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Disguising a classic

Old 08-08-21, 03:12 PM
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DonTx
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Disguising a classic

I have a 1985 Trek 520 fixie conversion that I am converting to a single speed and flat bars for my daughter to use at college. I am a little concerned about her leaving a decent vintage bike out on the sidewalk, during classes. It would be in her apt otherwise. So I am thinking about plasti dipping the frame, or wrapping it in friction tape, to ugly it up a bit so maybe thieves will leave it alone. Am worrying about nothing? If not, do you have other ideas that will not damage the original finish, but will hide what the bike is. I know the lugs give it away to anyone "in the know."
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Old 08-08-21, 03:21 PM
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I don't think it's necessary, a good lock should be enough
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Old 08-08-21, 03:27 PM
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Don't you think ",,,converting to a single speed and flat bars..." is uglifaction enough?
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Old 08-08-21, 03:34 PM
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Huffy decals?

I've had thoughts recently of some sort of boring bike build challenge. Crummy colors, ho hum parts, names that counter any degree of excitement, as in "Sea Pines" "Executive" "Reliant" "Merit", etc.
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Old 08-08-21, 03:40 PM
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big lock that get used
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Old 08-08-21, 03:42 PM
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I doubt uglyfication would matter to most opportunistic thieves. They'll steal anything.

And thieves who know bikes won't be fooled by deliberately crappifying a bike. They'll recognize decent frames, components, wheels, tires, etc.
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Old 08-08-21, 03:45 PM
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The disguise seems likely to draw attention to an obviously-disguised bike.

There is an art to refurbing a frumpy-looking bike to make it a good rider while remaining visually unattractive. Everything from mis-matched wheels/tires to a batterred saddle, aged-looking cables/housings and handlebar tape, etc, while remaining a super-good rider.

Rule number one would seem to be starting with a beat-up frumpy-looking bike. It can be a real challenge to keep your bike when/if thieves are around.
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Old 08-08-21, 03:46 PM
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A Trek 520 is a nice frame but generally not recognized as such outside the walls of our little community. Unless your daughter is an uncommon appreciate of a good bike for her age, the bike will get beat up pretty quickly anyway.
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Old 08-08-21, 03:53 PM
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Sadly, no lock is going to stop a determined thief. If you know of one, please let the rest of us know. Some will destroy a frame in order to get the components, so there really is little you can do.

If theft is really that much of a risk, I'd lean toward not giving her such a nice bike. I still see some decent bikes at decent prices, even though bikes have gotten scarce during Covid. I'd go that route personally and if it gets robbed, you're not out so much.

I do know someone that covered a bike in black gaffer's tape. He did it mainly for protection from rocks and such, but it is always an option. But like others have said, some educated thieves won't be fooled. So it is a crapshoot.
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Old 08-08-21, 03:57 PM
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As already mentioned, even “uglyfied” bikes get stolen unless they are locked! Super nice bikes get stolen even if they ARE locked! Go ahead and make it ugly BUT tell your daughter if it’s not locked when not attended AND it gets stolen, she’ll be buying the next bike with her own money!
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Old 08-08-21, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
A Trek 520 is a nice frame but generally not recognized as such outside the walls of our little community. Unless your daughter is an uncommon appreciate of a good bike for her age, the bike will get beat up pretty quickly anyway.
I think y'all are right it won't matter if I uglyify it. Her normal rider is a 2000's trek 5200, so she does know a good bike, and does take care of her stuff. It was her idea to ugly it up, but I think I'll leave it as is.
A good lock is obviously the best plan. I used to commute on a Seven and used a masterlock cuff, but I also parked on the second floor in the parking lot. There was bike rack on the first floor but it was a joke, and I thought thieves are lazy so they won't walk up a flight of stairs if they don't need to.

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Old 08-08-21, 05:33 PM
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The bike will be a theft magnet. It is, pretty much, as simple as that. Were it me, I would not ride it anywhere where I had to leave it unattended, on a regular basis. If I absolutely had to do so, I would leave it in a high traffic area, not some secluded place. I would use a very good cable lock and lock the bike to a stable object. I would pull the front wheel or at the very least, the saddle (a quick release seat post clamp would facilitate this), rendering the bike unrideable or close to it. That said...

I would, for a few dollars, get her an entry level steed of little monetary value and ensure that it is road worthy and safe to ride. A good lock would still be needed every single time!

Other than that, offer prayers to the anti theft bicycle gods and hope that they are listening.

For years, I rode my Junk Bike to work, locked it to a sturdy railing and left it at that. I still enjoyed the ride to and from work and never experienced the worry of theft. Even if it did get took. so what? I could live with it...


That old Peugeot looked not too bad from a distance but a close up look was, obviously, good enough to prevent anyone from even wanting to touch the diseased looking steed...


The bike was dirt cheap to buy and convert to SS configuration and it was, quite frankly, a hoot to ride steel rims and all...
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Old 08-08-21, 05:49 PM
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i bought my grand daughter a used dahon ebay folding bike. great for around town, and fold it up and lock it somewhere inside... they are great riders.
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Old 08-08-21, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by cocoabeachcrab View Post
i bought my grand daughter a used dahon ebay folding bike. great for around town, and fold it up and lock it somewhere inside... they are great riders.
College area, high theft, this makes sense. Could probably even take it into class with her.
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Old 08-08-21, 07:32 PM
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I uglified an Eisentraught for my SiL to,use as a train station bike, full Galli group and everything. Multiple coats of Rusto black, gray and rust red. Mismatched tires.
He used it for for four years without any major issues, then I sold the remaining cleaned up parts to member Senior Ryder.

Same deal with my daughter. Ross 294 Sig frameset, mismatched components, four years of use between the house and train station. Components were worthless at the end, but the frame got powdercoated and now serves as a fancy city bike for Mrs. Spaghetti Legs.
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Old 08-08-21, 07:48 PM
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Personal accounts here don't really add up to much without locations that give context to the area the bike will be parked in.

-Kurt
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Old 08-08-21, 09:50 PM
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Junior got my 1991-ish Schwinn Sprint. Lasted him 3 years of college at the University of Minnesota. It went for at least another year with friends of his. He was just going to leave it unlocked at the dorm at the end of the year- but felt sentimental- rode it down to his friends’ house and gave it to them.

It was a cool bike, cheap, rode nice, shifted nice- and it survived outdoors in Minneapolis. Locked up outside, ridden year round.
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Old 08-08-21, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Personal accounts here don't really add up to much without locations that give context to the area the bike will be parked in.

-Kurt
This. It all depends on the university she's going to.

Campuses in rural or affluent suburban areas in my experience don't have as much of a theft problem, and locking the bike next to a big important academic building with a security desk helps. I've locked up bikes outside the research buildings at Harvard (Cambridge, not the medical school), University of Vermont, and Middlebury with no fear and never hear of thefts at these institutions. I imagine that would translate to most rural or affluent suburban areas. But I wouldn't risk regularly locking a bike outside McGill, NYU, Columbia, or U of Chicago. Urban settings are just riskier. I know grad students at Harvard med (downtownish Boston) who've had wheels pilfered in broad daylight, and a UM Ann Arbor professor who got her (well-locked-up) bike stolen from outside the building where she works. Ann Arbor isn't a big city, but the university is so big I imagine it supports a whole theft industry.

Anyway, that's the extent of my experience in terms of place vs theft risk.
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Old 08-09-21, 02:00 AM
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While I was at university I picked the lock of a dusty, abandoned bike in one of the university bike sheds, put a new chain and a new tube in, then rode that around. At the end of every semester I returned it to the bike shed. There were many foreign students there for whom it was not worth taking the bike home after they graduated.
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Old 08-09-21, 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. 66 View Post
I don't think it's necessary, a good lock should be enough
I had a good lock on my college bike. The thieve stole parts off my bike. Fortunately for me, it was a x-mart bike and I was not too upset. That was about 20 years ago too.

I suspect a ugly paint frame might prevent theft. I recall Sheldon Brown did this with some old frame years ago, paint it with a brush stroke any time he could.
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Old 08-09-21, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
This. It all depends on the university she's going to.

Campuses in rural or affluent suburban areas in my experience don't have as much of a theft problem, and locking the bike next to a big important academic building with a security desk helps. I've locked up bikes outside the research buildings at Harvard (Cambridge, not the medical school), University of Vermont, and Middlebury with no fear and never hear of thefts at these institutions. I imagine that would translate to most rural or affluent suburban areas. But I wouldn't risk regularly locking a bike outside McGill, NYU, Columbia, or U of Chicago. Urban settings are just riskier. I know grad students at Harvard med (downtownish Boston) who've had wheels pilfered in broad daylight, and a UM Ann Arbor professor who got her (well-locked-up) bike stolen from outside the building where she works. Ann Arbor isn't a big city, but the university is so big I imagine it supports a whole theft industry.

Anyway, that's the extent of my experience in terms of place vs theft risk.
Some years back, I heard that a grad student in my department had his bike stolen, but then spotted it locked up at a different bike rack on campus. He alerted campus PD and managed to get it back. I'm not sure that's a bike thief who's really dumb or really brazen.
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Old 08-09-21, 07:17 AM
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Covering the whole bike with tape will just alert thieves to the fact that something is being hidden.

I am on the side of either (a) investing in a good lock and a some time in ensuring the owner has a good idea of how to best lock the bike, or (b) pulling a less desirable bike out of a dumpster and making that into a SS or fixie for commuting to class.

Another strategy that is (in my opinion) more effecting than covering the whole bike with tape is what I call Maximised Uglification. There are two steps to this process: (i) beat the holy hell out of the bike in such a way as to ruin the paint - for instance, put the bike against a sign post and workit back and forth to intentionally wreck the paint, and (ii) add a limited amount of tape to various areas of the bike (brake levers, cables, saddle, frame tube junctions, etc) to create a visual suggestion that there is a lot going wrong with the bike and it will take too much effort to even extract usable parts.

Lastly, remember the 'being chased by a bear' strategy for locking a bike - as the old joke goes, if you are in the woods with your friend and being chased by a bear, you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friend <-> if your bike is locked in a rack, it doesn't need to be impossible to steal, it just needs to be less attractive to thieves than other bikes on the rack... either a cheaper, older, worse condition bike, or obviously better locked, or some combination of all of these
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Old 08-09-21, 07:53 AM
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The thieves around me seem to look past vintage road bikes in favor of more modern stuff. I used to ride past a couple of their camps and would glance to see if anything familiar had shown up, about 90% are mtbs. There's a lot of cheap BSO and low- to mid-range lbs bikes bought in the past 10yrs. Not too many skinny steel tubes.

I'll second a scratched up frame. That's been my go-to for my street-locked bikes.
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Old 08-09-21, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
Some years back, I heard that a grad student in my department had his bike stolen, but then spotted it locked up at a different bike rack on campus. He alerted campus PD and managed to get it back. I'm not sure that's a bike thief who's really dumb or really brazen.
Someone found @Geepig

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Old 08-09-21, 08:33 AM
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My bikes were parked at University of Toronto, Ryerson University and also George Brown College. All these schools had really high theft rates.
At UofT, I carried the bike up a fire escape and hung it on the outside of the guard rail so it didn’t block the path. At the other schools I only locked against fences or guard rails. Two ulocks were always used and both had their own connection to the fence. I left one lock on the fence over night and only carried one lock with me. Anybody remember the Kryptonite Rock?
!!! Don’t use older Kryptonite locks with the tubular key on the end of the tube!!! Google it if you don’t already know.
Bike racks are buffet stations for bike thieves. Or even petty pilfering for bells, lights, components by other riders.
Make the bike unique and instantly recognizable. That makes it harder to sell.
Go over all the quick releases, replace with nuts and bolts if you don’t really use them on a regular basis. Wheels can come off in less than 5 seconds if they’re not locked, front or back.
Take a look at my “Older Bianchi” post. The experts here say the bike looks like a disaster (I loved the analysis), but it rides well and I haven’t lost it!
Also, consider how much bike she needs if it’s only to get from dorm to classes.
Good Luck!
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