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Tag Archive: bike security

Friday Musings: 5 Signs You May Be a Paranoid Bike Commuter

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Hey there Bike Lovelies. It’s fall/autumn/friggin’-awesome season for commuting again! Has everyone sufficiently converted an office-mate to stick with bike commuting since the ye ole days of Bike To Work Week back in May? I hope none of you have decided that Spring and Summer are over, and fenders and rain slicks are just not your jam… But even if you are a fair-weather commuter, high five, my friends. High Frickin Five. I’m personally a big fan of the autumn season, as there are some days when you can ride up a big hill and still miraculously arrive at your destination sweat free and rain gear free. Gone are the hot hot days of summer. Bring on the apple cider themed drinks and galoshes.

Yellow Boots #cambridge #street #bikeride #bikes #ground #wet #rain #feet #boots #lowangle #2012 #downpour

photo: courtesy of David Bunting on flickr

So, enough of the rambling. And on to the musing. It’s been awhile since we’ve come up with a Friday Musings posts, but I decided to bring it back, because, well – there’s just no other explanation for why the hell this topic would be on the blog!

It all started with a recent realization that I may be a paranoid bike commuter. What the eff does that mean, you ask? I mean the kind of commuter that thinks that every living, breathing, opposable-thumb having soul is OUT TO GET YOUR RIDE. A group of visiting clients from Honolulu asked me, “So, is Seattle the type of place where people get their bikes stolen? Or no, because so many people ride bikes that no one would steal one?” I responded that I assume everyone ever wants to steal my bike from everywhere. But, honestly, I had no idea! (You can have a better idea, if you want to click on this link for bikewise.org, where people report thefts and crashes and they populate to a google map).

Then, I looked around at all the bikes parked at my office indoors, with keycard access only, at the bike lounge/loading dock area and realized that my bike had a very high lock-to-bike-value ratio compared to some of the other pickins’ in the corral. Take a looksies below…

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One cable lock, with helmet, panniers, and lights all up for the taking!

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Cannondale road bike tied up with a garden hose, lights, bike computer, saddle bag AND helmet – open season!

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Completely UNLOCKED Marin Hybrid. The equivalent of free-ballin. Just letting it all hang out there.

This was a huge leap of faith in my fellow office companions today, as I decided to leave my planet bike blinkie and front lights on the mount, instead of grabbing them and stowing away in a Golom/my precious, LOTR, creepy fashion. Trust in humanity was confirmed, when I returned 11 hours later, and my lights were still there. I’ve got to say, however, that I was still skeptical and kept a backup set of lights in my bag in case someone decided to get frisky.

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Cantaloupe, a clunker bike that’s no good for hills, U-lock on the back tire and frame, cable through the helmet straps and front wheel, and debating if someone might want my blinkie lights.

So, since I forkin’ love lists, I thought I’d write one for you.

5 Signs you may be a PARANOID Bike Commuter:

  1. No Accessories Left Behind
  2. U-Lock + Cable, Even Indoors
  3. You Lock Up for a Coffee Run/Mail Box Drop, Etc.
  4. You Think About Stealing Unlocked Bikes, Always
  5. You Get PTSD When You Think About That One Time  A Homeless Dude Stole Your Seat Post/Wheel/Etc.

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Lucky for me, there’s only been one time an unlocked (non quick release) wheel was stolen from my bike while at the movies. And I don’t act on my evil intentions of stealing unlocked bikes. And my crazy paranoid precautions have kept my bikes within my possession, regardless of how unnecessary they may seem. Any other Bike Commuters readers out there partake in other paranoid lock-up behavior? Or do you have more faith in humanity and the greater bike population? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Kickstarter Love: SHY-SPY | GPS/GSM Tracker For Bicycles

Hey Bike Commuting Ladies and Gents! As you know, the Bike Commuters staff are not about blasting you with Kickstarter bike-related paraphernalia, since gods know that there are fluffy piles of that out there in internet land… like bunnies in a pillow fight, yo. But once in a while, there comes a Kickstarter campaign that tickles our fancy. So we are throwing out some virtual Kickstarter Love for the SHY-SPY GPS/GSM Tracker for Bicycles.

