December 17, 2015

Indelibly ID Your Bike

BTB brought you news of anti-theft dots back in March. Apparently the trend of slathering one's possessions with microscopic identifiers is catching on across the pond as well. German startup Bike-ID is a bike registry that encourages registrants to (1) mark their rides as registered with a security sticker and (2) apply micro-tags liberally.

A Bike-ID "marking kit" includes 300 titanium micro-tags, each the size of a sand grain and all bearing a serial number unique to the registrant. The micro-tags are suspended in a glue that cannot be removed from the bike—such is the claim, anyway—without seriously damaging it.

Marking kits are available for pre-order now.

December 7, 2015

"The bike to conquer them all"

Had I not already maxed out my apartment's bike storage capacity, I'd be sorely tempted to back Boston-based Fortified Bicycle's latest Kickstarter campaign. I like that they've designed a bike specifically for riding around pothole-ridden, inclement-weather-plagued cities teeming with would-be thieves. Available in single- or eight-speed (the latter model with disc brakes). Check it out:

November 25, 2015

A Powder Bomb for a Little 'Thief-Shaming'

Given the official-sounding play-by-play, you can be forgiven for mistaking the European Bike Stealing Championships for an actual sporting event. In reality, though, it's an effort by the folks behind the online magazine to raise awareness about the rampancy of bike theft in Europe. 

The video is well done; there are far worse ways to spend four minutes than watching Rome, Amsterdam, and Prague go head-to-head for the 2015 title:

November 20, 2015

"For the Grasp Lock, you are the key"

To hear Grasp Lock co-founder and engineer Samson Berhane tell it, the primary problem with the bike locks already on the market is the bodily contortion they necessitate.

"No more stretching to unlock your bike," Berhane says in a Kickstarter campaign video for his Canadian start-up's biometric bicycle lock locked and unlocked by fingerprint. "No more reaching over the frame to secure your bike."

(The Grasp Lock's hinged arms, see, allow it to slide easily around your bike and the rack, making lock-up a snap.)

I'm more concerned with security than ease of use, though, so I was impatient for the video to address this aspect of the Grasp Lock.

"Its hardened metal body can resist virtually any attack," explains mechanical engineer Jason Zeng as the camera pans across three team members unsuccessfully wielding a crowbar, a saw, and a pair of long-handled cutters.

Impressive, but am I ready for a bike lock that requires batteries??

November 18, 2015

"I knew I was screwed": So-called "Kingpin" of Bike Thieves Apprehended in Portland

The television show Inside Edition could hardly have scripted a better ending to its segment on bike theft in Portland.

It began as a standard-issue bait bike story. The show's producers borrowed a $2000 Trek Fuel EX 5 from a local shop and engaged security expert Jason Cecchettini from to outfit the loaner with a tracking device. Then they cable locked it (asking for trouble...) to a signpost—and waited.

Not for long. Soon enough a man with a pair of wire cutters made off with the Trek, and a film crew gave chase.

They tracked the bike's signal to a combination homeless colony/chop shop under Interstate 5, where they found Leroy Parsons with an upside-down Trek Fuel EX 5, one of the wheels in his hands.

"I knew I was screwed," Parsons later told police.

Parsons, known to the Portland police department's bike task force as the "kingpin" of bike thieves, was arrested at the scene.

Take a look/listen:

November 16, 2015


BTB has both offered tips for vetting Craigslist sellers and passed along the Bike Index field guide How Not To Buy a Stolen Bike in Four Easy Steps. So it's only fitting that you read here about the latest effort to enable cyclists to purchase pre-owned rides without worrying that they're financing a criminal enterprise.

Called—aspirationally, we must assume—Perfecto, the brainchild of L.A. tech entrepreneur Rob Lawson bills itself as a "trusted marketplace for used bikes." It's a website where cycling enthusiasts can "buy or sell a bike, safe in the knowledge that it isn't stolen."

"Unlike ebay, craigslist or other listings sites," the venture's About page reads, "Perfecto is made by cyclists, for cyclists and we don’t tolerate stolen bikes."

Perfecto wants to build trust between buyers and sellers, and has implemented several ways of doing so. Users must create an account, and they are encouraged to log in through Facebook or Strava. Would-be buyers and sellers can chat on Perfecto. And after a transaction has been concluded, each party has the opportunity to rate the other. 

Perfecto also encourages bike sellers to include serial numbers with their listings. This actually surprised me. Why not make divulging a bike's serial number a requirement of hawking it on the site? (It has been almost a year since Project 529 sent the CEOs of Craiglist and eBay the names of 51,203 cyclists who wanted the online sellers to require serial numbers on bike listings. I'll have to look into what, if anything, came of that.) 

