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  1. #1
    Just Ride
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    Stole my own bike today....a good reminder on cable locks.

    Today my cable lock with a 4 number combination just wouldn't open. It opened fine when I unlocked it from my top tube, but 5 minutes later it was seized. I finally gave up and had my wife bring the bolt cutters. I had her try her luck before cutting, as usually I've found that I'm doing something wrong and it hoped it would pop open. No luck, so at least that made me feel better.

    I'd seen videos on how terrible cables are, but couldn't believe with 18" bolt cutters I cut the cable in one cut and it took all of 2 seconds. Cable is one of the midsized thickness ones, I'd guess 12mm. I even made sure I wasn't just lucky and when I got back home, but through the cable again no problem. The funny thing too is no one (~30 people) said one thing as I walked up to my bike to cut the cable. I guess bike thieves don't wear bright yellow or a bike helmet :-)

    I was just running into the library to drop off some books, so I just used the cable lock. When I'm locking all day I use the U-lock on the rear wheel to lock it to the rack and use the cable on the front wheel.

    Maybe now I'll just switch to a non quick release axel on the front wheel, since I now know first hand that cable locks are truly useless.

    I guess I'm just frustrated I had to steal my own bike. At least it wasn't my U-lock, I've had problem with the key locking mechanism on those in the past too. I at least hope they are more difficult to cut.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    I've not seen a single locking system that can't be defeated by a determined person who knows what he or she is doing. Locks only serve as deterrents. The better/stronger/more reliable the lock is the greater the deterrent factor. Your cable lock isn’t “useless”; it just isn’t as great a deterrent as a good u-lock might be. The cable lock would keep the casual person walking by from jumping on your bike for a joy ride when there was an unlocked bike right next to it. Recently I witnessed a demonstration at my LBS of four u-lock being defeated. It was clear that there were major differences in the amount of time and effort from the best to the poorest in the lot, but they were all defeated.
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  3. #3
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    Yeah- heavy sturdy motorcycle U-LOCK
    can still be defeated in 20-30 seconds with an angle grinder
    So 12 mm cable-18" bolt cutters- 2 seconds-no sweat?
    Hmmm I would have hoped for a bigger effort-maybe having to bite-move bite move-5-10 seconds
    but one bite-2 seconds-that was it?
    Last edited by phoebeisis; 01-27-14 at 01:26 PM.

  4. #4
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    lube the lock mechanism occasionally

  5. #5
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    In the security business they say that locks are to stop honest people.

    No lock is invulnerable, and it's only a matter of degree.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member blacknbluebikes's Avatar
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    Bicycling Mag did a useful "current state of affairs" piece on theft and lock technology recently. Provides useful perspective.

    http://www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/unlocked

  7. #7
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    lube the lock mechanism occasionally
    I was going to say, I bet a shot of WD 40 or oil would have unfrozen that lock. Calling his wife was a good idea though. They have found that a good looking woman trying to steal a bike will often get help from bystanders.
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  8. #8
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    To everyone saying "your lock isn't useless," and "no lock is invulnerable," you are sending the wrong message. Yeah, I guess it's better than nothing, and if someone next to you has left their bike unlocked, your bike probably won't get stolen. But in all likelihood, a bike with a cable lock only is among the weakest bikes on the rack and therefore among the most likely to be stolen. And yes, it's true that "no lock is invulnerable," but that's no reason not to use a good lock. I know you guys know this, but the messaging here isn't clear. You want to make your bike MORE difficult to steal than the next guy.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by lostarchitect View Post
    You want to make your bike MORE difficult to steal than the next guy.
    Yes, locks encompass a spectrum of resistance to thieves. As divers say "you don't have to out swim the shark, you only have to outswim your buddy".

    It isn't about having a better lock than one or two bicycles, but having a better lock than the majority of bikes in your area. Also different locks are broken by different methods, and using different tools. If cables are typical in your area, the odds are thieves won't be equipped to break a U-lock. If U-locks are common, a heavy chain may work.

    Also, if using multiple locks, mix the type reducing the odds that a thief will be properly equipped to break both.

    Lastly, there are different things you can do to make it harder for a thief to cut or break a lock. Try to use up as much of the lock as possible, so less is out in the open for a thief. With U-locks, I prefer to lock across the seat stays, through the wheel, and out around a post. This makes it difficult to pry or twist the lock apart without destroying the bike.

    Lastly where and when you lock a bike is important. Thieves don't like to be watched, so opposite the large windows of a reataurant or small retail store is better than outside an office building.

