December 31, 2014

Resolve to Thwart Theft

Bike Thieves Beware is going on a hiatus of indefinite duration.

That doesn't mean, of course, that you should let your guard down. You love your bikes, people, so lock 'em up proper—this year and the next and the next and the next.

Earlier this month I chatted with a Dutch expat who was feeding the Tenleytown meter to which I'd locked my Surly. He said that his 80-year-old mother—in the Netherlands—still transports her groceries by bike. Can I keep biking for another half century? And never lose another bike to theft? I'm sure as hell gonna try...

December 24, 2014

Takeaways from Portland's Bike Theft Summit

Since I didn't contrive to attend the Bike Theft Summit in Portland earlier this month, I eagerly read Jonathan Maus's account of the evening over at Here's what stood out to me as possibly useful/interesting to anti-bike-thefters everywhere:

Address the demand: Efforts to combat bike theft often focus on the available supply of steal-able bikes. Cyclists are encouraged to use beefier locks, lock only to dedicated racks (more on those below), never leave a bike outside overnight... Consider instead the demand side of bike theft, urged Marc Jolin and Halley Weaver, of homeless advocacy groups JOIN and Transition Projects, respectively. If homeless people steal bicycles because they don't have cars and can't afford public transit, might providing the homeless with reliable bikes cut thefts?

Push registration: BTB has been singing the praises of registries forever. A bigger percentage of the bike-owning public needs to register, though, for the likes of Bike Index to achieve its potential. Bryan Hance told summit attendees that Bike Index is beginning to address the problem through what Maus calls "direct integration of point-of-sale systems at bike shops." (I gather from the registry's "About" page that Maus was referring to how Bike Index has made registration automatic for some manufacturers and bike shops.) Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), though, takes a more low-tech approach (one that could be replicated elsewhere): Outreach to new residents includes not only information about biking, but also old-school paper registration cards.

Install the right racks: Take a look at the bike rack above. I photographed it while in Portland for a conference in August, more for the cut cable than the rack itself, honestly. But notice how, if the rack were wrenched from the sidewalk somehow, it looks like the U-lock would be able to slip right over the rack's foot. It came to light at the bike theft summit, though, that PBOT is considering changing the design of the city's basic blue staple rack to include feet big enough to preclude unscrew-and-slip-off maneuvers. Here's one context in which a larger footprint is a good thing!

December 18, 2014

Attention Mr. Buckmaster

So did you sign the petition? Project 529 reported last week that, in early December, it sent the CEOs of Craiglist and eBay the names of 51,203 cyclists who want the online sellers to require serial numbers on bike listings.

And the Portland-based outfit didn't just email the executives a big Word file. No. Each bigwig received via FedEx a wooden binder with the petition text and the signatures of the Project 529 staff laser etched on the cover.

"We need to grab the attention of the executives and attempt [to] convey the passion of 50,000+ cyclists in a physical manifestation," explains the webpage about the petition. "…and of course we live in Portland."

Need they say more? (They do. Here and here. Read it if you want to know more about the beauty of the binder shown in the GIF below or if you're curious how folks go about collecting so bloody many signatures.)

December 16, 2014


I've written before about Facebook groups devoted to getting the word out about—and hopefully speeding the recovery of—stolen bikes. Here's a dramatic example of one such group—Twin Cities Stolen Bikes—in action. As Gear Junkie put it, "a real-time bike recovery went down as participants watched online." 

Read it, and marvel at the sometimes beneficent power of social media:

December 11, 2014

Fortified Bicycle Promises Anti-Theft Bike

I've got a Fortified Bicycle Afterburner (back light) on pre-order, so I've been following the Boston-based startup's progress. Apparently they've got big plans for 2015: a move to a new 3,000-5,000 square foot headquarters and the rollout of an anti-theft bicycle.

I'm curious about what this will entail, especially since Fortified Bicycle co-founder Slava Menn is promising the bike will not only be "virtually maintenance-free" but cost a mere $500. Several times in the Boston Business Journal interview below Menn mentions the theft of bike accessories, but it's unclear whether things like lights and locks with be integrated into the anti-theft bike or sold separately. Take a look/listen:

December 9, 2014

"Time to Get Educated, Organized, and Inspired"

I wish I were in Portland, Oregon. This is not, to be honest, an uncommon wish for me to have, but at present there's a particular event that has me hankering to be in the City of Roses. Tomorrow night from 6 to 9 p.m. at Velo Cult Bike Shop, will host the first ever Portland Bike Theft Summit.

Titled “The Problem, The People, The Solutions,” the event will feature panel discussions of enforcement, parking, and education/technology, bringing together police officers and bike valets, park rangers and transportation planners. The summit is sponsored by Bike Index, and representatives of both that outfit and Project 529 will speak. There will also be time for networking ("and other fun stuff TBD") and a documentary filmmaker on hand to record attendees' tales of bike theft and recovery. The full program is outlined here.

Go to the summit if you can, and, if not, consider whether your city might be able to organize an analogous event. Hmmm.

December 2, 2014

The Shape of Future Bike Racks

East Lansing may have artsy bike racks, but Singapore's got a new crop of simple yet functional ones.

On November 23, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) announced three initiatives aimed at combatting bike theft: (1) placement of signage near bicycle racks to raise awareness of theft risk, (2) the launch of an enhanced bicycle labeling system, and (3) the pilot of a new bicycle rack, the Lock Lah.

Available at nine locations across the island as of November 7, Lock Lah's innovative design includes a bay that protects a bike's front wheel from the prying hands of would-be wheel thieves and a lengthy and laddered loop to which a cyclist can lock the rear wheel and frame. A still captured from the video available here gives you the idea:

Conceived by an Indonesian team—LASALLE College of Arts students Joanna Christie Lie and Yanti Agustin and Toyota technician Inigo—the Lock Lah won the 2013 Bicycle Bay Design Competition organized by the SPF and NCPC. The trio received S$10,000 (about $7,670) for their effort, but the real reward had to be seeing the design fabricated and installed as part of Singapore's anti-theft campaign. 

November 26, 2014

"We prepared ourselves mentally to lose everything"

Here's a bona fide recovery story for you, folks, after last week's downer.