The ads I perused on Perfecto did seem to have more detail—and less sketch—than many a Craigslist posting, though, so it's a step in the right direction. If you're on the market for a used bike, check it out.

August 25, 2015

Five Years Post-Theft, Re-Bicycling Initiative Flourishing

When then nine-year-old Hayden Downes-Mills's BMX bike was stolen in 2010, he wrote a letter to the local paper at the suggestion of his mother's friend. "To the person who stole my bike," it read.
My parents bought my bike for my birthday in March, and I really liked it. I’m very upset that my bike was taken, and I would like to ask the person who took it to return it.
Hayden's original ride didn't show up on his doorstep, but eight other ones did, along with gift cards and a $200 check. The outpouring of community support—and sudden excess of bikes—prompted Hayden to devise a way to give back. Soon he and his family were accepting donated bikes, refurbishing them as necessary, and giving them to kids in need of wheels.

Five years later, Hayden's Re-Bicycling is going strong, gearing up to move into bigger digs and poised to recycle its 1000th bike. Read more and/or watch Hayden's interview on CTV News:

July 20, 2015

Scary S#!+

Bike thefts in D.C.'s low(er)-crime NW quadrant have been getting violent lately. DCist reported that, on July 9 at 11 p.m. on the 1200 block of R Street NW, a would-be thief approached a cyclist and demanded his bike. When the cyclist wouldn't surrender it, the foiled thief began stabbing him. No word on what happened to the attacker or the bike, but the cyclist was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Another incident occurred on July 11 at 10:30 p.m. on the 1100 block of R Street NW. Cell phone footage shows multiple aggressors trying to separate a BMX bike from its owner. WUSA9 reports:

July 10, 2015

"It's people like you who should be ill"

First there was Olgi Freyre, who let the profanity fly when a thief relieved her of the $700 KHS Flite 223 she'd locked outside the art supply store where she was working 40 hours a week while going to DePaul University part-time:

Then Portland's Roxy Thompson, age six, invoked maternal disappointment in an attempt to shame thieves into returning her father's fleet of custom road bikes:

Shortly thereafter, 23-year-old Briton Aaron Rush laid it out for the "douchebag" who nabbed his grey Giant:

And now there's yet another note-to-a-bike-thief in the news. This one was left at the scene of the theft by a British oncology nurse:

Harsh words, for sure—some commenters have even questioned whether a nurse would really pen such vitriol—but, like many a victim of bike theft, I know where that anger is coming from.

July 7, 2015

кражи велосипедов = угон машины

(If the title doesn't read "bicycle theft = car theft," I blame Google translate.)

The Moscow Times is reporting that Vladimir Petrov, a deputy in the Leningrad region legislative assembly, is attempting to amend the Russian Criminal Code to put bicycle theft on par with car theft. If Petrov gets his way, one convicted of either crime could pay up to 120,000 rubles (~2100 USD) or spend up to five years in prison.

Petrov proposes explicitly adding the word "bicycle" to the legal language specifying punishment for stealing "automobiles and other means of transportation." This because—as explained in a note accompanying the bill—Russian law does not currently recognize bicycle transportation as such.

Petrov's amendment would make Russia more, dare I say, progressive on this matter than the United States. As I learned when digging up dirt for "You F***ing Felon" back in October 2013, cars enjoy special status in many states. In much of the country, theft of a motor vehicle qualifies as a felony regardless of the vehicle's monetary value. In no state (to my knowledge, anyway) is bike theft recognized as a serious crime in a similarly automatic fashion.

June 5, 2015

A Land Where a Cable Lock Suffices—For Now

In the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, cyclists—of which there are many—do tend to lock their bikes, just not with anything terribly imposing. 

Take the white single-speed below. Assuming it belongs to whoever filled the adjacent windowsill with bicycle-related knickknacks, this bike is, if not treasured, at least appreciated. And is "secured" by a small-gauge cable lock looped around the rear wheel and through some wires snaking out of the building. 

Bike owners sometimes affix their rides to slightly sturdier installations, but still usually with just a cable lock:

Reykjavik bike shop Markið does sell U-locks, but appears to stock cables in much greater numbers:

And bike theft is not unheard of even in low-crime Iceland. Around 700 or 800 bikes are reported stolen in Reykjavík (population ~120,000) per year, and reports from the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police cite bike theft as the exception to a reduction in crime generally.

Which begs the question: How long before Icelanders, too, must resort to increasingly stiffer measures to prevent the theft of their two-wheeled transportation?

