Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hal grades your bicycle locking skills

Elizabeth from posted this to Facebook today. Hal is a wrench at a popular Manhattan bike shop. He takes to the mean steets and criticizes bad bicycle locking jobs.

In short, he's looking for 3 things:

  1. Use a really sturdy chain and lock (not a cable) to secure your frame to a large, immovable object.
  2. Make sure both wheels are secured to the frame or to the immovable object with more than just the axle nuts or QR skewers.
  3. Make sure the seat is properly secured (again, with something more than the seatpost collar)
I usually don't worry about my seat when I park at work. I have a thick towing chain that I pass through both wheels and the rear triangle, then around the bike rack. If I'll only be in and out (like the grocery store) I'll often use a cable lock, but I'll pass it through both wheels, the frame and the seat rails before attaching it to the rack. In higher risk areas (such as when I was riding to a not-so-great part of downtown Kansas City, MO for my monthly check-in at the unemployment office), I use both techniques at the same time.

Hal's comment on quiet streets generally being safer is generally spot-on, but you could be asking for trouble if your lock-up spot is too secluded and you frequently lock up there for long periods of time. He also discusses the fact that locks only buy you time. As a security guy, I would say that it's more complicated than that, but not by much.
  • If someone really wants YOUR bike (because it's the most expensive one they came across, because they hate you, or because it's the only bike around), then locks only buy you time.
  • If someone just wants something easy to steal (including individual bike wheels, seats, etc) and yours is locked up better than the others in the area, thieves will usually choose the easier target.
It's not as big of a problem in Kansas City as it is in larger metro areas, but bicycles are generally a commodity on the street. A working bicycle can be traded for about $25-$50 in goods or services unilaterally on the black market. It doesn't matter if it's a discount-store Bike-Shaped-Object or a carbon fiber track bike. Generally speaking, though, thieves are willing to put a little more work (and risk) into making extra money out of nice bikes by parting them out and fencing them or by trying to sell them as if they're the owner, either in person or on sites like Craigslist.

I'd still like to know where Hybridzilla ended up. I checked all the pawn shops, all the online places and the local newspaper want ads. I like to think it found its way to someone that appreciates and rides it much as I did. It was purpose-built for getting around reliably.

Random Tunage:
Derek Howell - Frozen
Cascade - Escape


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I always figured that my Craigslist special was pretty safe, no one would want it. Then I read about Hybridzilla. Too bad. I wonder if biking thefts are reduced in the winter?

David Glandon said...

As goofy as Hal is, he is spot on when it comes to locking your bike.

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