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, 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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  1. Idaho Spud

    If anything, I probably err on the “not paranoid enough” side.

    I have an office lockup that’s essentially identical to yours… keycard access only, and only to other riders on the office registry. But, the gas-operated door closes quite slowly, and I s’pose somebody could sneak in. I leave my lights, bucket, etc., with the bike, and use a simple chain lock around the frame and rear wheel. I’ve not been pillaged. (Back before the protected lockup was available, I once had my accessories swiped – frame pump, tire repair bag, water bottle.)

    But when I run to the grocery store for a targeted item and rationalize I’ll be back in 5 minutes, I too frequently just lean my bike against the wall. So far I’ve been fortunate, but I need to face the reality that I could learn a very harsh lesson with my caution-to-the-wind practices. (I’ve had 3 bikes stolen… but that’s over lots of years.)

    The bike lives indoors at home – unlocked. The “beater” bike is cabled to an iron stair railing, outside, underneath a patio cover.

    (These days, I get MORE paranoid about motorists coming up behind me… wondering if they’re paying attention to the road, or the far-too-common practice of fiddling with their handheld electronic gizmo instead.)

  2. john h

    Psycho-paranoid, but never #4. The karma on that would be a total bitch.

  3. Em | the pig & quill

    Bwahahaha, no one wants to ride a seatless bike with their post up their bum! Lock it up! Lock it alllllll up!

  4. Mir.I.Am

    @Idaho – that is a different kind of paranoid than the one I was referencing, but I do suffer the “every moment could be my last” feeling, even as I’m in the protected bike lane! I think that any door could open at any moment and send me flying. Lucky for me, no such flying has happened yet!
    @John – So true. I have never actually stolen a bike, but I’m always amazed at people who leave their stuff unlocked AND outside. Asheville, NC was an eye-opener for me because it happens EVERYWHERE in downtown, so many unlocked bikes… crazy!

  5. Abby

    I’ll give myself 3 stars on the 5 stars of paranoia scale.

    Garden hose?!? For serious?!?!

  6. Bob

    I wouldn’t call myself paranoid, but I do lock up my bike when at home in the garage. That’s simply because I’ve had a bike stolen out of my garage before and I’ve paid too much for this bike to see it go missing. My neighborhood has a lot of transient folks passing through. My wife is pretty sure that she’s seen a “street person” riding my old bike a couple times over the last couple of years since it disappeared. My city isn’t much of a biking community, so I lock it up everywhere outside simply because I love my bike and would be devastated if it went missing.


    Oh man @Abby – a bit of hyperbole on the garden hose. It’s a coiled cable lock. But really… Snip snip on the garden hose and that cannondale will be set free!

    @Bob – my friend has the most incredible James Bond-esque stolen bike retrieval from a “street person” that nabbed his ride. It involved a public confrontation, car chasing to catch up with a bus, and a confession. In the end, it’s always best to lock it up!

  8. Raiyn

    5 for 5 here. However, my bell stays on. $5 vs the PITA of uninstalling the bell? Yeah, I’ll take that risk.

    If I was a less-than-honest type, I’d never have buy bike parts again. On the other hand, the folks with the less secure bikes make much easier targets than my well-locked ride.

    I’m reminded of an old joke:
    So, there are these two guys camping in the woods. Late one night they are woken by a noise outside their tent. The first camper peeks outside the tent to see a large bear sifting through their supplies. With horror he turns to his fellow camper and explains the situation. Obviously the bear is hungry, and once it is finished with the supplies it will surely turn on the two campers.

    “What are we going to do?” asks the second camper.

    “We can make a run for the car.” whispers the first camper.

    With that the second camper begins to put on his running shoes.

    “What are you doing?” whispers the first camper frantically “You can’t outrun a bear!”

    “I know,” replies the second camper, “I don’t have to outrun the bear – I just have to outrun you.”

  9. Tedplayer

    I’m guilty of all 5. I use a serious lock because my last bike was stolen right outside the security office’s door. My seat is cabled to the bike. I always take my accessories (someone even took a $2 bungee I left behind). And yes, although I would never do it, I fantasize about stealing every unlocked bike just as a life lesson.

  10. plh

    1 & 3. Half of 2, that is, the cable. To my sorrow: cable cut last week & my nice hybrid gone! 😣

  11. RLS

    Number 3. I lock my bike up with a cable lock when I go to stores on short runs of only a few minutes. I wouldn’t want my bike to be stolen. Commuting on my bike is an essential part of my day.

