October 13, 2005

Stolen Bikes. It's a multimillion dollar business. Do you live in one of these places? How about a college town? Are you also a bike enthusiast? If so, you're at risk for losing your ride. Trust me - I found out the hard way.

Brand new 2005 Specialized, gone. My wife's matching bike, also gone. It hurts to be out over $1400 worth of equipment. We have a glimmer of hope though - our bikes were registered with the police. Want to keep your bike? If it was costly, make sure your lock is worth it! Although usually more expensive means harder to break, the unfortunate truth is that most bike locks - even the fancy high-end U-locks - can be cracked in under a minute (often under 20 seconds!). My lock didn't stop the thief from yanking my bike in broad daylight in a busy pedestrian area - yet nobody saw a thing. The best thing you can do to keep your ride (aside from a good lock) is to make sure there's a record of your ownership. Most college campuses will register your bike. If you aren't on a campus, there are alternatives. US resident? You can register your bike here. UK resident? Then go for this bike registry. And for pete's sake don't buy anything used unless you've run the serials first! If you have your bike yanked, there is help available. Unfortunately, thousands of bikes disappear regularly. Many end up in pawn shops. Some end up on eBay. Few are ever recovered. Hopefully you will have more luck than I did - but if not, remember that many renter's or homeowner's insurance policies will cover loss of a bike. So, file a police report, and keep those receipts folks! The more proof you have of what it cost, the easier it will be to get the insurance to cover your loss. I don't like paying the deductible, but it sure beats shelling out over a grand for replacement.

  • Suckage, sorry to hear it frogs. What kind of lock did they get through? Or perhaps more to the point - what's the unbreakable lock?
  • It's a little ironic that Krypotnite compiled the list...? They are the bike lock company with a lock that could be picked with a Bic disposable pen!
  • Bycicle Thief
  • I had a HardRock Rapper cable lock - Kevlar core, was supposed to be pretty good. Apparently "pretty good" means "37 seconds and it's cut". The unbreakable lock? Probably a twist-tie wrapped around a rusty 1987-vintage Huffy. The next best thing is one of those heavy-duty Amsterdam-style chain locks, the ones that generally weigh as much as the bike does. Crappy for a commute, but if you must leave it outside that's the way to go. We're considering the Kryptonite New York model (coupled with a heavy cable for the quick-release tires) for our replacement bikes. Still don't feel like I will be able leave it out anywhere though, even for a few minutes to run in to a store or whatnot, but as my wife pointed out - if you buy a nice bike, what's the point of having it if you only ever ride the 10-year old thing you were replacing? Buying it and then being afraid to ever take it outside is a waste. jim_t - they did some damn quick changes to their lock mechanisms after that fiasco. The issue with Krypto locks was the reason my wife and I went with the HardLock when buying the bikes - better keys. At that time Krypto was still getting the redesigned models out to the bike shops.
  • And sorry to hear about your bikes... I'm not really an insensitive ass, I just play one on MonkeyFilter.
  • I shop the flea markets around Chicago. The way a good portion of the hot bikes get sold is at the markets. It's not the vendors who are selling them. The bikes are being brought in by guys who pay the dollar admission to the flea market and the walk around with the bike by their side. They always get people asking "how much for the bike" and are able to make a quick sale. I see this every weekend I'm out there.
  • I'm in SF, and it's not unusual to see people bring their bikes inside with them into bars, coffee shops, and other people's houses for this reason. It amazes me when I see, say... a shiny new Bianchi Pista locked up outside a 16th Street bar. ARE YOU CRAZY?!?
  • A plus for the heavy bike chains (which I use in-city): carry it around your neck while you ride and feel all Thug Life. A minus: good god they're heavy. On bikeTV, Hal Grades Your Bike Locking Ability [QT]. I never imagined that in NYC you'd need to lock your seat to the bike... that's sad.
  • As I was moving into my apartment in Chicago, someone walked in the back door while I was in the front and walked out with my bike. Cheeky bastard.
