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Contributed by Patrick Beyer, BikeTexas intern and Ball State student
After circumnavigating the United States on train and bicycle this past spring, the steps of safely securing a bicycle have been drilled into my brain. Theft is a perpetual worry of any cyclist, and this article is designed to teach cyclists a few common and uncommon protection practices.
Documenting should be the first thing you do with any new bicycle. In the future, you may need to prove that your bicycle is, in fact, yours. It can be easy to prove if you plan ahead. Save the receipts along with any owner’s manual. Also, every bike has a serial number. Usually the number is located underneath the bottom bracket but it may also be located somewhere else on the frame. Write it down and photograph it. Then continue photographing the entire bike. The images could be helpful if you ever need to advertise the bike as stolen or in identifying the bike at a pawnshop. You can also register your bike with most local police stations or fire departments. Your serial number will be stored in a database along with your contact information. If your bike is stolen and recovered by the police, they will know how to contact you.
Choosing the parking space is just as important as locking your bike. Although cyclists do not have much flexibility with choosing the designated areas for bicycle parking, you have the final decision of where to lock your bike. Park in an area of high visibility, preferably somewhere where you can keep your eye on it. Some bike racks are poorly placed and your bike may be in the way of pedestrians. Remember to keep wheels out of doorways, gates, and circulation routes. The sun and rain can also do damage to your bike. Look for protected areas underneath an overhang or tree.
Before you lock up your bike, take off anything valuable that may not be secured to your bicycle, water bottles, lights, etc. Lock up around the frame, and if you are riding on quick-release wheels, lock through both wheels as well. The most secure locks are the U-locks and chains. If no bike spaces are available, a bike can also be locked to itself. The bike will be unrideable by running a chain (or helmet straps) around the frame and through the front wheel. This simple deterrent will only stop or confuse someone trying to ride off on your bike; it won’t stop someone from throwing the bike in the back of their F-150.
By documenting, parking, and locking your bike properly, the worries of theft that cross every cyclist’s mind will be calmed. But more importantly, you can ride another day.
Photo: common serial number locations