Stealing bikes is mean, but real.

Short of bringing your bike indoors with you on a leash at all times (“What, you’ve heard of guide dogs for the visually impaired? This is my guide bike, and I’m car impaired, okay?“) there comes a time in every bike commuter’s life when they have to address security. Bike theft is a problem in all cities and neighborhoods, despite the cycle-owner’s best efforts. Cycle gators, in an effort to protect their bike offspring, may go so far as to register in free city-wide systems, implant smart locks, or OnStar the hell out of your ride.

What? Guide Dogs and Bikes… obvious combination.

So what’s so special about the SHY-SPY? Yet another GPS tracker for your bike… you Cycle Cynics may say, as you virtually (or literally) roll your eyes at this post. Well, let me let them tell you (because copying and pasting is way easier than reading comprehension ;):

When it comes to keeping track of our cycling activity, there are a large variety of choices:

  • Inexpensive Cycle computers: to record the distance, speed, total travel time, but no geolocation data.
  • GPS trackers: There are a lot of GPS trackers out there, in form of wearable watches, or mountable on your stem or handlebars. Professional models could have many additional functions such as power meter, heart rate and cadence sensors; And yeah… they cost a fortune. So you have to protect it as well; Mount it when you ride and take it away when you leave the bike unattended.
  • Smartphones: Using our cellphone  along with popular sport tracking apps such as Endomondo, Strava and Sportstracker is another convenient choice; There is a compromise though and it’s the risk of running out of battery on your mobile phone when you need it the most.
  • With SHYSPY however, you always have a tracker with your bike; The  long battery life of 30 hours, lets you track all the activities with no concern of any kind. Using the SHYSPY app you could monitor you activity and/or download it in GPX standard format to be later uploaded manually to major sport tracker platforms such as: EndomondoStrava and Sportstracker, so you could compare your data with other members and socialize your cycling experience.

SHY-SPY GSM is our low cost alternative to GPS tracking.

Get inside my seat tube any day, SHY-SPY!

What Mir.I.Am loves about this idea:

  1. Welcome to 2014, people: Mir just got texting, so a GPS tracker that can text me the location of my bike sounds pretty nifty and high-tech.
  2. The SHY-SPY can mount  inside your seat tube, for incognito theft-tracking action.
  3. I’m not so interested in tracking my cycling “performance” while commuting, by I am interested in making my life more like any episode of Get Smart.

Click here for the full SHY-SPY Kickstarter details, non Cycle Cynics and skeptics. Enjoy your week and keep your ride safe, however you can!

Review: Two bike locks from Masterlock

A couple months ago, Masterlock offered to send two of their bike locks to us for testing and review. We chose a U-lock and a cable lock, and received the 8170D Force U-Lock and the 8220D Cable lock.

We told the folks at Masterlock that we didn’t have a “bait bike” to really test these locks out with, but that we would engage in a bit of destructive testing, where applicable. They were cool with that. More on that in a bit.

First, the cable lock:

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From the manufacturer’s website:

–Set-your-own password combination cable
–Use letters to create a memorable word combination
–Easy to set & reset
–6′ (1.8m) long x 3/8″ (10mm) diameter braided steel cable for strong cut resistance
–Protective vinyl coating helps prevent scratching
–Mounting bracket included for easy transportation

This lock is perfect for quick, low-crime lockups — as you may know, cables aren’t particularly resistant to cutting and are usually recommended for times when a bike will be unattended for a short time (quick trips into the store, or as a backup for another lock). What’s novel about the 8220D is its use of user-resettable word codes rather than numbers. I had a bit of fun coming up with odd words; my favorite being “STASI” (Cold War-era East German Secret Police).