The theft happened in August. A month and a half into their year-long bike trip from Alaska to South America, Australians Anna Suthers and Billy Barnetson stopped at Mt. Vernon, Washington's Skagit River Brewery for dinner. But before they had finished eating, their bikes—laden with gear and valuables—were gone:

All was not lost, however. In mid October—by which time the intrepid Aussies had made it to Los Angeles—the Skagit Valley Herald reported not only arrests but also recovery of at least some of the stolen property, bikes included. Then, late last week, the Herald informed its readers that a 24-year-old man was sentenced to 43 months in prison in connection with the theft of the Australian couple's rigs. Two others also face charges and will go to trial in January. No word on where Suthers and Barnetson have gotten to now...

November 21, 2014

Douglas in Dallas

A guy in Dallas named Douglas has Reed Albergotti's bike. Albergotti's 2008 Ridley Noah with its custom blue-and-orange paint job and its owner's last name emblazoned across the top tube.

Albergotti's Ridley was stolen from his apartment's locked bike room in San Francisco, sold at a flea market in San Jose, and bought on eBay for a third of its retail price by the aforementioned Dallas Doug.

Wall Street Journal reporter Albergotti knows all of this, and can't do anything about it.

When I read the title of Albergotti's WSJ piece—"The Day He Found His Stolen Bike on eBay"—I assumed it would be a recovery story. I was primed for the pick-me-up: Whoever bought the writer's bike online, I figured, would, when s/he learned it was stolen property, return it to its rightful owner, cutting a loss, sure, but maintaining a clear conscience.

Not Douglas. When Albergotti at last contrived to get San Francisco police on his case—this alone took some doing—a sergeant spoke to Doug the eBay buyer. Doug soon stopped returning calls, though, and the sergeant told Albergotti there was nothing he could do.

So there's more resignation in Albergotti's story than resolution, but it just might convince you to get renters insurance. (Albergotti credits a policy with making his loss "a lot less painful," and he credits his "responsible wife" for securing the policy.)

November 12, 2014

GBC=Giant Bike Chain?

I've written about bike racks before, and a slideshow of those I've encountered on my travels now appears in BTB's sidebar. I got wind (from my father—thanks Dad!) last week of a half-dozen sculptural bike racks recently installed in downtown East Lansing.

Funded—to the tune of $20,000—by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, the Downtown Development Authority, and the East Lansing Arts Commission, the installation is "part of the city's efforts to bring more art into the everyday life of residents" (according to the State News clipping my dad sent me).

My parents saw the racks being installed and claim that they're more impressive in real life than in the State News' photos. Still, I like what I see. I'd gladly lock my bike to GBC with its 694 pounds of stainless steel, and I applaud the message conveyed by Budget Friendly. My perennially tight hamstrings may not permit me to assume the position, but Bicycle Yoga's interpretation of the standard bike rack geometry makes me smile. As does this quote from Paul Such, the creator of the colorful Circle Back: "We wanted to do a circular thing because bikes have a lots of circular motion going on."

Check out the gallery and, never fear, signage on the sidewalk underneath the racks will inform cyclists of the practical purpose the artwork is intended to serve.

November 5, 2014

That Special Place in Hell

Gearing up for ARTCRANK DC on Saturday, I came across this piece by Denver artist Josh Holland while perusing the ARTCRANK Facebook page:

Now I have a "Death to bike thieves" sticker on my bike and considered using that phrase as the title of this blog, so I get where Holland's coming from. Here's how he puts it on the print's page in his online store: "My design is dedicated to anyone who has ever had their bike stolen, and to the special place in hell reserved for bike thieves. Catharsis!

October 30, 2014

When It's Okay to Steal Bikes

Got a favorite tool for stealing bikes? Casey Neistat does, and he's not afraid to use it. Sometimes it's okay to steal a bike, he says. When? When it's nobody's bike. Take a listen:

October 23, 2014

Those Thieving Danes

The Danish like their bikes, sure, but a new study reveals that they also like other people's bikes. Enough to steal them. According to a YouGov poll conducted for Danish insurance company Alm. Brand, 17% of Danes have stolen a bicycle.

Before you start re-envisioning your typical Dane—accessorizing that tall, attractive blond(e) with a pair of bolt cutters, perhaps—know that, in bike-clogged Copenhagen, cyclists often leave their rides untethered, merely propping them somewhere amidst a mess of other bikes. A would-be bike thief in the Danish capital, then, needn't tote tools.

Nor, supposedly, do the perpetrators of Danish bike thefts—200 bikes are stolen in Denmark per day—supply chop shops or finance meth habits. Coverage of the Alm. Brand poll invariably attributes the 17% figure in part to the indiscretions of Danish youth. The nightlife dies down, the story goes, and party-goers with relatively few transportation options avail themselves of the city's unlocked bikes.

Seems innocent enough, maybe, but the "borrowed" bikes are seldom returned, and only the owners of expensive rides can enlist law enforcement for help in bike recovery. Copenhagen police do not investigate thefts in which the value of the stolen goods is less than 100,000 kroner (~$17,000). All told, bike theft ends up costing Danish insurance companies on the order of 200 million kroner ($34.4 million) per year.

No word yet on what action they might take to cut these losses.

October 16, 2014

It CAN—and Does!—Happen Here

Don't be lulled into a false sense of security, cyclists: Bikejacking happens here, too. The first I'd heard of bike-theft-under-threat-of-bodily-harm was a June story about bikejacking in South Africa, but now I learn that such crimes happen in Cleveland, and with some frequency.

Cleveland's NewsNet5 reports two bikejackings in the same week: (1) a 24-year-old man stabbed and relieved of his wallet, phone, and bicycle and (2) a man robbed of his bike while waiting for a bus. In August an Ohio City man lost his bike to a shotgun-toting assailant with a bandana over his face.

How to avoid falling victim to such attacks? Plan your routes, a commuter tells the camera crew. Steer clear of poorly lit or near-deserted areas. And if you don't have the bodily heft to deter could-be bikejackers, consider packing some pepper spray.

October 9, 2014


The Kickstarters just keep coming. Obviously lots of budding entrepreneurs are keen to combat bike theft (and perhaps make a buck. too?). This latest funding opportunity is brought to you by Curtis Dorrington of Bristol, UK. He's seeking financial support for the manufacture of Quick Caps, fit-and-forget mechanisms that put your quick releases on lockdown. Take a look:

Dorrington believes that his creation fills a real and long-felt need: "We would like to promote our products with the prefix 'FINALLY' because we aim to FINALLY address current issues, answer the questions of improvement and fill the very clear voids in today's climate."

