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.