Avoiding Bike Theft

Bicycle theft is rampant in many urban neighborhoods, and Orlando certainly has its share of the problem. Many people refrain from buying a new bicycle, or settle for one that isn't as nice as they would like, for fear it will get stolen. The fear is certainly legitimate, but there are several things you can do to make your bicycle a less likely target.

Know the difference between locks. There are cable or chain locks, armored cables, U-locks, and hardened steel chains. If your bike is worth anything to you, never rely on a simple cable or chain and padlock to secure it. Those types of locks are useful only for securing wheels or accessories on your bike. If you leave your bike unattended anywhere, make sure you have a good quality U-lock.

Many customers come in asking for a Kryptonite lock the way you might ask for a Kleenex. There are many brands of U-locks, and even within the Kryptonite brand, there are several variations and levels of security. A $30 U-lock, Kryptonite of not, is an entry-level lock. If used correctly, it provides a moderate level of security, and is suitable for less expensive bicycles, or areas where security is not a major concern.

Kryptonite also makes a line of Evolution locks, which are well worth the extra expense. On casual observation, it looks like a standard U-lock. But it is made of a higher grade of steel, which is less brittle, cannot be cracked, hacked or pried open, and gums up a blade of a power saw. It is really very difficult to break, (we know, because we are sometimes called on to do it when the bike owner has lost his or her keys). Evolution locks are a good choice for more expensive bicycles, or for any bike that gets left out for prolonged periods, where the owner cannot see it.

Other Kryptonite locks, such as New York, New York Chain and Fahgettaboudit, are even more expensive, but offer the highest level of security. The chains work well on hard to lock bicycles, such as recumbent or full-suspension mountain bikes.

Learn to lock you bicycle properly. Most bikes are stolen not because of a broken lock, but because the bicycle was locked improperly or not at all. Lock your bicycle each and every time you leave it unattended, even for a short time. Remember that your bicycle is not only a desirable, resalable object, but it also provides a way for the thief to get away. In the time is takes you to, say run into a corner store for a soda, the thief could be a block away on your bicycle, and you will never catch him on foot.

To lock you bicycle correctly, first select a solid object to lock it to. A city bike rack or a parking meter work well. (If you are using a chain-type lock, make sure it is wrapped tightly enough so it won't slip over the top of the meter.) Avoid chain link fences, wooden porch supports, thin trees, or anything that looks like it can be cut. Street signs are a poor choice as well, since they can be unbolted and pulled out of the ground.

You will need to secure the frame and both wheels of your bicycle, even if you don't have quick-release wheels. Many people lock the frame and the front wheel, assuming that the rear wheel is harder to remove. Not true. Rear wheels are stolen more often than the front, simply because they are not locked. On a typical multi-speed bicycle, a front wheel may cost $100 to replace, but a rear wheel will cost at least $60-70 more, first, because rear wheels cost more, and because  you will also have to replace the cassette (the set of cogs) as well. For bikes with more premium equipment, the cost will be even higher.

I recommend that you get a good quality U-lock, big enough to go around the rear part of your bicycle and the back wheel. If you have a quick-release front wheel, remove it and secure it together with the back part of your bike. If you have a bolt-on front wheel, or if you prefer not to remove your wheel every time, put a cable through the front wheel and loop the ends through the U-lock. Yes, a cable can be cut, but it is less likely that a thief will go through the trouble just for the wheel, especially if a bicycle next to yours has an unsecured front wheel. Some people opt for two U-locks, which can be cumbersome, but is quite secure.

You can also opt for a mini-shackle Evolution lock, which is about the size of your hand, and purchase a set of lockable wheels skewers to replace the quick-release ones. This option is quite expensive (well over $100), but it is very convenient, as it allows you to use a very compact lock, and simply lock your frame.

Whatever locking system you choose, never lock your bike by just the wheel, handlebars, seat post, or any other part that can be cut or removed. And never, ever buy any bicycle which you suspect to be stolen. Nothing encourages thieves more than knowing there is a market for their goods.