Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lock n' Loaded: Cracking Down on Bike Theft

Sometimes it can seem like we live in a world gone mad. A two-headed turtle is missing; panda-themed street parties are terrorizing Williamsburg (proving that police don't just pick on groups of idiots on bikes--they also pick on groups of idiots dressed as pandas); and, perhaps most disturbingly, Purple Drank is about to "drop." Trying as times are, I'd like nothing more than to post more pictures of naked women on bikes so that we might all drown our troubles in them. Unfortunately, though, there's simply too much evil in the world for me to bury my head in the seductive sepia sands of bike porn art. I will not sit around Fofonov while the world falls apart around me!

Instead, in the spirit of yesterday's PSA, I remain committed to making a difference. And the one difference I know I can make is helping to reduce bicycle theft. (And of course its half-assed cousin, bicycle component theft.) It seems as though everywhere I look lately I see a poorly-secured bicycle. As recently as this morning, in fact, I was waiting at a red light (not out of safety, mind you, but because crosswalks in summertime are good places for sepia-gazing) when a gentleman rolled by on an eye-catchingly colorful bicycle, got off of it theatrically like a gymnast dismounting the parallel bars, secured it to a bike rack, and went on his way:

Note the manner in which the bicycle has been locked. He could have at least locked it by the downtube and also secured the front wheel without having spent any more time. A second lock for the back wheel would be even better. In the case of my own ironic Orange Julius bike, I have a built-in rear-wheel theft deterrent in the form of the World's Dirtiest Drive Train. (Turning it now sounds like a combination of the Gregory Hines dance from "History of the World Part I" and a tabla solo, and simply attempting to remove the wheel would sully a thief's hand so badly that all I'd have to do would be to follow the trail of grime to his lair.) But this bike looks fastidiously clean, and I'd say an opportunist could make off with those wheels in about 16 seconds without so much as dirtying a digit. He could also loosen that quill stem and grab the bar/stem combo too if he felt like it, since he wouldn't even have to deal with cutting a brake cable.

Here's another unfortunate locking job from San Francisco, forwarded by a reader:



Sure, this bicycle is somewhat less desireable, but the locking technique is still baffling. This rider is using a two-part security system consisting of a u-lock and a cable which a determined rodent could probably gnaw through in a matter of minutes. The most substantial component of the system (the u-lock) is for some reason being employed to secure only the wheel, while the rest of the bike is secured by the cable. (In fairness to the owner, though, I suppose it is possible that the front wheel is worth more than the rest of the bike, so that might explain it. But he still might as well have locked the frame too.) Also, the helmet is right at dog-groin level for maximum urine exposure.

I can't explain why people are unable to lock their bikes properly. All I can do is point these things out when I see them in the hope that others may learn. And the two lessons to be learned from these bikes are:

Lock Up Anything That Can Be Removed

Again, that's "Lock Up Anything That Can Be Removed," not "Lock Up Anything That You Can Remove." I suspect this distinction may be part of the problem. Just becase the owner of Bike #1 doesn't know how to remove his own wheels doesn't mean a thief can't do it either. Sure, you might get your flats fixed at Trackstar, but rest assured that just about every thief out there can operate a wrench and can wrap his mind around the elusive "righy tighty, lefty loosy" principle.

Your Lock Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Part

This is the lesson of Bike #2. Lock the frame with the u-lock, not the cable lock. Just passing a cable lock through a u-lock does not somehow impart the u-lock's strength to the cable lock. That's dangerous thinking. It's like not understanding that when you have sex with someone you've had sex with everyone they've ever slept with. Think of it this way: the u-lock is the virgin. The cable lock is the person who just got back from a sex tour of Bangkok. Virginity is non-transferrable, but STDs are.

So, with that in mind, let's say you're a savvy, sophisticated urbanite, and you've got a bike to match--like that goofy Trek dragster thing. And let's say you happen upon one of David Byrne's charmingly irreverent bike racks--in this case, the dollar sign. (What could be more fun than locking up to some pop musician's brain belch?) Do you:


#1) Lock the bike to the rack with a u-lock by the front wheel only?


#2) Tether the bike by the seatpost with a piece of yarn to a pretty Monarch butterfly?


3) Throw every goddamn thing you've got on that thing and lock it Pee Wee Herman style?

