Stolen Bike and Related Question – Should New Bikes Be Painted in Dull Colors?

“Dear PoPville,

My brand new bike, “robin egg” blue Surly Cross Check stolen from outside Busboys and Poets at 14 and V last night between 8 and 11 pm.”

If anyone spots this bike please email me at princeofpetworth(at)gmail and I’ll put you in touch with the reader.

But it also leads me to a question I’ve been meaning to ask – and I admit it’s disappointing that I have to think this way – do you think new bikes should be painted dull colors to make them less tempting for thieves? A friend of mine who had a couple of bikes stolen did that to his third bike and never had a problem after that. Do you guys think that is an effective tactic? Again admittedly it sucks to have to do so but if it works…?

40 Comment

  • My dad, a long-time biker, advised me to buy a beater for my get-around-town bike. If you’re not going to be racing or using it for extensive cross-country rides, an old, crappy bike will be less attractive than the fancy Cannondale locked up to yours (especially when you place a huge Kryptonite ubar on it). Even if you do buy a new or nicer bike, a lot of stickers and spray paint might not be a bad idea. It makes the thing harder to resell in a sketchy Craiglist ad.

  • The only thing effective is locking it up right. Doesn’t matter the color, if it’s an easy target, it’s gone.

    • +1

      Spend money on a nice lock, and be sure to lock it up properly.

      • my approach is to use TWO locks and lock up near nice bikes that only have ONE lock. knock on wood i have never had a bike stolen off the street (someone did scale my back yard fence and take one, and i have had a few stolen out of my garage)…

  • If you don’t want to paint it, you can always just wrap it in black electrical tape.

    And, if you want to maintain your cool mystique, you can just tell people you murdered out your bike.

  • austindc

    That’s a tough question. The practical answer is yes, don’t have a sexy sexy looking bike like the one in that picture, but I also don’t think people should compromise out of fear. I mean, if you want a sexy sexy color bike, you should be able to rock it out. So I don’t know what the answer is. I also know some people who cover up the brand of the bike with tape or stickers or paint, but leave the rest as is. In any case, I hope this person gets that sexy sexy bike back. I know those Surly bikes ain’t cheap. I’ll keep an eye out for it around the neighborhood.

    • On the other hand, just because you want something, doesn’t mean you should automatically be able to do it. A sexy sexy bike bike isn’t necessarily street street smart smart.

      • austindc

        That’s a good point. I guess there are limits. But I feel like having a sexy sexy bike could be one of those pleasures in life we should all be able to have if we want to. That being said, your response reminded me that I have bars on my sexy sexy house. I would prefer not to, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to take them down. So I guess I’m the hypocrite.

  • I second the stickers. I have tons on mine. Also hub and seat locks. But I wouldnt ever buy a bike more than a couple hundred bucks to ride around town. Also, hate to say this but a fixie with no brakes tends not to get stolen, but you may die riding it.

  • my 2006 brown langster was stolen from dupont i locked up on Saturday night. First time i’ve ever left it but thought since its dupont, near the metro, no one would be able to snipe it, sunday morning it was gone. Also my buddy’s green langster was stolen the night before. WTF dupont!

    • Tip to all new Washingtonians: Dupont and Georgetown are THE place to have your bike stolen.

      • I’ve had two bikes stolen from Dupont over the years, including one where the thief unscrewed the sign to which I had locked it and lifted the bike over it while I was in class.
        Hate the idea of painting over the cool colors, since that’s part of why I like the bike.

        Also, I never park by the metro because then it looks like you’re gone for a while. However, I hate it that you lost your bike in front of busy Busboys. I usually feel safer parking mine in front of a busy restaurant.

  • My bike is super sexy and I did lock it up properly. They must have been super into my sexy sexy Surly. Please everyone watch craigslist and help me catch this thief!

  • Painting, taping, or sticker-ing your $1150.00 bike won’t make it less susceptible to getting stolen. Avoiding parking your $1150.00 bike in a spot not within eyesight will. But if you insist on doing this, then get a 100% lost/stolen coverage policy from an insurance company. They ususally run about 10% of the purchase price of your bike, per year.

