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Keeping your bicycle safe from theft
Old 11-17-2013, 11:55 AM   #1
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Keeping your bicycle safe from theft

Now that I'm only working part time, one of my passions has been to ride my bicycle more frequently, especially when it can be used instead of driving a car for running local errands. It makes me feel good to keep the car in the garage while getting exercise and doing some shopping.

My bicycle was stolen about two months ago while I went swimming at the local pool. I filed a police report, and got really lucky when a neighboring police department recovered the bicycle and returned it to me. I was not expecting to ever see it again.

I learned a few things about bicycle thefts from this experience. First, my homeowners insurance has a $1,000 deductible. Since the bicycle was worth just under $1,000, that was of no use. Second, those basic cable locks that you can buy for about $25.00 are worthless. A simple pair of wire cutters can snip through them in one slice without making any noise and with very modest effort. They are practically worthless, other than keeping honest people honest.

My research led me to buying a U shaped lock, which appear to be the best form of protection. I added a 8 foot cable to protect the wheels, even though I know it provides minimal protection. The lock I purchased was made by Kryptonite, and called the Kryptonite NY Fahgettaboudit U-Lock. I know, pretty funny name!

The lock weighs five pounds and is pretty tough. It has the highest rating on the kryptonite line of U-locks - a 10/10. And, it comes with a $4,500 theft protection guarantee. I thought that sounded pretty good, so I went ahead and bought the lock and registered my bicycle for their anti-theft program.

So now to my concern. In reading the fine print on the Kryptonite web site, here are the requirements to file a theft claim:

Requirements in the Event of a Theft

Report the theft to the police within 72 hours.
Mail or email notice of the theft to Kryptonite within seven (7) days of the theft.
Immediately report the theft to your insurance company, if covered by insurance.
Mail or email the following to Kryptonite within ninety (90) days: [i] broken lock and/or broken links– required as proof of product failure (Note: We recommend that you return the entire lock if available so that we can better understand how the product failed), [ii] at least one (1) key, [iii] a copy of the official police report, [iv] a copy of your itemized lock bill of sale, [v] a copy of your bicycle/powersport bill of sale, not including accessories, or a dated and signed dealer appraisal reflecting the market value of the bicycle/powersport vehicle, not including accessories, and [vi] evidence you have notified your insurance company, if covered by insurance.
Failure to forward all materials within ninety (90) days will void your claim and Kryptonite will have no further responsibility under this Offer. Certified mail, return receipt is recommended since Kryptonite is not responsible for non-receipt of mail.


So if I want to file a claim, I have to return the broken lock. When my bicycle was stolen, the thief took the lock along with the bicycle. So what am I supposed to do if this happens again? But even more concerning is what would happen if I did find the broken lock at the scene of the theft. Most likely a thief will use a portable angle grinder to saw through this lock. So, if I return the lock with the saw cuts, will Kryptonite say this was an inappropriate use of the lock, and therefore not considered a failure? I've seen videos on youtube of people sawing through one of these exact locks in less than two minutes!

In the end, this warranty appears to be completely useless. Which leaves me wondering, is there anything we really can do to protect ourselves against a thief stealing our bicycle? I tried getting a quote to lower the deductible on my homeowners insurance. Reducing the deductible from $1,000 to $500 raised my premium by almost $500 per year, so that makes no sense.

What have others done to keep their bicycles safe or otherwise protect against losses due to theft?
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Old 11-17-2013, 12:13 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Ready View Post
What have others done to keep their bicycles safe or otherwise protect against losses due to theft?
I talked toa guy one day who had a really heavy chain and quality lock on his bike. It must have weighed 10-15#. I asked him about it. He said he was from Philly, and it doubled as a pretty good bike lock and an even better weapon. I felt that lighter more easily swung chain would likely be a better weapon, but less good bike defender.

Ha
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Old 11-17-2013, 12:36 PM   #3
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Sounds like you've discovered the old cycling rule that weight of bike plus an appropriate lock is constant (better, lighter bike needs heavier tougher lock). At least your bike theft had a happy ending.
I've also heard good things about Kryptonite U-locks, but I would make a decision based on lock itself rather than any company's guarantee. But in reality any bike can be lost if thief is determined enough.

