“‘I only left it in front of Wawa for like two seconds.’ That is the next thing people usually tell me after they tell me their bike was stolen.”
That’s how Joe Bonaparte of the Collingswood Bike Share opens his email to Patch about bike theft.
“As my friend Roland will tell you, if a professional bike thief wants your bike, he or she will get it,” Bonaparte writes.
In a world where thieves carry battery-powered saws, he says, “theft prevention is all about reducing the odds.”
“I have seen people steal the most uninteresting bikes, and in those cases it’s likely because the thief has been presented with an opportunity,” Bonaparte writes.
In fact, through the Bike Share, he tried to build a theft-proof bike for a friend—a two-wheeled monstrosity so garish in color that only a hardened or desperate criminal would abscond with it.
“But who wants to ride an ugly bike?” Bonaparte asks.
According to Corporal Tom Hartshaw of the Collingswood Police Department, the majority of bikes stolen in town “are not locked or secured in any way.” Even if they are secured, he says, when the theft is reported, there’s often no serial number on record for police to reference.
Hartshaw estimates that borough police probably have an inventory in excess of 120 bicycles—“found-property, flat-tire dumps,” he says—and not one has triggered a serial-number match in the system.
“We have trek bikes, high-end bicycles, and nobody takes the time to record the serial numbers,” Hartshaw says.
Here are a few tips for keeping yourself up on two wheels.
1. Any lock is better than no lock.
Unsecured bikes mean less work for thieves, Hartshaw says, and a lock means just the opposite.
“If you take the two seconds to lock your bike up, people are just going to go seek an unlocked bike,” Hartshaw says. “It’s the ones that are unsecured that appear to be the main target of the actors.
“Keep it simple, put a lock on there, and it increases your chances of keeping your bike,” he says.
Bonaparte says it’s “a rare occasion” where there isn’t “a great place” to lock a bike in Collingswood.
“But I would rather walk 50 feet than have my bike stolen,” he writes.
2. Use a U-lock, and secure your bike through the frame.
For PATCO Hi-Speedline commuters, or those who must leave their bicycles locked for long periods of time, Bonaparte recommends “a U-style lock or a heavy chain/lock combo.
“Make sure you lock the frame and not just the front wheel,” he writes.
3. Replace quick-release components.
Bonaparte recommends replacing quick-release components, like wheel skewers, with a hardware-store nut and bolt (and bringing the release along to check for sizing).
“If you don’t really have a need to remove your seat or wheels, I recommend replacing the quick releases [with hex key skewers],” Bonaparte writes.
“If you don’t want to replace the quick-releases, make sure you lock the component they are on.”
4. Record your bike serial number in the event of theft.
Record the serial number on your bicycle—located under the bottom crankshaft of the bicycle—and be as descriptive as possible in any modifications you make to the bike, Hartshaw says.
“That serial number really assists us,” he says. “If you don’t have the serial number, it minimizes your chances of recovering the bike.”