"Damn, where's my bike?!"
Bicycle thievery abounds, evidence of it surrounds, lonely front wheels soundly locked while the rest of the bike is spirited away, bare bike frames picked clean of every component. From the misfortune of others we can learn to park without being quite so generous to bike thieves. Their methods vary but some knowledge of them will help to avoid bereavement. A long metal bar can offer enough leverage to pop open many budget D locks, while smallish bolt cutters can deal with chain or cables, both techniques requiring bulky equipment and space to use them. Opportunists watch for bikes locked to themselves only or to street furniture that's dismantlable (street signs that may be unbolted and the lock and bike slid over and off). They can have your bike away while you're tying your shoe lace or replying to their accomplices' question. Although crafty and quick, they rely on our mistakes and can be deterred. Professional thieves are a different breed, choosing quality over glamour in their prey - the expensive touring bike not the cheap mtb with the explosive paint job. A pro may use a van equipped with power tools and have an entire bike stand away in minutes. Many bikes are the inspiration for house breaking and this is just as likely to be the fate of a quality bike as street crime. High on the list of incident black spots are shared hallways - the guy upstairs with dreadful taste in music might not be as paraniod about closing the front door on your bike as you are. Just leaving your bike in the back in the garden doesn't stop the athletic thief moving mountains to get at it.
You have the new lock but where's safest place to lock up near your regular haunts? Unfortunately all those lovely bike racks supplied by the council, Railtrack or Tescos have great appeal to the dark forces of bike thievery, it's quite possible to methodically strip a bike of desired equipment whilst appearing to be innocently adjusting the saddle height. Hiding the bike in dark out of the way places obviously isn't the answer either, so where can we lock up with any peace of mind? The depressing answer is nowhere; bikes go from the back of police stations and locked offices and factories. One suggestion, although not risk free, does limit the capability of opportunist and pro alike. The restriction of pedestrians in our city brings miles of roadside railings and many major roads have a central reservation and railings. If these can be reached relatively safely they make excellent bike stands. Great care obviously needs to be taken in the midst of traffic and bikes need to be secure enough not to fall into the lane. Local ne'r do wells have informed us that if a bike can be pulled away from the railing while still locked, the frame can be used as a lever and twisted to break the lock. Lorries mount pavements with disastrous consequences not least the risk of a flattened wheel due to careless parking, so this strategy needs thoughtfulness if not a little courage. The upside is that a thief is obvious in the exposed position, at great risk if attempting to force a lock with bulky tools, and the pro is deterred if they cannot park their vehicle close by.
So your bike is secured with the very best D-lock/cable, it's parked in a bright and busy environment that thieves find difficult to access, but what does the bike look like? Out of your collection of bikes is it the one that suits the demands of this particular journey? Many cyclists simply never carry a lock as their bike is far too dear to them to leave in the rain let alone to the interests of the nosy, if not mischievous. This philosophy dictates a bike friendliness not often witnessed in businesses and public institutions, afterall it's hard enough to find bike shops willing to let you and your bike in (you can bring your bike into our shop). Cloaking devices can and do prevent theft. Wrap your bike in tape, cover it in stickers, personalise it, it's by far easier to make a working bike look unappealing than a cheap unattractive bike work well.
Insure your bike. It just makes sense. More new cars are stolen every year than new bicycles but it doesn't stop people driving - they're insured so they just buy another vehicle. Maybe we have something to learn from our sardine-tin-bound chums... If you have home contents insurance, check whether it covers your bicycle – make sure they know how much your bicycle cost, and ensure that the policy allows you to choose a replacement, rather than having the 'bike-in-a-box' joke played on you. Whichever insurer you choose, make sure your policy allows you to get your replacement from the shop of your choice (you may have to specify). Otherwise the insurer will shop around for a discount and you'll miss out on having your replacement bike assembled by your favourite greasemonkeys, along with whatever ancillary benefits your favourite shop may offer with bike purchases. With that in mind, we recommend specialist insurance such as Cycleguard. Also, the Cyclists Touring Club and the London Cycling Campaign offer good deals on insurance for members.