Let's save the world, one theft-proofed (or at least theft-deterred) wheel at a time...

October 7, 2014

Sign the Petition, People

Seattle Met ran a feature about bike theft in its October issue. "This Is What Happens to Your Bike After It's Stolen" is most interesting for those in or at least familiar with the Emerald City, but click through to see the accompanying artwork if nothing else. Todd McLellan's graphic of a bicycle's multitudinous parts, disconnected from one another but still arranged in roughly the proper configuration, calls to mind the chop shops described in Casey Jaywork's text.

Most striking to me were the piece's revelations about Craigslist:
Whereas eBay and Facebook feature 'back doors' for law enforcement to track suspected thefts, [Stolen Bike Registry founder Bryan] Hance says, Craigslist’s tiny San Francisco staff relies on users to flag illegal or inappropriate posts. But read the fine print: Craigslist’s terms of use stipulate that when it comes to site moderation, the company has 100 percent authority and 0 percent responsibility, making it difficult for aboveboard users to organize against illicit sellers. 'The minute you start pointing out that they’ve got stolen goods, you’ve violated their terms of service and they’ll send you a cease and desist,' Hance says. The terms also nix bots that can comb the site for postings whose descriptions match stolen goods, as part of a larger strategy by the for-profit company to prevent competitors from using its data.
And eBay, too, had suffered in my estimation by article's end. Jaywork tells the story of how a "scrupulously honest bike buff in Maryland" bought on eBay a used frame that turned out to be a $8,300 Mudhoney stolen from Seattle resident Whitney Rosa nine months earlier. The buyer asked for the serial number during the online auction, but, since the seller offered a lame excuse for withholding it, didn't get a chance to check it until the frame arrived. Upon determining that the bike had been reported stolen, the buyer contacted Seattle police, eBay, Whitney Rosa, and other customers (presumably to alert them that they, too, might be in possession of stolen property).

According to the sketchy (and subsequently busted) seller at least, this last part of the buyer's action was in violation of eBay policy. "It has come to our attention that you have broken a serious eBay policy and contacted past buyers regarding transactions they completed with us," wrote the seller. "This is harassment & a serious eBay policy violation… Please stop playing vigilante."

What both eBay and Craigslist should do is require serial numbers on bike listings. Seattle's Project 529 is collecting signatures on a petition to that effect. BTB covered the effort back in June, but it's not too late to learn more and express your support.  

October 2, 2014

Das sicherste Fahrradschloss der Welt?

Even its (German) makers seem undecided about whether this gizmo is the most secure (sicherste) bike lock in the world or the craziest (verrückteste). Take a look at the latest television spot from Conrad Electronic:

("You have the fun," reads the captioning. "We have the technology.")

"Aber wer sagt, dass das nur Profis schaffen…?" asks Conrad on a webpage devoted to the construction of the bike elevator. (That is: "But who says that only professionals make that?") With (1) components available through Conrad itself (of course), (2) the instructions provided (both a video and an Explosionszeichnung=exploded assembly drawing), and, perhaps, (3) a reasonable command of German, you, too, can power your bike up a pole and out of thieves' reach.

You, too, in other words, could own das ultimative diebstahlsichere Fahrradschloss (the ultimate, burglarproof bike lock)—at least until the bike snatcher adds a ladder to his kit.

September 30, 2014

Sit on Your Lock, Invites Seatylock

Perhaps, conscious of the very real problem of saddle theft, you remove yours when riding your bike in the city. If so, you probably carry the saddle with you as you go about your business. But what if your saddle, rather than itself potential loot, were part of the system that secured the real booty (your bike)?

Seatylock wants to make that dream a reality. Billed as "the first and only saddle that locks your bike," Seatylock is a saddle that transforms into a lock. I could write out the particulars, but you might as well just watch the Kickstarter pitch:

Scroll down on the project's Kickstarter page and, amongst a wealth of details, you'll find a video of Seatylock withstanding attacks by bolt cutters, a saw, and ice spray. lays out the product's various features and advantages. Armed with all this information, you ought to be able to decide before the November 14 Kickstarter deadline whether you want to be among the original backers of this seat and lock in one. Do you expect more from your saddle?

September 25, 2014

Want a Bolt Cutter; Get a...Procedure

Washington Bike Law posted a photo on its Facebook page on Monday, a slightly doctored version of which appears below:

Stapled to a Seattle telephone pole, the flyer in the photograph purports to advertise an educational opportunity for would-be bike thieves. Call the number on the tear-off tab, though, and you reach...wait for it...DrSnip, a vasectomy clinic in northeast Seattle. While many bloggers have obscured the clinic's phone number to discourage facetious inquiries, the precaution may be unnecessary: Bicycling reported yesterday that DrSnip had experienced no uptick off-topic phone calls.

To my knowledge, no one has claimed responsibility for the prank.

September 23, 2014

Prophylactic Bike Theft? What?

When a bike goes missing in midtown Manhattan, there's not necessarily thievery afoot. According to Gawker, the NYPD cuts locks affixing bicycles to city property and takes the confiscated two-wheelers back to the precinct.

To grasp the Gawker story (as one reader pointed out in the comments), you have to understand bike rental in Central Park. Apparently the park's fringes swarm with folks "aggressively hawking rental bikes," many of which were illegitimately acquired. So the NYPD confiscates bikes, the story goes, to prevent them from being stolen by unscrupulous bike renters.

While BikeForums senior member walrus1 seems skeptical of the Gawker story, stopbeingterribleandillstopbeingmean claims (in the Gawker comments section) that "having your locks cut and your bike taken if it's not in a designated parking area is a risk that's just a fact of life for bicyclists in Japan." He (she?) continues:
Leaving a sticker on the pavement where the bike was notifying cyclists where to go to pay their fine and retrieve their bicycle is likewise a fact of life for the city employees who do it. How have the citizens and government of the number one city in the world's largest economy and military power not figured this one out yet? It's not as though the bicycle is a new invention.
As Gawker tells it, though, even locking your ride to a dedicated bike rack won't ensure against police confiscation, and officers won't leave you a note about where you can collect your bike. And even if they did, you'd still be out the lock they cut and the time expended paying the precinct a visit to collect your property. While the New York Post says police sources confirm the confiscation story, it also cites a legal precedent that might give the NYPD pause: In the 2005 case Bray vs. City of New York, participants in the Critical Mass bike ride successfully sued the city for cutting their locks and taking their bikes.

