In June, after getting by without a bike at school for almost two years, I purchased the above beauty from a local mechanic up in Woonsocket, RI. Affectionately dubbed Big Red, this bike has revolutionized my life off-campus (I can't walk to campus from my house and back anymore because it feels like I'm wading through molasses in comparison).
Living in a quasi-urban area, though, I have been very aware of the risk of theft in my neighborhood. One of my buddy's bike's was swiped from his backyard just around the corner from my house. One of the subletters living in my house this summer had his bike lifted from the side of our house one night in July. A bike is not only an investment, it's also an expression of personal pride, so it hurts more than just your wallet when it disappears.
Though I've never had my own bike (or pieces of it) stolen, I can sympathize with those who have. The fall semester of my sophomore year I emerged from my residence hall and hooked around the corner of the building to where I had locked my bike to the first-floor window grate (a product of not having enough bike racks on campus, at least near my dorm). To my dismay I found my bike in ruins - the rear wheel was completely bent and the frame was distorted and buckled. What I had initially thought was the product of drunken vandalism, I soon learned was caused by something far more unusual. The next morning I noticed a pink note from Facilities Management attached to the handlebars which read something along the lines of: "Hit your bike while mowing the Main Green. Contact so-and-so for more information." Yes my bike had been run over by a lawn mower and was damaged beyond repair.
So quirky accidents aside, how can you protect your bicycle? A lock is surely a start, but how you lock your bike can be just as important as locking it in the first place. Streetfilms and longtime NYC bike mechanic Hal Ruzal produced a series of tutorial videos in which he grades the locking jobs of bicycles left on the street. I've included the last of three below.
Hal is quite the character:
Bicycle thievery, like any form of crime, somewhat depends on where you live. I don't think you'd need the same level of bike security in Providence as Hal prescribes for NYC, but proper bike-locking etiquette can't hurt, right? On the other side of the locking spectrum, when I visited my brother Asa at the Aspen Music Festival this summer in Colorado, there were bikes left downtown completely unlocked and unattended. Asa would also routinely "borrow" other students' bikes from the music school campus if he had left his in town. The key may be knowing your local bike thievery patterns and planning accordingly, or even using a little more security than you think you need to thwart that extra ambitious bike-jacker that comes along every now and then.
One of the most interesting points I think Hal makes is in his first tutorial (if you're interested, watch it here). He says, "Locking your bicycle, a lot of times you are just buying time, and that's important. If you put enough locks on your bike, where even if they're not the most secure locks, it just takes a thief too long and he'll give up and go on to the next bike." Anyone can cut through a lock with the proper equipment. It's just a matter of how long they feel comfortable sitting out in the open with a pair of bolt cutters or a small handheld saw. More (better quality) locks = more time = less likely to be stolen. Because of this, it's always a good idea to keep your bike inside overnight if possible, and avoid leaving your bike always locked in the same location where someone can scope out their grand theft velo.
So if you're concerned for the safety of your favorite bicycle, and if you take nothing else away from this post, remember these three important words...