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Solo travelling and theft-protection

Old 08-23-21, 04:36 AM
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Cheeseftw
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Solo travelling and theft-protection

Getting ready for my first ever long-term bikepacking journey and am worrying about keeping my gear protected. I'll be travelling solo and right now I imagine supermarket stops to be a concern and a couple hours strolling through the city or doing some on-foot sightseeing seems impossible. I won't be able to take my two pannier bags and 60 litre drypack along with me wherever I go, and they're so easily taken off the bike by anyone passing by - I couldn't be at ease when my bike's not within sight.

How do you guys protect your gear from being stolen? Can you just never leave your bike unwatched when travelling solo? Thanks!
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Old 08-23-21, 05:42 AM
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I sleep, so yes, my bike is out of sight every night.

During the day, I use situational awareness. If Iím in Podunkville and want to stop in a store I usually donít think twice. If things look sketchy I will try to bring the bike inside. Depending on where I am camping, I may not look the bike while I sleep, and I canít remember the last time I slept with my gear in my tent.
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Old 08-23-21, 05:51 AM
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I do not worry, in general. So perhaps poor answer to your question.

In my experience, I tend to sleep in accommodations when in large cities. Most will let you store your bike (and obviously luggage) inside. In small towns or in "the wild", theft would probably be unusual.

Always keep your wallet/phone/compact valuables with you. Always lock your bike.

(Two panniers + a 60L dry bag... That's 100L... You could probably carry half or less.)
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Old 08-23-21, 06:35 AM
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Myself: I've always locked the bike, have had removable panniers, and keep my vitals/valuables separate from the bike+gear and on me at all times. Parking the bike in clear view of security cams helps, I think; or, say, at a restaurant in clear view of where I'm sitting during the meal. But, always locked.

Might well seem overkill, in some spots, and to many, but I figure removal of temptation keeps a good percentage of such would-be thieves from attempting it. Worth it, to me.

Generally speaking, I've figured that out of sight = out of mind. From a temptation standpoint.

That said, going completely solo and unsupported means camping and having the bike and gear "secured" while sleeping. About the only way to do that is inside the tent, IMO, unless willing to lock it to a nearby tree and hope the sound of an attempt wakes me.
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Old 08-23-21, 06:52 AM
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What other have said... and I use an alarm that is hidden under the saddle. Search for "vehicle anti theft alarm ks-sf22r". If someone moves the bike, you know it. It has different sensitivity settings for windy nights.
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Old 08-23-21, 07:09 AM
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I have had two thefts and both were in European cities.

If in any city, I do not let the bike out of my sight nor very far. Easy for me because I hate cities.

In fly over country, I will let it outside unattended if shopping or at a restaurant but do take my phone, garmin, and valuables along with charger if in a restaurant.
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Old 08-23-21, 07:14 AM
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Bar bag with wallet, phone, and camera goes with me, period.

If the area look sketchy, ask if they'll watch your bike near the customer service desk in the grocery store.

Walking around a larger city for hours? Spring for a motel room and lock the bike in there.
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Old 08-23-21, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
but I figure removal of temptation
Certainly cannot hurt.

The only time someone tried to take something of mine was in DuBois, WY. I cannot remember why, but I left my stove out in plain sight one afternoon at a commercial campground. I had camped at a primitive site the night before, so maybe I had heated up water to wash out a pot. In any event, the tenting area was very close to a road that led to a residential area, and there was only a post rail fence separating the area from the road. I was sitting outside the laundry room reading when I saw a car stop. One young man got out and started towards the fence. I figured something was up so I stood up and started walking fast towards my tent. He was just starting to hop the fence when he saw me coming. He ran back to the car and the two sped off. I made my stove an easy target by leaving it out in an area with easy public access. Dumb on my part.
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Old 08-23-21, 07:44 AM
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An option is just to walk into the supermarket with your bike. Look confident and just go about collecting up your stuff.
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Old 08-23-21, 08:02 AM
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Lots of good tips. One I have not seen yet. Ortlieb has a thin metal cord that attaches to the pannier which you can lock to the rack. It would not be hard to cut with the right tool. But it would prevent someone walking by and pulling it off the bike.

