A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bicycle Security

I am using a Kryptonite New York Noose to secure my commuter bike. At present, I am removing the front wheel to secure it in the noose. My only complaint about this lock and chain is that one more link would have been helpful. Click to enlarge The chain I am using is the 27 inch version, and it is barely enough to bind the frame and both tires around a reasonably large pole. A fifty-two inch version is available, but it entails almost twice as much weight. I prefer the chain to a U-lock due to the increased flexibility.
Soon, I may purchase a U-lock to secure the front wheel on the bike. The extra lock will also give me the ability to lock up my wife or little girl's bike, so we can travel by bicycle to places together. I am considering a different brand from the Kryptonite, just to have two locking systems on the bike.

Cyclists chuckle and say that any weight savings on an expensive lightweight bike is quickly offset by the locking device necessary to secure it. There are many schools of thought regarding the prevention of bike theft. One thing all bicyclists agree on though, is bike thieves suck. All it takes is a quick search on You Tube using the keyword "bike thief" to become convinced that a determined thief can make off with almost any bicycle. Here are some strategies to help make certain your bike is still there when you return from your errands.

1. Always lock your bike. Many stolen bikes were never locked in the first place. If you lean your bike outside a convenience store to dart inside for a soft drink, the thief will have a head start plus your bicycle to help him escape. You will be on foot, and you will likely never catch him.

2. Buy a quality lock. Cheap chains and cables easily fall to bolt cutters. Standard lock shackles are sliced in under 15 seconds with bolt cutters. The cutters get stashed back in the thief's backpack, and he makes off on the bike in under a minute. For details on how to properly use your lock, visit Sheldon Brown's Lock Strategy page, and mechBgon's Bicycle Locking page.

3. Lock your bike to something secure. Bike thieves are known to remove or loosen bolts holding together bike racks to quickly remove the prizes locked to them. Parking meters may have the heads loose for quick removal. Poles may not be secure in the ground. These are known as "sucker poles." The thief waits near the pole, a sucker quickly locks the bike to the pole, and enters a building. Click to enlargeThe thief pulls the pole from the ground and off the bike, and rides off on the bike or tosses it in the back of a pick-up truck if the wheels are bound.

4. Secure the small parts on your bike. Quick release seat posts are an invitation to ride home with a seat tube poking you in the ass. Even if you discard the quick release in favor of a bolt, use a chain to secure the seat to the frame. I like to use a bicycle chain for that purpose. Walking a unicycle home sucks even more than a seat tube up your butt. If you have a quick release on your front wheel, secure the wheel with a lock. Locking skewers are available, but the cost is almost as much as another decent U-lock. When you purchase lights, make certain they have quick release fittings so you can take them with you. Riding home without handlebars sucks too. If you have an Allen bolt(s) securing your handlebars, fill the recesses with glue. A pick will quickly pop out the glue in the shop, but the thief with only an Allen wrench will move on to the next target. I decided to put kiddie handlebars on my commuter bike for several reasons. First, they were free, off a junked little girl's bike. Second, they give me a narrow riser bar. Third, a bike thief just wouldn't find them desirable. Which brings up another point......

5. Make your bike one of the least desirable ones on the rack. It doesn't have to be a junky clunker, it just has to look like something that a bike thief can not sell quickly. Chain it up right next to the shiny Orbea or the Cannondale. Many cyclists wrap expensive bikes in Saran wrap, duct tape and such. Bike thieves are not stupid. Click to enlargeThey know a marketable prize lies beneath the wrappings. Reflective tape and latex house paint work better to make the bike thief choke and move on. Another tactic is to buy or build a bike that suits your needs, but which nobody would really desire. Check out pawn shops and garage sales. Forget expensive stuff. Buy an older, middle of the road bike with functional but obsolete components. Rusty bolts never hurt anyone, just spray them with some penetrating oil so they will turn when needed. Scratches and scuffs in the paint just increase the odds the bike will still be there when you get back. Once you have a suitable pariah bike, remove any of the good stuff, and bolt on the stuff you need to make the bike more utilitarian, and even less desirable. For more ideas on how to make your ride less appealing to a thief, go here.

Lock It or Lose It

How to Keep Your Bike from Being Stolen

Avoiding the Bicycle Thief

Locking Your Bike

Victim Complex: Coping With Bike Theft

Click to enlarge

Labels: ,


Anonymous eeky said...

"Make your bike one of the least desirable ones on the rack."

When I was in Amsterdam, I was pleasantly amazed by how many bikes there were in the city (an inverse of the US car/bike ratio, with multi-level parking structures for bikes), and how every single bike looked like an old, worn POS by "US' standards.

We traveled (quite comfortably) on local bikes, and quickly came to realize that when you view your bike as transportation instead of a prized possession, it just has to work well, and looking pretty really would make the bike stand out for theft among the sea of utilitarian "clunkers".

The cool thing is that the bikes that did stand out were the nifty ones decorated with hand-done art (silk flowers around the frame, haphazard fun paint jobs), and these were so distinctive that if they were stolen, they'd stick out like a sore thumb in such a small city.

Overall, I got the impression that if a (utilitarian) bike did get stolen,it was much less expensive to get a decent replacement bike there than it would be been in the US.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Standard Mischief said...

You ought to post a picture of using the trigger lock to secure the rear basket to your bike. That's probably the best use of a firearm trigger lock, ever.

I always, always, always lock my bike if I'm away for even an instant. 7-11 stores, bathroom breaks or water refills, always.

I'm using a lightweight cable and a master lock through the frame and front wheel, and hopefully around a solid object. I know bolt cutters will go right through this cable but it will stop all the snatch-and-ride-away attempts. Even freelocking will stop those, but it won't stop the "throw in pickup bed and drive away" people.

I bike mostly suburbs and rural, out of my sight for 10 minutes tops, so I think I'm OK. If I had to do it for any longer or left it there all day at a subway stop or downtown, I'd grab the chain and padlock I use to secure the generator outside during power outages.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Standard Mischief said...


Same video, better quality, and posted by the copyright holders themselves to youtube.

Give the right guys the hits.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Cowtown Cop said...

I spent a couple of years as a bike patrol officer. Even when we were answering calls we almost all ways left one officer to watch the bikes. In a pich we would use handcuffs to lock the rim to the frame. Mostly we just stayed where would could "keep an eye on the horses". Yes, people did try to steal our bikes, even with the big POLICE stickers on them.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And people wonder why crime is up in our liberal big cities.

The same thing happens with guns and young men (under 21 years old) in our cities. No one does anything or says a word...

4:41 PM  
Blogger Zdogk9 said...

I've a friend who locked his bike. Took the front wheel with him. Came back, someone had taken a hacksaw and cut off the bottom bracket, front and rear dérailleur

5:26 PM  
Blogger GreatBeefalo said...

Excellent post. I'll be riding to my bike to school this coming fall ( and alot more subsequent semesters it looks like) so all these bike security posts are much appreciated. keep it up!

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Just more examples of how much people suck. Apparently people in NYC suck more than most.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Ed Skinner said...

Lock up your wife? Kinky!

5:43 AM  
Blogger Don Gwinn said...

That bit about the lock "offsetting" the weight savings would only be true, I note, if heavy bikes didn't need locks.

One of the things I enjoyed about visiting Chicago and walking all over last weekend was the sheer number and variety of racked bicycles. You just don't see that here; the grocery store is six miles away in this town, and the nearest movie theater is about twenty.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous motorcycle chain locks said...

I have a friend who has locked his bike. Took the front wheel with him. Come back, you took a hacksaw and cut the bottom bracket, front and rear derailleurs

1:58 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Links to this post:

Create a Link