While the police action has some cyclists appalled or indignant or horrified, in other circles the confiscations have fans of two-wheeled transport consulting their dictionaries (or not).

The headline mrcreosote chose for his post on—"NYPD prophylactically steals bikes to prevent people stealing bikes"—perplexed at least one reader of the thread.

"I think you meant 'Proactively,' not 'Prophylactically,'" commented jfaas. "I'm pretty sure the cops are not worried about getting pregnant when they cut the locks..."

September 17, 2014

VÉLO PERDU / VOLÉ: Europe Fights Bike Theft

See the sticker circled in the image above? That's BikeSeal, a three-company collaboration that claims to combine "bank-level digital security with the power of social media to tackle the growing problem of bike theft and recovery."

This press release lists BikeSeal's developers—"INSIDE Secure, a leader in embedded security solutions for mobile and connected devices, Selinko, the object identification company, and Cherry On, a company committed to reducing the problem of lost and stolen bikes"—but otherwise contains a combination of jargon and platitudes that I found less than comprehensible. I dug a little, though, and was able to demystify matters slightly.

Selinko seems primarily concerned with certifying the authenticity of such products as wine, perfume, and leather goods, but the "new, discreet, and easy-to-integrate identification solution" it has developed to foil would-be counterfeiters of luxury goods can also reliably associate a bicycle with its rightful owner. You affix a tag with an NFC (= near field communication) chip in it to your bicycle, and subsequent scanning with a properly equipped phone will identify the bike as yours.

Why can't a thief just remove the chip? Because Selinko's bike-specific NFC tag boasts "permanent adhesive," a fact I also gathered from Cherry On's promotional video. The video is only available in French and Dutch, neither of which I understand, but this illustration spoke almost as loud as words:

(If anyone who knows French or Dutch wants to watch the video and tell me what the voiceover is saying at ~0:55, I'd appreciate it. I'm not sure what the drawing in the bottom right is supposed to indicate. That the tag can't be removed even with solvents?)

Cherry On's contribution to BikeSeal, from what I can gather in spite of the language barrier, is the social media/community mobilization side of things.  

This is all reminiscent, of course, of efforts underway elsewhere. Some combination of tagging, technology, and tapping into networks of concerned citizens/cyclists figures into the work of Bike Shepherd, Bike Index, and Project 529. Might bike owners gain the upper hand at last, both here and across the pond?   

September 12, 2014

Bionic (and Boa Constrictor Strap) Wrenches Be Damned

To show that their product can withstand attack by tools commonly deployed in wheel thefts, the makers of Nutlock enlisted the aid of Chris, a starting football player for the University of Southern California. The jock towers over Nutlock entrepreneur Mikey Ahdoot and may very well be the "behemoth of strength" Ahdoot et al. claim.

It just doesn't matter. Though the Rocky theme plays in the background as Chris wields a succession of implements, no feats of athleticism unfold. No tool can gain purchase on Nutlock's conical nut; no tool can impart the mechanical advantage it was designed to provide.

I'd like to embed the testing video for your viewing pleasure, but I can't. I backed Nutlock's Kickstarter campaign last week, and the video I just described is part of a for-backers-only update that landed in my inbox on Monday. Seems like the footage would be better deployed trying to convince wafflers of the product's viability, but what do I know?

Here's a tool-by-tool (I had never heard of some of these things before!) rundown of Nutlock's thief-foiling capabilities:

toolhow it's deterred
bolt cutters
can't bite into the nut; can't get any leverage to turn
standard wrench
cone shaped face and open-ended cutouts mean no leverage
Gator Grip ETC-200
not enough pins fit into the cutouts, so, again, no leverage
needle nose pliers
slip off because of conical face and open-ended cutouts
bionic wrench
no leverage, since none of the six pins fits into a cutout
teeth can't bite into cone or cutouts
boa constrictor strap wrench
can't grab conical nut

With two more days before the Kickstarter campaign closes, you can still get in on the ground floor (and see the video described above). Check out them nuts!

September 9, 2014

The Kobayashi Maru of Bike Situations

I like this story for a few reasons.

I can relate to it, for one thing. I, too, have had a bike stolen in NW DC. I know City Bikes and Adams Morgan, and I recognize the flimsy, fence-like dividers in the photographs that accompany Rosscot's account of how the bike stolen from outside his apartment appeared—mere days later—locked near the office building where he works.

And he's got some great lines, like this one (minus the sentence-initial numeral and the there/their swap):
15 white people with tech jobs, some with mugs of coffee in there hands and others live tweeting the experience, all stood around and made jokes and cheered me on as I tried to steal my first bike.
Finally, I like the story because—spoiler alert—it has a happy ending. It's right there in the subtitle: "How my bike got stolen and how I stole it back." And in the triumphal final shot:

Read the story, by all means, but mull over Rosscot's "life lessons" at the very least (link added):
  1. REGISTER YOUR BIKE. Have proof it’s yours! Hide little notes in it, do whatever you can to avoid the situation I was in. And if you register it, leave yourself copies everywhere. On your phone, even.
  2. Don’t leave a bike locked up in plain sight overnight if you can avoid it. No lock is perfect. Just keep your bike out of harm’s way.
  3. I heard stories about cops helping people who just had photos of their bike handy. This wasn’t my experience at all, but it couldn’t hurt to try. But don’t be surprised if you don’t get much help.
  4. Cherish what you’ve got.
  5. Renter’s insurance. Get it, use it.
  6. Report stolen shit to the police ASAP.
  7. Drink coffee. It’s good.
  8. Sometimes, crazy coincidences happen.
(Don't know who/what the Kobayashi Maru of the title is? I had to look it up. Star Trek reference, apparently. According to Wikipedia, the phrase "is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario, or a solution that involves redefining the problem.")

September 3, 2014

A Widget!

Frequent visitors may have noticed a recent addition to the work-in-progress that is the BTB sidebar. The Bike Index widget allows users to check a serial number against those in the Bike Index database (newly merged, you may recall, with that of Here, for instance, are the search results for my two bikes:


I first encountered the widget over at VeloHut and enjoyed the assistance of none other than Bike Index founder Seth Herr himself in getting it up and running on Bike Thieves Beware. Such patience with my relative technological ineptitude! 