June 2, 2015

Prevent the Ride-Away

The folks behind LINKA, the "world's first auto-unlocking smart bike lock," think a would-be thief is much less likely to make off with your bike if it's (1) unrideable because of an immobilized front wheel and (2) screeching as loudly as a jackhammer or power lawnmower. Seems like a reasonably safe bet.

If you've got a bike and a smart phone and are inclined to use the latter to help safeguard the former, check out LINKA's Kickstarter campaign. It runs through June 13 (but has already far surpassed its fundraising goal).

(Hooray for LINKA's use of Bike Index's database! Theft prevention efforts are better operating in concert.)

May 20, 2015

Not a One-Man Job

From KGW Portland, the story of a cyclist who has taken it upon himself to scope out and photograph possibly stolen bikes—and try to return them to their owners:

May 12, 2015


Last week Bike Index founder Seth Herr announced that the registry's bike theft data is now available in map form. 

Visit and zoom in on a location of interest. The map will display the 100 most recent thefts in the area you're viewing, color-coded according to how long ago the theft occurred. Click on a color in the legend to filter by time period.

Here's D.C.:

In his announcement about the map, Herr touted it as "more than a pretty picture." In addition to its support of search and browsing through time, links back to the Bike Index reports about the thefts mapped.  

Look familiar??

It's easy to use and interesting from a data visualization standpoint, but, however well-executed and information-rich, a map of bike thefts still saddens me.

May 4, 2015

"YouR Bike wAs STOLEN BUT WE Caught the guy"

I so wish I knew more about the story behind this photo. 

Here's as much as I can piece together: Someone left his or her bike locked to or propped against a white birch (I think...) on or near the campus of Trinity College Dublin. Someone other than the owner made off with the bike, but didn't get very far: Trinity College security guards accosted the would-be thief, took the bike for safekeeping, and left a note apprising the bike's owner of what had gone down and how to collect the thankfully-not-stolen property.

I hereby second the sentiment expressed in The Daily Edge: "We salute you Trinity security guards, and commend your legible handwriting and careful use of thumb tacks." 

(And credit to Janet Newenham for taking and distributing the photo.)

April 27, 2015

Won't Rattle as You Ride

As noted back in October 2013, my TiGr® lock is a real conversation starter. Motorists and fellow cyclists alike often ask me what it is, whether I like it, how much it cost. (Answers: a titanium bike lock, yes, $200)

Well, now the folks behind the elegant bike security often velcroed around my top tube have turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds necessary to launch a new product, the TiGr mini. They're calling it "the U-lock re-imagined." Here's the pitch:

Pledge by May 31 to get in on the ground floor.

April 23, 2015

Tackle Him!

Maybe you've come across the video while killing time online. A man in a pink shirt tears out of a house and tackles a guy on a bike. Both hit the pavement.

Here, courtesy of KEYE TV, is the story behind the viral vid:

The bike recovery's worth the "road rash," I'd say...

April 8, 2015

How NOT to Buy a Stolen Bike

What I tried to do in "Don't Supply the Demand: Vet Your Seller" back in December 2013, the folks at Bike Index (i.e. they of the serial number search widget at right) have now done more thoroughly, simply, and systematically.

Bike Index's Bryan Hance unveiled a "field guide" on Monday: How Not To Buy a Stolen Bike in Four Easy Steps. The guide presents in one aesthetically pleasing place the advice Bike Index regularly offers those looking to buy a used bike without receiving stolen property.

Check it out and pass it on. (What appears below is just the (hyperlinked) header.)

April 6, 2015

That bike theft task force Portland almost launched back in February but then didn't for nebulous reasons? Well, now it's official. The City of Roses has declared its commitment to reducing bicycle thefts by 50% in five years.

The announcement of the initiative even included a demonstration of proper locking technique performed on the steps of City Hall...

Check out for more information.

April 3, 2015

Fortified's Got Your Back

Fortified Bicycle hasn't debuted the promised anti-theft bike yet, but, in a Kickstarter campaign launched yesterday, the Boston-based company announced its latest product: Payback. It's a "bike seat security system with a Lifetime Anti-Theft Guarantee." Yours for $25: 

April 2, 2015

Got a Mnemonic for You

This reminder courtesy of the Annapolis, Maryland, police department, which recently announced an initiative to prevent bicycle thefts: P.E.D.A.L.

Photograph your bike, taking care to capture any unique features;
Engrave identifying information onto your bike frame;
Document your bike's particulars—from make, model, and color, down to frame size and serial number;
And [conjunctions get included only when it's convenient to do so...]
Lock your bike (we've been over this one).

