Cycle Hire Bike 14964

Cycle Hire Bike 14964

Cycle Hire Bike 14964 will always have a vivid place in my haunting memories.

Yet, when I first approached it, it didn’t look so sinister. If anything Cycle Hire Bike 14964 looked kind of friendly and welcoming. Like an old friend. It wanted me to sit down. It wanted to show me the places I can see. The people I can meet. The fallen leaves I can gently trample on beneath its comfortingly large wheels.

Confidently I held out my London Cycle Hire Key as I approached the bike. I knew what needed to be done. I’d seen hundreds of fellow Londoners do it with ease. As I slid in my key the light predictably turned from red, to orange and finally the all-clear green.

I pulled the bike. It didn’t move. I pulled it again. That’s strange? This time I put more force into it, hands firmly on the handlebars and pulled with all my strength. Still no movement. Confused I stepped back. Was I missing something? Was there some kind of a vital step in this oh so simple looking extraction of a bike from a docking station process?

Unfazed, having faced bigger challenges in my life, I put the key back in the dock. But by now it was too late. Cycle Hire Bike 14964 was not budging. My mind started to spin. Presenting me with hundreds of unthinkable scenarios of why it didn’t work. Perhaps it’s a well known secret amongst Boris Bikers that you never, never borrow Cycle Hire Bike 14964? Perhaps this is a plot by Boris Johnson to prevent London Cyclist from borrowing a bike and suddenly he will emerge from the nearby bushes laughing full heartedly at my miserable situation and snapping pictures on his iPhone to put up on his Twitter account.

Damn him and his evil plots.

My friend, who was with me at the time, looked at me with her Boris bike. I could see the disappointment in her eyes. I vowed to find a solution. With my phone now in my hands I found myself about to embark on one of the toughest challenges of my life. On the 9th of October 2010 at 17:38 and 27 seconds whilst stood next to Berry Street Cycle Hire Station I was about to call the Barclays Cycle Hire Support Team.

I dialled the number knowing that they were the only ones that could help me now.

Pleased with the speed of someone answering my call and goaded on by passing their security check I optimistically waited for their words of wisdom. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all..

“Have you tried pulling out the bike?”

I was glad to see they had a sense of humour. Of course I had tried to pull out the bike. Why did they think I was standing here? I was no Boris biking fool.

Next they suggested I pull harder.

I started to pull with all my strength. Maybe this was the solution. Maybe we would all laugh later at my embarrassing lack of strength and all would be well again with the world.

But it wasn’t to be. The bike was not moving. We needed something else. A new approach, some blue sky thinking. I awaited their next suggestion, keen by now, almost desperate to try the next thing.

They suggested I pull again, but this time harder.

Surely we’ve already tried this? Einstein said the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result. But I doubted myself. Maybe I truly wasn’t pulling hard enough.

So once again I pulled it with all my strength. The passing cars started to look at me funny. Like I was vandalising the bike. If a police car arrived I’d soon be in the back of it, explaining to them that it’s what Boris’ minions wanted me to do.

No movement.

Again I searched for answers from the support staff. Again they suggested I pull the bike harder. This continued for around 10 minutes at which point it was time to step things up a level. I wanted to speak to a supervisor.

To protect his name, let’s call him John. John will have the answers I thought. He’s the kind of person where if there’s a problem with a bike he’ll deal with it. On John’s watch no Boris Biker is ever left behind. Or at least so I thought. Once again the suggestion floated to pull the bike really hard. Once again it didn’t work. I had lost count of how many times we’d tried the same suggestion. Desperation was beginning to turn to anger.

As I took a deep breath and received a sympathetic pat on the back from my friend I stated the facts as I could see them to John:

“We’ve been trying the same thing for about 15 minutes now John and let’s face facts, it isn’t working.”

For good measure I threw in some encouragement:

“Now we’re both on the same team here.”

And finished with a bit of light-heartedness:

“Isn’t there some kind of magic button you can press to release another bike for me?”

I’d pulled off the friendly customer 101. Surely now a solution would be on my hands and we’d soon be on our way to Regents Park.

John had other ideas. Had I tried lifting the bike and dropping it?

