my own. Luckily, I reach the crest of a hill, and coast down at speed. The electric motor's free-wheeling clutch saves the day! The ancient betjak -missing a free-wheel - can't keep up. I hear invectives fading away.
Suddenly, a series of huge potholes loom ahead. The Rad-Tague's brakes stop my bike on a dime. However, the betjak, with weaker brakes, plows into the potholes. The goons are jarred, thrown over the handlebars, and land on their duffs. I help them get up. It appears they merely wanted to try a ride on my bike.
Later, back at the university, I notice the battery bag starting to rip. A friendly female student notices my dilemma, and offers a cloth "hammock" to strengthen the battery bag. It works.
DAY 5: I see a gaggle of cyclists coming my way - very fast! Wait .. is this my imagination, or am I seeing a whole group of cool-blue Montagues zipping my way? I duck into the shadows and wait for the bikes to scoot by. Why, that's my team! But everybody looks weird, they've wearing spandex shorts and Giro helmets! I jump into the saddle, stab the throttle and pedal furiously to catch up. But they're pulling away! Their bikes are faster'n mine! They were getting further ahead, when I pressed the blue button my comm-phone. The group stops, look around, notice me, and wave. I catch up, puzzled why my Rad-Tague couldn't catch up to their similar-looking ebikes. I inspect at their motors and notice that theirs have blue "Currie" labels. Mine has a red "Currie" label. Apparently, only the "blue label" motors can go 18MPH.
The apparent leader, "Big Mike" comes up to welcome me. I ask him, "What's going on? - the Agency thought you guys were captured?" Big Mike grins, offers bottled water, and says, "After we replaced our saddles with gels, we had so much fun with these ebikes, charging batteries anywhere, touring the country, showing them to other cyclists, we unanimously decided that -- since the war was practically over - it's justifiable to quit the spy business and sell ebike franchises. After all, sooner or later, they'll need something to replace their camels!"
These warriors have morphed into capitalists. Anybody wanna' tell Malcolm Forbes?
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