i am not sure what a sketchy area is. I do feel that bike thefts happen more where there are a lot of bikers. A bigger market.
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Old 08-23-21, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post

i am not sure what a sketchy area is.
An example would be an area where people are behaving as if they might be addicts. Three years ago I planned a tour around my 35 high school reunion in western MA. Saturday afternoon of the reunion I broke my reading glasses and had to make a run to a pharmacy in town. At that time, the town allegedly had the highest rate of opioid addiction in the entire state. I'm from Philly, so I don't scare easily, but I was nervous about locking my bike outside because I only had a relatively light cable lock.

Two days before I had stopped in Brattleboro, VT. After surveying the scene in town, there was no way I was leaving my bike unattended outside. I brought it inside both the outdoor store and a grocery store while I shopped.
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Old 08-23-21, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post
i am not sure what a sketchy area is.
IMO, it's anywhere a would-be thief feels enabled. Due to the place breeding such folks. Or out of the line of sight from onlookers (to a theft). Or, ...

Can be a graffiti-ridden ghetto hole of a place. Can be one of "those" places in the urban centers we've all seen from time to time. Can be the clearly-visible little campground that's miles from anywhere else. All it can take is the wrong person to come along.

As you say, though, it's hard to based it simply off the locale. In my own experience, it's generally a question of who'll come by. No way to know that. Wish it were different, but it likely never will be.
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Old 08-23-21, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
IMO, it's anywhere a would-be thief feels enabled. Due to the place breeding such folks. Or out of the line of sight from onlookers (to a theft). Or, ...

Can be a graffiti-ridden ghetto hole of a place. Can be one of "those" places in the urban centers we've all seen from time to time. Can be the clearly-visible little campground that's miles from anywhere else. All it can take is the wrong person to come along.

As you say, though, it's hard to based it simply off the locale. In my own experience, it's generally a question of who'll come by. No way to know that. Wish it were different, but it likely never will be.
I actually did a crime study in a neighborhood I moved where my friends from the burbs were uncomfortable to visit. My friends had a point of view but not a clue of actual problems. Unless you know the data, you are working on assumptions that may or may not be accurate.
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Old 08-23-21, 09:48 AM
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I don't tend to visit cities much and when I do I am likely to stay with friends, get a room, or otherwise have a place to lock stuff up.

Most of the time I am in small towns. What precautions I take varies from none to never letting anything out of my sight depending on how I percieve the risk. In camp I mostly don't worry beyond maybe locking the bike with a light cable lock. Often I don't bother with even that.

Some places I leave the bike outside and don't worry. Small town general stores that is likely. Walmarts and supermarkets I am likely to either roll it up and down the aisles with me, park it near the registers, or park it in the lobby depending on what seems necessary.
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Old 08-23-21, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post
I actually did a crime study in a neighborhood I moved where my friends from the burbs were uncomfortable to visit. My friends had a point of view but not a clue of actual problems. Unless you know the data, you are working on assumptions that may or may not be accurate.
Yup. Indicators are just that. They might or might not actually be causally related, in a given community. Difficult to know.

In my own community, though, a large metro area in the U.S., there's a certain typical look and feel to a depressed neighborhood when one is driving or biking through it. Generally speaking, those spots, around the city, tend to tightly correspond to the crime maps showing where the most-violent crimes occur. Not clear, black-and-white indicators, no, but in the case of the city near me it's a fairly strong one. I'm sure if details of the individual households and socioeconomic realities were delved into, in such "hot" spots, plenty more would be understood about the drivers. Still, indicators can be fairly accurate measures of where it's rougher versus not.
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Old 08-23-21, 10:30 AM
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Agree with Indyfabz, situational awareness. Places I am uncomfortable, I leave.

I use a handlebar bag with a quick release for my valuables, that goes in restaurants and grocery stores with me.