  12. Raiyn

    @ plh & RLS
    Forgive me, but this sort of thing just drives me nuts. Cable locks are NOT a primary lock. It would go a long way towards helping some of us deal with #4 if people would just bloody well learn that.
    The two top dogs in the bike lock market, Kryptonite & Onguard don’t offer any sort of anti-theft guarantee on their cable locks. This includes Onguard’s rather impressive and expensive armored Rottweiler series.
    These companies, Kryptonite in particular, have earned my respect so I’m not just picking on them. However, the fact that they don’t extend their anti-theft guarantee to their cables should tell you something.
    Invest in a proper U-lock (personally I’m a fan of Kryptonite’s Evolution 4 series) and learn to use it properly or be prepared to to buy a new bike as well as the lock you should have bought the first time. Unless of course, you want to be the slow camper.
    More, including how-to links (in my comments):

  13. Mir.I.Am

    @plh – uh oh, looks like someone may be up for #5 – PTSD over the stolen hybrid!

  14. Biking Viking

    I live in NYC and my office doesn’t have a storage space, so I lock up my bike outside. I lock up my bike with a Kryptonite Fuhgeddaboutit, my seat is chained to the frame, and my wheels are secured with Pinhead security pins. I’ll leave water bottles on the bike, but everything else, computer, lights, etc, gets taken with me. Luckily the only major thing I ever had stolen was my rear wheel, and that was before the security pins and I forgot to lock up that wheel that day. My bell has survived a couple months, but it’s also got one of those screwing mounts that would take a while to remove.

    It was really weird when I went bike touring in Iceland this past summer and didn’t have to worry about locking my bike up ever. The paranoia never really went away.

  15. Mark

    Subscribing to the school of “lock your bike next to a more tempting target,” I don’t see why you’d so thoroughly lock up a bike in an office environment. Certainly there are more valuable laptops nearby that would get stolen first. Heck, leave a honeypot laptop/tablet nearby if you want to catch a thief even if there aren’t any bikes around.

    A variation on #4 is that you think of how to steal any given locked-up bicycle. This makes you aware of the effectiveness of various locking and theft strategies:
    Is the bike not locked to anything solid?
    Is only a wheel locked down?
    Can the post/fence/whatever the bike is locked to be broken quicker and easier than the lock?
    Is it a secluded location that gives you time to break the lock or strip the bike?
    How attractive is the bike? Can it be sold easily?
    How unique is it?
    How quickly can you make a getaway on it?
    How much would you stand out carrying/walking/riding the bike away? Etcetera.

    Now, look at your own bike in the same light. How would you change things to make it less likely to be stolen? Make it ugly? Bolt things on? Put on cheaper components? Where would you stop?

  16. m_freddie

    Went for a beer a couple weeks ago for friends bday. Some kids tried to evade my kryptonite u-lock by smashing the pins. they failed thank god and the lock still works but got the head lamp and my spare tire tube. seriously who steels a spare tire tube? you can’t hardly sell that for anything. left my helmet, bell and rear light. i guess the moral is if your accessories aren’t hipster no one in LA wants them. respect the bell.

  17. Mike

    Well that confirms I’m a paranoid biker because I can relate to all 5, although I never think about stealing someone else’s bike. I just think they’re crazy for leaving their bikes unprotected, even if it is just for a minute or so. People will steal anything these days, and they certainly don’t need an invitation to do so.

  18. James

    Number 5! Am I being too paranoid? :O

  19. Swerseavers

    I’ve been cycling for about a year and a half and I love it! The tips for getting started with cycling are all great suggestions and I would also recommend riding on bike paths when starting out without the interference of cars before hitting the road. Learn how to shift, start, stop and turn comfortably before riding on the streets — especially if using clipless pedals.
    I started running in December and am debating on competing in a duathlon later this year. It’s good to know that the sport I love can help me become a better runner.

  20. bolasome

    Beautiful post and must say a loong one!
    I loved the tweetables and actually tweeted one or two too. I have always remembered your posts, your usage of canva and then your blog post in Harsh Agrawal’s blog SML.

  21. makalela

    I’ve been cycling for about a year and a half and I love it! The tips for getting started with cycling are all great suggestions and I would also recommend riding on bike paths when starting out without the interference of cars before hitting the road. Learn how to shift, start, stop and turn comfortably before riding on the streets — especially if using clipless pedals.

  22. mikelano

    I love spin and I’m still new! I used to spin years ago at LA fitness and it was fun. I recently got back into it and have been going to a spin studio- wow, what a difference! Both were good workouts, but I much prefer the spin studio. Besides the teachers seemed a lot more educated at the studio, I never had to show up to class early just to get a bike. You reserve your bike before you go – it just makes things easier if you belong to a super crowded gym. I also like to pay as I go since I have a gym at my office

  23. oclela

    I read your blog and say to myself that I want to be the runner you will be when you are my age (40!). a.k.a. a super-duper badass mom of three that totally gets it done.

  24. Raiyn

    The previous 7 posts have NOTHING to do with the article

  25. RL Policar

    We’ve had a number of spammers pretending to be interested but having their name associated with a website. It’s basically free SEO…I try and keep up with it all and block them.

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