Creative Deterrents


Yesterday, I had to bike to a less familiar area of town. I was unsure how safe the area was, and, once I locked up my lovely bike, I found it hard to walk away. Would it be there when I returned?

While I could ride a beater bike instead I get so much more enjoyment from riding a bike I love. So instead of getting a rusty tank of a bike I’ve been thinking of ways to make my pretty bike less attractive to thieves:


I think this will work great. At least until someone invents a bicycle cloaking device. And I don’t think that’s far off seeing as both me any my bicycle become immediately invisible to everyone the second I get on it. It’s just a matter of finding a way of making that happen when I’m done riding it too.


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  • Opus the Poet September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Having any kind of “deterrent” short of an explosive device in the seat will not prevent a determined thief from taking your bike, but good locks and parking in a visible location will stop the inept and casual bike thief.

  • Stephanie September 11, 2013   Reply →

    It’s probably overly optimistic on my part, but I like to think that making a bike look distinctive helps at least a little bit. Let’s see… would someone rather steal a stock build bike that looks like every other version sold in the last 3 years, or the one that you customized with fun colored grip tape, cable housing, etc, the one that 40 people in the bike community instantly recognize as yours? It won’t stop a bike from being dismantled for parts, but it makes it easier to spot and, I’d like to think that’s less tempting for thieves. Plus, pretty bar tape and housing is more fun than riding a beater.

    • Jeff C September 11, 2013  

      Sadly the most sophisticated bike thieves are organized to overcome this. They steal bikes in one city and then transport and sell them in another – nobody’s going to recognize your bike in NYC or Philly. :(

    • CPTJohnC September 13, 2013  

      I don’t dismiss your theory, but my most recent bike theft experience would indicate that it is not terribly effective. My bike was quite distinctive (and if I’m honest, none too attractive) when it was taken.

      Within 3-4 weeks, it appeared on CL essentially un-modified, complete with my goofy looking fender installation, unusual bar ends, and some other details that made it quite unique. The only thing that had been changed was removal of some little accessories like my pump and similarly re-sale-able items.

  • neil warner September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Off to the toy shop for a rubber snake to cover my cable lock with!

  • Sam September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Fortunately in here in Christchurch, New Zealand noone seems to be bothered about stealing bikes anymore. You used to see plenty of front wheels locked up in the 90’s (Rest of bike gone), but you don’t really hear about it anymore. I guess bikes arn’t as valuable. I hardly even carry a lock anymore.

  • surlyseabear September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Double up…I ride a big dummy (too heavy to carry off) and use a new york chain lock and cables and a ulock on the rear wheel…not theft proof, but a real pain to steal…I think that is the trick…Kryptonite New York Chain and Evolution Series-4 lock…I really like it…but super heavy.

  • summervillain September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Pinhead gives me so much more confidence!

    • David Pearce September 11, 2013  

      Thanks for the info! Who knew! Thank you!

  • InvisibleHand September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Get a folding bike!

    • David Pearce September 11, 2013  

      Indeed! I’ve got a highly optioned Brompton, and I always take inside, and never worry.

      Also, it’s its own shopping cart, as I fold it and style it around the local Trader Joe’s on its Easy-Wheeled rack!

  • anniebikes September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Double locks go a long ways to deter the casual thief. I had a thought. How about a trashy looking garbage bag flung over the bike. It would be easier to carry than the electrical voltage box!

  • Uncle Robot September 11, 2013   Reply →

    The best solution is camouflage – make the bike look like a wreck. Flat the tires, chain off, remove the seat, dust it with rust, smash it with a hammer.

    • Opus the Poet September 11, 2013  

      And that will get your lock or chain cut and the bike taken away as abandoned…

  • David Pearce September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Dear Bikeyface,

    Bike theft is such a shame–disgusting, actually. Bike thieves aren’t bicyclists, a real bicyclist would never steal another bicyclist’s ride.

    In my private country of Dontunderstan, the death penalty is reserved for only three crimes:

    1. Genocide, (the following said in the voice of Eeyore), “Well, alright, I guess that has to be first….”;

    2. Bike Thievery;

    3. Those miscreants who leave their bicycles out in the weather to rot and rust.

  • Quincyclist September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Whether it’s a car or a bicycle, I always take comfort in knowing that there are so many newer or less rusty ones out there that mine is low, low down the list of a thief. I seem to park in a crime-free around world Boston – I leave my seat bag packed with tools, my pump mounted on down tube, and decent head and tail lights mounted, and nothing has ever been pinched. I do, however, run a cable lock through my Brooks leather saddle knowing I paid for that nearly twice what my bike is worth. It’s also nice thinking all my bikes are of a vintage (Raleigh three-speeds) that the typical thief is not interested. I recall a friend who once owned a Porsche: We drove from my house the quarter mile to a public lot to unload shite to go sailing but he didn’t dare leave his baby there so he drove it back to my house and walked over. What’s the point of having a vehicle if you have to fret so?