The answer, of course, is none of the above. You bring it inside with you. Sure, sometimes businesses treat bicycles like wet dogs, but you'd be surprised to find how often you can just walk in with your bike. This is especially true of bars, and it's particularly true of the kinds of seedy dive bars young urban riders are pioneering these days. These are the kinds of bars where, until recently, the bartender wouldn't flinch if you walked in with a 7'10" heroin-addicted transsexual, so what makes you think they care about your lime green fixie? And if someone does give you a problem, you can always throw a trenchcoat over it and pretend it's a person. "That'll be a PBR for me, and a shot of ProLink for my bony transgendered ladyfriend here."

94 comments:

bikesgonewild said...

...brett easton ellis called (again)...& he wanted to be the 'first' to say that anon 2:11 has all of the negative character traits of cadel evans w/ none of the ability...

Anonymous said...

Podiummm!

ant1st said...

First!

mary poppins said...

oh 3rd whoopie

leroy said...

I use dental floss to lock my bike. Is that wrong?

It's used floss. Better deterrant effect.

streepo said...

top ten!!

Anonymous said...

*sigh*

Anonymous said...

top ten!

thejakesnakes said...

Single wall rims make a good theft deterrent.

Anonymous said...

Dang,I thought the butterfly method would work!

ant1st said...

In the same vein as people not understanding basic physics/mechanics when locking up a bike, try asking some friends or coworkers to draw a bike for you. It's amazing how half of the population cannot draw a bike that could actually be ridden. You'll quickly find out which half.

Video_drome said...

Death To Video_Drome!!!!!!

ptfe said...

There's another option: carry a trained attack dog. Some of them fit handily in a medium-sized backpack, and passersby (particularly those in sepia tones) can't resist a drooling dog peeking out of a pack and enjoying a ride. Just don't let said passersby get close enough to find out its true purpose.

Anonymous said...

ching chong meow, bangkok is saaaaweeet.

leroy said...

As long as we're doing PSAs today, Sheldon Brown's piece on how to lock a bicycle is still one of the best around.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/lock-strategy.html

And yes, I know, I mispelled "deterrent" in my prior post.

Anonymous said...

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble...

Commiecanuk said...

The world is more insane than you think, a two-mouthed fish was found in Alberta, and incredibly, the sasquatch is a hoax. Yes, that's right, a hoax. Apparently it was just a rubber monkey suit, they couldn't even fork out for a sasquatch suit.
However, obese cyclists know the real truth, and remain vigilant on the bigfoot front.

Recent news stories about the trend of flesh eating fish pedicures gave me a great idea, hanging piranhas around the top tube in an acrylic water bowl and just leave the bike wherever. The ensuing pile of clean bones of bike thieves then ironically become permanent bike racks for others to lock onto.

Eco-friendly, low carbon, approved by Sting, etc.etc.

Anonymous said...

i long for the days gone by when my pink to white fade men's meile astro six with fenders didn't need a lock...i rode it for two years without locking it once (never overnight) but now those colours are 'in' - it's all just bad now.
you could say i'm from toronto, but we got problems up here too:
google "igor bike theft toronto"

leroy said...

commiecanuck -- that guy holding the Honk for Big Foot sign must have lost one heckuva bet.

JIM N said...

Locking a bicycle properly seems easy but it is not. That is what drove me to become a Bicycle Security Consultant. I am available for personal or corporate consultations at a reasonable fee.

Carlos from Philly said...

Your frequent habit of mocking those whose rights are being so frequently disregarded by New York's notoriously dragoon (dragoonious? esque?) police force is really tacky. These variously themed "morons" are your fellow New Yorkers (regardless of which midwestern suburb they migrated from).
Shame on you for announcing your superiority.
I hope there won't be a day where you find yourself surrounded by "morons" and become the victim yourself.

Anonymous said...

Mazal Tov!

ant1st said...

Carlos - we are all surrounded by morons, always. There is no hope, just solace in our superiority. Can't we at least have that?

Commiecanuk said...

Leroy, he lost the bet, but he ate the winner.

So far today, we're surrounded by one less moron.

Norman said...

Once you get over the mortifying shame of having wheels smaller than 26in (559mm, a universal constant, dontchaknow), folding bicycles start to seem attractive. 62:9 gearing to manage 13mph, not so much so, sadly :(

SD said...

I read that you are never more than seven feet from a moron.

Or was that a cretin?

ant1st said...

SD - seven feet for a moron, 3 meters for a cretin.

ant1st said...

