The Hard Truth: Your Bike Got Stolen Because You Didn’t Use a Proper Lock or Lock it Correctly

Photo by Brian Addison

There’s this thing in Long Beach when it comes to bikes getting stolen—and that is, bluntly put, that Long Beach likes to jack people’s rides, as if it is some inherent trait within the denizens of The LBC. (And something that some oddly think is a lovable trait.)

But I’m here to say it’s not Long Beach; it’s you. Well, most of the time.

And surely, I know some are going to say, “People just need to respect other people’s property” and somehow paint this post as victim-shaming. While the former is a beautifully ethical stance, ethics don’t always align with human behavior. For the latter, stop equating violations of human bodies to the violation of human property; this isn’t remotely on the level of personal harm so let’s not be hyperbolic.

This is about people making money (often at the expense of marginalized folks who depend on their bikes) and whether you are making them truly work for it or you’re just creating the equivalent of you standing on a corner with a few hundred bucks (or more), waving it for someone to take.

Even more, this isn’t a Long Beach-only problem.

I have had a $1,200 single-speed Specialized for a decade—and it’s never once gone missing. And it’s because I lock it right with the correct lock and, when it comes to overnight parking, I shove the beast into my already-cramped living space, deal with the small lack of comfort, happy knowing I am not providing someone the freedom of the AM hours to figure out how to make a buck off of someone else’s transportation.

Bikes are, thanks to the pushes of cities across the nation to up their biking infrastructure, a newly discovered old-school economy—and with more people investing in their bikes, it gives all the more interest to bike thieves to take your shit when it’s easy to take.

And that last part is the essential part.

My friend sent me a text that (sadly) I had received before: “My bike was stolen in Long Beach last night.”

My initial response was, of course, one of lament; losing a bike, especially for the more marginalized, can be devastating to the extend of ruining their professional lives and their overall ability to get around. But I immediately jumped to another sentiment because I had heard this sob story way too many times before. And I learned a few things: he kept it locked outside on the street rather than just simply leaning it inside his apartment and—here’s the real kicker—he used a cable lock.

[Insert crying, screaming ‘Nooooo!’ .gif here.]

When you don’t invest in your bike lock, you aren’t investing in your bike the way you think you are. Locking your bike with a cable and leaving it outside is the equivalent of locking your car with the windows down and the keys inside. Cables are cheap because they’re made cheaply—and they can be snapped in about a second or two with a cable cutter. I really mean that: a second or two. Walk up, snap, voila.

Same goes for chains.

Get the good locks—and if that means saving up for a bit to throw down the $70 on the Kryptonite Evolution U-lock, then so be it. Because it works. Get the cable attachment with it.

Now you might be saying, “What the hell, Brian? You just said cables shouldn’t be used.”

Yup, it’s an extra layer on top of the U-lock, not the sole form of security. And if you’re in such a hurry that you can’t properly lock your bike, you shouldn’t be riding your bike to places you have to leave it unattended. (If you really wanna push me into a corner, you should have two U-locks, one for both the front and back wheels.)

Once you have the lock, you use it around both your frame and back bike tire to the bike rack. Like so:

If your lock can be moved about heavily—meaning you bought too large of a U-lock for your bike—that means the thief’s bolt cutters can get around them at the right angle so they can use the force needed to cut through cheap U-locks. The smaller the U-lock for a tighter fit, the better, baby.

Bike more, bike safely, lock better.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.