Author Topic: Bike security when touring in the USA  (Read 11903 times)

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Offline sanuk

Bike security when touring in the USA
« on: May 20, 2010, 11:11:27 pm »
So, I now know what to wear when it's wet and more or less where I want to go, but now I'm wondering about how to keep my bike from being stolen.  From what I already know as well as what I've read more recently online here and elsewhere - most recently under REI bike lock consumer reports - there's no ultimate solution.  Most locks tested fail one way or another, even expensive U locks, which apparently can sometimes be picked with a ball-point pen or broken open with a car jack!  Bike thieves carry car jacks!!??  Guess I've been living in dream land too long.  Bike theft is of course common around the world, but it seems some are more adept and professional about it than others.  Around here, a good cable lock usually suffices.  Not many people have any need of bolt cutters and no one except a garage mechanic would have a jack.  Maybe not even them.  Anyway, my bikes are too big for the average SE Asian, who don't like riding bikes anyway.
So what to do, especially on a long ride in the US where weight is the significant factor?  I have what I was told in Germany was a bolt-cutter proof metal-link flexible cable type lock which is way heavy enough.  It's made by Abus. Haven't seen any like it on sale elsewhere, at least not on the REI site.  Now I'm thinking of getting a Kryiptonite U lock as well which will add to my weight a fair bit more.  Other than that I can only think of trying to keep my bike within sight and/or making sure I attach it to an unmoveable object - although a U lock won't go round a tree very well - or sleeping with my bike partly under my tent as a pillow!  Not very comfortable.  Any other suggestions?


Offline whittierider

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2010, 01:03:22 am »
This topic is related.

Offline CastAStone

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2010, 02:18:14 am »
Use a U-Lock made after 2007 and a cable lock, and use both whenever you can. They make lightweight versiond of both. A thief needs one large, awkward, bulky tool to defeat the U-lock and a completely different large, awkward, bulky tool to defeat the cable lock. Combine them with one of the alarms from the other thread, and no one is going to steal your bike.

U-Locks made before 2007 are vulnerable to the pen trick. Those made after are more effective.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2010, 10:06:58 am »
There are actually lots of folks who never lock while touring.  It's a matter of where you go.

If you're camping, and you're concerned at night, put attach something from the bike to the tent, that won't be easily seen, and will wake you up.  If you aren't camping, try for places where you can take the bike in with you.

During the day, try to keep it in sight when you aren't on it.

For the most part, a heavily loaded bike on tour in a rural area is not a target.  Touring bikes aren't as easily fenced as a lot of other ones, and most would-be thieves seem to recognize that there's a real person whose home is on that bike that they'd be robbing.  Thieves are either professionals or joy-riders.  When your bike is loaded, you won't find a lot of trouble from joy-riders.  But they are everywhere.  Professionals tend to be where bikes worth stealing are.

If you want to get a bike stolen, and fast, go to a city, especially one with a university.  Virtually any bike is subject to the possibility of theft there, but a high-end racing bike even more so.   

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2010, 10:51:47 am »
I tend to tour mostly in rural and small town areas in the US.  For that I would almost be willing to go without a lock.  I figure that a light cable lock is a reasonable compromise and I just resign myself to the fact that in larger cities I have to be extra careful and also accept some risk.

To me a heavy cable or U lock isn't an option and carrying both is just totally unacceptable.  Some of those cable locks are heavy and some U locks weigh over 4 pounds!  I strive to get my total gear including panniers below 30 pounds at most and hopefully to 25 pounds.  That makes carrying 6 pounds of locks a completely out of the question.

It helps that I don't ride a very expensive bike or use very expensive gear.  There is something nice about being able to afford to replace all of your gear if necessary.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2010, 12:52:23 pm »
A lock is good for only one thing, and that is to keep an honest man honest. If somebody wants to steal your ride, and you make it possible to do undetected, your bike will be gone sooner or later. A hand-held electric drill can open the Kryptonite U-lock in two minutes. Cables and chains are cut easily. When you go inside to eat, seat yourself where you can keep an eye on your gear through a window. I have done this many many times. If you have the kind of bike people are looking for, and bike thieves know brands and prices, keep it with you or lock it inside if possible, and avoid leaving it locked on sidewalks especially in cities. Sleeping in campgrounds presents a problem. See if they will let you lock it inside somewhere. You can lock your bikes together, if more than one, and place them directly in front of the tent where they are visible through the netting on the entrance.

