Top-Five Rules to Protect Your Bike From Theft. (Put a lock on it!)

Know how to prevent this from happening.
Know how to prevent bike theft from happening.

Having run a local crowdsourcing site on Facebook for almost two years now, I can honestly say I know a lot about bike theft. A lot.  I’ve been interviewed on TV showing how you can prevent your bike from being stolen.  I can tell you where the hot spots are, what people are stealing, what types of locks were compromised, and which pawn shops the thieves will likely take your stolen bike too.  But what I can’t tell you is why more cyclists don’t follow these five-simple rules to prevent their bike from being stolen in the first place.

Rule #1: Record the serial number.  Yes, I know this isn’t going to protect your bike from being stolen, but this is absolutely the first thing you must do.  This is the most important thing you can do to recover your bike if it is ever stolen.  Where is my serial number you ask? Normally, it is at the bottom of the frame where your down tube and the seat tube meet.  This is directly under the pedals.  Record the serial number, along with taking picture of your bike and recording any special details and email them to your self with the subject line “My Bike”.  It will be easily accessible by doing a search of your email for “My Bike” if you ever need it.  Another source for your bike’s serial number is through your bike shop but do not rely on them as record keeping methods may consist of paper stored in a shoe box to a computerized database.  Knowing your luck if your bike is stolen, your local bikes shops method would be a shoe box.  In fact stop reading this and do this step now and come back and finish reading this article.  Go ahead, we’ll wait….

Rule #2:  Determine the safest place to store your bike and then put a lock on it.  Having run a local bike recovery group with over 500 members, I can tell you in our area most of the bike thefts don’t occur on the street.  They are bikes stolen from unlocked or poorly locked garages (especially if there is alley access), laundry rooms or private storage areas in apartments or condominiums, or front and rear porches.  All seemed like safe places, but there are two rules almost none of the owners followed.  The first rule is out of sight, out of mind.  If thieves don’t see it they won’t steal it.  Case in point, locking a bike on your front porch is much more visible than your back porch, but even that is more visible than if stored inside.  Or, if locked in a garage, make sure they can’t look through the garage door windows and see what you have. In fact, adding motion detector lights on your porch, yard, or even inside your garage will help deter theft.

According to the National Bike Registry there is over $350 million worth of bikes stolen annually.
According to the National Bike Registry there is over $350 million worth of bikes stolen annually. A U-lock and cable would redcue this greatly.

Just because your bike is locked in a garage or other safe place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra precautions.  It is easy to break into these areas.  Most often the lock on a garage door or door jam or cheap and easily can be breached with one kick.  Now that the thief is in and he sees your bike he thinks he can just ride off into the sunset with your bike.  And if you haven’t locked that bike inside your garage, then he probably will be riding off into the sunset.  But, if you took and extra ten seconds to lock that bike, making it unrideable, or better yet locking it to a workbench, lawnmower, etc will make things quite difficult for the thief to be able to steal it.  Worst case scenario they will have to work very hard to break the lock and in doing so will make noise and possibly get caught.  Best case scenario they steal your hedge clippers instead or move on to an easier mark. Also, make sure any tools such as a hacksaw, wire clippers, or bolt cutters are out of sight and away from your locked bike.  I am a fanatic about locking my bikes in my garage, but one day looked over to see my bolt cutters hanging above my workbench with a big sign above it saying “Use these to steal bikes”. Now I can’t even find my bolt cutters when I actually need them.

Rule#3:  When locking your bike always use the Sheldon Brown method. This method basically makes your bike unrideable, as to remove the lock illegally, you would have had to damage the rear wheel.  It also only requires one U-lock, however a modified version includes a 4 foot cable to secure the front wheel too.  Two other suggestions include: If your U-lock has enough room, insert it through the seat tube and the rear wheel.  This would also require the thieves to have to cut the lock and not just your back tire.  Also, to protect your seat, you can either remove it with a quick release and take it with you, or remove the quick release altogether, which would require the thief to at least have the proper allen wrench with him to remove it. Amazon.com actually has a package of what I use, which is a Kryptonite, Series 2 U-Lock with a 4 foot cable on sale.  I also have a Kryptonite Evolution Mini U-Lock which I use as well.  It is a little more as you are paying for reduction in size and weight but can also be bought at Amazon.com.

