Bike locked by thief; What to do?

What do you do if you return to your locked bike to find another lock on the bike?

This is one of those supposed bike thief tricks. You lock your bike with a good lock. Thief wants your bike but doesn’t have the tools or time to defeat your lock, so he adds his own lock to your bike. You leave the bike overnight, when the thief can break your lock at his leisure.

I’ve never thought about this before, but I saw this question on Yahoo answers: What do you do in this situation?

The answers so far seem impractical, though this is an impractical situation to begin with.

  • Call the police. You can call the police, but what will the do besides express confusion?
  • Call a locksmith. Seems reasonable, though it’s a bummer you have to shell out for this service.
  • Bolt cutters. Sure, but who carries bolt cutters around with them?

Any other ideas? And does this really happen? If a thief wants to ensure a bike stays around, a more common gambit is to disable the bike — usually by letting air out of the tires — in the hopes that you’ll come back later for the bike.

16 Comments

  • November 11, 2010 - 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if this sounds flippant, but this is why I bought a Brompton.

  • November 11, 2010 - 6:27 pm | Permalink

    My initial reaction would be to try to get back to the bike with a hacksaw before the thief gets back with his/her own.

  • November 11, 2010 - 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Quite, Nigel. I don’t know any bike thieves that would be willing to be laughed at, when their friends saw them on a Brompton.

    ~

    More seriously, if I had the time, I’d probably call the police and alert them to an excellent opportunity to snag a bike thief. Maybe even local news (hey, you never know). If I didn’t, I’d just go home and get the tools to snap it off.

  • November 11, 2010 - 7:58 pm | Permalink

    That’s a tough one. If you happened to carry a little one-use tube of super-glue you could disable the thief’s lock and give yourself a bit more time to figure out how to remove it. While it would not get your bike free it would mean the thief could not use the lock again.

    I have heard of 2 approaches to breaking a lock but don’t want to spell them out unnecessarily. Let’s just say one method involves something akin to cryogenics, the second involves a tool needed to change a flat on your car. Tools for the first approach might be available at a nearby hardware store, tools for the second could probably be borrowed from a passerby (assuming they believe you are the owner of said bike).

  • Sidhe Unseelie
    November 11, 2010 - 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Yes, this happens. Especially at our local transit stops, BART and ACTransit hubs.
    First: you should have registered your bike with whatever local agency has taken this on, in Berkeley the PD does this, they have special days on campus where they go outside (weekly) and take registrations. Otherwise hit up your city hall and look for the info.
    Second: when you find this has happened to you, if you want to keep your bike, deal with it IMMEDIATELY. Don’t go off to keep dinner plans, or whatever errand nibbles at your patience unless you just don’t care that your bike won’t be there when you return. Call the police, point out your reg sticker and prove your identity. They’ll have the lock cut.

  • Sidhe Unseelie
    November 11, 2010 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    No, disabling the thief’s lock does nothing; they’re planning to come back and cut YOUR lock, so they’re perfectly prepared to just shrug and cut their mischief lock, too.
    The only thing to do is call PD and tell them exactly what’s wrong so that they send the appropriate people with the right tools; not 911, just the local regular PD dispatch line. “Hi, My bike has been locked by a thief and I really need to get home. Can you send an officer who can take a report and cut the lock? Yes, I can prove it’s mine, there’s a reg sticker/picture in my wallet/etc.”

  • November 11, 2010 - 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Thinking about this — I don’t imagine crooks will use a high end lock, so freeze spray is a reasonable approach. Good idea.

  • johnny99
    November 11, 2010 - 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Call a few well armed friends to come and stake out the bike with you. Wait for the perp to unlock your bike. Then deal with them.

  • Wuss912
    November 11, 2010 - 11:21 pm | Permalink

    time for some ulock justice….

  • Anon.
    November 12, 2010 - 1:55 am | Permalink

    Another solution is call a few friends with spare locks. The more on the bike, the more to burst open. This can also buy time (plus jamming their lock) to get their lock cut. I have never heard of a thief locking up a bike. Usually thieves are out for the easy gains: bikes with cable locks, u-locks around wheels (NOT the frame), bikes locked to sign posts, etc. If your bike is nice enough for them to lock, wait and pray, and then return, you must have a really nice frame. If the parts alone are worth it, I’ve heard of people cutting through the frame itself simply for the worth of the wheels and components – even if it’s titanium or carbon fiber. It’s super easy to cut through even chromoly with a cheap hacksaw. Aluminum can be dented and cut even less effort.

    For most bikes, a thief would probably not risk a $50+ lock plus a beatdown on a quick $200 re-sell on the used market. A cheaper u-lock would be too vulnerable for this to work. The only person locking your bike up to steal it would be another cyclist, I’m sure.

  • November 12, 2010 - 4:20 am | Permalink

    At first, I shout “Oh. *****”.^^.
    And I would manage to carry my loved one to my home with great patience. Then I would break the evil lock by tough tools with shouting ” atatatatatatatat oh achaa “(like Kenshiro/BruceLee).

  • November 12, 2010 - 4:20 am | Permalink

    At first, I shout “Oh. *****”.^^.
    And I would manage to carry my loved one to my home with great patience. Then I would break the evil lock by tough tools with shouting ” atatatatatatatat oh achaa “(like Kenshiro/BruceLee).

  • November 12, 2010 - 5:32 am | Permalink

    AAA. I carry my card in my saddle bag (it never gets used for the car). I’ve heard of people calling for bicycle flats, so they should have no problem with a bicycle lock.

  • November 12, 2010 - 5:54 pm | Permalink

    http://www.acetoolonline.com/v/vspfiles/photos/MAK-JR180DWD-2.jpg

    Try to find a place that will hire out one of these. And be careful.

  • November 12, 2010 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha! :-) Bruce Lee mewling FTW!

  • Andy
    November 13, 2010 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I’d one-up them and come back with a boat anchor chain and a 50lb lock.

    Even better, get a GPS tracking bug to install in the seat tube. Then they can get busted for 10x stolen bikes when you find their stash

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