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...