Alternative Sheldon Brown locking method with auU-lock and added cable.

Rule #4:  Insure your bike.  My bike, like many of you will cost more than many used cars.  Yet, we insure used cars and the police treat stolen cars as a higher priority than they do bikes.  Call it Coplogic, meaning it makes no sense.  There are many insurance programs that will cover your bike, helmet, and even provide rental insurance if your bike is damaged in transit or stolen from before a race or organized ride.  Companies like Big Ring Insurance offer a quick quote (It took less than 10 seconds to find what my $2,600 Giant Defy 1 Road Bike in the state of Ohio would cost per month.) Or if you already have homeowners or renters insurance, you can get a rider attached to your policy.  In addition to theft, my policy cover damage to my bike such as on my roof rack when I go through Wendy’s drive-thru (I have also hit my bike on the signs of KFC and White Castle too.  Luckily I avoided damage all three times) or even damage to my bike by a thief trying to compromise the lock.

Rule #5:  This is simple.  If your butt isn’t on the bike then your lock should! Don’t assume you can run in and pick up that one item from the store, while keeping an eye through the shop window.  All it takes is two seconds and the thief is off with your bike and I know you can’t outrun him.  If you absolutely have to leave your bike unattended and unlocked-just don’t.  Seriously, come back and run that errand another time.  It’s not worth the hassle of having to get home another way.  No one wants the mess and hassle of having to find another means of transportation for your commute,  file a police report, search pawn shops, or possibly have to eat Vienna Sausages for a month or two until you can save up enough money to replace your once loved bike that you will never get back.  Just slap a lock on it and your bike will treat you well for a long time.

Groceries by Bike

Having recently spent a lot of time researching the proper way one might grocery shop with their bike, I actually heard of many different ways to shop for your groceries by bike.  I personally use some Thule Panniers I got from BikeBagShop.com for an amazing price,  but others came up with other inventive ways that included using an existing kids trailer, using a Bob style trailer or making panniers out of kitty litter plastic containers mounted onto a bike rack.  What no one suggested, was to put your groceries in a grocery cart and ride with it at your side, maneuvering across six lanes of traffic, and then into oncoming traffic on a busy stretch of road as you will see in the two videos.  Its safe to say, safety is not a priority with this guy, but getting the groceries home in a speedy manner is.

 

 

My kids…Lucy, Margaret Thatcher, Iggy and ’76 (Naming your bike)

My first bike. A 1976 Huffy Stars and Stripes edition I named '76.
My first bike. A 1976 Huffy Stars and Stripes edition I named ’76.

Nothing against my children, they are great kids. They provide me joy, require me to shell out lots of money, and most of all don’t talk back. No, I am not talking about our two sons and daughter; I am talking about my other children, Lucy, Margaret Thatcher, Iggy and ‘76. You see these are the names of my bikes. And unlike most inanimate products, such as my 42” Sharp Aquos 1080p Smart TV, I have given them names. I think the reason I have given them names is because we share something together. The time I pushed my limits and bonked in 113-degree desert heat-Lucy was there. My first century-Iggy was there. My first dog chase-Iggy too. The multiple times I have almost gotten run over by motorists- Lucy, Iggy, and Margaret Thatcher were all there at different times, and of course the hills. Oh, those hills we have climbed together but also enjoyed the descents as well. Most importantly they were all there when I challenged myself physically but mentally, too. I don’t share the joys, triumphs, and agony of defeat with my 41” Sharp. It just doesn’t inspire me to give it a name.

