February 27, 2017

Because of drunk boys and a dead phone

On February 5, the night of the Super Bowl, a road bike Josh Bowden had owned for 15 years went missing. 

The Pulaski County, VA Deputy Sheriff didn't notice the theft, however, until the bike reappeared two weeks later—with a note of explanation from the thief-turned-unauthorized-borrower:

Some steal bikes for fast cash or a drug fix, others because their so-called friends flake and strand them 16 miles from home.

Himself a father of two, Deputy Bowden wishes the 19-year-old would have knocked on his door and asked for help rather than swiping his bike for a solitary, wee-hour ride. Unsure how to reach the mysterious M to talk some sense into her, Bowden posted a public Facebook message in hopes that social media magic might bring his words of caution to the teen's attention.

February 21, 2017

Protect What's Most Important

Whatever precious person, pet, or possession you're keen to track, Bay Area outfit iotera thinks iota is the device for you. Reviewed by Bike Index's Bryan Hance on BikePortland.org last week, iota is a diminutive—43×22×11 millimeters—GPS tracker that relies on radio rather than cellular signals. So no monthly fees! The iota also boasts a long-lasting battery that only needs recharging every two to four weeks. 

Each iota tracker ships with a "home base" that connects to an in-home wi-fi network and has a 1/2- to 1-mile range. Two crowdsourced networks—a community of iota home bases and every mobile phone running the iota app—enable tracking farther afield.

Although Hance's review notes ways in which the iota could be more useful to bike owners—by fitting into handlebars, say, or mooching power off lights—the tracker has already helped reunite at least one cyclist with a stolen ride:

Iota's reliance on a network of individually owned base stations does mean, though, that the protection offered depends on the extent of community buy-in. I checked out the company's coverage map and was pleasantly surprised by the number of stations already active in and around my Northern Virginia 'hood. I wonder if iotera would consider offering bulk discounts—at $149 a pop, iota is not cheap—to groups of neighbors together capable of adding swathes of acreage to the area covered.  

February 13, 2017

Take It from a Bike Thief

Perhaps you remember reformed bike thief Shenol Shaddouh from this 2013 BTB post. Now, more than four years after his tale of redemption appeared in The Docklands and East London Advertiser, Shaddouh remains on the straight and narrow. He recently offered Cyclist readers advice on how to hold on to their bikes.

A couple takeaways:
  1. Foil twist attacks: Back in his thieving days, Shaddouh used a scaffolding pole to twist D-locks. "If the first thing the lock comes into contact with when twisted is whatever it’s locked to, rather than the frame, then you can twist the D-lock to the point of breaking and it won’t damage the frame," Shaddouh told Cyclist. Take this into consideration when positioning your lock.
  2. Adopt the Sheldon Brown: Shaddouh advocates what is known in some circles as the Sheldon Brown locking technique. "The best way to use a D-lock is not to lock your frame but to lock through your rim at the spot between the rear wheel and the top of the rear triangle, with the D-lock within the rear triangle but not through the chainstays," he says. Something to think about...

February 6, 2017

Ben*, Bike Hunter

Buy a VanMoof SmartBike and, if it gets stolen, the Amsterdam outfit will spend two weeks trying to track it down. If they fail to reclaim your bike in a fortnight, they'll replace it. BTB reported on this so-called Peace of Mind service—free for the first two years post-purchase—back in June 2016.

Now, with regular Medium posts, VanMoof is chronicling its bike recovery efforts. The Bike Hunting Broadcasts afford readers a "weekly peek into the wild world of VanMoof’s Bike Hunting Team."

This is the stuff of cinema (or at the very least, television): organized crime, just-in-time arrivals, high-tech gadgetry, international trafficking of stolen property, courageous crime fighters on the verge of losing hope...Casablanca, even!

So follow along, folks, and cheer the good guys on.

A VanMoof Bike Hunter fires up a tracker on the streets of Casablanca

*As VanMoof reiterates in each Bike Hunting Broadcast, their "Bike Hunters prefer to remain stealth and not use their real names."

February 3, 2017

Skylock (Now Ellipse) Debuts

Skylock got a lot of press back in 2014, and, as pre-orders begin to ship, the app-controlled bike lock continues to garner high-profile coverage. It's just not all positive.

Michael Tortorello reports in the Wall Street Journal that while the lock, now called Ellipse, boasts a solar panel and a theft- and accident-detecting accelerometer, it suffers from some unglamorous mechanical difficulties.

"So what happens if the app connects to Ellipse," writes Tortorello, "but the latch won’t clinch properly, preventing you from securing your bike to the rack?" He continues:
Or what if, later on, the latch refuses to release, threatening to leave you stranded 6 miles from home? Can the lock detect profanity, uttered in close proximity and at high volume? 
That’s what happened to us during a recent road test.
(I trust Tortorello means that the lock malfunctioned, not that it detected the frustrated tester's string of expletives.)

Though Ellipse creator Jack Al-Kahwati assured Tortorello that the issue he encountered has been corrected on the locks shipping to customers who pre-ordered them, the reporter sounds unconvinced.

"The technology in the Ellipse may be novel," Tortorello concludes his piece, "but our experience brought back analog memories: It felt just like losing a key."

Note also: The Ellipse is selling for less than the expected $249 reported by BTB in June 2014. The list price is in fact $199 (smart phone not included).

February 2, 2017

Your Chance to Win a Carbon Wheelset or a Top-of-the-Line Lock

I'm decreasing my own chances of winning by telling you this, of course, but...

Project 529's 2017 Bike Theft Survey is live, and, by taking five minutes to answer it, you'll both (1) help the Portland-based outfit amass information they hope will enable "law enforcement, advocacy organizations and the cycling industry to better understand how the cycling community is affected by bike theft" and (2) enter the running for a SRAM or Zipp carbon wheelset or an ABUS folding or U-lock. Do it.

Project 529 should already be familiar to readers. BTB first covered 529 back in June 2014, and subsequently reported on both its wood-bound petition to require online sellers to include serial numbers on bike listings and its fruitful collaboration with officials in Vancouver, BC. Now, in a newsletter that went out Tuesday night, Project 529 has announced a merger: "National Bike Registry and 529 Garage have joined forces," exclaims the email's header, "creating the largest and most advanced bike registry in North America!"

So if you've previously registered a bike or two with either of these parties, take this opportunity to log on to the new post-merger site and make sure you're maxing out the services on offer. And if you still have a unregistered ride in your possession? Get on that!