As a bike shop owner, and a Naples bike shop owner, I hear people talking about stolen bicycles. A lot. Like, every week.
The issue really hit home for me when a guy from Naples brought his beach cruiser in for repair. He had recovered it from a ditch after it was stolen–and the seat had been raised so high that the seat tube was actually bent. The thief didn’t realize that lifting the saddle up so high would actually damage the bicycle itself.
But the owner of the bike loved his ride so much that he brought it in, and we were able to hammer and fabricate it back into working order. Some metal-bending, sanding, and touch-up paint took care of the issue, but the economic damage was done. The victim of the theft was out a bike for about a month–and out the cost of the cosmetic and structural repairs.
But there’s a greater issue than this one incident. Bicycle theft in Collier County is at least as prevalent as it is in any big city, and perhaps even more prevalent, since there are so many high-quality bicycles here. Anecdotally, we believe that the Publix supermarket at 951 and Immokalee Rd. is the scene of approximately one bike theft per week, and we know that Ave Maria is a hotbed for college students who like to joyride on other peoples’ two-wheelers.
So what can be done?
For starters, invest in a good bike lock. Cables locks are convenient and easy to operate. But it only takes about 90 seconds with a bolt-cutter and/or hacksaw to defeat a lock with an 8mm-wide cable. We know because customers who’ve forgotten their locks’ combination codes ask us to remove the locks. A 12mm-wide cable is better, taking us about 2 1/2 minutes to defeat.
The moral of that story: invest in two locks, and use them. A thief is likely to reconsider attempting to steal a bike that is locked, but if it is locked twice, the thief’s mental calculations might convince him to move on altogether.
We’re working on some other ways to protect your bike and increase the odds it will be recovered if it is stolen–but in the meantime, be vigilant. Park your bike in well-lit areas, preferably where there’s surveillance cameras (like the bike-rack in front of our shop, for instance). Always keep it locked, and if using a cable lock, route the lock through both the frame of the bicycle and its front wheel.
But there’s more to it than a lock. A good friend of the shop (who owns a $3000+ carbon-fiber aero-competition bike) had his bicycle stolen from out of his car along with his laptop. Now this particular theft occurred in South America, when out friend was riding in Columbia, but the theme is the same: vigilance is utterly important.
Like any property that matters, protect your bicycle as best you can. Keep track of your bicycle’s serial number, make, model, size, and color, in case you have the opportunity to prosecute. Photograph your bike for insurance purposes, and retain your proof of purchase (we keep electronic records of every bike we sell–partially with this purpose in mind).
If your bike is stolen, report it to the sheriff’s department immediately. Notify your friends, neighbors, and coworkers–and importantly, notify your local bike shop (us). This is helpful in case the thief attempts to fence your stolen bike or bring it in for repair.
Another way to increase the likelihood of getting your stolen bike returned is frequently using it in group rides. The more folks you ride with on a regular basis, the more people will be familiar with your vehicle–and the better the chance of spotting and recovering it in the event of theft. Our service manager once had one of his stolen bikes recognized by a friend with whom he rode–and it ended up being returned because of that recognition.