If you'd like to add the widget to your site, here's the relevant information and an adding-a-widget-to-Blogger how-to. If you need help beyond these resources, don't hesitate to contact Bike Index. The widget is a great way to boost use of the Bike Index service and, as StolenBikeRegistry's Bryan Hance said in a July interview with The Outspoken Cyclist, "The more people use it, the better it works and the more bikes we get back."

Amen to that.

August 28, 2014

"Break Free from U-lock Tyranny"

Maybe you want me to cool it with the Kickstarter campaigns. Like the last one I told you about, though, today's crowd-funded impediment to bike theft has already reached it's monetary goal. The project will go forward whether you back it or not; no need, then, to feel guilt-tripped or solicited.

Anyway...Vier. It's California couple Allen and Paige Young's solution to the with-security-comes-bulk-and-unwieldiness problem. They like to emphasize that their "4-piece high security lock and shackle system...fits into a bag the size of a burrito." See for yourself (but be prepared for some light PDA at promo's end):

Vier's Kickstarter page provides additional information about the lock's construction and the project's timeline, as well as an indication of what the future could hold. "We see VIER as a platform for a new lock category," write Allen and Paige. Down the pike: custom shackle lengths, bicycle mounts, garage floor mounts, truck bed integrated locking rail ports, combination or wireless entry, color options... These two are poised to take the burrito bag and run with it.

August 26, 2014

Bolt Cutters down the Pants?

NBC Washington's News 4 I-Team looked into bike theft in the capital region, and the results of their detective work aired last week. Want to know which Metro stations have the highest incidence of bike theft or see a map of bike thefts in the nation's capital broken down by police service area?

The segment that resulted from the I-Team's fun with a borrowed Fuji and a GPS tracker (hidden in the rear reflector) didn't teach me anything that will enable me to better protect my bike in the future, but I did learn that it's possible to bike with a pair of bolt cutters down your pants. Who knew?

August 21, 2014

Sucker Poles Are for. . .Well, Suckers

Sucker poles are a problem in the windy city of Chicago. What's a sucker pole? Well, according to Steve Vance: "Any sign pole that’s not embedded in concrete or securely fastened to the ground in another fashion."

Photographs helped me get the picture. I lifted the two below—which came with commentary already added—from fellow ad-free Blogspotter Chicargo Bike.


Basically, a would-be bike thief removes the bolts that secure a street sign pole to its base; a cyclist oblivious to the sabotage locks his or her bike to the compromised pole; and the thief lifts the pole, slips the lock off it, and rides off on the two wheeler. Not cool.

So don't be suckers, folks. Affix your bike to a bona fide bike rack or other substantial structure when possible and, if a pole is all that's available to you, make sure it's got all its bolts.

August 19, 2014

"Ask Us About Our Nuts"

My boyfriend and I biked to a wedding over the weekend. (Great fun! I highly recommend it.) Due to a hasty departure, though, we arrived at the venue with only a TiGr lock and a cable (not what is typically called a cable lock even, just a cable with loops on both ends). We ended up wrestling the TiGr around both of our frames and a parking meter pole (fly-parking, to be sure, but what's a cyclist to do when there are no racks to be found?) and threading the cable through his front wheel and my back one before popping the loops over one of the TiGr's arms before locking. This left two wheels free for the relatively effortless taking, of course, but thankfully the criminal element of Bethesda, Maryland, let our less-than-stellar lock job slide.

Point being: Wheels are vulnerable.

Enter Nutlock. With a Kickstarter campaign running through September 15, Nutlock promises an inexpensive, convenient, and lightweight way to secure your bike wheels. Watch the pitch:

Maybe I'm being insufficiently skeptical, but I'm on the verge of pre-ordering a $39 "Nutlock Full Set" (feel free to try to dissuade me in the comments, if you're so moved). If you're unconvinced of the product's efficacy, though, or if you have some pre-purchase questions (concerned that even the "sleek design to complement your sexy bike" isn't stylin' enough for your ride?), the Nutlock team is happy to help: "Love us? Hate us? Want to party with us? Mail us a papaya? We're here for you." Email them at (Never mind that, last I checked, papayas don't email so well...)

August 15, 2014

Make a Lock Out of the Frame

Maybe you've seen the "Gumby bike." Photographs of and stories about this bike-that-can-do-the-pretzel hit the internet back in 2010. I've never seen one of Kevin Scott's bendable bikes locked to itself around a pole, though. As far as I can tell, the concept never became a mass-produced reality. The idea of a bike with an integrated locking mechanism did not die, however, as evidenced by two new bike designs that have come to my attention.

First, there's DENNY, TEAGUE X Sizemore Bicycle's final bike design for Oregon Manifest's Bike Design Project, which partners design firms with bicycle craftsmen to create the Ultimate Urban Utility Bike. The design includes a handlebar quick lock. Check it out starting at ~00:43.

Then there's the Yerka Project, which is promising the world's "first unstealable bike." Three Chilean engineering students, themselves past victims of bike theft, decided to take a novel approach to the problem. "Every lock can be broken leaving the bike intact," explains Yerka's website. "That's why we decided to make a lock out of the frame. The only way to steal it is to break the lock, which implies breaking the bike." The team claims that the bike they've designed "maintains the slick design of an urban bike"—unlike, say, a foldable bike or a clunky rental—and takes a mere 20 seconds to secure. Think they can make it happen? Watch the promo:

Both DENNY and Yerka's bike, of course, are vulnerable to wheel theft, which will be the subject of a future post. Stay tuned.

*Thanks to David Lovit for sending me the DENNY video.

August 12, 2014

"Dear Douchebag Bike Thief..."

Had a bike stolen and want to simultaneously vent and maybe, just maybe, get a message to whomever nabbed it? Pen a note—preferably using colorful language—and post it at the scene of the crime. Olgi Freyre did so back in November, and now 23-year-old Briton Aaron Rush is making news for taking a similar tack.

Rush's grey Giant went missing from outside his place of work the day after he started commuting by bike rather than on foot.

