How to Thief-Proof Your Bike

Bike theft remains an enduring problem across the U.S. with the FBI recognizing 210,905 cases in 2014—a number that is undoubtedly low, given that many victims don’t report this type of crime.

The Bay Area is no different from other major urban areas in that it’s besieged by bike bandits, chop shops, and sometimes even the occasional pirate “warehouse” concealing hundreds of ripped-off cycles. The local news has reported that a bike goes missing every three hours in San Francisco; in San Jose, a recent rash of impressively executed bike thefts has left some wondering if a gang of professionals is preying on the city. Downtown San Jose saw more than seven thefts in a single week this May. “The thieves never leave the locks,” Cain says, “so you can’t tell if they’re freezing them, angle-grinding them, or pressuring them out with some kind of lever.”

You could invest a dump truck of cash in anti-theft systems and, short of having your bike defended by soldiers wielding missile batteries, a determined crook can still make off with it in relatively little time. There’s nothing you can do to totally thief-proof a bike. However, there are things—sometimes even inexpensive, small steps—that make theft much less likely. Three seasoned Bay Area bike pros offered CityLab their thoughts on buttressing bike security.

Choose the right place to lock

The best place to keep your bike is inside your home. That means somewhere that’s inaccessible and invisible to prowlers and not, say, a so-called “secure garage” that thieves can penetrate by following others in through a locked door. Just look how happy this man is that somebody left their brand-new bike in a garage:

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Balconies can also be dicey. If we’re talking about the 13th-floor balcony, you’re probably safe, but terraces close to the ground offer low-hanging fruit to thieves. “It doesn’t take much—a ladder or somebody who can climb well—for them to hop up there,” says Greg Archer of the Oakland bike shop Archer Bicycle. “And they’re not worried about whether the bike gets damaged when they steal it. They’re going to throw it off the balcony and come back down.”

When out and about, Oakland bike advocate Francisco Grajales always tries to use BikeLink, a national service that operates stainless-steel lockers around transit hubs and other cyclist-friendly locations. The amenity is extremely cheap, renting lockers for 5 cents an hour, and offers nice protection in the form of cages resembling those that wall off divers from sharks. “I’m willing to walk a half-mile or something to my destination from the BikeLink just for that added security,” says Grajales.

The next-best option for locking is bike racks, which are weighty and often subject to surveillance, and then street signs, poles, and the like. Always give these objects a strong upward jerk to make sure they’re bolted into the ground, and never lock to one with no sign at the top, as a thief can just lift the bike over the pole and ride off. (Also don’t block the sidewalk, lest the city have the bike removed.) Trees are another option for locking, though some might argue that doing so harms the bark. And though a wood saw isn’t a common item in most thieves’ toolbox, it’s not unheard of for a bike to fall prey to a criminal lumberjack.

Also, treat your bike like Cinderella and never let it stay out all night. “Thieves take the opportunity to come out at 4 a.m. when nobody’s around, and they can take their time cutting things,” says Archer.

Pick the best lock

Stay away from cable locks, as most can be snipped with garden shears. U-locks offer better, though not impenetrable, armor. “Battery-powered angle grinders have gotten so good and inexpensive that those are a pretty viable option” for thieves, says Grajales. “You can just angle-grind through a solid U-lock in under a minute.” For that reason, some might choose to use two U-locks, one securing the back and the other the front. Thieves want to get in and out as fast as possible, and the burden of cutting an extra lock adds to the risk of being apprehended.

“If you live somewhere and you see there’s a bike just gathering dust on an abandoned property, you can report and it will be removed by the city and donated to community nonprofits,” he says. “If it’s municipal workers trying to provide service to the city, and they get sprayed with nasty chemicals, that’s no good.”

Whatever lock you choose—heavy-duty chains and U-locks being best—make sure you know how deploy it. “The lock is your first line of defense, but you have to use it intelligently or it doesn’t help you,” says Archer. “Don’t just lock the frame, because anybody with a tool can take both wheels in under a minute.”

“My all-time favorite is watching people lock up their front wheel on a rack,” says Ramirez. “I feel enraged, because it’s like if you’re just locking the front wheel and not even the frame, myself looking at it with no tools could either walk off with it or have this bike entirely stripped in about 30 seconds.”

Many people swear by the Sheldon Brown method, in which you typically use a small U-lock to secure the rear wheel to an immovable object through the rear triangle (illustrated below). This technique might seem vulnerable at first, as somebody could hacksaw through the wheel to remove the bike. But in reality that almost never happens—the officer running the San Francisco Police Department’s bike-theft Twitter says he’s never heard such a report—probably because it’s inconvenient and damages the rear wheel, one of the most valuable parts on a bike. If you do use this method, make sure to add a cable lock around the front wheel or secure it with a locking skewer, which I’ll discuss in a minute.