Speaking of being surrounded by morons, let us not forget the moron in all of us, repressed as he/she may be.

leroy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bikesgonewild said...

...carlos from philly...i think you're looking for 'draconian' & beyond that, considering the name & nature of this beast, see 'ant1st' for a respective perspective comment...

...see...i'm being polite about this...

Anonymous said...

You might like this.

http://quickrelease.tv/?p=567

anon 2:11 said...

I'm just checking to see if I can leave a comment as anon 2:11

ice cube said...

PURPLE DRANK is Nighttrain! Ghetto wine in a can, now that's something I can get behind. Didn't MD20/20 already come out with this flava??

bikesgonewild said...

...anon 2:11...

...thanks for the giving us the "opportunity" to share your views but i think i speak for all the regulars when i say "we respectably decline"...

...bye now...

ken (hates shimano) said...

snickering...
"be careful with that axe, Eugene"

while we're waiting for the false anon 2:11 to dig a deeper pit, could all you web savvy types suggest somewhere online for a "reasonable" price on a dura-ace 9spd shifter/brake assembly? not that igor guy's eithier! can i ask this here? a thousand pardons... and thanks!

Carlos from Philly said...

bikesgonewild: no-- if i wanted to say draconian, i would've. google dragoon to see what i was going for...

and to ant1st-- sure, we're surrounded by morons, but does that make it right (or funny) to mock the morons on bikes being victimized by the morons with sticks?
No. Especially considering that those morons with sticks have no qualms about turning them on bloggers (or those who read them) if the need arises.

Carlos from Philly said...

that came out wrong. but you get my point...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Carlos from Philly,

I see and respect your point, but you've got to admit, anyone who went to that panda thing and expected things to go smoothly didn't exactly think things through.

--RTMS

Jim said...

Leroy - that's nice but I prefer to secure bike with transcendental floss. It doesn't really protect the bike but when the bike gets stolen, stripped for its top tube, then thrown in the dumpster and recycled into a blinking, spinning hub for an Escalade, it will achieve total enlightenment. So at least it has that going for it. Which is nice.

ice cube said...

Porn and bikecylces go hand in hand! Instead of alley cat race cards in the spokes I have some of my very favorite porn pics laminated to display. Club and Fox are my jersey sponsors now.

Jim said...

And Mumia from Philly - yeah, the NYPD cops are pretty bad sometimes, but it's hard to root against them when they are beating the crap out of Fofanovers (Fofonovas? Fofonaviches?) It's the mother-in-law-over-the-cliff-in-your-new-car conundrum, except your mother-in-law is wearing dark blue polyester and has a nightstick and the soundtrack keeps going "don't taze me, bro" over and over again.

On the other hand, the NYPD did turn NYC from a wretched place to be loathed and feared into a yuppie heaven that is safe even for hipsters, Euro tourists and furries, so maybe we should be tougher on them.

Anonymous said...

i think you've been had with the Trek Urban Assault Bike. It seemed a little funny to me when you first posted it, and I can't find any evidence that it exists. It looks like a doctored photo of a Trek Soho

http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/2008/urban/soho/soho40/

Maybe the photo is so clearly doctored to everyone else that the joke is on me. Fine, I'm just not sure why you mentioned it seriously twice.

Carlos from Philly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carlos from Philly said...

jim:
NYPD had nothing to do with that. I'm pretty sure their collective GED educated minds did nothing more than choose the badge over a trash truck because of the salary increase-- not out of an attempt to make life better for the audi set.
You give them far too much credit here.

Commiecanuk said...

Fake anon 2:11,

I did that once, and lost the ability to do math in my head for three hours. Be careful.

Gerchof Sirdribeldik said...

Because Chinese kick American ass at Olympic games you have plenty bad moods. For you little joke: We take Georgia but you keep Atlanta Braves.

Joke funnier in some parts of world than others.

Andrew said...

wait - isn't the point of snob's column the fact that at one tine or another, EVERYONE IS A MORON?

Jim said...

Carlos, there are good cops and bad cops, mostly good in my experience, including the couple handfuls of NYPD officers I've known. Most cops I've known have had at least a two year degree, they aren't stupid, and anymore an advanced degree is favored if not required to make upper ranks in the big city departments. Yeah, young cops sometimes tend to be a bit too agressive and can be meatheads. But I've seen a lot more people who desperately need a good low-grade ass-kicking than I've seen bad cops. So I tend to wait until I know the whole story before I throw stones. If they f***ed up, the cops should be punished. Having seen NYC in the bad days when the police force was demoralized and not keeping busy on the streets, I approach the current edition of the NYPD with a generally positive attitude, no blinders from preventing me from seeing both sides of the story though.