Soon after discovering the theft—even before checking the tracker that he, a veteran victim of bike theft, had installed—Rush posted several copies of the now famous "Dear Douchebag Bike Thief" note on the rack where he'd locked the bike:

Personally I would have omitted the detail about the tracker... Rush got an initial reading indicating that the bike remained in the neighborhood where it was stolen, but, as he told the Daily Mail, the tracker has since either been broken or turned off. Rush, who lacks the funds to replace the Giant and has learned that his insurance will not cover it, currently commutes by longboard.

*Thanks to Karen Carter for tipping me off to this story :)

August 8, 2014

"I was the demand part of the bike theft black market"

Most folks engaged in the effort to combat bike theft took action after having a bike stolen. That's certainly the case with me. For Detroit resident Seth Archambault, though, the impetus was different: unwitting possession of stolen property. 

Sitting at a coffee shop one afternoon, Archambault was approached by a stranger. "That's my stolen bike you're riding," the stranger said, indicating the red Yokota locked to a nearby meter. Archambault had bought the bicycle from a secondhand bike shop shortly after moving to Detroit from Philadelphia. He had been riding it for two months at the time of the coffee shop encounter.

It didn't come to blows there in the Urban Bean. The former owner told Archambault to keep the bike, taking blame for its theft (he hadn't locked it up) and saying that he was "happy that it ended up with somebody who was enjoying it." Thrilled as Archambault was to remain in possession of the bike, the exchange distressed him. He worried about his money—he'd paid for the bike, after all—financing the bike black market, incentivizing more bike theft.

"If you’re someone serious about being a positive part of the community—as I am," Archambault wrote in a blog post, "then you must take a serious look on the impact you are having on the community, and what you can do to change things."

Now, as he explained in a follow-up blog post, Archambault ultimately determined that no bike thief profited from his bike purchase, but that comforting revelation didn't stop him from trying to effect change.

Last week, on the one-year anniversary of his arrival in Detroit, Archambault launched Detroit Bike Blacklist, his attempt to facilitate reunions between stolen bikes and their rightful owners. The concept's a simple one, as Archambault tells it: "Bike stolen? Press a button, upload a photo, get an email if/when it’s found. That’s it."

Archambault has a "devious underlying plan," though, as he explains on the site's About page (and in this Detroit Free Press video). Archambault believes that bike theft is a symptom of an underlying problem, one we're not yet knowledgeable enough to solve.

"I want to understand bike theft, the systemic causes of it," Archambault writes, "and I want to gather that data and make it publicly accessible to inform a larger discussion."

August 5, 2014

Update: Emily Finch's New Cargo Bike

As BTB reported, Portland mom Emily Finch lost her beloved (and famous) cargo bike to theft in November. While Finch—known to transport her six children by bike—made do with a cargo trike and a Brompton for months, recovery eventually looked unlikely enough that she commissioned local outfit Microfiets to build her a custom ride.

She saw the fully assembled bike for the first time on Thursday, took it for a test ride outside Portland bike shop/venue/bar Velo Cult, and was, by all accounts, thrilled.

No word on Finch's strategy for safeguarding the new family vehicle...

July 31, 2014

Even If Your Mom Were a Villain...

Six-year-old Roxy Thompson of Portland, OR, made news last week when she penned a yard sign note to whoever had relieved her dad of "about half a dozen custom road bikes." (Wait, does the man own so many bikes that he can't even remember them all??) Having already offered her bereft father her life's savings, Roxy sought, via the yard sign, to guilt the thieves into reversing the wrong they'd committed. I love how she considered the possibility of villainous mothers and concluded that even they would frown on their offspring's perpetration of criminal acts: picked up Roxy's story, declaring the spirited girl the personification of "the widespread disdain of bike thieves in Portland these days." After recapping Roxy's reaction to her father's loss, BikePortland news editor Michael Andersen and coauthor Jonathan Maus offered readers a rundown of relevant Rose City facts. I learned a thing or two: that police often have trouble obtaining the evidence and search warrants necessary to dismantle chop shops, for instance, and that even a locked garage/U-lock combo can't always deter Portland bike thieves. Andersen and Maus also mentioned the Portland-based band Bike Thief I cited in a January post and floated an idea that has been on my mind recently, too: a bike theft summit.

This prompted my fourth ever tweet:

Might something come of this? Stay tuned...

July 29, 2014

Stolen Bike Hunt

From Toronto to Texas, victims of bike theft are turning to Facebook to increase the chances of recovering their stolen property. 

As the National Post reported, Christian Garnette reclaimed his fixie within hours of its theft because he posted a photo of it to the Facebook page of a local shop and asked his fellow fixed gear enthusiasts to keep their eyes out.

And both the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Houston's KHOU TV (video since removed—sorry) have picked up stories about Facebook groups expressly created to crowdsource the recovery of stolen bikes.

KHOU spoke to Spencer Elliott of Stolen Bike Hunt - Houston, "a message board for anyone who has a bike stolen." Besides encouraging victims of bike theft to post photos and descriptions of their stolen rides, Elliott offers reminders about how to prevent theft.

The Facebook search feature turns up many groups similar to Elliott's, from Cleveland Stolen Bike Alerts to Stolen Bikes La Crosse County to RVA Stolen Bicycle Forum. Consider joining (or "liking"—which action is appropriate depends on how the page has been set up) a Facebook-based bike recovery effort in your area or, if none exists, starting one.

(I just liked Missing Bikes-DC and Stolen Bikes in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, though neither page seems to be seeing much action. Looks like, in my town, Tumblr is the social media of choice for getting the word out about stolen bikes. Hmmm.)

July 22, 2014

The First Step

I've been known to complain about the United States' relative lack of slick bike infrastructure, and my impulse would be to classify Norway's Gulskogen Bicycle Hotel with the Eindhoven Hovenring in the category of bike-related-feats-of-engineering-we'll-never-halfway-replicate-stateside, but... Yes, the Gulskogen Bicycle Hotel has that concrete tongue-shaped ramp that spills out from a circular wooden border framing a metal doorway and that porous filigree pattern that sprawls across the metal doorway and gable wall (Inhabitat gushes over the "intricate filigree facade"), but...Washington, D.C. has Bikestation.

Both the Norwegian bicycle hotel and Bikestation Washington DC use a double-decker pull-out system of racks to accommodate more than 100 bikes (Norway: 134, United States: 140). The design of each facility took its surroundings into consideration. And both bikes-only parking garages aim to keep my favorite form of two-wheeled transportation both sheltered from the elements and safe from thieves.