    Years ago I used to have to lock my bike all over NYC. If there was a hot dog vendor, I'd lock as near as possible in the direction he faced. I'd then buy a hot dog, and ask him to pretend to watch the bike.
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  10. #10
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    It's worth noting, as others have done, that cable locks are extremely easy to cut. It's much easier than other things. I cut one with a cable cutter, the kind used for cutting brake and gear cables on bikes. I had to make two or three snips, but it was quick and easy, rather like using scissors.

    Use a lock that is appropriate for the environment. I used a cable in the NJ suburbs. No one stole my bike when locked that way. However, I would expect it to get stolen if I locked it that way every day at a suburban train station.
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  11. #11
    Keepin it Wheel RubeRad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Years ago I used to have to lock my bike all over NYC. If there was a hot dog vendor, I'd lock as near as possible in the direction he faced. I'd then buy a hot dog, and ask him to pretend to watch the bike.
    That's fantastic! Next time I have to lock up in a downtown context, I'll try to remember to look around for any kind of street vendor that I can buy something from.

  12. #12
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    I was going to say, I bet a shot of WD 40 or oil would have unfrozen that lock. Calling his wife was a good idea though. They have found that a good looking woman trying to steal a bike will often get help from bystanders.
    And if she's not good looking, make sure she brings a can of WD-40.

  13. #13
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    FBIinNY is, as usual, right on the money. I park bikes in Center City Philly and haven't lost one yet. I have had saddlebags raided and a pump stolen. While I can't speak for other areas, but theft is overstated in Philly if you lock properly and most thefts happen in break ins. I never leave a bike long term, but that's common sense. I've told this story a dozen times, but my Merckx with Campy record was abandoned for 4 months in North Philadelphia - with a mediocre ubolt. No one stole it. Thieves here seem to be junky opportunists and you don't here about the dread angle grinders much.

    I once broke a key in my ubolt (Kryptonite Evolution) and didn't have a spare. I ended up having my dad come out to help because it was late Sunday and there were no locksmiths available. I didn't know if the bike would make it through the night and didn't want to take the chance; the bike was on 15th and Chestnut, which is the middle of Center City here.

    Anyway...we first tried freezing the lock with freon and hitting it with a hammer. That didn't work. My dad came loaded for bear and took out a gas powered generator from the back of his SUV. We hooked up a circular saw to the generator and sliced through the lock (actually we got about 2/3rds through before the blade died and we then attacked it with a crow bar).

    In all, we worked for about 2 hours attacking this lock in the middle of Center City. Not one person looked twice at us. Multiple cops went by and not one asked what we were doing. I'm sure some of that was because we're older and middle class looking, but still...you'd think SOMEONE would ask why we were cutting through a bike lock. The only person who said a word was a seedy looking guy offering tips on how to pick the lock. Very reassuring.
    Last edited by KonAaron Snake; 01-27-14 at 04:04 PM.

  14. #14
    Velocommuter Commando Sirrus Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fourknees View Post
    Today my cable lock with a 4 number combination just wouldn't open. It opened fine when I unlocked it from my top tube, but 5 minutes later it was seized. I finally gave up and had my wife bring the bolt cutters. I had her try her luck before cutting, as usually I've found that I'm doing something wrong and it hoped it would pop open. No luck, so at least that made me feel better.

    I'd seen videos on how terrible cables are, but couldn't believe with 18" bolt cutters I cut the cable in one cut and it took all of 2 seconds. Cable is one of the midsized thickness ones, I'd guess 12mm. I even made sure I wasn't just lucky and when I got back home, but through the cable again no problem. The funny thing too is no one (~30 people) said one thing as I walked up to my bike to cut the cable. I guess bike thieves don't wear bright yellow or a bike helmet :-)

    I was just running into the library to drop off some books, so I just used the cable lock. When I'm locking all day I use the U-lock on the rear wheel to lock it to the rack and use the cable on the front wheel.

    Maybe now I'll just switch to a non quick release axel on the front wheel, since I now know first hand that cable locks are truly useless.

    I guess I'm just frustrated I had to steal my own bike. At least it wasn't my U-lock, I've had problem with the key locking mechanism on those in the past too. I at least hope they are more difficult to cut.
    Locks just deter the mostly honest..
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  15. #15
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sirrus Rider View Post
    Locks just deter the mostly honest..
    ???

