Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Steal this post

Seems like I can't go two hours without hearing about another stolen bike. My velo is my main transpo, but I'm getting to the point where I don't want to leave it parked anywhere. What can I do?

—Gone on 62nd (and Hawthorne)

You could take a tip from all those Madone-riding, strong-living Lance-alikes: Don't park your bike anywhere except high atop your SUV.

Seriously, though: I suspect the ratio of thefts to available bikes has remained constant as Portland bike culture has grown; but now we hear about them more (which could lead to more recoveries).

The sum total of all bike-retention wisdom can be expressed thus: Ride a crappy (looking) bike and lock it well.

Most (but by no means all) bikes that get stolen are highly conspicuous. They are shiny and new, or they have trendy new color-coordinated wheels, etc. Thieves likely perceive shiny new bikes as easier and more profitable to fence. So save your shiny new bike for pleasure rides, and build yourself a beater for getting around.

That's one good reason to buy used from Craigslist or the community/co-op/non-profit shops: They can be great places to find a quality bike with that authentic beat-to-hell camouflage that only a decade or two of use can provide.

Don't clean your bike. Lube it, of course, and wipe down the rims and brake pads. Knock the crud off the chain and rear cogs and derailleur pulleys. But don't wash it or shine it up unless you're trying to sell it. Road grit makes great camouflage.

Many bikes that get stolen aren't locked at all. Others are tethered with only one type of lock. So:
  • Lock even if you're just ducking into the Plaid Pantry for a second.
  • Lock even in your garage, or your building's parking cage, or your living room.
  • Use more than one type of lock. That way the thief would have to lug more than one big tool—for example, a jack to break your U-lock, and bolt cutters to snip your thick cable or chain.
Finally, try some psy-ops tricks to keep the thief moving along: Take the chain off the chainrings and let it hang slack, or let the air out of at least one tire, or (on road bikes) rig your brake quick-release so that the closed position locks the pads tight against the rim.

No comments: