Security On the Road
Call me an old worrywart if you choose but I'm not one to be casual about leaving my belongs about so that any petty little thief who comes along can help himself. Outside of a heavy chain or a cable for tying up in town, what prudent precautions should one take whilst on the road?
avoid larger towns.
Maybe this isn't always possible but it's usually the point of my tours since I live next to a ghetto, anyway.
Almost anyplace is safer than where I live so I tend not worry about things that I can replace with a simple credit card purchase.
Park right out front a grocery store where everyone can see your bike.
Half the time I roll my bike right into a grocery store with a smile on my face and lean it against the wall.
No one has ever said to park outside.
Otherise I have a combo lock with a 5' cable for wrapping around a tree.
Keep your bike in sight at all times.
This won't be possible in some instances. In those cases, I try to hide my bike or bring it inside with me where I can see it.
I don't carry a heavy lock as they are usually worthless outside of big cities that have the kind of poles they need to be locked around.
If I don't feel like locking my bike and it looks like a "safe" area, I tie a rope around my front tire to stop it from turning and the bike falling down. Since my bike is in sight, if someone tries to wheel it away, the rope will (hopefully) stop them long enough for me to react.
I have never had a problem with my stuff.
Your concerns will likely ease up after you've been on the road for a while and realize theft isn't a big problem if you are careful.
Sometimes we just have to get creative.
My wife and I have toured in a lot of countries, and have only been really concerned in the larger cities. We each carry a medium weight 6' cable and a relatively stout master lock. We do use reasonable precautions, but don't obsess over it.
At a diner we stopped at for lunch in Cleveland, Ohio the waitress told us to bring our bikes inside, "because they won't be there when you go out." We did!
We have left our bike locked to an old wooden fence for the entire day in a Swiss campground while we walked the 3 miles into town and hopped a train to see something 200 miles away. It was safer than at the train station.
Our bikes and gear were just fine when we returned. We did lockup our computer in the campground's office.
That's the fence, and my wife's bike is a nice custom built bike. We feel that if we can't enjoy doing things while on tour because we are worrying about our gear, we should probably be doing something else. As my wife says about any of our bikes,"they are just tools."
I look for security cameras to park under wherever I chose to stop. I have Pitlocks on the wheels, seatpost, headset. Every little bit helps.
That goes a long way toward avoiding thefts. Additionally avoid having gear items out in plain sight. The two times something was stolen they were strapped or clipped on top of the rear rack where they could be plucked off with no effort.
Originally Posted by boomhauer
I take either a very light (5 ounce) cable lock or no lock at all and most often don't bother to use it. If a place feels high risk or I just get a bad vibe I don't leave my bike out of my sight. At 99% of the places I am on tour I do not worry at all, but the remaining 1% I am very careful, wheeling my bike up and down the aisles while shopping if necessary.
I use common sense, street smarts and life experience to evaluate risk and take what I think are, under the circumstance, reasonable precautions, which may include locking my bike or not letting it out of my sight, or it may include doing absolutely nothing. I have left my bike unattended and unlocked plenty of times. I didn't even bring a lock on my last tour, which lasted four 8 days. The one place where I had some concern about security I asked a grocery store manager if I could bring my bike inside while I shopped. She said I could.
The funny thing is that the only time I have had a bike stolen was from inside my house while I was home. And the only time someone tried to swipe something from me while on tour was in that mega-metropolis of DuBois, WY.
There are risks everywhere. Take reasonable precautions and you should be o.k.
bike share programs in citys like Paris, would be an opportunity to see the place with their bike ,
leaving yours locked up. and/or using the bus to see the place
stripping parts while parked , locked can happen to yours as well .. even in quick pee stops..
for camping , I made up a 10' long double loop cable from parts I found in the hardware store
pretty light weight , but long enough to go around 3rd growth Trees.. about 30 years old .
Ski cable lock and a old bike
It does help reduce the worry if you ride with a bike and gear that you can afford to replace. I know that if all my gear went missing on a long tour, I would probably pick up some minimal gear and a cheap bike and keep on touring. So other than on a short-ish tour it wouldn't even be tour ending.
Originally Posted by Cheyou
Don't get me wrong I'd hate to see my stuff go missing, but I try to take things like that in stride and not having a lot of really expensive stuff goes a long way toward that end.
If your bicycle is not old and crappy looking, make it so. Cover up decals with duct tape. Then you'll have some spare tape handy for utility purposes.
while around town i've been known to walk into a number of stores with my bike, either rolling it along or over my shoulder and never had a word said to me... I make sure to be mindful of others and stuff around so I don't crash it into things.
on tour I'm planning to bring an old cable combo lock that I've had for about 25 years... it won't stop anyone but it'll slow them down.
That is also my philosophy. Professional bike thieves will cut through just about anything very quickly. However, most opportunistic thieves do not carry bolt cutters, hacksaws or battery powered angle grinders; and a stout looking cable is usually enough of a deterrent.
Originally Posted by donalson
What do you do if you Are in a city or something? A friend and I are going to be riding around Western Europe this summer. We do plan to hit up several of the typical bigger cities like Rome, Venice, Paris, etc. Is there anything you can do to secure your stuff while you go visit a museum, or do you just have to get a hotel and keep your stuff inside there? We don't plan on doing any hotel stays and I'm having trouble figuring this one out.
My bike is an old Trek from 91 that I have no problem hitting with a spray paint can, and I planned on sanding the part names off of my derailers and painting them flat black and keeping a gel seat cover to stick over my seat when I'm not with the bike. It should look like a junker with some scratched up aluminum racks, even if it is a decent lugged steel Trek touring with Shimano LX/SLX derailers and crank, decent racks, wheels, $100 seat, etc.
Originally Posted by 3speed
How are you going to do Paris, and the other large cities? Paris is not someplace you can ride into for a day see a museum, etc and ride out of in one day. Even if you use the train to get into the city it is a multi-day venture.
We were advised by local friends in Paris, not to even leave our bikes in their home's enclosed courtyard. We took them into a hallway of their house. We rented a relatively cheap apartment for a week because we wanted to see the finish of the Tour de France. We got similar warnings about leaving our bikes unattended in Amsterdam.
Good info everybody, thanks for the input.
Thanks for posting this. That is exactly the kind of information we need. I read that about Amsterdam, and we're skipping that city for that exact reason. We plan to try to use Warm Showers as much as possible in larger cities, with the hope that we could find a place for two days. The idea being to ride into the city one day, sleep at our hosts house, explore the city leaving our bikes safe with hosts, sleep the next night, then move on. Maybe Paris won't be an option if the theft is that bad. I'd rather skip a some cities than end the tour half way through with all of our gear and bikes stolen.
Originally Posted by Doug64
That sounds like a good plan.
Amsterdam is a unique city. One way to see it, which is not too expensive, is to stay at one of the relatively inexpensive motels, Ibis, near Schiphol Airport. Leave your bikes there and catch the shuttle to the Airport. The train station is below the airport terminal, and the train goes right into downtown Amsterdam.
The security of your gear is very important. I tend to buy the more expensive stuff because I want quality. I spent well over $2000 on my custom Surly LHT (S&S frame) with higher end parts, have a nice set of (6 pc) Ortlieb panniers / front / rear bag and things that I would not be very happy if they got stolen. When I go bike touring, I must admit that I make the trip ABOUT TOURING. I am not going to lock up my bike overnight or for hours on end and go site seeing. I can do that when I'm not on tour. With that beings said, you can't always bring it with you. I purchased a high quality lock from Kryptonite Bike Locks and it seems to do the trick, but I never lock my bike for more than 15 - 20 minutes. Even then, I remove the saddle and bring it in the store with me as well as my panniers bags. It's inconvenient, but it piece of mind.
One thing that I found that really helps is having a riding buddy. The other person can watch your bike while you go inside and vice versa. At night time, when I camp, I have an MSR Hubba Hubba two person tent where I can put my gear and the tent comes with an optional "shed" where I can put my bike at night and I'm not worried it'll get stolen. It's right beside me the whole night.
(see picture below)
Also, if I'm in a big city and I want to do some site touring, like I did in Vienna, I just booked a hotel room and left my bike in there. Nobody's going to steal it from your locked room. Call me paranoid, but I rather be cautious than regret having my belongings stolen .
Many of our tours are in the 2-3 month (2,000-4,000 miles) range, and it is nice to get away from the bikes for awhile to see a museum or other point of interest. Everyone's perception of what constitutes a 'tour' is different, e.g., some people travel with a bike, and some people travel by bike.
Originally Posted by B200Pilot
We also have good equipment that would hurt to get stolen, but here again if I have to always be where I can see my bike, the bike turns into an anchor rather than a vehicle providing the freedom to really explore the world. You can't see everything from the seat of a bike:)
I use methods that will thwart the opportunistic thief. I fabricated lightweight security cables for my Ortlieb panniers, used to lock my panniers to the rack. The model of Ortlieb panniers my wife uses have the cables as an option. They could probably be cut with a pair of stout scissors, but how many folks run around with scissors hidden under their coat?
My handlebar bag with wallet, passport etc. always comes off the bike.
We lock our bikes to a solid object while camping. If a solid object, picnic table or tree, is not available, we just lock them together with the cable going through a couple of the wheels as well as the frames. It would take more than one person to cart them off and it wouldn't be quiet. The only time I almost had a pannier stolen was by a raccoon on the California coast:)
This is the no solid object configuration. The shower caps keep the saddles dry at night.
Actually, I was wrong. There was an immovable object, a raccoon box!
I plan to take three motion detector alarms I bought at Radio Shack and set them in strategic spots at night. A thief would have to deal with that plus the little dog that's going with me, she barks at anything in the night that even THINKS about moving!
Originally Posted by Louis Le Tour
You might be interested in this crazyguyon a bike touring journal of a guy and his dog named "sprocket".
crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: The adventures of Sprocket and Louie, by Louis Little
Sadly, the baddies can cut through cables in a few seconds with a hacksaw or bolt cutters. They will keep honest people honest, though. I think motion alarms on the bikes are good ideas. Also maybe in town, finding the local police station and locking the bike right in front of it, or maybe inside if you get permission (ask the police where's the safest spot to lock up?) This probably wouldn't work in an anti-bike city like New York, though...
This is why I've switched to using a Palmy u-lock part of the time. It looks like any other u-lock, but its aluminum, and feels like its made out of air. It's a little on the small size, but as a deterrent it works just fine in low risk areas.
Originally Posted by Doug64