MonkeyOnBike said...

Sometimes people don't want to hear it when you advise them on how to properly lock their bicycle, just like they sometimes like to argue that the pie plate is actually part of the bike.

ant1st said...

gerchof - so that traitor glavine has a career ending injury and now you don't want the braves? Can you at least take ted turner?

bikesgonewild said...

...carlos from philly, sheesh...consider this a written apology...

...although i'd have to say your "dragoons" are "draconian" in their nature & tactics...

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

...when bsnyc/rtms goes out on the orange julius ironic bike, he wears a chicken outfit & by god, he looks like a big chicken on a bike...fools me every time...

...when dummies in the south try to pull off a fake sasquatch scam, they use an honest to god, fake gorilla suit that might, when encased in a block of ice, kinda fool you into thinking it's a sasquatch, if you're willing to be fooled...every time...

...so when you have a "panda themed" street party & only dress in black & white & not take the time or bother to wear a real fake, cute, little cuddly panda outfit, you should expect to see some disappointed locals...every time...

...nobody would even hassle a "a real fake, cute, little cuddly panda" guy or girl...not even a hardened nypd dragoon, i'd bet...

...you never hear of police brutality towards fake chickens or gorillas & they're not even cute...

GrandMasterB said...

i was a bike mechanic for a few years in a college town. many, many times customers came in "i lost the key for this lock, do you have master keys, or can you saw it off for me". Very often, it was around the seatpost. It was always fun to see their faces when I'd open the QR, pull out the seat/post, and hand them the lock.

frilly said...

Poor snobby, sounds like you're not getting any summer lovin' either.

Demure enough?

Gerchof Sirdribeldik said...

It is to be noted that Fofanov (I no see why you find name to be humorous) has middle name of Gerchof. Truly as we use patronymics his middle name is Gerchofovitch which Americans find difficult to the tongue.

We have no use for Ted Turner as we have no Teds in need for turning.

Lucky 7 said...

Leroy,

Thanks for the Sheldon lock up link. I miss him.


A

Anonymous said...

Know this is a few days behind, but if BikeSnob wants to see some unironic bikes, he should visit small town USA. With gas prices rising, old relics come out ridden with nary a sneer. My favorite two so far are:

1) Fat 60-ish guy riding a pink Harvard 10-speed to and from the grocery store

2)Humorless elderly black man riding a BMX bike with the seatpost dangerously extended, which sort of made it a good fit. Also hauling bags of groceries.

Not everywhere is Brooklyn, thank god.

Anonymous said...

Who is this comment deleted moron?

Can't he/she/it post anything new?

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh, people are dumb!!!!

Anonymous said...

Assholes.

veloben said...

RTMS,

Two posts on the practical and utterly personal topic of locking up a bike. I don't know, this is sliding close to grouch territory.

If someone is too clueless to securely lock up a simple structure like a bike, maybe they're too clueless to safely operate one?

Could bike thieves be diluting the Darwinian forces at work on the hipster crowd?

broomie said...

Hey, that bony transgender is my training partner!

Carlos, what gives you the right to declare all midwesterners morons?

Carlos from Philly said...

I didn't, though your inability to grasp the few sentences i wrote adds little to the debate...

;)

Carlos from Philly said...

Sorry, that was more of an asshole comment than i intended it to be. That said, i like the way it looks so i'm not deleting it.

pompom said...

I tried securing my Cervelo by tying it to a monarch butterfly with a bit of string, but the damn bug ran away with it. Next time I'll try a smaller insect.

veloben said...

Obstructionist, nut case, moron alert:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121919354756955249.html?mod=hps_us_pageone

Anonymous said...

Carlos from Philly,

As a former dragoon, I strongly object to your misuse of the word. A dragoon is a mounted soldier who attacks mounted, and fights dismounted in the defense. In the 20th century these units were... blah blah (sounding like 2:11).

Anyway, I'm not sure what word you were thinking of but I'm exercising my God-given American right to object to everything and everybody. Today it is you.

Anonymous said...

it finally hit me. that trek bike reminds me of the Giant Stilletto (not RuPaul's shoe, the bike). At least the lowrider craze stayed on the fringe.

akbert said...

