Last night, I took my bicycle to meet some friends (both boys and girls). While we were sitting there (on the curb, in a relatively secluded place where the teen will often meet for a pakal (a meeting, often playing the guitar and, like, drinking tea)), an older teen (I'd guess 17) came over and started chatting to the girls, holding a cigarette and a beer (yech). After he failed to convince them to bring the guitar over there to where another member of the group was apparently able to play, he and the two guys who had wandered over while he was talking turned to leave. I was behind them, sitting on my bike.

As they turned to leave, the original guy asked if he could borrow my bicycle for a minute, to take a spin. I didn't exactly want to tell him, since he was smoking a cigarette and holding a beer, and I had my keys and phone in my bike bag, so I didn't want to let him use. I just shook my head a couple times and the other people he was with shepherded him along back to where they were before they came over to ask about the guitar.

I often will take my bike to such gatherings with my friends, and will continue to sit on it and randomly bike around for a minute throughout the gathering. Is there a better way to say that I do not want to let someone use my bike?

Please note that in Israeli culture teens will often borrow other people's bikes, and that it's considered perfectly acceptable. I'm also an immigrant.

  • 21
    I wonder if in Israeli culture it is common to lend bikes to complete strangers?
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 10:43
  • 3
    @Vylix - sometimes, yes, people will. Since this guy was smoking and drinking beer, however, I felt the need to decline.
    – Mithical
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 10:45
  • 5
    There's several mentions of "smoke and drink beer" in the question. Is this a kind of taboo (not kosher?) in Israel? If so, there you go, enough of a perfectly good cultural reason to say "No".
    – Damon
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:41
  • 7
    @TomášZato - smoking in my face is disgusting, especially since I've got asthma. And I'm not going to lend my bike to an underage teenager who's drinking beer.
    – Mithical
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:33
  • 3
    @TomášZato drinking and driving is a valid concern, especially with somebody else's vehicle. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 22:14

4 Answers 4


Stranger: Can I borrow your bike for a minute?

You don't know them or have any mutual friends. You have no guarantee that they will return it in time and in good condition. They have not mentioned any emergencies.

Then it is up to you. Sharing bike can be a starting point for a new friendship. Or sharing it will be the last time you see your bike.

You and the stranger are teens, as I understand it.

Since your aim is to decline the request with a reason,

You: I'm sorry. I cannot give it to you at the moment. We just met. But maybe another time. Sure. :)

This gives a reason why you declined. This way you will be keeping an option open for future meetings.

  • 2
    That example is just gold! Especially when you casually mention "We just met". Reasonable person should understand this as a perfectly valid reason, and won't take it personal.
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 10:40
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    I don't see how implying that you don't trust the person (yet) is improving the situation.
    – kapex
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:39
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    @Kapep If you just met a total stranger, would you trust him to borrow your car? No? The example is far better in explaining that than just saying "No, I don't know you".
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:43
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    @NVZ I guess it's just the wording that threw me off a bit. I think "cannot give it to you" could be taken personal by some people. I would word it like "Sorry, I only lend it to very close friends" (which is basically the same meaning but I think less offending) or even better make a more general statement like "I generally don't like lending my bike", "This bike is very dear to me, I'd rather not give it away and want to keep sight of it."
    – kapex
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:59
  • 4
    I tend to find it a bit dishonest when people say I cannot when clearly they could, they just don't want to (and for a good reason).
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:23

"No" is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation.

In this case, it certainly should be enough. You can soften it a bit by saying "no, I'm sorry". He asked, he should expect both "yes" and "no" as possible answers.

Even in a group where it's common to borrow each other's things, it's still a valid option to decline, for whatever reason.

An exception would be a commune where no-one really owns anything and everything is considered to be shared property. Usually this is an explicit rule, since this is an exception to usual rule, so you would know. In such a situation, the only solution would be to not bring something you're not prepared to share.

  • 7
    +1 and I feel like we should make a canonical answer saying "No" is a complete sentence for most questions tagged "saying-no". ;)
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 18:23

Israeli culture teens will often borrow other people's bikes, and that it's considered perfectly acceptable.

Since it's really acceptable in your culture, it's like some known person is asking for a favor.

Since you shook your head a couple times, it sent a clear message that you don't want to give your bike and that is acceptable.

In case you don't want to sound rude while telling them no, this Workplace answer gives really nice approaches and I am taking out a few of them (with an edit of mine).

Sorry I don't know when I will need it next. So I can't really give it to you now.

It's nothing personal, I just don't feel comfortable lending out my bike.

Though they are strangers, they won't take it too personal or consider it rude as far in my experience. However, we can't always be sure who might consider it rude. Therefore, you should not mind them and should stay firm and say no (in a polite way of course).

And also, you don't have to give in to the pressure and don't feel compelled to lend your bike.


You're obviously not happy letting anyone ride off on your bike, and there's no reason on earth why you should be. You may never see it again, or it may come back damaged - and 'sorry mate' doesn't mend it.

'If you won't take offence at me saying no, I won't take offence at you asking.' Firmly and politely said, should do it. I used to have lots of 'friends' until I started saying this sort of thing when they asked if they could borrow things. Things which often had to be chased up for return, or just got forgotten. My premise was (and is) once upon a time - I needed that tool. I went out and bought it. You need it - why not do the same?

  • 2
    It's only for a minute, mind, and I do let people borrow it - just not this guy
    – Mithical
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:24
  • 1
    That's maybe because you don't trust him - yet. My reply can still stand. After all, you must have been a little offended that he, a stranger, had the temerity to even ask.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:28

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