March 27, 2015

Anti-theft Dots: "Like DNA for your property"

Marking your bike as your own in an indelible way is a challenge—serial numbers can be filed off, after all—and it's hard to keep track of bike parts, which can be stripped off a stolen frame and sold separately. Enter anti-theft dots, an effectively invisible adhesive that contains thousands of microscopic dots etched with a you-specific number. Take a look/listen:

March 20, 2015

Get Thee a Warrant

A bill currently in Oregon's Senate Judiciary Committee would, reports, require judges to consider "electronic location information" probable cause for a search warrant.

What's electronic location information, you ask? Imagine your beloved bike, outfitted with a tracking device, gets stolen and you're able, via an app on your phone, say, to see that the thief has stowed your ride in a garage at precisely [insert address here].

That's electronic location information.

Eugene area State Senator Chris Edwards, who has heard of cases in which bike owners tracked their stolen bikes but were told by police that the information was not actionable, introduced Senate Bill 861 to "start a conversation between law enforcement personnel and the bike community about what common practice is in situations like this."

Read more.

March 16, 2015

"Piles almost to the point of mountains"

In a mass reclamation operation this month, University of Wisconsin–Madison police confiscated 600 bicycles from a bike shop, an apartment, a storage unit, and a farm in Madison and the neighboring towns of Muscoda and Windsor.

Authorities suspect that many of the bikes are stolen, though their serial numbers may not show up in police databases because the thefts were never reported or occurred long enough ago that the relevant records have been purged. Charges of possession of stolen property are pending against two men, but, so far, the accused maintain their innocence.

Get the story from WKOW:

March 3, 2015

Launch of Bike Theft Task Force Delayed

My "bike theft" Google news alert was chock full last week of stories about a bike theft task force the Portland, Oregon, police force was, so reported the Associated Press, set to launch.

A news conference about the initiative was set for 1:30 pm on Thursday, February 26, but was postponed, The Oregonian reported, due to "unforeseen circumstances." There remain, said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson, "logistical issues that need to be worked through."

Meanwhile... Here's one issue area cyclists are hoping the task force will be able to tackle once assembled:

March 2, 2015

"He may be lying to my face"

Here's a bike recovery story for your Monday. Watch it for the hipster facial hair if nothing else.

Maybe Andrew will lug the Bridgestone (-stone not -port, KOMO News—get it right!) up those three flights of stairs now? I know I would.

February 24, 2015

Bike Theft Pastoral

Misplaced a blue bike in Brockenhurst, Hampshire (UK)? A cow may have walked off with it. 

Engineer John Weiler spotted the perpetrator of the inadvertent theft on his way home and shot a few pictures before calling in the New Forest Agistors, a local pony breeding and cattle society (!). 

A policeman arrived on the scene (responding to a call from a resident), but unnecessarily: the cow extricated herself from the bicycle frame of her own volition and, thus unencumbered, meandered away with her herd.

February 17, 2015

Bike Hawk in a Nutshell

And here, via Indiegogo, is yet another way to harness technology to increase the chances of recovering your bike should it be stolen:

Such fundraising efforts have a mixed record: SHYSPY's Kickstarter campaign did not meet its funding goal, while LOCK8's did. And Connected Cycle's webpage still promises "crowdfunding coming."

February 10, 2015

Hit Eject

Behold the anti-theft ejector seat, a feature included on the 'Bond bike' concept bike that bicycle insurer Environmental Transport Association brought to Cycle Show 2010 in London:

Powered by compressed air, the saddle shoots two meters skyward if not first disarmed by its owner. 

Put the two-second segment on loop and allow yourself to imagine legions of would-be bike thieves limping off with sore bums or bruised foreheads. (I'm unclear on what exactly triggers the ejection and am thus unsure of which body parts would likely suffer damage.)

See this site for footage of the bike's other 007-style gadgetry. 

January 29, 2015

Lose a Mile, Keep a Bike

Warning to anyone who uses route tracking apps like MapMyRide and Strava: You may be leading thieves right to your bike(s)!

Many rides start and end at the cyclist's home, and the GPS data recorded and shared by tracking apps is accurate enough that nefarious characters can use it to pinpoint particular houses. And riders avid enough to track their speed and elevation gain likely own fancier-than-average bikes, the sort thieves might be willing to, say, break into a garage to steal.

"We have noticed an increase in the number of high-value cycles being stolen from sheds and outbuildings across the south of the county," police sergeant Dave Morris of Staffordshire, England, told Adventure Journal's Steve Casimiro. "Our investigations have shown that some of the victims had been using websites and mobile phone apps to log their routes—these sites allow users to view each other’s routes and track their rides."