Protect your parts

If something’s not riveted to your bike, expect it to disappear, whether it be a nice wheel or a $2 strap-on rubber headlight. “Years ago I rode my bike to the movie theater and came back and noticed my chain was broken. I was like, OK, that’s interesting, looks like everything is here,” says Ramirez. “Then I go to reassemble the chain and realize somebody actually took the time just to steal my rear derailleur. It’s like a $20 derailleur and I’m just standing there looking at it like, Well, I can’t ride home, thanks a lot.

Most parts on a bike can be removed with a screwdriver or Allen wrench, unless they’re quick-release and can be stolen with absolutely no effort at all. A good way to protect the wheels and seat post is to ditch regular screws and bolts for locking skewers—rods with complicated bolts-heads that require a special key to remove. Varieties sold by Pinhead and Germany’s Pitlock fall in the $60-and-upward range, but provide some peace of mind and obviate the need to lock certain parts, like the front wheel.

You can also make low-tech alterations to your bolts to give a significant security boost. Try adding ball bearings into the heads of your Allen screws and covering them with hot wax, or filling the holes in with silicon glue so a thief has to scratch it out to unscrew the bolt. “You’ve slowed them down and made it more annoying to steal your stuff,” says Archer. “That’s the whole thing about security: You want to make your stuff irritating to steal, so they don’t bother.”

Other folks cover bolt-holes with solder or superglue, which adds security but also possible up-charges on your bill when a bike mechanic has to remove the hardened gunk for routine maintenance. Then there are the whiz-heads who resort to science! for protection. “Some people use strong rare-earth magnets instead of soldering stuff into the bolt holes,” says Grajales. “You get strong magnets that will fill that little hole, then you get an even stronger magnet to pull it off.”

Bike seats are often one of the pricier things on your ride (especially if you adore Brooks saddles), and also one of the most annoying to find missing, as you have to ride home looking like a fool and possibly risking having the frame clothesline you in the groin. Grajales has heard of people gluing their seats into the frame, though he doesn’t recommend that because your personal saddle heights can change over time. A locking skewer for the post is a better option, as is a spare length of bike chain securing the saddle to the frame.

“All it would take to remove that is a chain tool, but it’s still an added step,” he says. “And unfortunately, I hate to say it, but sometimes the name of the game is just making your bike [parts] harder to steal than the other ones next to it.”

What to do if it does get stolen

Many police departments let you register a bike for easier recovery in the event it gets ganked. Archer sings the praises of Bike Index, too, a service that has cataloged the owner-submitted serial numbers and photos of roughly 116,000 cycles worldwide. “I’ve recovered two so far with that,” he says. “If more people registered, when bikes came into my shop that I could tell were not legally obtained, I could return them to their owners, which would be really cool.”

Archer also firmly subscribes to a method that is “super low tech,” “takes nothing to do,” and that he “tells people to do all the time but nobody ever does.” That’s to take a piece of sturdy paper, write your name, email, and phone number on it, and stash it somewhere in the bike—like the handlebars, seat post, or inside the tire. Just make sure when you do stash a message in your bike’s tires, you cover it with tape and round up the corners so it doesn’t poke into the tube. “Inside the tires is a horrible place to live,” Archer says. “It’s grungy, it gets wet, nothing wants to live in there.”

“If you see [the bike] rolling down the street, or if you see it at a flea market, you can say, ‘Hey, that’s my bike!’” Archer adds. “Or if it shows up in a shop and the mechanic discovers it changing a tire or whatever—a little piece of paper falls out saying, This is my name and number, you can ask the person, ‘What’s your name?’ And if it doesn’t match the card, give them a call. You’ve got a recovered bike for somebody right there.”

Ride of the Week: Porsche Adds Some Refinements With The Limited 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series

Porsche’s one-upping its standard Turbo S with a new Exclusive Series that is the most powerful version of the car yet. The 3.8-liter six-cylinder pushes out 607-hp, which is a 27-hp upgrade over the standard model. This launches the car from 0-62 in 2.9 seconds while quickly speeding to 124 mph in 9.6 seconds, angrily roaring toward a top speed of 205 mph.

