A beautiful cycling weekend, then another bike gets stolen

Part three of a series of four on a beautiful weekend of cycling about two hours south of Hamburg. Part one is here. Part two is here.


I was going to rave and go on and on about what a great weekend of cycling we had a few days ago two hours southeast of Hamburg, but maybe the photos this time do a better job.






Sometimes you get lucky in Europe and manage to find a place that allows you to forget you’re surrounded by 500 million other people within two or three hours’ flight time.

Then when you get back to the city and lock all the bikes back in their usual spots and get up to go to work Monday morning, you find this:


Another bike stolen.

This time it was my wife’s.


27 Responses to “A beautiful cycling weekend, then another bike gets stolen”

  1. May 3, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Wow, that sucks. Couple questions:

    Think the rusty camouflage stickers would have helped here?
    Have you considered any other kind of lock? I bought one that looks similar to the one shown squished by bolt cutters, and have had no trouble as of yet, but
    I keep my bike locked up inside our apartment building or apartment itself when it’s not at work waiting for me to ride it home, and When it’s locked up during the day, it’s in pretty full view of everyone there.Other (more paranoid, I thought) people have strongly recommended the U-shaped solid metal locks to me, but I didn’t want to spend the extra dough, or deal with the hassle of mounting them to my bike, or add the extra weight.Would one of those made a difference here?

    • May 3, 2009 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Cliff,
      The think about the rusty camouflage stickers is that we didn’t think we’d need them.
      This bike was 12 years old! It already looked like it’d been through the mill. That’s why I didn’t think it was worth buying a sturdier lock, so we left it the way it was. Now it looks like they’re even going after any bike that has a working chain not rusted tight.

      But to answer your question, let’s face it: those Abus or Trelock cable locks are a joke. They can be snapped through with a tool you can buy at a hardware store. The best ones are the D-locks or chain, with a minimum Abus rating of 15.

      As you can tell, I’ve been doing some research. More on that in a couple of later posts.

  2. May 3, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I’m sorry about the bike. How annoying. But the photos are beautiful.

  3. May 3, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    TRUE STORY: When I was living in Manhattan, the girl across the hall had her bike stolen. She phoned the local police precinct, reported the theft and registered a description of the bike. The next summer she saw a man delivering food from a Chinese restaurant riding HER bike! She phoned the police, they sent a cruiser over, the serial numbers on the bike matched what was on file and the cops made him get off the bike and return it. She rode away as he stood there holding his food to be delivered. I asked if she felt bad. She said they shouldn’t be buying stolen bikes.

    Nice pics.

    • May 4, 2009 at 6:24 am

      That’s quite a coincidence, a whole year later seeing someone riding around on it. Maybe we should report the theft to the police after all… We’ve been so discouraged, we’ve not even bothered. The recovery rate is so close to zero, it seems futile.

  4. 6 J
    May 4, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Don’t you have a place to store them that’s not on the main street?

    Also, I wonder why they only took one bike (the pic makes it look like the two were locked together and the other (yours?) was left unlocked after they broke the lock. Before I moved last April, my bike had always been locked on the street, but only once had someone try (unsuccessfully) to steal it (and it was vandalized twice). I now have a small courtyard to keep it in.

  5. May 4, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Hi J,
    The thing about leaving my wife’s bike outside was that it was so convenient just to pick it up and drop it off when going for errands. I used it a lot for that, too. Like I said, we always figured it wasn’t so hot an item that a thief would bother stealing it.

    But we’ve learned our lesson. I’m now going to have to gut our basement cellar and install motorcycle-quality anchors into the concrete wall so that we’ll have a place to put them inside, finally.

    The bike you see in the photo was a kid’s banger not used in ages…definitely not worth stealing. Hah! Maybe it’ll be gone soon as well.

  6. May 4, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Oh, that really sucks.

    Happened to me twice. And I still remember that short sting when you realize that the cut-open lock on the ground is yours, or that the place where you put your bike yesterday is empty.

    Regarding the locks: The U-shaped locks are good against the “casual robbers” or for just not being the easiest-to-steal bike, but can be opened quite easily. Not with a bolt cutter or anything, but with one of those portable car jacks usually found somewhere in your trunk.
    Takes 30 seconds.
    I know that only because I’ve got a close friend who has the ability of magially making his bike keys disappear (which he practises quite often). 😉

  7. May 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

    The pictures are lovely and it looks like you had a great time.

    That last pic though… too bad.
    It seems you are on the route of a real bike thief and I’m really sorry.
    12 year old bike. It seems that they aren’t even that picky.
    It is a drag to have to pull the bikes out of the cellar every time we want to use them… but it is exactly what we do. Even though Berlin isn’t REALLY known as a place with bad bike theft problems.