In a Hully Daily Mail story on the subject, Wayne Preston of Cliff Pratt Cycles offers app users some advice: "If you are going to use apps make sure you switch it off a good distance from your house. Personally, I would much rather lose a mile off my Strava record than have my house or garage burgled and my bikes stolen."

January 27, 2015

"Easier to steal than the mustang used to be"

Think bike theft is a new problem? Or at least new-ish? Think again. Last week the combination of a Willamette Week blog post and a Reddit thread gave me some insight into the sitch at the turn of the century—and not the most recent one.

Here's what I take from the clipping at left (from the May 12, 1899 Oregonian):

-Bikes were called simply "wheels" back in the 19th century.

-There has long been a benefit of stealing a bicycle in one town—Portland, say—and selling it elsewhere. In 1899 it was unnamed "interior towns"; now it's Seattle.

-Bike theft has always been notable for the relative lightness of the penalties it entails. Steal a car and you're a felon; make off with a man's horse and you risk being lynched. Swipe a bike, though, and you more likely than not get off scott free.

Which is not to say that folks weren't peeved by the impunity with which the bicycle thief plied his vocation. The September 20, 1895 Hillsboro Independent indicates that somebody deemed bike theft punishable by death:

And, just like today, police were ever trying to advise bike owners to safeguard their rides more assiduously.

Chief of Police McLauchlan's advice at right (like the typo in the headline?) bears some resemblance to recommendations made today, though of course locks are pricier now. I'm puzzled by the proposed sprocket locking... Am I supposed to loop something through my chainring so the bike can't be ridden? Could work, I guess, as long as the thief doesn't just walk off with the thing—bikes were probably pretty heavy back then—or load it into a van (not possible in the late 1800s, obviously)...

At any rate, times have changed and you'll never hear Hal Ruzal advocating use of a "common padlock." The bicycle thief has upgraded his toolkit—and we wheelmen had best keep pace!

January 20, 2015

Rubber-Coated Flanges, Y'all

Sacramento-based Park A Bike is making inroads into Portland, Oregon, shaken recently by the revelation that thieves can saw through its ubiquitous staple racks.

Nine of the company's Varsity Bike Docks have been installed in front of a commercial building at the intersection of SE Hawthorne and 17th.

The Varsity has wheel troughs and rubber-coated upper flanges and is, reports, made of tubing twice as thick as the staple rack stuff.

Gina Carlson, whose $2,000 Trek was stolen this month when someone sawed through a staple rack and slipped it off, welcomes the new racks—and her new bike. Park A Bike president Christopher Luyet had been negotiating with a Portland building owner for weeks when Gina's story hit the news. Luyet told the potential buyer that, if he purchased the bike docks, Park A Bike would get Gina a replacement ride. Apparently this sealed the deal.

January 13, 2015

"It turns your bike into a smart bike"

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Paris-based start-up Connected Cycle unveiled what it's calling the "the first connected pedal."

Cased in aluminum and available in five colors (black, red, blue, green, and orange), the Connected Cycle pedal is both an activity tracker and a theft prevention measure.

The pedal has its own internet connection (!) and can communicate with your smartphone via an app. The app supplies speed, route, incline, and calorie data; notifies you if your ride is moved after you've locked it up; and allows you to track your two-wheeler should a thief make off with it. The pedal generates its own energy and can only be removed with a specially coded key.

Connected Cycle is gearing up for a crowdfunding campaign. Sign up on the company webpage to stay in the loop.

January 9, 2015

"A lot of people deserve to be really worried"

There are lots of bikes in Portland, Oregon, and, at any given time, a fair number of them are locked to one of the city's 6,000 blue staple racks (see here). Unfortunately, as came to light earlier this week, the blue staples don't safeguard the bikes entrusted to them as effectively as everyone had assumed.

Gina Carlson left her Trek Lexa S—named (!) Flora—U-locked overnight to a staple at the corner of Southeast 7th and Morrison. All that remained in the morning, though, was a staple, its cross bar severed clear through.

"This freaks me out," says the Bike Index's (register...) Bryan Hance in the video below, from KPTV-FOX 12. (To hear the bereaved Carlson's wake-up call to bike owners, check out KOIN 6's segment on the brazen theft.)

The moral, dear cyclists? Don't just verify that a rack (1) has all its bolts and (2) can't be yanked from the ground with a pair of passable biceps. Also give the rack a hard thwack. Put your ear down next to it. Try to gauge from the resonance how thick the tubing is—and how long it might take a would-be thief to saw through it.

And never, however reassuring the reverberations, leave your bike out overnight.