The boost in power isn’t the only upgrade as the car gets a comprehensive list of exterior and interior upgrades. The car will be offered in a Golden Yellow Metallic paint that’s specific to this edition with carbon-weave racing stripes that run down the center of the car. The 20-inch wheels are finished in black with Golden Yellow Metallic trim that is finished using a newly-developed laser technology.

Other details include Porsche Active Suspension Management and a Sport Chrono package that’s included standard, a new rear apron, carbon ram-air scoop, black stainless steel tailpipes, and a perforated leather interior with Golden Yellow trim.

Ride of the Week: BMW Begins Sales Of The Highly-Anticipated M4 GT4 Racer

Taking what they’ve learned from the M6 GT3, BMW begins sales of its latest racer, the M4 GT4. The car builds on the already impressive performance of the standard M4 and adds a carbon hood from the M4 GTS, carbon fiber doors, a motorsport-specific front splitter and rear wing, and a racing exhaust system.

The interior will feature seating, brakes, and a pedal box will be sourced from the M6 GT3. The car will also boast updated engine control software and is the first from BMW Motorsport to feature “power sticks” that can be pre-programmed with different engine performance levels.

Deleting the Facebook App Will Double Your Phone’s Battery Life

We’ve covered how Instagram is seriously damaging to mental health, but another self-study revealed that Facebook‘s mobile app is the most draining of your smartphone battery life. This observation came to light after Inc. journalist John Koetsier decided to delete Facebook from his phone after seeing that the social media app accounted for almost 50 percent of his device’s daily juice. Upon deletion, his phone’s battery doubled in lifespan.

While this may not come as a surprise to many, it’s the app’s specific functions that make Facebook battery use more demanding. SRAX executive ad tech developer Aaron Hetler says that Facebook’s wide range of features is what causes it to kill your phone battery, even by just opening the app. Facebook’s wide range of features such as device location, notifications, live videos, contacts, etc has contributed to the app’s 10-fold increase in megabytes over the past few versions. Some suggest that disabling the “Background App Refresh” function after quitting the app can extend battery life, but as long as Facebook is tracking your device’s location, it will continue to eat away at power.

Driverless Cars Will Be Huge for Buffalo Wild Wings

Financial analysts in every industry are mashing their brains to figure out how the rise of autonomous cars will affect the economy, but one group of analysts at Morgan Stanley has a pretty wild prediction: if nobody has to drive any more, people might start going HAM at the Buffalo Wild Wings more often.

In a letter to clients on Thursday, the analysts looked at some of the major industries that will be affected by the rise of “shared autonomy” a term used seemingly to describe the twofold impacts of self-driving cars and a ride-sharing based transit economy.

The team’s recommendations highlight areas and certain stocks that could benefit from “shared autonomy,” including, hilariously, Buffalo Wild Wings and Domino’s Pizza. BWW, because 20 percent of its revenue comes from alcohol, and Domino’s because its delivery business won’t need human drivers.

“There are around 1.2 million DUIs issued in the U.S. every year,” the analysts write. “The average American consumes nearly 500 alcoholic drinks per year. Over the course of a year, how many more drinks might be consumed if people were completely freed from the responsibility of driving? Moreover, how many more drinks could be consumed during the 400 billion global hours humanity currently spends behind the wheel?”

Constellation, the American corporation that owns Corona, Model, Pacifico, Svedka vodka, and a whole bunch of other wine and liquor brands, will benefit, project the analysts.

Also, apparently, the best beneficiary of shared autonomy, where most people will ask their self-driving cars to take them, is Buffalo Wild Wings. It does caution, though, that the company is still vulnerable to the temperamental price of chicken wings.

Domino’s will benefit from shared autonomy after it nixes delivery drivers. Domino’s has already experimented with drones and weird autonomous robots so this one actually seems like a pretty sound prediction.

Ride of the Week: Range Rover Evoque Landmark Special Edition

Land Rover is celebrating quite a few milestones with the new Range Roger Evoque Landmark Special Edition. How do you celebrate the model that’s won more than 200 awards, had six years of success and been exported to more than 130 markets around the world? A gorgeous new Moraine Blue paint job inspired by the turquoise lakes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that’s only available on the Range Rover Evoque Landmark Special Edition model. The beauty of this new edition isn’t skin deep, though. The Landmark Special Edition also features a dynamic body kit, Carpathian Grey contrast panoramic roof, 19″ Gloss Dark Grey alloy wheels and Graphite Atlas grill, hood, fender vent and tailgate lettering. The gray accents continue inside with brushed satin trim finishes, grained ebony leather seats and a perforated mid-section. If the Range Rover Evoque wasn’t already a ride you’d want to travel the U.S. in, it certainly is now.

