OUR ADVERTISERS

Sunday, August 20, 2006

HOW TO PREVENT BICYCLE THEFT


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.

AT HOME

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.

LOCKS

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

Gerry

Footnote

THE BLACK BIKE PROJECT

In June of 2004 I had a brilliant idea. A friend gave me a 3 speed roadster he had found in the trash knowing that I fixed up bikes and that I might use it for something.

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!).

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yo,

Just made a donation with PrayPal dood!!!

Keep up the great work, brother!

Peace

The Bike Tranny

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you very much. Have a great and prosperous day.

Gerry

Zafner said...

Hey, I've recently found a couple of Roadmaster El Cheapo Kmart-Special frames in the trash, and that gave me an idea regarding how to help prevent bike theft. I have a pretty good Giant Cypress comfort bike I bought new a couple of years ago, before I started working on this stuff myself, for running little local errands, and it still looks great. To help keep it from getting stolen, though, I thought maybe I'd peel some stickers off one of the Roadmasters and put them on the Giant, to try to make it look, well, less good. I know in some ways this is the dead opposite of what you're trying to accomplish, especially with the overhaul project, but it seemed to me a nice expedient, particularly given the practical nature of the bike -- the Giant isn't for looking snazzy, it's for buying groceries.

Anyway, I've been trying to get the stickers off, but I'm having no luck. My heat gun is kind of weak, but if I borrow a better one, I was worried it might damage the paint on the Giant, which I don't want to do. What do you think?

Gerry Lauzon said...

Zaf, I love the idea of your "urban cheapo camouflge" :) You still need a decent lock though and I'm afraid that this will work with chronic potheads who need weed cash and are most probably missing a few brain cells. The guys going for the good bikes might recognize it anyway. As far as removing decals on a bike, I use a regular hair dryer and I go very slow, one inch at a time. I've never used a heat gun. Too much heat is no good for a lot of things. What you could do, if you manage to remove the cheapo stickers, is to re-apply them with transparent sheet decals used for books and such. Hope this helps.

Gerry

Iron Cross '87 said...

Hey Dude I just thought i'd let you know a nice heavy duty chain lock and a star bolt lock are the only thing that will actually protect your ride U-Lock/D-Locks are easily accessible with household objects, you spoke of using a Freezing agent to chill then smash the lock with a hammer, that works too best chance would be liquid nitrogen which isnt hard to come by, you can also use any aerosol can, its a waste of an aerosol can but if your getting a bike worth more then 10$, a 1$ aerosol can is a investment, aside from the aerosol assualt I wouldnt suggest using a U-Lock/D-Lock because its easy to conceal items that open it (i.e. a Pen will open those locks) heres some proof if ya dont believe me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hsM88Wx8QQ&mode=related&search=

its much harder to conceal bolt cutters then it is a pen, all in all keep it out of sight or indoors,


worst ive seen is a 5 bike, bike rack outside Canada's Wonderland go Missing with 3 or 4 bikes on it, bolted to the floor means nothing,

good luck
(get a diff lock asap)

- Dan H

P.s. Ive had my IronHorse Bmx go missing 4 times, Ive welded a cheap but efficient remote activated car alarm into the seat shaft,its a little slim box that can be removed and slid down into the shaft, and has a mile remote radius, got it back pretty easy the last two times, if yet to find the theif who dosnt drop it and run with a semi loud alarm blaring from underneath their back ends.
its kind of going to the extreme but a 25$ remote system is a cheap price to pay for my favorite of 3 bmx's which ive invested some decent cash into...

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thanks a bunch for that great comment Iron Cross. I love the remote alarm idea, that's just awesome. I have been in the market for a heavy chain lock but my bikes sleep indoors and never spend more than a few minutes out of my site outdoors. Thanks again for the great tips.

Gerry

Chris said...

HA! I saw that bike. it was on the west end of Ste-Catherine right? I was wondering why it was there for so long!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Sorry Chris, the black bike was left on René-Lévesque. Hmmmm, is there another "black bike project" out there???

Gerry :)

Pops said...

Another tip is to have your driver's license number (or that of a parent for the younger riders) engraved on the bottom of the frame. That way, if it's stolen (and - faint hope) recovered by the police, they can trace the owner and it doesn't end up at a municipal auction - where we all go for good deals.

It can alos be used to prove ownership if you catch the little rat b%$###*s.

Victor Hooi said...

heya,
Yeah, I've just had my bike stolen as well *sigh*.

Well, I'm going to make sure my next one is well secured - heavy duty chain from a hardware store and a U-Lock.

The car alarm idea sounds interesting, but any ideas on how exactly would it work? How do you weld it to the seat post? Also, does it simply work on motion-detecting? Finally, how exactly does it help you get it back (I'm assuming the mile-radius helps you here - is this simply the range that the remote works?)

Cheers,
Victor

Gerry Lauzon said...

All my sympathies Victor. Getting your bike stolen sucks, period. I don't know how the car alarm thing would work since I haven't made one. But I do think that the best bike theft prevention is to bring your baby indoors as often as you can.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

Salut Gerry,

My partner and I are purchasing a pair of recumbent trikes and I saw the post regarding the car alarm.

