Bike thief: Tools of the trade

San Francisco police apprehended a bike thief who was in the process of stealing a bike today. Here are the tools of his trade.

Bike theft tools

The bicycle tube fashioned like a sling around the bolt cutter handles allow the thief to keep the bolt cutters slung over his shoulder, typically hidden under a light jacket or obscured by the backpack that carries his other tools. He whips the bolt cutter around, cuts the lock and swings it back around for a quick getaway on the stolen bike. It’s very slick; a practiced thief can do this right next to you and you likely won’t notice what he just did.

Multitool allows quick removal of parts that are connected with allen bolts — the seatpost, some headsets, some wheels, and derailleur mechanisms. Cable cutters make quick work of shifter and brake cables.

The pipe cutter (the big gray tool in the center of the photo) is a new one for me. I’ve heard some thieves now cut frames so they can later strip the bike of its components for resale.

Photo courtesy SFPD via Platty Jo.


  • Bike 1
    June 27, 2013 - 11:25 am | Permalink

    i’ve had bikes and bike parts stolen ove the years. my questions: where do bike thieves unload their stolen goods and who is buying them?

  • Nick
    June 27, 2013 - 11:51 am | Permalink

    The pipe cutter is used to cut the bike rack. Once cut it can be forced apart and the lock pulled out with the bike. Tape is then put over the cut to disguise it so it is ready for the next unsuspecting person to lock their bike up.

  • June 27, 2013 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

    The walkie-talkie is the scary part. This means there is a lookout.

  • June 27, 2013 - 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes, I’ve heard of this trick. Thanks Nick.

  • June 27, 2013 - 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Around the Bay Area and in Santa Cruz there are literally back alley bike chop shops. Craigslist is a common avenue. You’ll find a lot of suspicious stuff at flea markets, too. Check out the top photo in this post, for example –>

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