Wondering if I was alone with bike insanity or an unhealthy relationship with steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, I did an informal social media pole with some of my cyclist friends in a Facebook group. Almost immediately my phone began dinging with comments. “My Surly is the Black Sun”, said one. “Romper Stomper, Clarity, DJ Sparkles, Hippogryph, Cordelia, Elvish, Sinbad, and Why Not?” were all names of other peoples bikes willingly shared within minutes of my post. So I wasn’t alone after all. People do have a desire to place a name, and perhaps a personality on something that brings them as much joy as mine do for me.

Lucy, my first road bike, now converted to a commuter bike.
Lucy, my first road bike, now converted to a commuter bike.

Lucy was my first road bike, a Cannondale R300. She is the bike I completed America’s Most Beautiful Ride with. A century ride around Lake Tahoe, where I first began raising money for cancer research through riding. I crashed her and spent months in rehab and years in pain thanks to an unleashed dog. After neglecting her for years, I rekindled our relationship, and loaned to my oldest child, while he was in law school-where she spent a year alone in a dusty garage, neglected. Someone should have called bike protective services on my son, as she reemerged, dusty & rusty when he brought her back home to me after months of begging on my part. She now has been transformed into a commuter bike and takes me on slower, but on more deliberate, utilitarian trips.

And then there is ’76. ’76 was the first bike I ever had. A 1976 Huffy Stars & Stripes I rescued recently from a bike swap meet and have spent hours restoring it back down to its original Cheater Slick drag tire on the rear. This came with a red, white and blue stripped banana seat, red and white starred fenders, and a white and blue fade painted frame. It was the epitome of cool, when I woke up and saw him next to the Christmas tree. I would be the next Evel Knieval, or at least crash as often as he did.

Iggy was my first mountain bike-a Giant Iguana with an awesome chrome-black frame paint job, which I later found out they discontinued as it was polluting some river in China. I sold Iggy at a garage sale, as I just didn’t have any more garage space with a family of five cyclists. I let Iggy go for $45 and to this day feel like I put one of my children up for adoption. My telephone number was etched into the down tube and I hope someone, some day, calls me and says I found your child. I want that bike back dearly. Iggy was the bike I began biking with my father on. We would spend a week each summer on bike tours and reconnecting with each other. Camping outside, stopping along the routes to admire something beautiful, and stopping for the occasional ice cream shop along the way. Iggy was also reliable despite my stupidity. Despite only having trained the weekend before and riding the longest I had ever rode-a whopping 25 miles with some friends, I signed us up for a whopping double century ride, 210 miles! Imagine my youthful stupidity (I was 23 then) thinking I could ride a mountain bike 105 miles down and then 105 miles back the next day on a mountain bike with knobby tires! Iggy got me through that stupidity alive and in one piece, but so did the 10 Aleve I took during the second day. Oh, how I miss those fond memories of trying to walk into work that Monday. Just put one foot in front of the other…

Margaret Thatcher was the lady I left Lucy for. A Giant Defy 1 Composite, carbon fiber bike that I could hold with just my index finger extended underneath the frame. My wife refers to Margaret as my mid-life crisis and she is right. But unlike the Iron Lady, this lady has curves and sex appeal. but she remains a strong lady, just like her namesake. Margaret has been with me on more century rides than I can count including my longest ride ever. Margaret carried me from Cleveland to Cincinnati on a 330 mile journey in 29.5 hours to help me celebrate my 30th Cancerversery (Anniversary of being cancer free), while raising over $11,000 for cancer research. As a road bike, she road over 80 miles on crushed limestone, went up some of the steepest grades I have ever ridden on, pulled me through when I lost my sag support for hours at the hottest time of day and without any food or water left. She held me up when I bonked, having to lean against her and fight back the tears outside a local gas station. Only a friend does that.

What I think is interesting is we tend to have a relationship with things that take us on a journey. My friend in high school named his Chevy Nova, “The Beast”. It was an ugly avocado green, with ripped seats and no AC. It was a mess.  But it was his first car. His journey to adulthood and independence. It took him places and gave him freedom. Much like Lucky, Margaret Thatcher, Iggy and ’76 do for me.