As someone who was trying to rent a bike not test to see if the gravitational pull of the earth is still working I can’t say I had tried that. I promptly did, realising this was the only way to move to the next stage in this ever escalating game of ridiculous suggestions that I seemed to have unwillingly entered myself into.

Once this stage was finally passed and I had lifted and dropped Cycle Hire Bike 14964 three times John relented.

He told me to hold the line.

What happened next on the other end of the line I can only imagine happened as follows..

John called up Boris Johnson. He asked him for authorisation to use the secret button. Boris gave the go ahead. Then two little elves appeared with a secret key. John placed the secret key into a keyhole under the desk. A red button emerged labelled: “Solve the customers problem”. He pressed it.

Back on the line with me he told me to try another bike. I slid in my key and the bike released without any issue.

Putting the phone back against my ear I thanked John and cycled to Regents Park with my friend.

Two days later I received my phone bill:


I learned three things that day:

  • A 23 minute and 09 second call to an 0845 numbers costs £3.94.
  • Boris Bikes are really, really theft proof
  • Before you call the support line lift and drop the Boris Bike at least 3 times and try and pull it out with all your strength for at least 15 minutes

I’m not sure if Cycle Hire Bike 14964 is still out there. Causing misery for people. Heed my warning. If see Cycle Hire Bike 14964 stay away from it. It’s cursed.

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30 Responses to Cycle Hire Bike 14964

  1. David 20/10/2010 at 10:44 am #

    Don’t use the 0845 number. There is a geographic London number given, 020 8216 6666, which is almost certainly cheaper to call.

    • walltoall 20/10/2010 at 10:42 pm #

      To David. Much obliged for the local number for Borisbikes. You’ll have saved me a mint by Christmas! What do want Santa to send you?

  2. S North London 20/10/2010 at 10:55 am #

    Quite a few times I’ve had the problem where the the light has paused on amber then back to red. It seems to be bike specific as I normally get the green light by just trying out my key on another bike in the stand. Maybe it’s always 14964, but who knows.

  3. annmucc 20/10/2010 at 10:56 am #

    Hey Andreas
    One way I have found of getting bikes which are firmly stuck in out of the docking station is by lifting the back of the bike up and the pulling out (when I say high: pull it up as much as I think you should – then double that height again ;)). I was suggested it by one of the guys running around with a trailer reorganising the bikes and it works!
    Has saved me the embarrassment of passer-bys helping me out which had happened before!

  4. Alex 20/10/2010 at 11:02 am #

    I love the dramatic writing style of this post 🙂 You should write more like that!

  5. Mike Smith 20/10/2010 at 11:43 am #

    I’m with Alex – if you get fed up blogging, go for author/playwright! Absolutely loved the

    comic drama of the piece (or was it the dramatic comedy that grabbed me?).

    • walltoall 20/10/2010 at 10:58 pm #

      I’m with Alex and Mike. Lovely bit of writing and reporting. Keep it going as the others say you have a present AND a future at the keyboard.

      • kathryn 22/10/2010 at 12:26 pm #

        Me too. This was absolutely hilarious (while feeling your pain, obviously….)!!!

  6. RobS 20/10/2010 at 12:14 pm #

    I had to sit through 15 minutes of John telling me to push harder (no jokes). I had a bike that wouldn’t dock in any station. He eventually told me to leave just resting in the dock and one of the elves would rescue it. The elves didn’t arrive till about 3am it would seem which also earned me a £50 rental fee. Fortunately this was refunded after 3 weeks!

  7. John 20/10/2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi Andreas, Glad it was a John that eventualy came to your assistance!

  8. BH 20/10/2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Don’t worry. Offending bike 14964 has been found. It has now been eliminated.

    • walltoall 20/10/2010 at 10:48 pm #

      Is the elimination of 14964 going to be on YouTube? This I wanna see. BTW, ANNMUCC is on the money. Lift the rear end right uop in the sky every time to achieve a perfect undock. But I still need a fix for docking and getting a RED light.If this happens to you call John at once on 020 8216 6666, which is almost certainly cheaper to call. (Thanks David)

  9. deadmanjones 20/10/2010 at 1:57 pm #

    If only the system showed us a record of which bikes we’d borrowed. It’s a social networking site waiting to happen.

