9 common-sense steps to take to protect your bike from being stolen

Staff writerJuly 6, 2014 

Luke Brechwald isn’t sure where he first heard the line or just how accurate it is, but he uses it because it drives home an important point when it comes to protecting your bicycle.

“Ten percent will, 10 percent won’t and 80 percent will if you give them the chance,” said Brechwald of Joy Ride Bikes in Lacey.

He was talking about the people who steals bikes. Ninety percent of people want to steal my bike? That’s pretty depressing. It’s also probably not true, but Brechwald said most bike thefts are the result of people giving the thief a tantalizing opportunity.

“I hear way more stories about people going inside to get a drink of water and coming out to find their bike missing than I do of people getting their locks cut,” Brechwald said.

Next weekend, about 10,000 bikes will roll through the South Sound in the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. And while it might be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with so many other bikes around, it’s always a good idea to take steps to ward off thieves.

Here are some tips:

1. LOCK IT UP

If a thief wants your bike bad enough, he’ll be able to get through just about any lock.

“But most thieves will see (a lock) and keep walking, looking for something easier,” Brechwald said.

Brechwald says a U-lock ($40-$100) is the strongest type of lock and therefore the best deterrent.

The next strongest is a chain, he said. You can get a chain for less than $40, or you can spend well over $100 on something like the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit.

“Chains have been really popular lately,” Brechwald said.

Cable locks are also good and start at about $22 in his shop, Brechwald said.

But if you really want to deter thieves, try using a U-lock and a chain. “That’s just a lot of steel to ride around with,” Brechwald said.

Whichever you choose, Brechwald said to make sure the lock is protecting both the frame and the wheels. Lock them both to a permanent structure.

2. LOCK UP AROUND PEOPLE

Whether at a park or out in front of a café, locking up around people is a good idea, Brechwald said. All those eyes are bound to make thieves a little nervous. “And, for all they know, the bike belongs to the people who are sitting right next to it at the café,” Brechwald said.

3. KEEP IT IN VIEW

If you stop for lunch or a break during your ride, make sure you can see your bike. Not a bad idea even if it’s locked up and hanging on your car’s bike rack.

Some businesses will even let you roll your bike indoors.

4. HAVE A PROPER BIKE RACK

Not all bike racks are created equal. Brechwald said it’s a good idea to have a bike rack that locks the bikes in place.

And even then, he’s heard of thieves who will steal the bike and the rack. For about $35, you can buy a device at most bike shops that will lock your trailer hitch-mounted bike rack to the car.

5. CLOSE THE DOOR

Forgetting to close the door on your garage, shed or wherever you store your bike is a great way to get your bike stolen. In fact, according to Brechwald, it’s one of the most common ways.

6. CHEAP BIKE FOR ERRANDS

There’s nothing quite like the feel of a bike that costs more than the resale value of your car. But those bikes are also targets.

So a carbon-fiber-framed bike probably isn’t best for errands or other short trips when you know you’ll be chaining up your bike.

When Todd Ritchie, a Tacoma cyclist, recently described the bike he uses for errands it sounded like a rolling Frankenstein. Parts of different bikes welded together to form the perfect bike for toting home groceries from the store. “They (bike thieves) look at it and see a piece of junk,” he said. “But it’s great for me.”

7. BUDDY SYSTEM

On a long ride such as the 200-mile Seattle to Portland, it’s likely you’ll be separated from your bike from time to time.

Need a restroom break? Going in shifts allows somebody in your group to stay behind to watch the bikes.

Doing the ride in two days instead of one, as most do? Stash your bike in your hotel room or pay a few bucks to one of the fundraising groups offering overnight bike-sitting services.

8. RECORD YOUR SERIAL NUMBER

Find the serial number on your bike and save it with your records, along with a picture of your bike. This could help you recover your bike should it be stolen. You might even consider registering your bike with a service such as nationalbikeregistry.com.

Cyclists also can purchase bike identification systems. Some are QR code affixed to your bikes. DataDotDNA ($20 at datadotdna.com) sells a system that applies dots imbedded with a unique code on the bike. According to its website, DataDots “are almost invisible to the naked eye” and it’s “virtually impossible to locate and remove (them) all.”

9. BE DILIGENT

If you’ve never had a bike swiped or it’s been a long time, it can be easy to get comfortable and fall into bad habits. But protecting your bike should be as ingrained as remembering to lock your house before you leave.

“It’s important,” Brechwald said. “I always use a lock when I leave my bike. Even if it’s just for a few minutes.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
craig.hill@thenewstribune.com
@AdventureGuys

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