Fear of bicycle theft keeps many people from taking their bikes to work, to the store, or in some cases anywhere at all. Here is some advice on how to keep it safe and what to do if unfortunately it does disappear.
Keep it safe
Let’s start with the fact that there is no fool proof way to prevent bike theft. True, some bike thieves are more technically savvy and battery operated power tools can cut most any lock, but these are not the majority of bike thieves. Follow the tips below and your favorite ride should be fine.
Get a good lock: The old adage “buy a $ 50.00 bike and a $ 100.00 lock” definitely applies. There is really 2 sides to this tip, firstly thieves will weigh the risk-benefit ratio when stealing a bike so if your bike is less appealing it will be less of a target. Secondly having a good quality U-lock is an absolute necessity. That said, not all U-locks are created equal, so check the quality carefully.
Beware of locks that have cylindrical keys as they can be opened easily with the barrel of a ball-point pen.
Park it in a secure area: Where you lock your bike can have a significant difference. Clearly if you lock it in an area where people are present it would appear to be safer. That said, some bold bike thieves have been known to take a bike right from under the noses of witnesses without even a glance, let alone a question of what they are doing. So the bottom line is you cannot necessarily depend on others to watch your bike.
If you can find a secure bike cage or locked area to put your bike inside, that would be your best choice. Some employers provide fenced compounds for their employees but if you are not lucky enough to have access to these here are some options:
The Winnipeg Parking Authority operates a “bike corral” at the Millennium Library Parkade. The cost is only $ 25.00 per year.
The Albert Street Parkade also has a bike cage. Contact Impark for details about membership and fees for the use of this facility.
Remember that you should still lock your bike even when inside a bike cage.
If you are not close to a bike cage/corral, pick an area with high foot traffic, well lit, and look around to see if there are any security cameras. Avoid dark or isolated locations where thieves can work without interruption.
Lock it right: You have a good lock and picked a good location, now you need to lock it properly. Let’s start with that solid U-lock. The U-lock can be used to lock the frame and one wheel to a solid object. Which wheel you lock will depend on the style of bike, where/what you are locking it to and whether you have quick release wheels. If only one of your wheels has a quick release it makes sense to try and lock that wheel and the frame, however if both wheels have quick releases you should also have a cable to loop through the other wheel and lock to the U-lock.
The other part of locking it right relates back to picking your location. Before you lock up make sure that the “solid object” you are securing your bike to is in fact “solid.” Sign posts can sometimes be uprooted easily or in some cases they are secured to a bracket that is set into the concrete, but can easily be loosened and removed.
Don’t forget your seat or other accessories: Many bikes come with a quick release on the seat post that allows you to move your seat up and down to accommodate other riders or riding conditions. It won’t be much fun riding home without a seat, so either secure the seat with another lock/cable or take it off (including the quick release lever) and take it with you. While you are at it you might as well take off any lights or other accessories that you value.
You could go high tech: New technology has made it possible to purchase hidden GPS trackers that can alert you if your bike is moved. They are still pretty pricey, but if you have an expensive bike it might be worth the expense. Here is an example.
Forgot your lock?
OK so you forgot your lock but you still need to make a quick stop. Here are a few tips to protect your bike from thieves:
Lock the rear wheel with your helmet: Wrap the straps of your helmet around your wheel and frame and secure the straps. Before someone can ride away with your bike they still have to fumble with your helmet and that hopefully will give you the time to get back to your bike.
Shift your gears: Before you stop, shift your gears to the big chain ring (front) and the big gear in the rear. Once you stop, shift your gears to the smaller chain ring and gear in the back (without pedaling). When someone gets on the bike to ride it away the gears will go crazy and the chain will likely drop off giving you time to get back to your bike before anyone can ride off with it.
Open the quick releases: If your have quick releases on your bike open them and loosen the wheels. By the time a thief realizes the problem you will be back at your bike and/or the thief may be lying on the ground.
Adjust the handlebars: Carry a mini tool with you and loosen off the stem of your bike handlebars. Twist them parallel to the bike frame and tighten them back up. If that isn’t enough you can always loosen your seat and turn it around backwards. That should be enough to confuse any would be thief.
Still got stolen?
So you took all the precautions and your bike still got stolen. Here are a few things that you should do both before and after a bike theft to improve the chances that you will get your bike back.
Know your serial number: Find the serial number on your bike and write it down. It is the one thing that will need to prove that your bike is yours. Keep a copy of it with you whenever you ride so that if you have to report your bike stolen you can do it immediately. Most of the time you will find it on the bottom of your bike frame under the bottom bracket (pedal cranks) although sometimes it can be on other areas of the frame.
Have photos of your bike: Photos can help to identify the bike as yours but also it will allow you to post pictures in ads, on social media, etc. This can help others including the police assist in finding your bike.
Register your bike. You can register your bike with the City of Winnipeg. Should it be picked up by the city’s Community Services Bicycle Recovery you would be contacted to get your bike back. You can also register your bike with a national bike registry call “Operation Hands Off” which adds an international traceability should your bike leave the city/province.
Regardless of whether you have registered your bike with the City of Winnipeg, report the loss immediately to Community Services Bicycle Recovery and call them regularly to see if your bike has been picked up.
Get the word out right away: As soon as you discover your bike is gone, let others know. This is where a picture helps. Ask them to spread the word to their contacts and through social media. Let your local bike groups/shops (Bike Winnipeg, community bike shops, commercial bike shops) know as well.
File a police report. Clearly filing a report will not put finding your bike on the top of police priorities, but it can’t hurt to make sure they are aware of the theft and have accurate information and a picture of your bike. In Winnipeg you can even do this on-line although you would not be able to submit a picture.