  • Some people are low-rent scummy bastards, aren't they? Lock 'em in a room with spammers and break out the hose.
  • I had my bike stolen this year in broad daylight in front of my building. It must have took awhile too because I had a cable lock and it was all twisted to shit. Either way, lessons learned: 1) Thieves will steal anything that looks good. This wasn't a brand new bike, and it didn't cost a whole lot ($300) but it was shiny. 2) Cable locks suck. 3) Kryptonite locks come with INSURANCE. It costs $10. Covers up to $1500 or something (better than nothing). 4) Make your bike look ratty. Duct tape over the logos, apply stickers, spray paint a new color over it, whatever... try it out. What good is a shiny bike if its getting hawked down at mile high flea market next weekend and not being rode by you. If you're 'hard core' your bike's gonna get mashed up off-road anyway. If you bought something shiny and expensive to ride around town on and look cool get a cheaper bike next time around and save yourself some dough.
  • Make your bike look ratty.

    I'll second that. Mine's mostly made from parts of abandoned wrecked bikes and looks like shit even though it's not. I lock it with a thick chain and a heavy security padlock and nobody's nicked it yet :) I also had the happy experience of recovering my daughter's bike recently 3 months after it was stolen. I bumped into someone walking with it 50 metres from my house and they gave it up without argument when I challenged them. Pity we'd shelled out for a new one in the meantime :/
  • Make your bike look ratty It's an excellent defensive strategy, but don't rely on it. I have had several friends lose locked bikes that were so crappy they were dangerous to ride. Don't get complacent.
  • Most important of all: be smart about where & when you lock your bike. Never lock it somewhere without sidewalks and streetlights, and never ever leave it overnight. And use a condom.
  • Got mine stolen earlier this year. Chain lock with a stupid combo lock. It was in a high traffic area and i was dumb enough to think this would be deterrent enough. It was a Schwinn comfort bike and it didn't do nothing ta nobody! Argh.
  • Hey how about some reverse psychology? When you lock your bike, you put a little sign on it that says "Steal this bike, and find out what happens".
  • Sign where StoryBored's bike was last seen: "Here's what happens. You buy a new bike and I make $20."
  • Rats.
  • I recently had my piece o' crap clunker bike that I adored stolen from inside a locked, multi-camera-watched compound in manhattan. Thus I don't think that having an ugly old bike is even much of a deterrent. I think that the only thing that works is to have one of those crazy-ass 50 pound $100 chain locks, possibly two.
  • make your bike look ratty when I bought my bike, 5+ years ago, it was very shiny and pretty, which made me terribly paranoid (I live in Oakland) so I brought it to burning man to make it nice n dirty. still got it. (sorry about the bikes, frogs, that sucks)
  • The only way to be sure... sorry to hear about your bikes
  • Bicycle Thief (QT link) From here.
  • well, thanks for that Pryde - now I understand how my bike got stolen, on a main road, outside a pub on a busy Wednesday night. I had one beer. One. Fuck bike thieves. Anyone who's ever stolen a bike can come over to my place and I'll stick my foot so far up their arse they'll taste my toejam. Yeah. Fucken.
  • I've had three bikes stolen in six years in the college town I live in. They were all locked. One was really good (for me, meaning it was a $300 bike when I was used to $50 bikes), two were craptacular. A friend of mine had an old bike that she'd painted flowers all over stolen. A couple of months later she saw a guy riding it (with his girlfriend beside him on another bike) down the street. She ran out and confronted him, got her bike back, *and* watched the girlfriend dump him!
  • Oh, and the good bike that was stolen? I'd had it for exactly one month, and I had gone home because my dad was having major cancer surgery. The day I got home (I'd had a housesitter stay at my place while I was gone) I noticed my bike was gone. I bought a bike to replace it, and have hated it ever since.
