Foil bike thieves, protect your ride

When it comes to locking up and keeping your ride out of the hands of bike thieves, the scum of the earth, you really need to step up your game.

Bike thieves lurk around the city, waiting to steal yr wheels, or worse the frame
Photo by MattHurst via Flickr

Loving biking, and caring for cyclists, as much as I do, I can’t help but feel a deep and almost spiritual obligation to write this column. Montreal, you need a serious lesson on how to protect your bike properly. When it comes to locking up and keeping your ride out of the hands of bike thieves, the scum of the earth, you really need to step up your game.

What are you locking up with?  
A lot of people seem to think that if their “lock“ has metal parts on it and wraps around a poll, it’s good enough to protect their bike from getting stolen. The fact is that a good pair of bolt cutters can get through a cable lock pretty easily. Some can even be broken with a hammer. If you really want to be safe, you can’t rely on something that can bend. What you need is a solid U-lock or heavy-duty commercial bike chain. Depending on its manufacturer, a good lock will generally run you $40–$50 or more. If it costs less than that, you will be taking a risk.

A cable is a good extra tool to protect your wheels and maybe the expensive Brooks saddle that you bought, but to use it as your first line of defense is a sad story waiting to happen.

Location, location, location
Whatever area of the city you are locking up in, it’s important to select what you are locking up to carefully. If you are locked to a stairway or a back porch, you are a bit safer than if you’re just on the street. A good rule of thumb here is to ask yourself: “If someone decided to steal my bike, would it be really obvious that they were doing so?” If the answer is yes, then you are in good shape.

Let’s get something straight, though: it doesn’t really matter what the situation is — if someone wants your bike, they are going to take it. But don’t make it easy for people. Locking to a chain-link fence or a tree is the worst move you can make. You want a good, sturdy parking post or street sign pole that is well anchored. And in case you were wondering, a moveable construction sign doesn’t count.

Don’t get chopped
Sometimes, instead of having your whole bike stolen, you’ll get chopped. Getting chopped is when someone selectively steals a part off your bike, like a wheel or your seat or the cute bumblebee bell that you love so dearly. Enterprising thieves will jump on any opportunity, so make sure that there are no easy targets for grabby little fingers. If you have a bike that has quick-release wheels or seat posts, or if your bike is worth more than $300, be sure to lock your wheels with your frame and to take off any removable accessories.

A back wheel is generally worth more than a front one, so a good rule of thumb is that if you can’t lock both, lock your rear one.

Home sweet home
The safest place for your bike is always indoors. Despite any perceived taboo, it’s totally cool and awesome to bring your bike in and give it a warm home in your hallway or basement. Show your bike some love and protect it from people who obviously have no respect for other people’s property. I have never personally had my bike stolen. I hope these tips help keep yours safe, too.

Cam Novak is a former bicycle courier and the founder of Cycle-Bird Courier. He is a longtime cycling advocate. In addition to Cult MTL, you can find his take on the local cycling scene on on Twitter and his weekly radio show, The Bike Lane, on CKUT 90.3 FM.

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