I love bicycles. Being legally blind, the bicycle has become my primary means of transportation. Usually, it’s faster than public transportation and lets you exercise at the same time. With many countries trying to reduce their carbon emissions, I have always thought that bicycles should be subsidized. No taxes on something that helps the environment, improves health, and is fun to use. But alas, all is not perfect for bikes and biking.
Question: What’s the easiest way to make a cyclist cringe?
Answer: Say “nice bike” and walk on as they are locking up their bike.
Bike theft is common in many big cities. It’s a reality that all cyclists need to deal with, through compromising on the bikes they buy for commuting, to spending extra money and time on security devices, and altering the way they use and park their bikes in order to minimize the chance that their bike gets stolen. That one comment, even with good intentions, brings all those dangers and fears to the surface in an instant.
Fear 1: Your bike is too nice.
Nice bikes are desireable. Nice bikes draw attention. That attention is not always wanted. One way to deal with this fear of having too nice of a bike is to buy an older, shittier, and non-descript bike for commuting purposes. Find something that is good enough to get you from A to B without grabbing too much attention.
The other option is uglify your bike on purpose. Leave a bit of dirt, mud or dust on the frame. Hide valuable branding with electrical tape, duct tape, Care Bears decals, or maybe some rattle can spray paint or cardboard and zip ties. I used to do the same thing to my dslr when travelling, using some duct tape, a cheap looking strap from the 1990’s branded with a cheap, lower level camera.
I think there is a real market for a company like Fox to offer a new ‘Patina coat’. All the functionality of their top of the line Kashima coating on suspension, with a weathered and rusted look.
Fear 2: Your bike is not secure enough
You need to decide how many locks make you feel safe enough to commute. For me, that involves two u-locks and a security cable. I use two different types of u-lock. Do I think this will keep my bike safe? Not one bit.
I use a security cable to secure the front wheel to the rest of the bike.
I use one u-lock to secure this cable and rear wheel to the frame.
I use a second larger U-lock to secure the frame and rear wheel to a large anchor.
And I am far from perfect. In that last picture, my larger u-lock should be going through the frame and tire to make it even more secure. Additionally, I have switched out my quick release levers on my wheels to thru-bolts for a little more security, and I still do not feel safe. Components can still be stripped off the bike, and determined thieves could still cut through my locks. It’s insane that I’ve considered adding a motorcycle disc rotor alarm, and gps tracking to my ‘security procedure’.
All of this shit requires that you use it diligently. To keep your bike, you need to secure it each and every time you park it. To steal it, thieves only need you to get lazy once.
Unfortunately, commuting means carrying several pounds of locks and cables because bikes thieves are pieces of shit.
Fear 3: Your bike will never be safe
If thieves really want your bike, they will find a way to get it. No matter how much time and money you spend on securing your bike, it feels like thieves are always one step ahead with bolt cutters, angle grinders, drills, pry bars, liquid nitrogen and hammers. The best you can do is make your bike as undesirable, or as big of a hassle as possible.
You can do this by registering it if you are lucky enough to have a service or agency in your area which does so. You can also mentally prepare yourself for it being stolen. Know that it will never be 100% safe. accept this, and move on.
Finally, one of the shittiest ways to keep your bike secure is to make sure the other guys bike is easier to steal. Similar to how you do not have to outrun a bear, just the other guy, it’s often recommended to secure your bike next to others that are less secure since most thefts are crimes of opportunity.
I wish none of this was the case. I wish we could all just ride the bikes we want, where we want, how we want. But to ride a nice bike is to accept certain risks, and these risks exist because bike thieves are pieces of shit.