Bicycle theft is rampant in major cities and suburbs. Nothing stands in the way of a determined scumbag who wants to grab your ride away from you. But, there are some steps you can do to prevent that.
Your main objective is to make life hard for any thief who wants to steal your stead. May it be at home or when your bike is left by itself somewhere else. Let's start with home shall we? I've heard of determined thieves who took off with a bike that was left on a third balcony with no stairs, so read on if you think that your ride is safe at home. If you have a bike of any value, you should never leave it outside for extended periods of time. In urban areas that is just not possible. Forget about taping up your frame to mask it's make and model. Thieves know what they are looking for and they will make your bike if it's worth a bunch of cash. If you can't let your baby sleep indoors and it has to stay in a shed or storage locker, make sure that the storage space is properly locked AND properly lock the bike itself. Hide it from prying eyes as well, no need to advertise that you have an expensive ride waiting to be snatched up.
On the subject of locks, what you pay is what you get. If you spend a few bucks to lock up your $1 000 bike, it will disapear. Especially if the bike is left out of sight for more than an hour. My lock is a basic no name U-Lock, but I never leave my cruiser alone for more than 30 minutes. If you need to leave your bike somewhere, get a decent lock. Better yet, get a real trash bike just for your day to day stuff and use the nice one when you know you won't have to leave it for long. Your heart won't break as hard. Gauge how much you want to spend with the value of the bike, regular cheap chain and padlocks are useless.
LEAVING YOUR BIKE OUT THERE
Thieves need privacy, an easy target that won't take them a long time to get and won't attract attention. The worst possible place to lock a bike is with other bikes in those big public racks. Would you question anywone fiddling with a lock at a rack? Of course not, he's probably some guy having trouble with his lock, right? WRONG, he's breaking the lock and nobody will give him a second glance. He's done this many times and it won't be is last. Big public racks are like the bike section at Walmart for thieves. I've even seen a lady get her 3 speed roadster with a wicker basket get ripped off in one of these. You are better off locking it by itself elsewhere in plain sight for everybody to see. But be careful, don't use a tree, they cut them(Yes they do, seen it with my own eyes.) and if you use a pole, make sure it's solidely in place and not bolted. Some poles are sometimes loosened ahead of time by thieves just for that purpose. The best one I've seen yet was a rider who locked the bike on the library's flag pole, talk about being in plain sight!
THE TOOLS AND TACTICS OF THE BAD GUYS
Thieves use specialty tools for their dirty work. They use shortened bolt cutters that are easy to hide inside jackets, they use modified car jacks to pry U-Locks, they use some type of spray to freeze and then break the lock with a hammer. They also use your lack of attention, your laziness or wishfull thinking that nothing is going to happen while you're in the store for 2 minutes and your bike is left unlocked. In those cases, all they need is their bare hands. Remember, thieves are predators and predators always go for easy targets. That's on top of the fact that they not only stole your property, but they now have an instant getaway vehicle.
MAKE THEIR LIFE HELL
Having a good lock is not the only answer to bike theft prevention. Using it properly needs to be adressed as well. The space inside a U type lock needs to be packed with all the bike you can. This will prevent them from inserting the jack tool. Point the keyhole downwards, it is a lot harder to wack it with a hammer this way. Take off whatever is removable by hand, seats and wheels with quick release are just begging to be stolen. The worst I've seen was a brand new bike with an expensive lock. It was parked in a public rack at a train station. The U-Lock was passed in the rack and inside two spokes, of the front wheel, which was equiped with a quick release and still on the fork! When I came back, sure enough it was gone except for the front wheel. If the thieves had a decent wire cutter, they could have made off with the entire bike, minus two spokes that could have been replaced for a few dollars. They didn't bother, easy target. Another thing you can do is to sabotage your ride. The only drawback is that you have to remember to deactivate them before you ride off yourself. One way is to upshift all of your gears once you are stopped and locking up. There is a chance that the chain might break off when the bum makes his getaway and he might just leave it. The picture at the top of the post shows a well locked bike. It is locked on a pole that is cemented in the ground, it is in plain view, the seat was removed and the lock is pretty full.
Whatever you do, if someone absolutely wants to rip off your ride, they will. Just make sure that you do your part and take every possible precaution. Even though bike theft is not on top of the list of crimes for most Police Departments, take the time to register it and keep the registration paper in a safe place. You will know your bike's serial number and it will be easier to claim if it is ever found(It does happen sometimes). Another thing you should do, is to make a copy of that paper and insert it inside the handlebars, you can prove your ownership without question that way.
Here's a great video on bike theft prevention and how to know the enemy.
Until next time, ride safe and Godspeed
I use to live in the western suburbs of Montreal and bringing a bike downtown was a pain. I painted the entire bike(except for the seat) flat black and made it rideable with whatever used parts I had. I brought it downtown and locked it up in plain sight on a busy street in front of a restaurant for future use, in a small city rack. I used a cheap U type lock that I had and made sure to fill it up.
2 weeks later it was still there and I managed to use it. I didn't go in the city for another 3 weeks after that. I was actually driving downtown for business and found the bike still there, but the seat was missing. By the end of August, I saw it again and this time the rear wheel was bent. At this point I figured I would leave it there just to see what would happen(I'm sure the restaurant owner wasn't too happy about that.).
The last time I saw it was in late september, the front wheel was gone(It wasn't locked with the rest of the bike), the frame was now bent, but the lock was still holding firm. The city workers finally chopped the lock off and tossed the bike at the end of October when they put away the bike racks. Just goes to show that a properly used lock, even a cheap one, can do a good job(I know the bike was trashed, but it was still there!).