Many people might think bikes are stolen by stealth, and many are in fact stolen that way, but there is also the grab-and-run method by which the thief knows where you are inside, and even if you may be seated and watching, he will guage how far down the road he can get before you are outside and trying to stop him. Sure, you might see him take your bike, but he is 100 feet away and accelerating by the time you are off your duff and over to the curb. Call immediately and the police might arrive in forty-five minutes. Meantime, Scudgemo has himself a $1500.00 bike in the trunk of his car and he is careening through the outskirts of town. The lesson here is this. Even if you can see your bike from your place in the restaurant, keep it locked and keep your most valuable possessions with you.

As for myself, I have not had problems with thieves on long bike tours. You should be safe, but crimes and thievery do happen. Use caution and you will reduce the chances of your becoming a victim of theft.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2010, 11:19:35 pm »
sorry to butt in without reading the entire thread;

Strongly suggest you think about combination locks and cables. The chances of losing your keys are much better than the chances of losing your bike.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline sanuk

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2010, 11:21:57 pm »
Thanks.  I'll take along both cable locks and maybe see about a bike alarm.  I sure don't need any extra weight.

Offline siden420

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2010, 11:37:40 pm »
I traveled cross country in 2008, did not take a lock, and was fine.  I didn't want the extra weight and there were only a handful of times where it would have afforded extra security.  Many places will accommodate bringing the bike in which is the best option.  If this is impossible, put it where you can keep an eye on it. If you are in a place where that still isn't good enough, remove the front wheel and bring it inside with you.  This will make the bike alot less attractive.  An easier target is your gear.  Always remove your wallet (I use a fanny pack stored in the handlebar bag which I always take with me) and in unsavory areas, remove easy targets like the bike computer and lights if that will ease your mind.  Or just bring your gear in with you too.  No approach is fool proof, but I found these methods to be effective.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2010, 11:39:16 pm by siden420 »

Offline sanuk

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2010, 05:08:25 am »
I thought of that too.  Maybe one can think too much on this topic and become utterly paranoid.  But not a whole lot to do about panniers and camping equipment every time you stop, unless, as you say, you always keep your bike in sight.  Last year I traveled in Europe with my partner and one of us stayed with the bikes when we went into a supermarket or whatever.  On your own it's harder.  I'm thinking of not taking my hard-case handlebar bag along this time - too bulky and clunks a lot on bumpy surfaces as well as blocking my view of the road.  Think I'd prefer a soft handlebar bag, something you could easily sling over your shoulder without standing out so much.  Don't fancy always wearing a money belt or fannypack when riding.  Would need to have somewhere handy to stash my cheapo plastic camera too.

Offline tonythomson

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2010, 06:05:40 pm »
Sanuk - I think you've got it nailed with your last post.  I do carry a cable lock but really only use it in bigger towns when I go into a super market or restaurant when I can't see it.  But mainly I feel very safe when in USA and no one "fiddles" with your stuff here unlike some countries where mainly it's curiosity.

Good luck
Just starting to record my trips

Offline Fun

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2010, 06:38:40 pm »
I never tour with a lock.  My bikes are large, I'm 6'5'' and around 200, and if you can ride away from me on it, I don't want to fight you for it.
Thinking a bit about it when I'm in southern Mexico and parts of Latin America this year. 
If I was camping in a sketchy place, I would tie some p-cord to it and the other end to my tent or some empty beer bottles.
Get clever, save weight, don't carry a lock.

Offline litespeed

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2010, 11:12:43 am »
I use a Bell cable lock with a four digit combination. I think I bought it at Wal Mart. It's unlikely anyone would steal my bike but since it is the most valuable thing I own that isn't real estate I usually lock it whenever I can't see it. In campgrounds I lock it to the picnic bench or a tree. At stores I lock it to a lampost or the cart corral. In motels it is in the room with me. In tens of thousands of miles of bicycle touring no one has tried to steal my bike that I know of. As I said it's unlikely anyone would try to steal it. What would they do with it?

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2010, 01:06:18 am »
Always try to keep the bike in sight.  I've even taken mine into grocery stores and locked it to something there.  I always eat at a window where I can see the bike, and I double lock it.  Be prudent and use common sense.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline mtnbiktn

Re: Bike security when touring in the USA
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2010, 10:21:33 pm »
On tour now, using 2 cable locks with combination each 4 ft. I can hook both together for 8ft, or use one to lock the bob trailer to pole, picnic table, etc while I ride bike to store etc and have a cable with me to lock it up there. Light weight too. If going in to eat I run cable from trailer frame thru back wheel and bike frame.