Ride of the Week: The 2018 Lincoln Navigator

All-new and packed with tech, the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is a capable full-size SUV. Under the hood sits a twin-turbo V6 engine good for 450 hp, paired with a 10-speed transmission and made even more useful thanks to an aluminum alloy body that’s nearly 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The three-row interior offers a total of six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets and one 110V plug, WiFi for up to 10 devices, the Sync 3 infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto support, and an available Revel Ultima audio with 20 speakers. Drivers will enjoy the bolstered front seats with massage, heating and cooling functionality, 12-inch configurable instrument cluster, and speed-dependent adaptive lighting that widens the beam at low speeds for increased visibility and narrows as you accelerate to eliminate distractions. In fact, you can appreciate the truck’s upgrades before you even enter, as it detects your approach automatically, lighting the interior, door handles, and interior ambient lights to give you both peace of mind and a sense of calm before you ever grip the wheel.

Ride of the Week: The 2017 Camaro ZL1 Hennessey Exorcist

In what’s sure to be a response to the Dodge Demon, Hennessy Performance just introduced their newest super muscle car, dubbed The Exorcist. The ride is based on the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and, of course, leave it up to the Texas-based aftermarket specialists to bring this already powerful ride into the stratosphere.

We’re not making this up either. Under the hood of this thing is a modified Chevy LT4 V8 engine now boasting an incredible output of 1,000 hp and 966 lb-ft of torque. Such intense power can be attributed to a larger and higher flowing supercharger and intercooler system that produces 14 psi of boost pressure. The Exorcist also hosts a high-flow air induction system, long tube stainless steel headers, and a camshaft upgrade. It rides atop two drag radial tires in the rear and does 0-60mph in under 3 seconds. Buyers also have the option to have their rides delivered at the Hennessy 1/4 mile dragstrip so they can legally test out the power behind this monstrous machine. Prices for the upgrade start at $55,000.

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Google Maps Can Now Remember Where You Parked Your Car

Good news for forgetful car owners worldwide: Google Maps can now remember where you parked your car. The feature was originally launched in a Google Maps beta for Android, but has now been officially rolled out onto both Android and iOS versions of the app.

The function’s pretty simple: just save your parking spot, and a label will appear on your map. You also have the option to set a timer (lest you get a ticket), send your spot to a friend, or save a pic of the location.

To get the new feature, simply update Google Maps on your Android or iOS smartphone.

Uber Is Working On Flying Taxis For 2020

Uber is currently struggling to get people to download its app and ride in its cars, but it’s already trying to get customers hyped for it’s crazy-sounding flying taxi service.

The ride-share company announced Tuesday during its Elevate conference in Dallas, Texas that it’s partnering with cities, aviation manufacturers, real estate and electric charging companies to make flying cars a reality. Uber first announced its plan for flying cars last year with a “on demand aviation” service called Uber Elevate.

Elevate will first be implemented in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in Dubai. Uber will partner in these cities to help find areas in which they could install takeoff and landing pads, which Uber is calling “vertiports.” As for the vehicle itself, Uber is negotiating contracts with five aircraft manufacturers to work on a vehicle design that’s lightweight, electrically powered, and can vertically takeoff and land.

When Elevate was first announced, Uber said that it’s aerial taxi service would cut commute from city to city by a significant amount of time. A two-hour drive from San Francisco to San Jose could be completed in just 15 minutes by air. Of course, none of this has been tested or approved, it’s all just a theory. Uber is aiming to have its first public demonstration by 2020, which is a bit ambitious considering that a lot of the technology and regulations for flying cars have yet to be validated.

Uber is not the only company that has announced a flying car within the past couple months. Just this week, Larry Page’s Alphabet (Google’s parent company) announced that it’s Kitty Hawk flying car — which looks like a Spider-Man vehicle — will apparently go on sale by the end of this year.

It’s fun to think of the idea of flying cars, but this latest hype in Silicon Valley has a lot to establish first. Companies like Uber, Tesla, and Google have yet to get self-driving cars right, but they’re rushing onto getting them to fly. It seems like all these companies are just sprinting toward bragging rights, disrupting transportation and grabbing market share, but none of their ideas have been solidified.

That said, several big companies have already expressed interest in jumping on board with Uber’s new project. Bell Helicopters, one of the largest manufactures of vertical takeoff aircrafts, said it’s excited to start collaborating with Uber. Other companies that’ll also join Elevate include Aurora Flight Sciences, Mooney, Embraer and Pipistrel Aircraft.