I like to imagine that the last photo of the aforementioned ridiculous Trek slalom bike was drawn in a fit of childlike fury inspired by both the bike's idiocy and the frustration of ill-secured bikes.

Well that's what it looks like.

broomie said...

Pompom:

..or a heavier bike.

Carlos:

No, I distinctly read in your post that soon we would all be victims by moron dragoons from the midwest. I can only deduce that this is some sort of threat. A sort of idiot revolt. SInce the idiots will be missing wheels and seatposts due to theft I suppose the revolt would be on foot. This creates the oxymoron of revolting dragoons on foot. Or will they be riding heely's?

Carlos, do you fish?

Anonymous said...

Broomie,

Maybe Carlos meant they will ride in from the Midwest causing trouble enroute, then tether their bikes incorrectly as they are distracted by the sights of the city, thus losing critical parts and having no choice to commit their thuggery a' pied.

Anon 7:06

broomie said...

Ahhh, an idiot's crusade!

D Raj said...

Snob, you are a marketing genius: The Langster will soon be replaced by the "Specialized Purpose." May you receive royalties on each one sold!

Pompom said...

Broomie said "..or a heavier bike."

But, but...

John said...

What???
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ri1v9Xucxs

Anonymous said...

And now we need to find the perfect idiot to bless the Crusade. It appears that Anon 2:11 is available this evening.

Anon 7:06

mr.complaint said...

Hey man, don't you know that that butterfly is going to wreck havoc on us next week?

Don't you know that the Olympics are on and I have too much work to do?

Don't you think that this is a better time for you to take a vacation?

I have a lot of work to do here and you're (your) out there (their) pedaling (petaling) out to lunch (lunckhch) and locking your (yer) bicycle (bike) up to some money sign (sine) and getting confused bout how to lock it up? Jeeze (Gosh and Heck)!

Or is that me who's (whose or whoosh) confused?

It's summer in the city and I'm glad to hear (here) that you hang back at the crosswalk and look at the girls.

Here in NY that's vacation without going on vacation.

Robert Anderson said...

Take a look at the Bikeeper rack from Holland on this entry over at the Practical Cyclist blog:

http://practicalcyclist.blogspot.com/2008/08/byrne-bike-racks-and-design.html

Cameron said...

The only thing worse than a poorly locked bike is an unqualified thief.

On the drive between our house and my wife's grandparents, I have seen the same '89 Schwinn Sprint sit outside a strip mall. After three years of watching this goofy bike get hacked and violated like desert roadkill, I decided I was going to see how well it was locked---and if possible---I was going to put it out of its misery. So last week on a solo trip to the GPs I made sure to pack my bolt cutters and stopped to check out the illusive booty. Upon inspection, I found the bike was locked with only a cable lock wrapped around the stem several times. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Three plus years this bike sat here and nobody realized they were an allen wrench or bolt cutters---or a hacksaw even---away from a nabbing this thing! Instead they stole wheels, stole the seat but not the post, tried to steal the calipers and tried to steal the rear dérailleur but couldn't figure out how to removed it without removing the chain.

It took me a about 15 seconds to clip the cable and I back in my car and on my way.

Suburban thieves/opportunists/scrap pickers really need to work on their technique.



For the record, I do not encourage, condone or partake in bike theft.

Anonymous said...

This guy does a pretty decent job in explaining how to lock your bike:

http://www.famous5.com/uk/videos_fans_facts.php?id=4

Maybe people that buy a bike should be made to watch it ;-)

Anonymous said...

When locking up a bike, I have always thought it was wise to lean it on the non-drive side so as to reduce the risk of somehow mucking up the chainline. Am I alone in thinking this a good practice?

In Leroy's link to Sheldon Brown's locking technique, it looks the bike's chain is actually resting against the post, which strikes me as a less than good idea.

In the end this may be as trivial as the wheel-building tradition of making sure the rim decals are oriented so they can be read from the right-side of the bike.

brad said...

are those locking skewers and do those really work?

ZiP said...

"What could be more fun than locking up to some pop musician's brain belch?"

Haha - this is easily one of the best entries yet. And i thought the shark had been jumped. But alas, not yet.

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riderwear said...

I really like the flexibility of the cable used in combination with U-Lock. I'm a little disappointed with the length of the U-Lock.
pad locks

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