Once my boss’s boss’s back gets better, he’s considering doing some bike commuting. He’s getting a light setup, already has a good rain bike, and definitely has the fitness. As part of figuring out the logistics for the bike commute, he asked me where I keep my bike.
“Locked up at the bike rack by the locker room,” I said.
“Are you serious?” he replied. “I would never put a several-thousand-dollar bike out where someone could just steal it.”
Thanks a lot, Mr. Boss’s Boss. Now I’m totally convinced every day when I go to the bike rack to go home that my bike will be gone.
I still leave it locked up at the bike rack, though.
Why I Use the Bike Rack
Here are the reasons I have for locking my bike up at the bike rack, along with my best attempt to grade how rational each reason is.
- The bike rack is in a high traffic area. Thieves would be foolish to try to steal a bike from that rack, because they are likely to be discovered. I give this reason a C-. The rack is in fact in a spot that every car must pass in order to enter or leave the parking garage, but how many people in cars look over at the bike racks as they go by, checking to make sure nothing is amiss? And for those who do look, can they tell the difference between the guy who is opening his lock legitimately and the guy who is picking the lock with a ballpoint pen? After all, once when I lost the keys to a lock, I had my wife drive over with the bolt cutters, at which point I cut the lock to my bike. Nobody stopped me, nobody asked any questions. Still, a visible, public area for a bike rack is a lot better than a secluded spot. It’s bound to make thieves jumpy.
- I’d rather assume people are good and leave the bike in a rack than assume people are bad and live with the logistical nuisance of portaging my bike up to my office every day. This is my noble, philosophical reason for leaving my bike in the rack, and it deserves an F. It’s great to think of humanity as basically good, but that’s no excuse for ignoring the reality that there are a lot of exceptions. This reason is so laughably bad that I shouldn’t have even typed it. The problem is, I actually think this way. I’m a fool.
- I’m lazy, and the bike rack is the closest place to the locker room that is at least kind of secure. OK, this reason deserves a B for honesty, since this is in fact the primary reason I put the bike there.
- I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve been leaving my bike locked up at one bike rack or another for a year and change now, and nobody’s stolen my bike yet. Every day as I lock up my bike, I at least briefly consider the possibility that someone might steal it. Then I just think to myself, “Yes, but today is not that day.” Nothing wrong with that logic. A+++!
- My bike isn’t the nicest looking bike in the rack. This is actually a double reason. First: there’s safety in numbers. This would be a good reason if the bikes protected each other (D+). Second: Thieves will go for nicer bikes, instead of mine. This is a great reason, provided we live in a Bizarro univers where thieves are capable of stealing only one thing at a time (D-). Combined grade: D.
- I’ve never heard of bikes getting stolen here. This is actually a pretty good point. But then again, I’ve never gone out of my way to find out whether bikes often get stolen here. B+.
OK, now that I’ve vetted my reasons for continuing to use the bike rack and found them lacking, what do I do?
Well, I expect to continue to use the bike rack. I’m just not willing to start going to the extra effort of moving my bike into my office every day. Especially during the winter, when a slush-soaked bike wheeled down the office hall might cause a few problems of its own.
And besides, I’m reasonably certain my homeowner’s insurance policy covers my bike, even when it’s not at home. Hmmmm, maybe I better check on that.
Neglect as a Strategy
Here’s the thing: The only bike I’ve ever had stolen was the one I left sitting out front in my yard for three or four days after my first big crash on my first mountain bike ride. I wanted someone to steal that bike.
Since I’ve been riding seriously, though, I’ve accidentally left my bike unlocked on my car rack probably fifty times. I’ve never had a bike stolen.
I think it’s possible that “not getting my bike stolen” is my super power. I’m thinking of buying a cape.
The Big Banjo Brothers Questions of the Week
So, here are the things I’m wondering:
- Have you ever had a bike stolen? If so, was it locked up when it was stolen? Bonus points if you have an amusing anecdote about the theft, and double bonus points if you have a story about how you cleverly recovered the bike.
- Do you lock your bike up at bike racks, or do you consider bike racks shopping malls for bike thieves?
- Do you have a strategy or learned wisdom for keeping your bike from being stolen?
Of course, I don’t expect you to answer all these questions. Just tell me about your bike theft advice and / or experience.
Tell Them What They Can Win, Johnny.
The super-cool Banjo Brothers have got a messenger bag (not the super-big one they’ve been letting me test, a normal-sized one) for the winner of today’s comment contest. The Banjo Brothers rule.