Pity The Fool Who Steals Bikes

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Vrabel (he is cycling from Scotland to Rome later in the year – see below and his fledgling blog) emailed me with the following questions;

I wanted to ask you a general question, or maybe just need your opinion. Iโ€™m thinking of my cycling trip, the things that I need to buy and just a bit worried about bicycle theft and/or equipment theft. What kind of locks do you recommend, and would you recommend more than one? I know itโ€™s impossible for a solo touring cycler to monitor his equipment 24/7, especially when going into restaurants, grocery stores and tourist attractions. I guess anyone can steal anything at any time but Iโ€™m just wondering if you have had any negative experiences with this or heard of any? I just thought this was a good topic to reflect on. Hopefully we will both be free from theft on our future trips.

This is a massive topic to think about let alone to write about. And I have yet to decide how I will keep my bike and chattels (I explained that word to one of my teenage students this week and she went off using it in every sentence!) safe and secure. The traditional accepted method of keeping a bike as secure as you can is to use a D-Lock with a second cable-type lock to secure the back wheel and saddle (if they have easy release levers). The problem with touring is, I suppose, the weight of the D-Lock. I’ve just weighed mine and it is exactly 1kg. That is almost as heavy as the tent which weighs in at 1.2kg. (Although in the great scheme of things, including the weight of the cyclist, 1kg is still small fry!). When I saw Mark Beaumont on his lecture tour, I was surprised to hear that he never locked his bike but I suppose for much of his time he was in very unpopulated places. A Google search takes me to this interesting article which says much that has to be said on the subject, including the following advice about camping and cyclingย that I have heard before but not in such detail;

One effective technique weโ€™ve seen is to get a length of fishing line and attach several bells to it. Once your tent is set up, run the line around your tent using nearby trees and bushes, at about knee-height. The idea is that if anyone comes during the night and tries to approach your tent, they will trip over the wire and fall, causing lots of commotion and ringing bells and alerting you to the problem. Hopefully they will be disoriented and shaken enough to run away! The downside is that the bells can also shake in the wind or if an animal passes by, which might unnecessarily startle you.

Apart from security, the whole site looks very useful. Run by a cycling couple, this is how they introduce themselves;ย ย Weโ€™re Friedel & Andrew and weโ€™ve ridden our bicycles over 50,000km, though 31 countries. This site is all about inspiring and helping you to get out and travel by bike as well. Bookmark! I’ll add it to my useful website lists below.


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2 replies »

  1. Just put an immobitag down the seatpost of my new titanium tourer. I know for certain that this will not prevent theft but it just may mean that if the rozzers nick the offending scroats in time then maybe, just maybe I might get a call and my bike back. To insure the bike for a year is ยฃ270!!! thats more than the family car!
    On tour (so far touch wood) I have had no problems with security. Cable lock to a tree or stout fence near the tent.
    Mark Beaumont in his book mentions that a cable lock through the frame to the pannier he uses as a pillow. But this was never tested by any theif and if someone wants your stuff bad enough then are you going to stop them?
    I think the lack of fashion of a touring bike with funny pedals is enough to deter most would be theives. Take the seat post to bed. it’s hard to ride without one.

  2. The Mr. T graffitti was a hoot! I like the bell idea, although I can just imagine the scenerio where some official approaches my tent with a warning, where then he trips and falls and fines me double haha

    I’m still bringing two locks though, one U lock and a cable one for the back wheel…it’s hard to believe someone would not steal a bike unlocked! but i’m still more worried about my camping equipment. One would assume that a passerby wouldn’t be out for a tent and sleeping bag but you never know!

What do you think?