I usually just use a cheap cable lock. But my next tour will probably be on my titanium bike that looks expensive. For that trip I am bringing a Bordo link type lock with a really good cable. That lock cost over $100.

I use bolt on skewers instead of quick release when touring, you need a 5mm allen wrench to remove a wheel. (I also keep a spare 5mm with my spare tubes, just in case.)

I only camp in campgrounds. I usually lock teh bike to a tree or picnic table or fence post or something like that. If I was really nervous, I would pull a front wheel off the bike and put the wheel in tent vestibule, assuming a bike with one wheel is not very tempting. But, I have never been that nervous, campgrounds where I might be that nervous, I keep riding to the next one.

A 60 liter drybag??? Are you sure it is that big? Have you tried to strap it on so that it stays where you put it? On some trips I use a 31 liter bag, but that straps onto my panniers and does not shift when I hit bumps or anything like that. Bike racks are not really designed to hold something that cumbersome.

You have to assess risk. You could leave a great bike unlocked in a bad part of town and nobody touches it, or you could lose a junker in a nice area. There is no clear cut yes or no, you just have to minimize your risk and try not to obsess over it.

A friend of mine that I sometimes tour with was very nervous about parts of Florida that we planned to tour in, so he got a really heavy chain and good lock to use. And yes, he followed the rule for titanium (and carbon) bikes, the weight of your lock is inversely proportional to the weight of your unladen bike. Photo below:



I often carry a cheap little skier type lock, it won't stop a determined theif, but it would stop someone from grabbing my bike if I went into a convenience store for 2 minutes. A good lock is obviously better, but if I can use a cheap little lock for low risk areas, that would be better than deciding that it looked safe enough to run into the store while bike is unlocked.

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Old 08-23-21, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post
i am not sure what a sketchy area is. I do feel that bike thefts happen more where there are a lot of bikers. A bigger market.
Pay attention out on the road, and after a couple weeks, you may develop "sketchy area" antennae. Trust your gut; if it doesn't feel right, respond appropriately.

You're probably right about bike thefts; park and camp far away from large university campuses. But loaded bike thefts are pretty rare, they make the news every couple years when it happens. Opportunistic thefts are probably more likely. We stopped one place and were fed a sumptious meal of family reunion leftovers -- but that night camping with a group -- and one light sleeper -- saved us from a handful of guys who "lost a watch" and were probably looking for something light and expensive to snatch and grab from the picnic shelter. indyfabz's stove example, or an unattended tablet or cell phone, those are easy to grab, conceal, and pawn or sell later.
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Old 08-23-21, 10:55 AM
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Supermarkets are actually easier than many people think. These stores accommodate people pushing shopping carts around. I easily bring my bicycle inside and push it around as if it were a cart. When doing this, I have a list of things that I need and immediately start shopping for those items.

The only tip that I would consider important for that is to know that store managers are the only ones who will ever give you pause. To reduce the chance of interacting with them, do your shopping after 5pm. The day manager is usually gone by then and the night manager is too busy at the beginning of their shift to bother with a shopper pushing a bicycle around the store. They're in a worse predicament if shoppers are not wearing masks.

If a manager does say anything to you, it will probably be that you leave the bicycle inside but in a place that they deem out of the way (of course, the most out of the way place is in your possession, while you push it around the store).

This is from a local shopping excursion of mine:
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Old 08-23-21, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheeseftw View Post
Getting ready for my first ever long-term bikepacking journey and am worrying about keeping my gear protected. I'll be travelling solo and right now I imagine supermarket stops to be a concern and a couple hours strolling through the city or doing some on-foot sightseeing seems impossible. I won't be able to take my two pannier bags and 60 litre drypack along with me wherever I go, and they're so easily taken off the bike by anyone passing by - I couldn't be at ease when my bike's not within sight.