    If you are an honest person, you are not going to steal a bike even if unlocked, because you'd still be stealing it. So how is an honest person deterred by a lock? Is "mostly honest" referring to a person who will only steal an unlocked bike, and is simply too lazy to cut a lock or forgets to bring the right tools to cut the lock? I'd call such a person an opportunistic thief, but not "mostly honest."

  16. #16
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    hmmm I do bring a cable when I ride my "good bike" so I can secure the wheels. Maybe I shouldn't bother?

    Here's another tip, downtown parking garages are starting to have bike rack areas. I discovered one in a building I had to go to semi-regularly. It was right across from the attendants booth at the exit of the garage. I spoke with him briefly and he said yeah he keeps an eye on the bikes. I feel a lot safer locking up there out of sight of the street and in sight of the attendant. He's not a cop, but I don't think your average thieving scumbag is going to break out the angle grinder and start sawing away in right in front of a uniformed attendant with a phone and walkie-talkie.

  17. #17
    Senior Member gregjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    Is "mostly honest" referring to a person who will only steal an unlocked bike
    Two thoughts.

    Mostly honest is like an almost potty trained puppy.......when outside it pees outside, when inside it pees inside.

    The other, I've heard that a definition of integrity is doing what you should even when there's no one to see you do it.

  18. #18
    Senior Member bbbean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    Use a lock that is appropriate for the environment. I used a cable in the NJ suburbs. No one stole my bike when locked that way. However, I would expect it to get stolen if I locked it that way every day at a suburban train station.
    This. Bike locks are simply an exercise in risk management. Since there is no 100% solution, we all have to balance how much lock we want to carry with the realistic chance a committed thief will consider stealing our bike.

    Leaving a bike overnight in front of an apartment building in a so-so part of town? Well worth lugging the heaviest lock you can find.

    Parking your road bike in front of a rural gas station while you use the bathroom or buy a snack? Just enough lock to keep a bored kid from hopping on and riding off.

    Horses for courses.
    Last edited by bbbean; 01-28-14 at 04:21 PM.
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  19. #19
    Just Ride
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    Yep, 2 seconds is probably generous. I was very surprised too.

  20. #20
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    The lock was well lubed. It's probably 8 years old. What I think happened after thinking about I more is that the plastic ring that has the numbers became loose from the metal ring that spins with the open gap for the lock.

    i should state that I don't think a cable lock is useless, as it may deter a someone. However if a thief really wanted you bike no effort is involved.

  21. #21
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    At my bike co-op we ended up with a u-lock (giant brand, about 35 dollars new) that we didn't have a key for. So a friend videoed me using a cheap long arm bolt cutters from Harbor Freight to see if we could cut it.

    Put one arm of the bolt cutters on the ground, put the lock between the cutters, and pushed down. After about 20 seconds, it snapped. Mind you I was being careful because I didn't want to fall and hurt myself. Put the video on my FB feed and a bunch of my bike friends said I cheated by putting it on the ground.

    I then took another video of me holding the bolt cutters with one arm against my chest and snapping the lock that way without using the floor. That time it took me all of 5 seconds to snap it. I didn't hesitate and just pulled it as hard as I could quickly.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  22. #22
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Also, if using multiple locks, mix the type reducing the odds that a thief will be properly equipped to break both.
    I see this advice all the time, but I'm skeptical. A serious cutting tool will breach cables, chains, ring locks, u-locks, etc. But, and it's a big but, as a practical matter in the real world with all its minimally secured machines, a bike thief would have to be specifically stalking your Hetchins Magnum Opus Curly to go to the fuss and bother of breaching two+ quality lock(ing systems). So, yeah, use two locks.
    Last edited by tcs; 01-30-14 at 07:03 AM.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

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  23. #23
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregjones View Post
    Two thoughts.

    Mostly honest is like an almost potty trained puppy.......when outside it pees outside, when inside it pees inside.

    The other, I've heard that a definition of integrity is doing what you should even when there's no one to see you do it.
    we're all mostly honest.

  24. #24
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    we're all mostly honest.
    Quite right. I'm sure all of us have rationalized some wrongful act at some point in our lives. There are many degrees of stealing. How about a bike that you've seen for months and known was abandoned. It's been cannibalized over the course of months, and there are only a few remaining components for the taking. Should you take one? I wouldn't, but some will.
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  25. #25
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    I have to admit - I did raid the saddle bag of an abandoned bike at work for an inner tube once. I meant to replace it, but I didn't get around to it before it was removed.

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