I'd like to get your thoughts on a product. I'm thinking of purchasing a Smart Alarm Bicycle Padlock. Do you think it would be a smart investment?

Thanks

Richie59

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hey Richie,

The padlocks with alarm that I found come with this flimsy steel cable and are mostly laptop alarms with "for bicycle" tagged to it. You also have to make sure that the alarm portion of this device is solidly installed on the bike so it can't be ripped off easily. I'm more inclined to the opinion that they go for the gadget effect more than theft deterrence. I would go with a good bulky chain and industrial padlock to protect your investment. When was the last time you actually paid any attention to an alarm sounding off? Then again, that's only my personal opinion. Remember, bike lock wise you actually do get what you pay for. Unless you make your own set up at your local hardware store, should come around $70.

Gerry :)

Steve said...

Hey Gerry,
I'm looking into an alarm system as well as other anti theft devices to protect my new investment.(recumbent trike)
I'm looking for a good sensitive remote alarm system that resets itself. Any suggestions?
With a recumbent trike, it's much easier to hide any electronic devices, than on a regular bike.
Thanking you and your bloggers in advance for any advice and/or suggestions.

Gerry Lauzon said...

I really can't recommend anything in this type of bike theft deterrent system, I haven't bought one or used one myself. From what I have seen online, I just don't like it. Then again I could be totally wrong and something real good is out there. You guys send me a link and I will check it out.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

There are huge advancements in GPS technology and you can pick up a transmitter and the program to track it for $50-$150. the cheaper ones send a signal every 15 min or so and the program generates a log of where its been. The more expensive ones give you a live feed and require a subscription. The batteries usually need charging every 2000 hours or so and the system is easy to conceal. If you have a bike worth more to you than $50 and a couple minutes of trouble to hide it in your frame than I recommend this method.

P.S. Make sure you hide it in a place you can take it out of when the battery dies, having it completely inaccessible doesn't help when it goes dead and you can't charge it.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Sounds like something worthwhile, any links? I'll see what I can find out.

Gerry :)

SteveS said...

Gerry,

Just to add my personal theory of locking bikes... use 2 (at least) different types e.g. U-Lock + cable (separate padlock) etc.

My theory is the thief needs different tools to open each one, so unless they're carrying both tools they can't open both locks.

Does it work? I don't know for sure, but I never had my bike nicked when I lived and biked in Manchester (a crime ridden UK city) for 10 years...

Cheers

Steve

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thanks for sharing that information Steve. I do notice a lot of people doing that recently here in Montreal where bike theft is a plague. An excellent strategy for certain.

Gerry :)

Peter Saczkowski said...

This should be of interest to anyone in Ontario, or maybe other parts of Canada, I am not sure.

http://torontoist.com/2006/08/toronto_bike_po.php

It seems the new "Post and Ring" bike stands being put up in Ontario are extremely brittle and can be easily broken with a 2X4.

You can see a broken one here:

http://static.flickr.com/91/217075958_dbb11b3390.jpg

So please don't lock your bikes to these, and if you must, do not leave it for long periods of time, and make sure to lock it onto the pole so thieves are required to break both sides.

Great site Gerry!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Great stuff Peter, thanks for sharing.

Gerry :)

ZAPPDOG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZAPPDOG said...

"http://unclezapaudiozap.phpbb3now.com
/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=33&p=788#p788"
The last post on this page has a video concerning how easy it is to open a combination lock. it also works on some padlocks and some u bolt bike locks.
Try this out on your locks first before you leave your ride chained up somewhere.

Knifemaster said...

I managed to lose the key to my D lock and picked the lock with one of those twisty bag ties

Niko said...

Gerry you have helped me getting started in bicycle repair and will soon be taking a course in bike maintenance and repair I really appreciate you articles and have helped me live car-free. Though please don't white-wash pot smokers, I personally smoke and find it offensive claiming that these bike thieves are "stoners" and need to fund their "addiction" to Marijauna. Unfortunately the pot smoking community is misrepresented by foolish, and irresponsible teenagers. Marijauna is one of the safest drugs known to man and is shown to have medicinal value. Personally I enjoy smoking for its relaxing effects, similar to having a drink after a long week, far from drug abuse. I hope that gives you some perspective, but keep up the good work and I look forward to your next article thanks!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hey Niko, I was looking thru the article and then i realized you are pointing out a comment that I wrote later on. Note that I refer to "chronic potheads", those guys who are permanently stoned. I know that these people are just a small percentage of all pot smokers and my intention was never to generalize. I know a lot of pot smokers, even though I don't use myself, and they are fine human beings. I'm glad I helped you out to be car free. I never thought I could have such a far reaching impact.

Good Luck with acquiring your new skills.

Gerry :)

SteveH said...

I had this lovely bike for years, often left it on the street leaning against the wall of the house, occasionally forgot to lock it.
How come?
The saddle was this twisted knarled dangerous looking thing, looked like it would have your, erm, chop, slice, erm emasculate you in seconds. I've evn seen creeps approach it and then turn away. It was actually quite comfortable to ride, but it did look scary.

Steve