The Chainlink

We are entering high season for Bike Theft in the City of Chicago. Reports to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry are starting to come in at the rate of more than one per day. If last year is any indication, they’ll peak out at a rate of more than four per day, and a really busy day may see as many as ten thefts reported in a single day.

 

I believe in the axiom that if a bike thief really wants to steal your bike, there’s not much you can do to keep your bike from getting stolen. But I also believe in the axiom that if you only lock your bike with a cable lock, or a combination cable lock, or a cable and padlock, or you don’t lock your bike at all, your bike is going to get stolen even if the thieves only “sort of” want to steal your bike. I also fervently believe in the punchline “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you.”

 

Facts:

There are about 2500 bikes listed on the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry (CSBR).

 

20% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) weren’t locked - no lock at all. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

 

34% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) were locked with either a combination cable lock, a cable with an integrated key lock or a cable with a padlock.

 

The Chicago Police Department does not maintain theft data specifically for bikes, but estimates that in excess of 5000 bikes per year are stolen in the City of Chicago.

 

Fewer than half of the CSBR entries contain a serial number, which just happens to be the single most important piece of information for identifying and recovering a stolen bike.

 

I know what you’re saying. “Hey wait just a minute Kevin, these aren’t Fun Facts. Truthfully, these are pretty depressing statistics. Throw us a bone, would you?” 

 

OK, but just this once...

 

I have yet to see an entry on the CSBR for a bike which was cross-locked; i.e. two U-locks or a U-lock together with a heavy duty security chain and padlock.

 

The Chicago Stolen Bike Registry now contains a link which enables you to register your bike BEFORE IT’S STOLEN. The link is to Bike Revolution, an organization based in London which enables you to register your bike, enter a photo if you like, record any identifying accessories that distinguish your bike and print a certificate for your records. A dirty little secret about registering your bike with the Chicago Police Department is that your registration drops out of their system every two years. The people behind the curtain at the CSBR have maintained six and a half years of data regarding thefts, and pledge to retain the registration data through and including the date you sell or dispose of your bike, or the date on which you attend your first grandchild’s grammar school graduation, whichever date comes first. 

 

Kryptonite used to do an annual list of the top ten worst cities in the US for bike theft. (The underlying Kryptonite data is proprietary, but the worst cities are based on rate of theft rather than gross numbers, and reading between the lines, relates to claims on the Kryptonite replacement guarantee.) New York was always #1 followed by everyone else. By the time they stopped 3 years ago, NY settled at #3, with Philadelphia at #1 and Chicago at #2. I spoke with the brand manager at Kryptonite a couple of times last fall seeking insight into how Chicago could use the lessons learned in NY to reduce theft in Chicago. Was it the fact that New York got a Kryptonite lock named after them? Nah, it was awareness, pure and simple. The publicity associated with being the worst city in the US for bike theft made people in New York more aware of how and where they locked their bike. It made New Yawkers more aware that they needed to spend some money for the best lock(s) they could afford, and lock their bike every time-even if they were just going inside “for a minute.”   

 

I don’t want to blame the victim here, but 54% of the bikes stolen in the City of Chicago either aren’t locked or are locked with a cable lock. A little awareness of that fact alone could reduce the incidence of bike theft in Chicago substantially. Recovery rates for bicycles where the owner doesn’t even know their serial number are abyssmal. Until these facts change, my strategy is: I lock my bike with two U-locks (and a cable) anytime I leave my transportation/commuter unattended for longer than half an hour. If I leave it unattended for less than that, I have one U-lock on it. If I’m lucky, I get to lock my bike to a bike rack with two U-locks next to a bike locked with a combination cable lock.

 

Register your bike. Write down your serial number.

 

Riding a bike is fun. Returning to the location where you locked your bike and finding it there is almost as much fun.

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here is my approach :

 

never lock the bike outside your house apartment (including garage or basement or yard)

 

make sure all your neighbors know you have lots of dogs.

 

pit bulls help a lot.

 

even labrador retrievers work (even though they are harmless...but ghetto folks

associate big dogs with big bites)

 

mention (loudly) to all your neighbors that you sleep with the dogs and bikes and guns

a

lso mention (to the neighbor kids) that there are gps tracking devices embedded in the bike.

 

i.e. my fancy road bike has two in the frame and one in each wheel. if the (hidden) bike alarm system is

not deactivated and the bike leaves the property it automatically notifies a monitoring agency and I get a text which I then call 911 and report the location of the bike and the police are on their way. even

taking the wheels off and cutting the fram apart or melting it down cannot prevent this. Your neighbors

will not believe this at first; but after you insist that it is a special racing bike insurance add on they

will eventually come around. Oh..and then I throw in the fact that the last two idiots that tried to steal

that bike spent 4 days in jail (they were also busted on lots of other infractions when the police tracked them down (and confiscated most everything from their cousin's house(s) they will quickly realize that

is not prudent to even *think* about going after your fancy bike.

 

just my $.02 btw

 

DB

 

 

Thanks, Kevin, great post, and great responses.
dumb story... but being that the gps alarm is activated and deactivated over the internet using a variety of web connected hardware i ran into a little problem a couple of days ago. while attempted to disable the alarm for a dawn patrol pedal/paddle session out to and into lake michigan, it was impossible to make the sunrise because that part of the web interface was on the blink. wound up leaving with the alarm siren blaring and the occasional text/phone call about a vibration alert. it was 5:30 in the morning and that went on for a couple of hours until they had it sorted out as the landslide was all bells and whistles whenever we were on the move. must've been a ridiculous sight though people would kind of look around in disbelief that there was really an alarm going off of on a human powered vehicle.