Though area cyclists whose travels revolve around a metro other than Union Station will have to content themselves with $120/year, subject-to-availability bicycle lockers for now, District Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein says he wants to erect modular versions of Bikestation around the city. Watch out, Norway :)

July 15, 2014

ABUS: Obsessed with Testing and Innovation

Maybe I just patronize all the wrong retailers, but I neither own an ABUS lock nor know much about ABUS, the German firm that supposedly invented the U-lock. Thanks to the folks at D.C. bike shop BicycleSPACE (where—full disclosure—I bought my Surly Ogre), though, I got a peek this week into how ABUS puts its bike locks through the paces. 

BicycleSPACE cofounder Erik Kugler toured ABUS headquarters with, apparently, a film crew in tow:

By all means watch all seven videos from the trip—the entire playlist is embedded above—but if you're interested primarily in purposeful destruction (or at least attempted destruction) feel free to skip ahead to the testing videos, in which ABUS employees use specially constructed machines to try to smash, twist, and pull their locks into submission:

From this I gather that, where U-locks are concerned, (1) soft core is better than case hardened and (2) square shackles and a two-sided lock mechanisms offer more protection than, respectively, round and one-sided ones. Hmmm.

July 8, 2014


To my (admittedly measly) seven Twitter followers, don't get your hopes up. I don't have a slew of pithy aphorisms up my sleeve. I only signed up so I could try out @isitstolen.

Post a serial number to @isitstolen and a bot will run it against the Bike Index database and tweet back to you whether or not there's a hit.

Here's what happened when I tweeted the serial number of my stolen Cannondale. (The duplicate entry is an artifact of the recent Bike Index/Stolen Bike Registry merger.)

  1. Before you buy a used bike, run the serial number (either via Twitter or in the search bar at the top of the Bike Index page). (Can't find the serial number? Get help here and here.)
  2. Sign Project 529's petition urging Craigslist and eBay to require serial numbers in online listings for used bikes. This will make it easier for you to check those digits before buying.
  3. Register your bike(s) if you haven't already (!).

July 4, 2014

When the Rack's the Weak Link

I've so far confined myself to photographing bike racks, but I might start vigorously shaking them. Before I entrust my bike to one of the tubular waves, at any rate. It's not unprecedented, apparently, for a lone and not exactly muscle-bound criminal to rip a bike rack from the sidewalk. It happened in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, in late June:

Now I know nothing about bike rack installation, but in-ground mounts seem preferable to surface ones, and "Drop In Anchors...for concrete installation" sound good.

When in doubt about a rack's integrity, affix your bike to it such that even if a thief wrenches the thing from the ground, s/he will still have to break your lock or, short of that, drag the whole bloody bike/lock/rack unit back to her/his lair.

June 29, 2014

Bike Registry Sunday—Merger Edition

In what I hope will be the first of many mergers, (SBR) and have joined forces. As Bike Index founder Seth Herr announced in a June 13 news release,
"We've combined the most sophisticated, user-friendly bicycle registry and the longest running and most successful stolen bicycle recovery service—creating the largest and most effective bike registry in the galaxy."
A tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but the post-merger force-to-be-reckoned-with will, as SBR founder Bryan Hance wrote, be able to "cover both pre- and post-theft registration" while, to paraphrase Herr, making it even easier for Hance to keep doing what he does best—recovering bikes (more than 2,000 since 2005!).

Personally I think we need more of this, more unification/consolidation of efforts to combat bicycle theft. In fact, shortly before I learned of the SBR/Bike Index merger I was contemplating the possibility of convening a bike theft summit of some sort, perhaps in connection with an existing meeting (the National Bike Summit?). I've been struck since launching Bike Thieves Beware in September 2013 by how many people are separately passionate about reducing bike theft, and I can't help but think that we'd make more headway if we worked together. So, kudos to SBR and Bike Index for starting to make that happen.

Oh, also: If, as I did the day my Cannondale was stolen, you've registered a bike on, don't worry. As SBR's Bryan Hance indicated in a June 17 email to registrants, all of SBR's listings have been ported into the Bike Index platform where they can be managed following a quick and presumably painless verification of email address.

Haven't registered with either Stolen Bike Registry or Bike Index? Show your trusty steed some love today.

June 19, 2014

Felix Ure—HENCHman

Another week, another bike lock Kickstarter campaign. In this one, British twenty-something Felix Ure appeals for help funding the development of what he claims will be "the most cut-proof and easily transportable bicycle lock ever made." It's called the HENCH.

HENCH consists of two case-hardened steel chains first surrounded by Kevlar fibers and then encased in nylon. It can be velcroed around a bike's top tube when not in use.

In the video included on Ure's Kickstarter page, he tests a prototype HENCH's resistance to attack by (1) hacksaw, (2) Dremel rotary tool, (3) a drill and cutting disc combination, (4 & 5) two sizes of bolt cutters, and (6) an angle grinder. See for yourself:

Now when, around 4:34, Ure pulls aside the milkweed fluff (a.k.a. Kevlar) spilling out of the lock's fabric casing, he reveals an almost unscathed chain. Great, but what's to prevent a would-be thief from similarly removing the Kevlar and taking an unobstructed (and perhaps successful) go at the chain itself? Nothing, by the looks of it, which may be why Ure lists "perfect the arrangement of Kevlar inside the lock to best resist tools" as the first stage of the to-be-funded project.

Also, as Ure told the Kent and Sussex Courier, "It’s really important that a bike lock can last long enough for a thief to be deterred." No lock is impregnable, after all, so the goal is to make a lock hard enough to compromise that a would-be thief will either give up trying to break it or be at it so long that he's caught in the act.

Whatever you think of the Kevlar, Ure's got youthful optimism going for him. And he's so earnest: "I will do whatever it takes to perfect the design and see it become a reality," he promises could-be funders on his Kickstarter site, "because I genuinely believe this is the answer to the worldwide problem of bicycle theft."

June 13, 2014

Word of the Day: "Bikejacker"

I sometimes assume that my bike is safe from theft. When it's locked within view, for instance. Or leaning against the wall of my (locked) apartment. Or when I'm riding it. Sitting astride your steed is insufficient safeguard in South Africa, though, where a 2011 increase in bike-jackings had Bicycling magazine offering readers a rather chilling how-to list: "How To Avoid a Bike-Jacking."

