Monday, March 25, 2013

Keeping It Safe

Maybe I have had a false sense of security, but until recently I haven’t invested much time in researching the best ways to keep my bike safe when it’s parked and out of my sight. Where I was formerly employed I locked my bike to a “No Parking” sign in full view of someone in an adjoining office. A vinyl coated cable and brass marine lock seemed all that was needed and I thought little of the possibility of someone taking the bike. When I made the move to a bicycle lifestyle and started riding the Schwinn fulltime I purchased a pair of Nashbar Euro Compact Panniers. They are difficult to hang and to remove making theft a little less likely, so I never gave much thought to their safety, either. When I began riding the Safari my attitude began to change.

I accept the truth of the assertion that a determined thief can overcome any system used to secure a bike. Making the task as hard and time consuming as possible is one way to minimize the chances of losing your bike. By any standards my current approach falls short. For each bike I create obstacles, but not sufficiently difficult to overcome under anything but idea conditions for me.

My aged Schwinn is unlikely to be a first choice for a thief. It is looks its age because of the myriad of nicks it has acquired and fading of its logo appliqués. Unless the potential thief is bike-savvy and looking for an ancient hardtail or understands bike accessories its tires and fenders will mean little. Only the FrankenBrooks saddle might seem to have tangible value, but it is modestly protected by a thin cable and combination lock. My sense is that for trips to my busy, nearby grocery store the bright yellow vinyl encased cable and brass lock is sufficient. No longer do I carry panniers, having replaced with my Burley Travoy, so it just a matter of securing the bike and shopping.

Before I set off on my tour I invested a modest sum and purchased a Kryptonite chain and integral lock. I probably had little to worry about in the campgrounds where I stopped, but I felt more comfortable with the chain that I would have with my vintage vinyl covered cable. Since I removed all the panniers and handlebar bag each night and kept them in the tent with me security of those items was a non-problem, too. While the Kryptonite is heavy, weight was (and is) a non-factor compared to loss of the Safari. My current security solutions are make-shift while meeting requirements I think are important, but I think something more focused is necessary.

I once knew a burglar who asserted with a pretty good credentials (for a thief) that time of exposure was critical if he wanted to steal something. he calculated exposure by  considering accessibility. If something was difficult to take because of security measures or problems in getting to it the item was less likely to be taken, lacking a value worth a higher risk. With that in mind, I have read innumerable reviews of locks and chains and cables and cuffs and whatever-else-passes-for-bicycle-security. There is general agreement that a dedicated thief can take anything, given enough time and that is just about the only single point of agreement.

Venerable vinyl covered cable

In the very near future I will replace my vinyl covered cable with another chain from a name-brand manufacturer. I’m opting for chains over U-Locks because of the difficulty U-Locks create in mounting them when not in use and their lack of flexibility in encircling many readily available securing points. Chains require use of heavy duty bolt cutters or powered grinding wheels which would be less likely in the hands of someone engaging in thefts of opportunity. I am willing to take that much chance in security circumstances common to my lifestyle.

I can employ secondary security on the Safari’s Ortlieb panniers and handlebar bag when necessary. Among my secondary measures is a BikeClub which I used for my front panniers before buying the Travoy. It resides in one of the Front Rollers for that single purpose. A Knog Party Frank takes care of Back Roller security. Admittedly, neither the Party Frank nor the thin cables attached to the Ortlieb Front and Back Rollers are going to thwart a determined thief carrying cutters. The idea is to limit exposure, so I seldom carry panniers except for touring. Ortlieb provides a locking mechanism for their handlebar bag which is enough to discourage theft of opportunity.

Party Frank and Pannier Security Cables

Kryptonite in Repose
With a chain for the Schwinn and the vinyl covered cable as a secondary measure I expect it to be as safe as it needs here. In a major city with dedicated bike thieves I know something more would be needed., but even the most secure locks may not be enough. An acquaintance, while in Brooklyn, had his bike stolen by having the frame cut. “Fuhgedaboudit”. Someone wants it badly enough, they’ll take it.

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