How do you guys protect your gear from being stolen? Can you just never leave your bike unwatched when travelling solo? Thanks!
never leave your bike alone out in the street, only in very little rural villages I leave the bike outside the grocery shop. I have a little emergency lock, a strong look and mybe it opens itself. 😂
avoid bigger cities, anyway its nicer to tour in nature. when checking in into hostels or hotels your bike is save anyway.
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Old 08-23-21, 11:04 AM
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[quote=gauvins;22196231

(two panniers + a 60l dry bag... That's 100l... You could probably carry half or less.)
​[/quote]

maybe there is place to store the bike in them .... 😂
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Old 08-23-21, 11:17 AM
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Repeating some of what is said here but:
1. I keep vitals such as passport, money and usb with key documents on my person.
2. If I stop somewhere along the way and duck into a grocery store, gas station or other quick spot, I will sense how safe it feels - and if so, just duck in and take care of business.
3. When stopping in larger urban areas, I am typically in accommodation that has a locking door. I'll wait and go out to do shopping or other errands and still tend to keep vitals on my person.
4. Some places that have security guards that keep me from bringing my bike inside, also have those same security type folks if I have a conversation are at least aware to check with my bike. Sometimes I might also strike up conversation with someone that is otherwise planning on being outside the door.

So far I've been fortunate with mostly smaller scale thefts:
- While not touring, I did have a bike stolen in Fort Collins CO, when I lived there. I had parked it outside a grocery store, but not locked it.
- While touring, I have a bicycle bell taken when the bike was parked underneath a hotel in Mysore India. I actually had repeated conversations with hotel staff where I wanted to bring my bell inside - but they didn't and assured me it would be ok parked in their garage with security nearby. Took everything off the bike but didn't get the bell.
- While touring, in Siberia, my partner parked her bike outside a small shop. While inside, some people (likely teenagers) from the village stole her pump. I was still behind and so wasn't there to watch bikes.
- While touring, in NWT, had a flashing light taken off the bike. Again, parked overnight.

So theft and losing stuff does happen and having at least basic lock and keeping valuables with you are at least basic steps. However, also had some cases of theft listed above.
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Old 08-23-21, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheeseftw View Post
I won't be able to take my two pannier bags and 60 litre drypack along with me wherever I go, and they're so easily taken off the bike by anyone passing by - I couldn't be at ease when my bike's not within sight.
Wow! that is a lot of volume. I backpack with a 45 liter pack and that is often with a bear canister of food inside. I restock food daily on tour so I need less capacity on tour. For me 45 liters would be spacious. I know not everyone wants to travel light, but that sounds like a lot. How big are your panniers?

How are you carrying the 60 liter backpack (or is it not a backpack)? Strapped in the rack? Wearing it? In a trailer?
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Old 08-23-21, 03:13 PM
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Just one more general comment. Be careful, assess risks, and use good sense on situational awareness. If you obsess too much about the possibility of theft, you will have a terrible trip. If when your bike is out of site you can forget about it, you will have a much better trip.

My Iceland trip, there is almost no theft in Iceland. Many times I did not even bother to lock my bike in the campgrounds. I did lock it in Reykjavik, but probably did not need to.

On the other hand, in one community we passed through in California on the Pacific Coast, there were two of us and when we stopped at a convenience store, one of us stayed with the bikes. We took turns going in the convenience store.

Also in California on that trip, one motel did not allow us to bring our bikes into our room. We locked the bikes in some brush immediately outside the window for the motel office which was staffed 24 hours, thus movement outside the window would have been noticed by motel staff, or at least that was the theory.

So be careful, but make sure you have a good trip.
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Old 08-23-21, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Just one more general comment. Be careful, assess risks, and use good sense on situational awareness. If you obsess too much about the possibility of theft, you will have a terrible trip. If when your bike is out of site you can forget about it, you will have a much better trip.
I would not have seen a lot of cool stuff if I had been to afraid to let my stuff out of my sight, either while in camp or on the road. I also would have never showered. 😀
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Old 08-24-21, 05:11 AM
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I don't think the use of a personal alarm has been mentioned. Happy Feet did in post #47
Panniers on a tour

In this thread see posts #15 and #31
How to address bike security while on tour.

If you search this forum (upper right in the Touring forum) for "theft" or "personal alarm" you'll get lots of hits discussing security
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