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Old 06-08-09, 10:04 AM   #1
rpk0925
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Solo touring & theft/tampering concerns

Hello all,

I'm curious to know how much I should be concerned about bike theft or tampering when leaving my bike unattended during solo tours.

I know I should probably lock the bike to something when I need to leave the bike for some reason (like going into a store). But what if you find yourself someplace where there isn't anything available to lock the bike to? Or should I be concerned when my bicycle is out of sight while I'm sleeping the night away in a tent?

Am I being overly paranoid?

I'm curious to hear/read your thoughts. Thanks.

Bob
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Old 06-08-09, 10:13 AM   #2
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It depends greatly on where you are. I think I locked my bike once on my last (11 day) tour. On the TransAmerica i locked it only in larger towns and cities or at trail heads when hiking. In big bike friendly cities (Newport OR, Portland OR, Eugene OR, Pueblo CO) I am absolutely paranoid.

In little remote towns like Jackson Hot Springs (pop. 39 or something) I wouldn't dream of locking. Folks there don't lock anything even if they go away on vacation. They probably don't even know where a house key is in many cases. It seems pointless to me to lock my bike in that type of setting.

That said do what you feel comfortable with.
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Old 06-08-09, 10:45 AM   #3
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Always lock your bike up, everywhere you go. Period. Whether or not you think you can trust a aplace and its folk, locking up the bike keeps you from being wrong. That said, locking the bike up doesn't guarantee it's not going to be stolen; you can see Youtube videos of thieves with angle grinders taking down a Kryptonite New York U-lock in seconds. But at least make them earn it. In addition, I'm a big fan of locking skewers for hubs and seat posts (OnGuard is cheaper, but Pitlock is the best design). They are one more bit of piece of mind that increases your options for places to lockup and limit your necessary locking hardware to a decent u-lock. The last piece of security equipment I carry is for my soft goods: a Pacsafe external system (www.pac-safe.com). It is a steel mesh net (still very light) that allows me to put my panniers and dry bags inside and lock them to the bike safely with items still inside. The mesh pattern is small enough that a thief couldn't cut the bags through the netting and draw items out, and the netting itself is high-tensile steel.

Unless you have the budget to replace a bike any time, locking it up is the prudent measure. At the least, I sleep better for worrying less about my equipment being taken knowing I have an anti-theft system in place...

-Bobby
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Old 06-08-09, 10:58 AM   #4
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I take a small cable lock and use it when my bike is going to be out of my sight for any length of time. It also depends on where I am.

A loaded touring bike isn't all that attractive to the normal bike thief who's looking to make a buck on a quick sale. Even a 5 lb. Kryptonite lock isn't going to stop a determined and prepared thief. My small cable lock will deter the mischief makers and someone who thinks they'll just quickly roll it away.

I loop the cable through the front wheel and frame when there isn't anything to lock it against. The loaded bike weighs far more than the average person would want to lift and carry (even if they could). It would take a novice a little bit of time to figure out how to remove the panniers if they wanted to go that route. I'm just trying not to make it easy for someone to take.
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Old 06-08-09, 12:05 PM   #5
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+1 on always locking an unattended bike. While yes, professional thieves can defeat any lock given the time and tools required, they are the exception to the rule. Most thefts are crimes of opportunity and a quality mid-grade cable type lock is sufficient for *most* tours.

But aside from the practical issue of putting your bike at risk, leaving an unlocked bike in plain sight may tempt someone who otherwise wouldn't have had a thought about stealing anything until they saw the bike.

