Grand Theft Bicycle

Wednesday Sep. 8th, 2010

Bozeman, Montana. Small town, friendly people, very little crime and an abundance of generosity. Who would ever think their possessions would be in danger of getting stolen? After all, can’t a person still be hung for horse theft in Montana?

Though this may not be true, the rise of theft in our ever-growing town is not a myth. Every day one can read the reports of robbery and crime in the paper and wonder how safe it really is. This does not exclude bicycles. They can actually be very specific targets because of their often high value and the ease of which one can get away with it quickly. In addition, Bozeman has significantly more bicycles per capita than most US cities (and bike shops, for that matter, of which Bozeman has 7, compared to the average for a town of this size has closer to 2-3). So, before hopping on your bike and peddling to your destination or tossing it on your Subaru, you may want to consider certain precautions.

No one is immune. From the poor college student with the barely-rideable old Schwinn to the wealthy individual boasting a never-ridden custom-built Richard Sachs, anyone can be a target. I can rattle off dozens of stories I’ve heard about stolen bikes, but I’d prefer you actually finish reading this article. But I would like to present a couple examples of crimes that may open your eyes and encourage you to be extra careful.

Glacier National Park, the perfect place to get away and discover Nature’s beauties. Of course, there is always construction on Going-To-The-Sun Road, with extensive delays and lines of vehicles backed up. You are driving a big RV with the bikes strapped to the back, not visible and way behind you. A 30-minute delay makes people restless and need to stretch their legs. Some individuals walking around aren’t much cause for concern. Later that day, you’ve parked your rig, walk around it and, lo and behold, one of the bikes, which was strapped down but not locked, is missing. Pretty sneaky.

How about this one: the yard needs to be mowed on this sunny afternoon. Open the garage, fire up the mower and get to work.15 or 20 minutes later, you return to the garage and (you’ve probably guessed it by now) your bike is gone. How in the world did it happen so quickly, and while you were home?

Or one of my favorites: head downtown or to the store for a just a minute. Oh, you’ve heard the stories, so you’ll be careful and lock up the bike. Darn it if it isn’t so difficult to lock up the entire bike, so just loop it through the wheel and to the bike rack. Well, that works perfectly if all you really care about is the wheel. We’ve all seen those pesky wheels still locked to the bike rack…

As you can see, there are endless situations where the ‘dumb’ thief made off with the booty, especially when precautions aren’t taken. Bike shops hear about them very often and can only offer advice to prevent it from happening. It’s up to the bicycle owner to follow through and make certain they are taking all possible steps to ensure a long relationship with their two-wheeled companion. Here are a few suggestions that will help:

Lock it, lock it, lock it. And even more importantly, know how to properly lock it. Just locking either the wheel(s) or the frame could result in sacrificing the other. Wheels, frame, bike rack (or car). Make sure they are all strapped together. And please don’t lock to trees or posts that only stand a few feet high, this usually won’t work. Also, believe it or not, people will steal saddles (seats) that have quick-releases. Take the saddle with you, change the quick-release to a bolting mechanism, or cable the saddle to the frame. Ask your local bike shop to show you the best ways to lock your bike if you are uncertain.

Don’t leave your bike in secluded or dark places, especially for any extended amount of time. That just screams ‘Steal me’.

Take a picture of your bike, write down its make/model/serial number and keep it on record. If it is stolen, you are much more likely to recover it if you have a photo and this information. If it’s not recovered, renter’s or home owner’s insurance may help you get a new one (depending on your deductible, of course).

Register your bike with local authorities. MSU police do it for free and often recover stolen or abandoned bicycles. This will prove your rightful ownership and help you get yourbike back.

As much work as this may all seem, it is necessary in our ever-growing and changing town. Many take it for granted that we live in a very rural and safe place. This belief is what criminals take advantage of. Keep a close eye not only on your bike but others as well and help make ours a safe and friendly community. And the next time someone asks if we still hang horse thieves in Montana, just smile, nod and keep the
myth alive.

Brian Menkhaus is the former owner/operator and maintenance manager of the Bike Peddler at 101 East Oak Street in Bozeman.