  • > 4) Make your bike look ratty. Duct tape over the logos, most logos will come off with warm soapy water, perhaps a mild solvent to get rid of the glue. i had two bikes stolen in dublin. the thief didn't cut/open the locks, but managed to remove the thing i'd attached the lock to (in one case a heavy drainpipe, in the other a heavy ornamental chain that "shouldn't" have been detachable). i now use three locks: a heavy motorcycle lock with 2" thick metal segments (a bugger to carry), a u-bend lock, and a cable (locking the seat to the frame). i know that anyone who's really set on stealing my bike could release it in 10 minutes; i'm just hoping that they don't want to risk those 10 minutes. the security guards at the university i went to had a specially milled key that would open just about any kryptonite. they needed it to remove abandoned bikes from the premises. this was over 10 years ago, so kryptonite has likely improved. a good story: a friend had his bike stolen in dublin. about 8 months later he saw it locked in a bike park in the city centre. he found a policeman and said "that's my bike - it got nicked 8 months ago. the cop called in a report and someone arrived to break the lock on the bike, which was returned to my friend. another story: a friend in london had a kryptonite lock at a time when the company was offering reimbursements for locks that got broken. some thief cracked her lock and left her bike; she thinks in order to claim a reimbursement from kryptonite...
  • True story - in my apartment block, we received letters from the managing agency telling us to stop storing bikes in the hallway as it was against fire regulations (no mention was made of pushchairs, but hey). Bf and I duly moved ours to the bin shed that had been converted for the purpose by the managing agent - it had those hoop stands. A few weeks later, every single bike in the store was stolen, and the thieves had unscrewed the hoop stands and removed the bikes that way. Every single bike, that is, except mine which has a wicker basket on the front... Moral - put a wicker basket on your bike.
  • Yeah, I've gotten paranoid now. Damn. I used to never leave my old bike outside, even carrying it up 9 flights of stairs to get it into my room rather than leave it out overnight. Had no idea that the bastards were getting so brazen as to yank them in broad daylight. That Union Station Bike Thief story... god, you just have to laugh at it because otherwise it's frigging depressing. Stealing the brake pads? Christ. That's just downright mean.
  • Bicycle Thief (QT link) WHAT. THE. FUCK?
  • I use one of these locks, imported by me from the Netherlands, here in MontrĂ©al. Bike thieves don't know it, and hopefully go for another bike. I use this, plus a new U-lock and always park next to a nicer looking, worse locked bike. So far that strategy worked. Using a couple of locks is always better than one. I get a lot of questions about my lock, and people want to buy one from me. I should start an import business.
  • Thanks for that link Pryde. Funny! C'mon, who are they kidding? Like anyone in NYC is going to give a second thought to a person sawing/hammering/grinding through a bike lock. No one even pays attention to car alarms for that matter (even if it appears that somone is *really* trying to steal the car in question). And now... my bike-stealing-story: South Dakota, Mid-80's, my "friend" from junior high has a "revelation" during his morning paper route: stuff in people's yard is for the taking! It's true. I stop by his house one day and he is all excited, "dude, look what I *FOUND* in someone's yard, a bike!! It was just laying there!" Ummm, ok. That's how he reasoned it. In South Dakota, people don't even lock doors to houses, cars, garages, etc. They probably didn't even sell bike locks now that I think of it. From that day on, my "friend" was addicted to "finding" bikes. Pretty soon he ammased such a collection that storage became an issue. Enter my mother's garage! Soon enough, our garage became a dumping ground for a varied collection of 12-speeds and BMX bikes. At one point, I had my choice of fifteen or so shiny beauties. My "friend" also "found" a Mikita angle grinder at another friend's house. He passed it along to me, and before you know it, we had a full-fleged bicycle-stripping shop in our garage. He would get the bikes and drop them off, then I would spend hours sanding off the paint (which was absolute fun). I recall one time a group of friends were in a car - we drove past the local high school and this friend yelled "STOP!!" He jumped out, ran to the bike rack and grabbed the nicest one he could find. He tried convincing the driver to pop the trunk, but he refused. The police finally caught on to him, but by that time our family had moved across country.
  • ...what's needed is an inflatable bicycle you can carry around in your pocket...
  • then I would spend hours sanding off the paint So it was you!