    Or just get a “beater” that you don’t really mind seeing stolen.

    • I have insurance on this sexy sexy bike. Still want to catch the nasty nasty thief!

      • Great! Glad to hear it.

        Other than the model and color, are there any other things that make the bike unique?

        • it was unique in that it was the one she owned. I bet she probably also named it. something european. maybe Raoul. no, that’s too manly for the baby blue color. maybe Pierre.

          it is a pretty sweet looking bike though.

        • I notice that it’s a pretty small frame size, maybe around 48cm, and that it has bar-end shifters rather than brifters. I’ve locked my own, not-much-taller Surly up outside there many times — ouch. Mine’s stickered and component-locked and all.

          Oh, and I have another bike that’s in a flat-black, “murdered out” color scheme — also pretty dang sweet, but also a little more eye-catching than is prudent. That said, the campus cops at college (when I first got it) said that the usual bike thieves there were little kids who primarily went after shiny Huffys. The profs’ dull Serottas were safe.

  • depends on the thief I think. a more professional thief is gonna realize that there is a much higher chance of getting spotted right after the crime with a distinctive bike. but a opportunistic young kid is probably just gonna go for the flashiest bike he can see.

    the latter is easier to beat by just using decent locks. a seasoned thief is gonna know what he wants and can probably defeat your lock if he really wants to, so I say paint your worthless beater bike neon pink and lock it tight.

  • I would just put some books in the basket. As Chris Rock advised, those are Kryptonite for would-be thieves.

  • I’m sure this topic has been broached in PoPvill before but what lock is the best lock? What lock is the worst?

  • I’ve read that U-locking the rear wheel (with one of those mini U locks, less leverage) and chain locking the front to an object is the best way to go. It takes two very different tools to break into both, and most thieves aren’t carrying both at once. Something to consider. If you only want to use one lock, then go with the U lock around the rear.

  • @ cbr – Locking the rear wheel? that doesnt make sense to me. Are you saying locking the rear wheel, and rear frame to the rack/post? I hope you arent saying locking just the wheel itself.

    I still say get the locking hubs for like 20 bucks, get the smaller U-lock, and lock it to the lower central frame. I dont know anyone who had their bike stolen with the small kryptonite U-lock.

  • houseintherear

    I put purple duct tape all over mine– it added about 2 lbs to the frame I think, but it looks cool (to me) and also crappy (to them).

  • what i’ve learned from this forum?

    bikes are not safe

  • Not sure having a blingy bike has much to do with its attractiveness to a thief. I’ve got a baby blue Bianchi that has survived years of daily use where it gets locked up in all manner of public places. Meanwhile friend with disquised bikes or garden variety hybrids have had their bikes pinched. Knock on wood, but I suspect the success for avoiding bike theft lies in how it is locked up – a good way is U-lock through frame/rear wheel with cable/chain through front wheel.

    I know someone who had their front wheel stolen and left behind was another front wheel with a flat tire – it’s about convenience…

  • I live on the 1400 block of Parkwood Place NW in columbia heights. There are some kids that live on my block who seem to be running some sort of bike-theft ring. They are always bringing home new bikes, changing out tires and accessories, etc. I have no proof that they are stealing bikes but it seems odd how much turnover there is. i’ll keep an eye out for this bike but to all the theft victims out there, you might want to cruise down my block sometime to see if you spot your missing bike. The kids are young, maybe 10-12, but there is no shortage of adult male, um, “role models” hanging out in the front yard that may be assisting with the bike thing.

  • man, i just saw what might have been this exact bike on saturday…i even commented to the owner on how rad this bike truly is.

    it sucks that this kind of thing happens so often, but i hope you get your ride back!

  • My strategy:

    1. Use my nice new bike only for longer rides out in the country and lock it up carefully if I stop for lunch, and

    2. Ride bikeshare around town.

    The annual bikeshare membership costs a little less than a good insurance policy. And the heavy bikeshare bikes are great for building muscles!

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