I may be preaching to the Choir here but a U-lock and a cable lock is good, or take the front wheel off, lock it to the back wheel and frame.

Got a quick release on the seat? lock the bike take the seat inside to work.

There once was an article about how to slow down a thief if you have to run into a store for two minutes and don't have a lock.  1.  Put your helmet straps through the spokes of your wheel and then snap the strap closed.  A thief will have to take a few seconds to undo your strap to ride off with your bike which may give you time to dive out the door and stop them.  The other thing to do is put the gears in the hardest gearing to ride; the big ring up front and the small ring in the back.  If someone tries to ride off with your bike, it will be very hard for them to pedal and it will probably take them a while to either get up to speed or to shift your bike which also buys you some time.  These two things together will slow a thief down by a fair amount and give you a chance to stop them.

I do the first, even with my lock sometimes.  It will still take time to either get the helmet off or at least double the time since they have to cut to things...  Anything you can do to add time I think wards off would be theives.

 

Julie

Tour de Cure said:

I once read an article about how to slow down a theif if you have to run into a store for two minutes and don't have a lock.  1.  Put your helmet straps through the spokes of your wheel and then snap the strap closed.  A theif will have to take a few seconds to undo your strap to ride off with your bike which may give you time to dive out the door and stop them.  The other thing to do is put the gears in the hardest gearing to ride; the big ring up front and the small ring in the back.  If someone trys to ride off with your bike, it will be very hard for them to pedal and it will probably take them a while to either get up to speed or to shift your bike which also buys you some time.  These two things together will slow a theif down by a fair amount and give you a chance to stop them.

When you buy your new bike and the salesperson gives you the serial number to your bike keep it in a safe place. I cant tell you how many people call the store looking for those serial numbers.

 

if you got a bike ticket with your bike that was built by a bike shop the serial number should be on the ticket, as well as your receipt. if not the serail number is ussually location underneath your frame where the pedals

crank /pedals go thrugh the frame. it is engraved in the fram or there is a plate. check this numer against your reciept, and keep in the same place you keep all you insurance documents or impotant papers.

 

Rene

Oug Gang Bicyclle Club 

Hmm, at risk of being a spoilsport I'd just say that there are no circumstances under which you should ever leave your bike unlocked. I don't think even the hardest core gram counter would grudge the weight of a ski lock, for instance, which you can cut with nail clippers but will probably keep the thing safe if you just have to run into a store.

Also: Surly makes really good bikes and one nice touch is that they don't clear coat over the graphics, so that you can get them off with a hairdryer, a credit card and some Goo Gone. All else being equal, a thief is probably going to pass over the bike that looks a bit like an old Schwinn at first glance, even if it's nice. I bought a Cross Check rather than one of several more or less identical bikes from other makers partly for this reason.

The best thing is to cross-lock your bike with 2 different kinds of locks.  For example, I use a thick cable and a U-lock at the same time.  Cables are often long enough that you can run them through both wheels.

 

Bike thieves usually only carry 1 type of tool with them and either target cables or U-locks for the day.  If you cross-lock, they might be able to break one lock, but not both. 

 

But as people mentioned, cross-locking is best simply because your bike looks like too much work to steal, especially compared to the guy with the thin chain on his.

just dont leave your bike unattended.

Julie Hochstadter said:

I do the first, even with my lock sometimes.  It will still take time to either get the helmet off or at least double the time since they have to cut to things...  Anything you can do to add time I think wards off would be theives.

 

Julie

Tour de Cure said:

I once read an article about how to slow down a theif if you have to run into a store for two minutes and don't have a lock.  1.  Put your helmet straps through the spokes of your wheel and then snap the strap closed.  A theif will have to take a few seconds to undo your strap to ride off with your bike which may give you time to dive out the door and stop them.  The other thing to do is put the gears in the hardest gearing to ride; the big ring up front and the small ring in the back.  If someone trys to ride off with your bike, it will be very hard for them to pedal and it will probably take them a while to either get up to speed or to shift your bike which also buys you some time.  These two things together will slow a theif down by a fair amount and give you a chance to stop them.

There have been reports this year of witnessed thefts where a bike was locked only with a cable lock and the thief used a power tool to cut it. If you only have one type of tool, and that tool happens to be an angle grinder, then the second lock being a cable will be a very tiny inconvenience.

However, having a U-lock as your primary lock and at least a somewhat sturdy cable lock as your secondary lock may make a thief with no tools less likely to be able to steal it.

 

Becca said:

The best thing is to cross-lock your bike with 2 different kinds of locks.  For example, I use a thick cable and a U-lock at the same time.  Cables are often long enough that you can run them through both wheels.

 

Bike thieves usually only carry 1 type of tool with them and either target cables or U-locks for the day.  If you cross-lock, they might be able to break one lock, but not both. 

 

But as people mentioned, cross-locking is best simply because your bike looks like too much work to steal, especially compared to the guy with the thin chain on his.

I'm paranoid, so I carry two U-Locks. I lock the frame and front wheel to the rack/post, as well as use the other u-lock to lock the frame and back wheel to the rack or post when possible- otherwise, I use the second lock to secure wheel to frame. I also think that a thief is more likely to pass on my bike in favor of one not locked with 2 U-locks.

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