  • Karl McCracken September 11, 2013   Reply →

    “Bicycle cloaking device”?

    I already have one of those. Trouble is, it keeps engaging while I’m cycling in traffic. Nothing else can account for drivers’ apparent inability to see me…

  • MT Cyclist September 11, 2013   Reply →

    I caught a guy red handed stealing the wheels off my bike a couple years ago. He got the rear wheel off but was too stupid to figure out the lawyer lips on the front fork. I cussed at him, called 911 and thus began a slow-speed chase through downtown. I stayed on the phone with dispatch while he ducked into a restaurant, got thrown out and finally holed up in a wrecked rental car. After the cops hauled him off, I started combing downtown looking for my missing wheel. A guy from a nearby quick lube apologized for lending the thief a pair of pliers that he used to cut my brake cable. Since then I’ve been much more careful with my bike-locking strategy. I love your ideas, but these days a good pirate is so hard to find. And the fake vomit? Genius.

  • Carl September 12, 2013   Reply →

    I’ve had beaters stolen as they were chained right next to shiny new racers. It’s just a matter of which one they can get the quickest. These thieves aren’t clever entrepreneurs maximizing their value proposition, they’re just stealing whatever they can.

  • San Diego Cyclist September 12, 2013   Reply →

    So I’m sitting harborside on a beautiful afternoon awaiting my wife’s arrival after work so we can catch the ferry for home when I glance up from my book to cathch a glimpse of what looks to be her bike glding by right in front of me. Sure enough. On second look it is her bike but it is not her atop the blue Specialized. Not thinking, just reacting I grab my bike and give chase for three or four blocks. At a stop light I came to a quick stop right in front of him, unclipped, placed a strong hand on her handlebars, looked the thief in the eye and said, “That’s my bike!” He offered up a paltry story aobut a friend asking him to pick up a bike that was just like this one. “No!” I said, “That’s my bike. You shouldn’t steal bikes!” Not sure if this is a good method but my wife sure thought I was a hero because when I met her with her bike in tow she said, “I could have anything I wanted.”

  • Matt the Mechanic September 23, 2013   Reply →

    I’m a big fan of the “sleeper” bike: a bike that looks (and may in fact be) old and beat up, but rides way nicer than its appearance would suggest. I also have the advantage of being tall and riding bikes that are hard for normal-sized folks to pedal away on 😉

  • dr2chase October 1, 2013   Reply →

    Weird bike, heavy bike, decent lock, tethered saddle, pitlocked stem and rear hub. Goal is to make it too hard for the amateurs, and obvious to the semi-pros that the bike would be a PITA to fence or part out.

    We did have a distinctive bike stolen — univega MTB tandem, customized with upright Albatross bars with bar-ends, and then some, and the police found it pretty quickly. In this case the thief was a local kid, because what idiot steals a low-value distinctively customized tandem?

  • Ed December 16, 2013   Reply →

    The local Fred Meyers in Portland Oregon have these smaller light poles.
    These smaller light poles fit the Master Lock Street Cuffs but fit very tightly up about 5’~6′ in the air.
    Lock cuff to bike, loosely place lock around pole, hoist bike as high as you can allowing for getting the key back in, cinch down the entire lock.
    Walk away smug realizing that while it isn’t technically more secure it is SOCIALLY more secure as the act of attempting to defeat the lock is in plain view of everyone and logistically a pain in the ass.

  • PF Duke April 24, 2014   Reply →

    Here’s the rare idea we should steal from the Chinese: in big Chinese cities, there are often bicycle parking lots which have an attendant 24/7. You pay $0.25 US or so to park your bike. Of course they are not always 100% reliable. And there’s tons of bike theft in China. And these lots are often full of old bikes which people have abandoned (simple commuter bikes are available in China new for $50 or less; I bought a perfectly good Giant commuter bike with fenders, shocks, a rear rack and front basket for under $200 US; a comparable bike in Los Angeles cost me $500). But it’s an idea.

  • R :) diger August 11, 2014   Reply →

    For those of you with some knowledge of German or French, you might want to read the Wikipedia-articles about “Fahrradcodierung” (German) or “Bicycode” (French).
    (rare occurence to find articles in two major languages but none in English!)

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