    • walltoall 20/10/2010 at 10:55 pm #

      DEADMANJONES You CAN get a docket at the docking site for your last I think 5 hires and the docket tells you everything you wanna know including bike number, where you undocked time where you docked and time. ZOE. Sign up get a tag and go for it. A little trick I use I pick the bike with the lowest number if I have a choice on the basis that the lower numbers went out first? have had the greatest amount of use/abuse and are least likely to cause me trouble, Works for me lol

      • Knit Nurse 22/10/2010 at 8:24 pm #

        Sometimes the machines at the docking stations are out of paper.

    • chris 22/10/2010 at 10:54 am #

      dmj: You can tweet with the tag #mlc and join up at to keep track of which bikes you and who else has used them.

  10. zoe 20/10/2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks for putting me off the crazy idea of actually planning to try one of these bikes out……

  11. Angi 20/10/2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Hah…thank you, this made me laugh.

    What in particular was it that drew you to Borris Bike 14964?

    Not sure if I will ever try the hire bikes…maybe I should though…

  12. AJ 21/10/2010 at 9:14 am #

    Don’t be discouraged! Most people manage to use these bikes very successfully, and they’re great!

  13. David Hill 21/10/2010 at 2:27 pm #

    The quote’s from Mark Twain, rather than Einstein.

  14. David Hill 21/10/2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Damn… it’s actually Benjamin Franklin, not Mark Twain.

  15. David Hill 21/10/2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Double damn…. no one actually said it –

  16. Ted 22/10/2010 at 5:21 am #

    Andreas said it. Just up above here a little ways.

  17. Dunc 22/10/2010 at 10:40 am #

    is it not the actual docking station that was at fault rather than the bike?

  18. Dave Holladay 22/10/2010 at 12:47 pm #

    The lift-up option is interesting. In Paris it is the twist (grab saddle and crank and twist the bike off its locking pin) in Barcelona the same technique will shear off the front basket and docking pegs. For Boris Bikes it looks as if a forced ‘flip-over’ might be something which is tried to break-off the docking pin – if Bike 14964 has been so abused than it is likely that the docking pin will be bent, and thus it won’t disengage properly. I gather that bent Ve’Libs present equally difficult dispensing issues.

  19. Tim 22/10/2010 at 2:30 pm #

    While at the cycle show the kind lady from the TFL site showed me the lifting up by the back seat technique which has worked for me so far. Well written piece though A. Well done.

  20. Knit Nurse 22/10/2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Thank you commenters for the useful tips about the cheap phone number and about the undocking trick. Having had to call several times to have modest overcharges refunded (they all add up!) I got to the point where I felt it was cheaper to swallow the overcharge than pay the premium rate for the helpline.

    I would also add a tip – carry some wet-wipes or a plastic bag to go over the seat, particularly if you are using a bike from the docking station on Northumberland Avenue. It’s below trees which seem to be a favourite roost for pigeons!

  21. Pete Cruze 22/12/2010 at 4:04 pm #

    I described the ‘bounce undock’ on another site a while ago, it’s usually enough to persuade a stubborn bike to come out. Lift using the saddle, just a couple of inches, drop it and pull gently while the bounce is happening.

    But this sounds like it wouldn’t have done the job with 14964.

    The thing to have done would be to go straight to another bike that was more willing to be ridden. Your key should be ok to hire elsewhere, very shortly after your green light went off (without the bike coming out). But this doesn’t work if you’re trying to pull the last bike on the station!

  22. Labour Cyclist 31/07/2011 at 10:28 am #

    The Paris and Brussels ones have a very different docking mechanism on the side of the frame. London and Washington have a front mechanism – I was told to bounce in Washington when the bike wouldn’t return but could not be removed. Mind you, that didn’t work.

  23. Bipin Sekhon 27/06/2012 at 10:33 am #

    You honestly have a point there, I have never imagined it like it like that before.
    You make it sound so stirring. I am going to have to inquire about this more!

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