IMHO, if someone is enticed in this manner to take something that doesn't belong to them, the owner of the stolen property bears partial responsibility for the loss - perhaps not in the civil or criminal sense, but morally. Anyone that has served time in the military is familiar with this concept.
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Old 06-08-09, 12:16 PM   #6
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I always, always, always lock my bike up. In camp, at food stops, everywhere. Ideally, I run a long, thick cable lock through both wheels and the frame and then around a post or pole or other firmly-rooted object. The more out-of-sight this area is, the better. Better safe than sorry, and I doubt you're going to offend anyone by locking up your bike. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure your bike is secure is far better than sitting by the side of the road trying to thumb a ride to the nearest bus station, not to mention losing what might be all your worldly possessions.
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Old 06-08-09, 12:32 PM   #7
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The last piece of security equipment I carry is for my soft goods: a Pacsafe external system (www.pac-safe.com). It is a steel mesh net (still very light) that allows me to put my panniers and dry bags inside and lock them to the bike safely with items still inside. The mesh pattern is small enough that a thief couldn't cut the bags through the netting and draw items out, and the netting itself is high-tensile steel.
Interesting. I hope to go on my first (mini) tour this summer, and I have been wondering about how people deal with securing their stuff (as opposed to their bikes) if they decide to go off for a hike or a swim or whatever, short of just zipping the panniers up out of sight in the tent and hoping for the best.

Of course, they could always make off with the tent itself pretty easily . . .
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Old 06-08-09, 01:05 PM   #8
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I figure I'll bring a lock appropriate for the greatest need for security I'll see on tour. I'm visiting friends in major cities so I'm bringing the U-Lock and a braided steel cable to secure the trailer. Overkill for most areas, but not for all.
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Old 06-08-09, 01:38 PM   #9
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as stated elsewhare on here, i use a home made bike chain with a padlock. its long enough for all the places ive locked a bike to... but that doesnt say much. still, lock your bike up. better safe than sorry.
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Old 06-08-09, 05:46 PM   #10
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I've had three instances happen during my trips:
-- Lost a light from the bike in Fort McPherson, NWT, Canada when cycling the Dempster Highway
-- Lost a bicycle bell when the bike was locked up underneath a hotel in Mysore, India
-- My riding partner had some hoodlums steal her bicycle pump in small village of Ушумун in Russian Far East.

I carry a lightweight lock and chain, though there have been entire trips where I didn't lock it up. I started being more diligent on locking after loosing my commuting bike at home outside a local grocery store. What I have done on more remote trips is carry some spare essentials like bike pump and also make sure I'm carrying things like passports and $ on my person.
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Old 06-08-09, 05:50 PM   #11
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How do you stop people from making off with your panniers? You can lock the bike, but they can still take all your belongings while you're in a restaurant.
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Old 06-08-09, 10:23 PM   #12
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Securing your bike against thief is a function of how paranoid you are and where you are. I've done a lot of touring, have never locked my bike, and have never had any problem at all. A loaded bike, especially one that's a bit beat up like mine, is not a prime target for thieves. I do keep my most valuable stuff in a small handle bar bag and carry it with me when I leave the bike.

When I shop in a super market, I often roll the bike into the entry lobby and park it there. Stopped at a fast food joint or c store, I park it near a window where I can watch it. Camping, I lay it on the ground to minimize its presence. (I've heard of ppl running a string from the bike and tying it to their ankle at night.)

A lightweight chain lock and detachable handle bar bag is all you really need to deter all but the most determined thieves. Mostly, just avoid sketchy areas and use common sense.
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Old 06-09-09, 05:32 AM   #13
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I never took my panniers off the bike at stops or in camp for the entire TA, except when we were staying with a host and went out for a movie. My other tours have been pretty much the same.

The more theft worthy items (camera, cell phone, ID, debit card, etc.) are in the handlebar bag which goes with me where ever I go.

I use a light inexpensive cable lock in places where I feel it is prudent. In places where risk seems especially high I try to take my bike in with me or make whatever arrangements I can, but I am seldom in places like that when on tour. On the TA there were only a few places like that. On my recent Santa Fe Trail tour there were none.

I do not buy especially high priced gear or bikes, often actually preferring lower priced but functional stuff anyway. There are a few higher priced pieces of gear among my camping gear (just a few items that save a lot of weight and add comfort), but still I keep it where if I had to I could afford to replace it all.