The lock comes with a carrier bracket for mounting to your bike’s frame or seatpost. My seatpost is clogged with stuff, so I went for a frame mounting. The bracket has a push-button quick release and a corresponding “cleat” on the cable itself to stow the cable for travel.

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The carrier bracket seems a little chintzy (as do the lock brackets from most brands ), but the cable itself is lightweight. The bracket should be able to withstand this sort of weight. If you choose not to use the bracket, the cable coils up into a neat package for storage in your panniers or backpack.

As this is a cable, there was no point in attacking it with tools. I’ve seen (and experienced) much stouter cables cut with simple hand tools. Again, think of cable locks as a low-crime “quickie” or a backup to a beefier lock, and you’ll be fine.

Next up is the Force U-Lock:

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Specs from the manufacturer:

–Fusion U-lock
–Hardened steel body resists cutting, sawing and prying.
–Double locking shackle for superior pry resistance.
–Disc key for superior pick resistance.
–Vinyl coating for weather and scratch resistance.
–Carrier bracket included for convenient storage.

On paper, the 8170D seems like a good enough lock: good keyway type (disc rather than tubular) and the features one would expect from a sturdy bike lock. In practice, however, this one is perhaps not so tough. The first alarm bell was “hey, no anti-theft guarantee?” Surely, not all locks come with such a guarantee, but that guarantee has become the industry hallmark for a tough lock, and the lack of it should tell you something about the quality of any given lock.

Size-wise, the body is wide enough to swallow the front wheel, the frame and a secure post. Remember that the more space you take up within the U, the less room a thief’s prying tools have to work with.

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The mounting bracket, as may be expected, was fairly useless. I’ve never seen a serious cyclist use one, as most of them lack security over bumps or are made of flimsy materials. The included bracket here was no exception; it hogged a lot of frame space and comes with a cheap metal cam to secure the lock within the bracket’s body. I bent the cam lever the first time I used it and still couldn’t get the U-lock securely into its slot. Do yourself a favor: just bungee the lock to your rear rack, toss it into your pannier, or do as I do and leave a U-lock at all your common lockup points (I’ve got U-locks scattered all over the city).

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Now, onto “destructive testing”. I’ve got a sizeable tool collection, and what I was going to try with this lock was a series of tests, starting with bolt cutters, then a hacksaw, then a prying tool or bottle jack, and finally an electric cutoff wheel. First up: 24″ bolt cutters with a jaw capacity of 10mm.

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Let’s get something clear right up front — many of you know that I am not a particularly large or muscular person. At my heaviest, I weigh somewhere under 150 pounds. Well, it came as a shock, then, when I applied a bit of force to the handles of my bolt cutters, I could feel the jaws digging right into the steel of the U-bar! I peeled off some of the vinyl coating and discovered two clear indentation in the steel. I moved my tool over to the other side of the shackle, braced one cutter handle against the ground and pumped a couple times with about 50% of my body weight. SNAP! The jaws clamped shut onto empty space!

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At this point, the lock was defeated; so rather than trying the other tools, I called it a day.

Let’s be clear about another important point: ANY lock can be defeated given enough time and and arsenal of tools. The toughest lock on Earth is no match to an electric cutoff wheel…but in my humble opinion, a U-lock should be able to withstand a fairly casual application of bolt cutters. Let’s say, then, that this Masterlock U should only be used for “moderate security”…perhaps where there is nosy foot traffic near the lockup point, or a lowish-crime area. This is NOT an overnighter’s lock, in other words.

Retail price for each lock is right around $16.00. That’s pretty cheap! Are there better locks on the market? Of course — in the lock world, you do get what you pay for. Both of these locks are suitable for casual, quick lockups…but neither lock would I trust to secure my prized bikes overnight or in high-crime areas.

Not sold on these models, but are a fan of the brand itself? Have no fear: Masterlock does have a number of other locks in its stable, including stout ones with sizeable anti-theft guarantees. Check out the rest of their lineup by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.