Other tricks I've heard for making bike theft tougher &/or aid in recovery-
-Lock up bike in visible/well-populated area.
-Leave bike in highest gear &/or with QR's loosened (tougher for thief to make quick ride-off)
-Put your contact info somewhere on bike so cops can find you if its recovered. Bike SN's are not registered like cars.
-Ride a crappy bike that no one would steal
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Old 11-17-2013, 12:50 PM   #4
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So if I want to file a claim, I have to return the broken lock.
I doubt it. The requirement you quoted said to return the entire lock IF AVAILABLE so a reasonable person would take them at their word. I think the major item they are stressing is the report to your insurance company so you're on the hook for your deductible.
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Old 11-17-2013, 12:54 PM   #5
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Years ago, after having every bike I ever owned be stolen (including one that was secured with the afore-mentioned cheap cable lock) I started using the heaviest-duty chain and lock I could find. Must have weighed about ten lbs. The bike was never stolen.
Later, on one of my early motorcycles, I used a U-shaped Kryptonite lock, partly because I bought their sales pitch but also because it fit so nicely on the bike. That bike also was never stolen.
In the end, if someone really wants your bike, they'll get it. All you can hope to do is slow them down enough to get discouraged and go somewhere else.
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Old 11-17-2013, 01:09 PM   #6
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Since most bicycle theives are boys (reluctant to call them men), you could paint the bike pink with white polka dots.
Along the same line of thinking, I used a ladies frame for my urban crusier and never had it stolen even though it was protected with just a cable lock.
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Old 11-17-2013, 01:13 PM   #7
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After my bike was stolen in the middle of the day using long handled branch cutters to cut through the cable, I started using a heavy chain and padlock. I did read that the U-shaped locks are better but I went with the heavy chain for ease of use. Our bikes cost about $450 each and are fairly heavy hybrids. (Also got DW a new chain and lock for her bike).
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Old 11-17-2013, 01:35 PM   #8
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Sorry to say, that with today's lithium battery powered portable grinders, no bike is safe! A determined thief can grind thru the thickest chain in only a few seconds.

So, if you have a high end bike, you need to always, always, keep it in sight or in a secure location, there is no other solution. If your going to leave your bike unattended, lock it up with whatever lock that your comfortable with, only use a bike that is inexpensive and you can easily replace if it's stolen, and if your can, take the the front wheel with you making it difficult to cut and run.
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Old 11-17-2013, 02:11 PM   #9
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Something I saw on the SF Muni a few month back... A scruffy looking young lady boarded the train heading downtown. In her backpack, poking out quite a ways, was a bright yellow bolt cutter, maybe 3 feet long.

I'm sure she was headed downtown to pick up something or other...

I haven't seen anyone with a battery powered peanut grinder yet, but I'd bet there is some enthusiast toting one out there somewhere.
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Old 11-17-2013, 02:29 PM   #10
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I absolutely agree about keeping your bike in sight whenever possible but our rides often end up at a cafe and we sometimes do not have them in sight. So we just use thick chains, have bikes costing under $500, and take our chances. Only one bike stolen ever, and we've both owned bikes from being about 10 years old so we've been pretty lucky so far.
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Old 11-17-2013, 02:46 PM   #11
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I had one bike stolen by an airline. I was going on a bike camping trip and the box (one of my pieces of checked luggage) never arrived. The best lock in the world wouldn't have saved me. I got some compensation by the airline (the limit at that time on an international flight was only $400), but I got a few hundred dollars more from a homeowner's policy after I convinced the insurance company that bikes don't automatically depreciate like cars the moment they're no longer new. The bike and the sleeping bag in the box were worth about $1,250 together.

I've had 4 bikes stolen overall, though one of them (and old junker) I deliberately left in a high-risk place unlocked because I wanted to get rid of it. I was somewhat miffed that it took several days before it finally disappeared.
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Old 11-17-2013, 03:10 PM   #12
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My bike is a decent brand (Marin), but I bought it used for $125. I keep it well maintained but if lost or stolen, it's not a big loss.

