How to avoid bike theft
This entry was posted on May 29, 2013.
Many riders have had their bikes stolen, and it's a bummer every time. Luckily for all of us, avoiding bike theft is relatively easy if you plan ahead and think before you leave your bike in a strange place. Keep these elements of safety in mind when you leave your bike exposed, and the chances of your bike being stolen will be greatly reduced.
The first consideration when trying to stop theft is the location of your bike. In general, the more foot or vehicle traffic that passes a given location, and the more well-lit it is, the safer of a place it would be to leave your bike.
Of course, the interior of a locked building is perhaps the safest place to leave your bike. A dark, quiet alleyway or secluded stairwell is often the worst place, and a publicly-visible, easily accessible porch is nearly as bad.
The first visibility consideration is the "flashiness" of your bike: the more expensive your ride appears to be, the more desirable it will be to potential thieves. All else being equal, bike nabbers are more likely to grab a clean, bright, costly looking cycle rather than a ratty old commuter bike.
If you have a nice bike, you can use this effect to your advantage by covering your bike in a bit of dirt or a bunch of old stickers and duct tape. The performance of your ride won’t be effected, and your security will be greatly increased. If you’re not willing to sully the beauty of your new ride, make sure the other elements of avoiding bike theft are optimized, as you will be a target.
The second visibility consideration is the ability to see the location of the bike from areas of traffic. A bike that is hidden in a stand of trees beside a trail or in a thicket of bushes next to a sidewalk is less likely to attract the interest of thieves. This safety method should be used with caution, as a well-hidden bike is also a great place for a thief to cut through a lock without unwanted attention.
A solid bike lock is one of the best deterrents to potential thieves. While many riders make do with thin, easily-cut cable locks that belong on their grandpa's bike, most people who are serious about bike safety recommend U-locks. U-locks are composed of a solid metal bar, which makes them much tougher to cut than cable locks. Unfortunately, it also makes them much heavier, bulkier and harder to use with a variety of anchors; while a cable can wind around large poles, a U-lock requires a medium or small diameter attachment point.
The other advantage of cable locks is that they can be threaded through both wheels in order to secure them in place - U-locks, due to their size, can only be used to lock the frame and front wheel of a bicycle, not the rear wheel.
Both modern U-locks and cable locks are solid options for security, but for maximum safety some riders choose to use both -- a U-lock securing the front wheel and frame, and a cable lock securing the rear wheel.
The final consideration of where you choose to leave your bike is the anchor point. A solid anchor -- like a signpost or a sturdy metal fence post -- will keep your bike safe, while a flimsy anchor -- like a loose post or a thin wooden dowel -- can be easily removed.
One type of anchor problem to especially watch out for is the "short post" -- if a vertical anchor point does not extend well overhead, then your bike and lock might be able to be lifted right off the post. Keep your eyes out for this one!
With all of these different factors in mind, you should be able to make good decisions about securely locking your bike in safe locations, and you should be able to enjoy many years of riding without worrying about losing your bike.