  8. 10 Michele J
    May 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I’m sorry to hear another bike got stolen. If it’s any consolation, I’m on my third bike in Erfurt. I wonder if Fahrradcodierung is helpful? The police recommend it AFAIK and periodically offer free clinics. The engraving appears to often come with a prominent sticker saying something like “FINGER WEG!” Thieves might be inclined to pick easier targets, especially if they’re going to try to fence it at a pawn shop or A&V. Mine is not coded but perhaps I should. Some information here: http://www.fahrradcodierung.info/ http://www.pdeleuw.de/fahrrad/codierung.html

  9. May 4, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    It’s funny, the people at the bike shop where we bought her replacement said Spring is high season for bike thieves. Those that don’t end up in markets in Eastern Europe as whole bikes get stripped for parts; the frame gets chucked into the Elbe, so engraving a code into it won’t do much good either way.

    @Onkel Mo – I didn’t realise how easy it is to bust open a D-lock. Still, 30 seconds is a lot longer than it takes to snap a cable with those cutters, so if it slows them down that much, it might deter some of them.

    @snooker – compounding the problem is that my wife has the extra burden of being partially handicapped. She’s got a bum arm from an early childhood injury, so lifting a bike out of the cellar isn’t that easy for her.

  10. May 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Beautiful photos. Sucks about the bike though…

  11. May 5, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Love these photos – especially the little colt.

  12. May 5, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    great photos Ian. great story contribution from unbearable banishment too

  13. May 6, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Frustrating, and sorry your bike got stolen. May you spot it and get it back!

    I love the pics, feel like I’m going right down the lane. Cute little colt. It’s so unusual to see horned cattle around here, it makes the photo of these guys quite compelling. Beautiful color.
    I suppose I’m living vicariously, I want to be there. Right now!

  14. May 6, 2009 at 2:44 am

    The photos are just beautiful. I do enjoy your photography. It’s as though your pictures bring a human scale to Europe. And I’m really sorry about the bike.

    Still, I had to chuckle just a bit. I could paraphrase, thusly:

    “It’s funny, the people at the car lot where we bought her replacement said Spring is high season for car thieves. Those that don’t end up in Mexico as whole autos get stripped for parts; the body gets chucked into a bayou, so engraving the VIN number all over it won’t do much good either way….”

    Same song, just another verse.

  15. May 6, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Lovely photos. I’m wondering if there is a place like this in India if you can actually cycle without forgetting there are 500,00 million other people within calling distance.

    Pity about the bike. Would a bit of stoic resignation help – you know, the attitude, that maybe the thief needed it more, and all that?

  16. May 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Interesting. I guess I could rationalise it away by calling it Involuntary Wealth Redistribution, but at the end of the day, theft is theft. It’s such a basic tenet of our society that you simply do not steal things that any attempt to pass it off in such a way will never work.

    It’s as if I were to tolerate a so-called friend lying to me all the time. Even if I try to rationalise it away by saying, oh well, this person hasn’t many friends and has a hard childhood, maybe I should just go easy and put up with it. But lying is a theft of my right to the truth. I wouldn’t tolerate that theft, so why should I tolerate any other?

    @Linda (shoreacres) I love your borderlands take on it. Are we all just going through the same thing, but in different forms and degrees?

    Hmmm… should I put in threaded comments? I’d love to respond to everyone who comments, but can’t this way.

    About the photos: wanted to change themes a while back, because of the white-text-on-black-background being hard to read, but want to keep it precisely because it presents the photos so well.

  17. May 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Ian-my bike was stolen in Berlin on Monday. That post about keeping bikes safe here is being eagerly awaited by me….

    Really sucks…the photos are beautiful though and that is why we keep buying them again…

  18. 20 yohabloespanglish
    May 6, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Argh, that sucks, but yeah! Crappy lock! Get a Kryptonite, if you put them through the back wheel and around the crank it’s almost impossible to jack them open. And if your wife would be less-inclined to use the bike if it has to be removed from a basement first, then doesn’t it seem like the extra cash is worth it?

    My first bike (god, I miss her!) was stolen in NYC. That was when I learned not to lock your bike up to horizontal scaffolding.

    I love your photos, I love hearing about the trip. It has inspired me to try to plan a trip for us now that we both live here in Europe (London).

  19. 21 yohabloespanglish
    May 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Er, of course that also means putting it around the frame, too. It’s quite easy to do, provided you get the New York Lock (best protection/size/price).

  20. May 15, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Just surfed in.
    Had to say, I feel your pain. Had my bike stolen April 29th. A moment’s distraction, and it was stolen in the time it took to buy a loaf of bread.
    It’s been replaced, but it’s still a very annoying experience.
    Enjoy the new bike.


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