I use a single Kryptonite U-lock to lock the frame and use locking skewers on both wheels as well as the seat post. That way, I don't have to worry about locking the wheels too. Walking around Oakland and San Francisco, I often see bike frames still locked up, but with the wheels stolen. I see it almost every time I walk around town. I don't know why more people don't do this, but a set of locking skewers will do a lot to help ensure the safety of your bike. I don't know why anyone would lock their bike frame, yet leave their wheels unsecured with quick release levers on, but I see it all the time.

I have had 3 bikes stolen in about 25 years. 2 of those were not locked at all (I know, I know) and the other one was locked with a cable. About 12 years ago, I started using a single Kryptonite U-lock on the frame with locking skewers for both wheels and the seat post, and have not had a single theft.
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Old 11-17-2013, 03:14 PM   #13
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DW made me add my new road bike to our floater policy. My bike looks snazzy, but by road bike standards not expensive - $1100. Anyway that floater costs me $21 per year on my policy.
I have 2 bikes - the road bike I use for exercise and nearly all the time ride to and from a set point than put it in my locked garage.
My other bike is a hybrid for slow riding around town and small local errands. I do have one of those cheap locks for that bike. I just want to prevent the "opportunistic" thief. If someone happens to walk by with wire cutters, they'll be able to easily steal my bike. I'll take that risk (yes I do lock bike in a conspicuous area).
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Old 11-17-2013, 03:57 PM   #14
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A recent article in Bicycle magazine (month??) put several of the best locks available to the test. None of them lasted more than five minutes. They used a variety of tools to cut the locks. However, the tool of choice among professional thieves is the portable grinder. The upshot, if somebody wants your bike bad enough it is gone. Whatever the lock system you use, all you are doing is deterring a casual thief, and delaying a professional.

The suggestions above, lock your bike in a well lit, populated area, next to more expensive bikes usually works. However, I have to say. When we were moving DD from college after graduation, her bike was locked to a bike rack along a well traveled sidewalk on campus. She had forgotten the combination. So there I was with a hack saw cutting through the cable. Not one person stopped and asked if it was my bike!
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Old 11-17-2013, 04:38 PM   #15
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Sounds like you've discovered the old cycling rule that weight of bike plus an appropriate lock is constant (better, lighter bike needs heavier tougher lock).
That is so true! I was so excited to get this bicycle because it was made from aluminum and therefore shaved about five pounds off my last bike. Now I just carry the extra five pounds around on my Ulock. Very frustrating!
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Old 11-17-2013, 05:08 PM   #16
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My antique Motobecane, Proflex 352 and Schwinn bent-tube aren't very tempting, except for collectors but...
For something they can't ride away:

1/4 inch hole straight through the lower bracket, into the center of the crank.
Thread top of the hole
Drop Stainless Steel Socket Head Shoulder Screw with 8 point allen head in and turn.

Lock weight total 5 ounces w/key

or... in the city, use a Divvy
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Old 11-17-2013, 05:14 PM   #17
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The suggestions above, lock your bike in a well lit, populated area, next to more expensive bikes usually works.
I do this when I'm traveling on my motorcycle and stop at a motel. Both are cruisers and good rides. One is a Suzuki and the other a Kawasaki so no where near the cost of the Harleys that I park them next too.

I have also seen folks remove the seat as well as the front wheel. It's not much more inconvenient yet makes it more uncomfortable to ride.

Cheers!
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:49 AM   #18
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DW and I have expensive custom bikes. We often stop for lunch on long rides but try to keep the bikes in sight. They are locked with light cable chains that would prevent someone from a snatch and grab but not a cable cutter equipped thief. Around town I use bike shares -- no worry about theft with them. I would never leave anything but a truly cheap beater unattended outside regardless of chain type. Thieves will grab almost any bike.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:52 AM   #19
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I purchased a 1980 Schwinn Traveler step-thru (formerly known as a girls bike) at a used bike store for $100 which serves as my city bike. While I lock it, if it gets stolen, I will miss the old girl but I will be able to move on. With my upper end bikes, which I do ride for recreation (which usually means outside of high density city areas) , I do all I can to them in-sight. For example, if at a restaurant, I prefer to leave the bike against the window and get a table in view. If I can't do that, then I lock it where I can. So far, in over 20 years of biking, I nor my wife have had to experience a stolen bike.
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Old 11-18-2013, 08:56 AM   #20
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-Ride a crappy bike that no one would steal
Done...
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