Bikes and gear are not an end in and of themselves to me so I feel no need to go beyond what is functional. Spending more does little to enhance the tour so I am able to travel with less worry about bike and gear. My Windsor Touring, Nashbar Panniers, Nashbar and Blackburn racks, and other reasonably priced gear are just not all that attractive to a serious thief.
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Old 06-09-09, 06:02 AM   #14
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I never took my panniers off the bike at stops or in camp for the entire TA, except when we were staying with a host and went out for a movie. My other tours have been pretty much the same.

The more theft worthy items (camera, cell phone, ID, debit card, etc.) are in the handlebar bag which goes with me where ever I go.
+1, although in commercial camping places I often remove panniers and throw them in the tent.

Heavy panniers make the bike more difficult to steal. During swim/lunch breaks, grocery shopping and sightseeing, and depending on situation, I sometimes lock the bike but pretty much always leave the panniers attached. If you're really worried, you can throw a pacsafe net over them. The handlebar bag goes with me always.

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Old 06-09-09, 06:54 AM   #15
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Thanks for all the input everybody! Lots of great info in here to sift through. I'm sure I'll use some kind of combination using all your ideas.

Basically it comes down to using some common sense, depending on the scenario you find yourself in.

I do like the idea of tying a string from the bike to an ankle overnight. So simple!

I'm sure I'll put together some form of protection system using a combination of all your ideas.

Thanks heaps!!!
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Old 06-10-09, 08:32 PM   #16
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I tried to be casual and carefree, but ended up worrying too much! The weight of a cable lock was a small price for peace of mind. To think that any smartass punk could ruin my tour was not good for me.

Find a high-end hardware store, and fashion a cable for your needs. I went with something really thin, but stranded so it's hard to cut. I got a small combo lock, but brand-name so it's hard to break too. And a 5-foot cable will wrap around SOMETHING!
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Old 06-10-09, 09:02 PM   #17
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A guy and wife were touring through Eugene a couple days ago, they stopped at a Safeway and both walked into the store, bikes not locked. Asking for it, right? They got it, they came out and the woman's bike was gone, along with panniers with purse, laptop computer and other items. Eugene is horrible for bike theft, as are many other cities and towns.

They got publicity from the newspaper and TV, and actually got the bike back. The thief took the purse and computer and left the bike at an apartment complex a few blocks away from the store. They were lucky to get the bike back, they were also pretty dumb to leave their bikes unattended.

Take a good cable and lock and use them. I've locked my bike to trees, picnic tables and even to my tent poles while sleeping, easy enough to do for a good night's rest.
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Old 06-12-09, 01:00 PM   #18
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When I shop in a super market, I often roll the bike into the entry lobby and park it there. Stopped at a fast food joint or c store, I park it near a window where I can watch it. Camping, I lay it on the ground to minimize its presence. (I've heard of ppl running a string from the bike and tying it to their ankle at night.)

.
I had a cart full of groceries swiped when I stopped to use the cash machine in the front of the store (unfortunately, just AFTER I had paid for the groceries). So you never know who is out there, and whether they have good intentions.....
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Old 06-12-09, 01:24 PM   #19
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I carry a small cable lock, and use it.I like shopping in small towns better than big cities.If I go into the city,I'll park my bike inside the supermarket and lock it.If they won't let me,I move on to the next store.I won't leave everything I own at the time sitting outside.

In the campgrounds,it gets locked to something if available or locked through the wheels.I'm one of the ones that uses fishing line to tie it to a tent stake.I could use the cable and lock it to the tent,but I want to catch someone messing with the bikes.

I sleep much better knowing that I have a fighting chance my bike will be there in the morning intact.

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Old 06-14-09, 03:12 AM   #20
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I hope my cable lock will suffice for my upcoming tour of Europe...Kind of paranoid about London though.

If you REALLY want to avoid getting ripped off in camp you can always set up a tripwire perimeter and a sign that says GTFO! Also, IEDs can be made easily with shotgun shells and an exacto knife Just sayin' is all.
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