Cyclists should ride in groups, Bicycling advised, and avoid unfamiliar areas. 

Malcolm Fox did neither on May 31. The 36-year-old father of two, a project manager at the Virgin Active chain of health clubs, got lost on a ride through the Ongegund vineyard in Somerset West near the southwest tip of South Africa. Three men held him up at gunpoint, robbing him of his sunglasses, car keys, cell phone, and mountain bike. They did not take the GoPro camera mounted on Fox's helmet. It recorded the entire exchange, and Fox later posted the footage on YouTube:

While Fox's story ends happily enough—his GoPro video helped police apprehend three suspects and his bike has been recovered—he has learned his lesson. He'll no longer ride alone.

Be safe, cyclists, and beware of bikejackers.

June 8, 2014

Bike Registry Sunday—Petition Edition

Project 529 had me at 'hello.' Or, more accurately/literally, as soon as I read KATU News's explanation of the Portland startup's name. Say the digits of the number individually and you have the phonetic equivalent of "five to nine," or what Project 529 co-founder Jason Scott calls "the opposite of your nine to five."

The company's name, then, reflects an effort to shift focus from traditional work hours to, well, the rest of the time, the time you could be spending (at least in part) riding bikes. YES, I thought. Tell me more.

So...Project 529 is a software company aiming to build products that "enhance the cycling experience." Their first offering is a web and mobile registration and recovery service called 529 Garage. It functions like an Amber Alert for stolen bikes. Register your ride—the process takes mere minutes—and then, should it get stolen, use the 529 Garage app to alert all users within 10 miles. The service was jointly developed with law enforcement, it logs your bike accessories, there are theft deterrent bike stickers in the mix...good stuff.

My favorite part of Project 529's anti-theft efforts, though, even better than the registry or the "bike thieves suck" shirts, is the petition they've written asking Craigslist and eBay to require serial numbers on all bike sales.

"Every 30 seconds, a cyclist has their bike stolen in the United States," it begins.
"Nearly half of college students with bicycles will lose them during their education. Bicycle theft is rampant in the United States, and it's due in part to the ease of fencing stolen bikes through online sites. 
There's a simple solution that would help dramatically cut down on these statistics: requiring a serial number when selling bikes online."
Read the rest of the petition (and sign it, too, if you're so inclined). (And register your bike(s), people. Please.)

June 5, 2014

The Smartest Lock on the Block?

It has been covered by Slate and Wired and Businessweek and, hell, NPR, so perhaps you've heard already: There's a solar-powered, Bluetooth-equipped, keyless-entry, [insert high-tech hyphenated adjective here] U-lock in the works.

It's called Skylock, and is brought to you by Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta of Velo Labs. The device is powered by built-in solar panels, has an accelerometer that can detect motion near your bike (or whether you've been in a collision), and connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth so it can unlock automatically as you approach. As Kyle VanHemert wrote for Wired:
That might seem incredibly handy or completely absurd, depending on your outlook. To those who eagerly anticipate the small conveniences of a more connected world, the Skylock cleverly smooths out the annoyance of futzing with keys. To cynics, it will undoubtedly look like another solution in search of a problem. How much time do we waste futzing with keys, anyway?
Leaving aside the question of whether key futzing is a serious time sink (and deferring to others the discussion of the possibilities Skylock affords for do-it-yourself bike-sharing), let's examine how the Skylock stacks up as an anti-theft device.

According to the Skylock FAQ page, Skylock

  • is equipped with a triaxial accelerometer to detect tampering. The Skylock app permits users to set the sensitivity that will trigger a theft alert.
  • is "at least as secure as the top competitor." Its dual locking pins require a would-be thief to cut the lock twice before being able to make off with the bike.
  • is immune to freezing attacks and picking, and small enough to prevent purchase from a jack. 
  • can, like any lock, be cut.
  • can be hacked, though this is "extremely unlikely."

Not bad... If, after watching the pitch below, you think the Skylock is for you, click over to You can snag the $249 lock for $159—but only "for a limited time."

May 29, 2014

"Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?"

The New York Times has picked up on the subject of BTB's May 7 post, namely the use of bait bikes by the San Francisco Police Department. The Grey Lady ran "Police Use High-Tech Lures to Reel in Bike Thieves" on Tuesday and included with the story a short video prominently featuring San Francisco police officer Matt Friedman, who heads SFPD's anti-bike-theft unit:

Two notes:
  • I take issue with Matt Richtel's characterization of bike theft as an "urban nuisance" (first sentence after the first photograph). Anyone who has had a bike stolen can testify that it's a not insignificant financial—and emotional—hit.
  • Check out Officer Friedman's task lamp (visible at 0:42, 1:11, and 1:30). Notice anything? Look familiar?

May 22, 2014

Should You Adopt the Sheldon Brown?

I admit to proclaiming this rashly, but... My new goal in life is to have a bike locking strategy named after me.

The late Sheldon Brown does, so there's precedent.

Who's Sheldon Brown? Well, according to Wikipedia, Mr. Brown (1944-2008) "was an American bicycle mechanic and a recognized technical expert and author on bicycles." The longtime parts manager, webmaster, and technical consultant at the Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts, Brown maintained a website offering a wealth of bike-related information. The site remains live, updated as necessary by Harris Cyclery, Brown's widow, and his friend (and fellow bicycle expert) John Allen.

On his page devoted to lock strategy, Brown described the locking method that now bears his name. Here's how the San Francisco Police Department's Anti Bike Theft Unit depicts it:

Take a good look at that U-lock placement. "People tend to buy the big clunky U-locks because they don't know how to use them properly," wrote Brown.
"A U-lock should go around the rear rim and tire, somewhere inside the rear triangle of the frame. There is no need to loop it around the seat tube as well, because the wheel cannot be pulled through the rear triangle. 
Some will object that felons might cut the rear rim and tire to remove the lock. Believe me, this just doesn't happen in the real world. It is indeed possible to cut the rim [hyperlink added] with a hacksaw, working from the outside to the inside, but first, the tire must be removed or cut through. It would be a lot of work to steal a frame without a usable rear wheel, the most expensive part of a bike, after the frame."
Will I adopt the Sheldon Brown as my go-to locking method? Perhaps. What I'd really like, though, is to figure out a way to improve upon it. Stay tuned...