The Bike Prank

Last fall, John Hargrave of began a prank war with‘s own Rob Cockerham. To read about the initial skirmishes, see the Pizza Limo Prank (Rob’s side and John’s side) as well as “Flowers From His Lover” (John’s side and Rob’s side). I’ve known Rob for a couple years now, so I told him that if he needed it, I’d help hit John, pro-bono – you know, right in the bones.

The Plan

Rob’s next idea to prank John was both amusing and simple. First, Rob would send a bicycle lock key to John’s neighbor Pam, who’d inadvertently involved herself in the whole mess during the aforementioned Flowers prank. After some time had passed, I’d lock a bike to John’s house in some fashion, using the lock associated with the previously-mailed key. Then we’d wait to see if John or Pam could figure out the mystery, or if a hacksaw would be required.

Acquiring The Materials

First up, I needed to get a bicycle. Not just any bicycle however. No, for maximum comedic effect, the occasion called for a truly crappy bicycle. To Craigslist!

YOU: Have a rusted-out, piece of crap bike that's taking up space in your garage/basement/attic. It doesn't change gears, it's missing a wheel, it's missing a seat. Don't care! The more beat-up, the better. I: I need a barely-recognizable bike for an art installation. I have a car to take away your piece of crap. And several singles, if you so require. I am willing to pay literally ones of dollars for your piece of crap bike. $1! $2! Maybe even $9! Probably not much more than that, though. Got something which requires quotation marks to call it a "bicycle"? Get in touch, I'll take it away.
Literally ones of dollars

Amazingly, after posting this wholly ridiculous ad, I received a response. A single, solitary response, yes, but that was more than enough. Or exactly enough. It was not too few, anyhow. I met up with the seller J, slapped seven whole dollars in his hands and took ownership of my new sacrificial bike. Not wanting to make J an accessory to…whatever crime this might be, when he asked what I planned to do with the bike, I said it was for an “art installation”. If we can agree that pranking is an art, that might even be true.

So what kind of bike does $7 buy you? In this case, it netted a 1984 Huffy Omni-10 girls bike, with flat tires and no brakes, in blue. In so very much blue. Gaze upon it in awe.

The Blue Bike from the front
That is just a funny bicycle.

The other necessary piece was the bike lock. You can’t leave such a sweet ride standing around unprotected, after all. Why, a Smurf could come along and steal it at any moment. The lock was Rob’s department, and he shipped it to me, along with one key.

The second key was already on its way to Pam, to provide enough lead time that she’d forget about it. After that, we waited for John to strike back at Rob, knowing we could immediately hit him hard and fast with the classic locked-a-blindingly-blue-bike-to-your-house gambit.

A Hiccup

Unfortunately, a hiccup soon occurred, as John’s neighbor Pam was a bit more on the ball than we’d expected. When she received the key, she immediately took it to John, to see if he knew what was up. He didn’t, but with the key already in his possession, this prank would be over much too quickly. What now?

Rob opted to proceed with the plan in slightly modified form, using a new lock. After contemplating new ways to deliver the key (such as “inside a bag of manure” and “buried in a Fleshlight”), Rob decided to send a fire extinguisher to John’s house.


To go with the fire extinguisher, we’d use a keyless Wordlock, with the password set to “FIRE”. John would receive the fire extinguisher in the mail and worry about what flammable thing might be coming next. Instead, a bike would arrive, and he’d have to put the two together to unlock it.

On With the Show

All this took awhile, however, while the bike gradually receded into the landscape of my living room. Worse, John had yet to strike back. Ultimately, after months of waiting, Rob and I agreed that a prank war is no place for gentlemen. So on a recent Saturday night, my accomplice Maggie and I drove out to John’s place. On the way, I worried that John and his wife might have gone out for the evening, and could come back, catching us in the act. Then I remembered that they have kids, and are therefore legally prohibited from being out on weekends.

We knew John’s address, but because his hillbilly backwater of a town is not on Google Street View, we had no idea what his house looked like. It took a few laps to find the right house number, and each time, we passed an ominous State Police car. Ultimately though, we found the right house, and I hopped out to attach the bicycle.

The original plan had called for the bike to be attached to John’s porch railing, but the porch was quite small. Thankfully, there was a lamp much closer to the street where the neighbors would be sure to see it. Perfect! I proceeded to attach the bike, using both locks – why not make things a bit more difficult for him? As planned, the word lock was set to “FIRE”, but I left it lined up to “FUNY”. That’s a detail likely to be missed, but the little touches are important.

The Bike Locked in Front of John's House (Sort Of)
Just below “FUNY” is “BAIL”, a bad omen if I’ve ever seen one.

Once the locks were secured, I hightailed it out of there. We took one more lap to get a few pictures, then disappeared into the night.

The Bike Locked in Front of John's House (Sort Of)
(John’s house obscured via weirdification)

Fall Out

So what was the result? Well, John’s done an excellent job of recapping the whole thing over on Zug, so give it a read. The ending is particularly great.

After we’d left, I feared it might be possible to simply lift the bike off the lamppost. Ultimately, it was, but it took several days, and John’s ten year old, to realize it. In the meantime, John’s neighbors’ property values plummeted, and he was widely loathed. Success!

Epilogue: The Capper

The morning after the prank, I received an email from, John’s humor site. Its subject read “ You won the “Get Off My Lawn” trophy!” My heart jumped. How had I been identified so quickly? Actually, this was just an extremely funny coincidence, as the email was sent in honor of my sign-up anniversary for the site.

Zug Email
Now That’s Comedic Timing

Nevertheless, John had managed to get me back a bit, without even knowing it.

Update (April 13th, 2012): Be sure to check out Rob’s writeup for deep background on the whole thing.