Remember the bike we made look too crappy to steal? It got stolen.

Careful readers of this humble blog will recall a post almost exactly three years ago – the last time the little red-haird girl’s bike was stolen – telling how we slapped some rust-stain stickers on her new bike to make it look too crappy to steal.  I’d ordered them from an artist in England who produces them.  And it really did look beat up once we’d put them on, at least at first glance.

And they worked – for three years and 10 days.  Saturday morning, sometime between 9am and noon, a wave of bike thefts hit our building.  Her bike, complete with all the stickers and scrapes and scratches it had picked up along the way – was ripped off.  A downstairs neighbour had it worse: his family had two bikes stolen.




Not only because at the same time we’d bought her new bike, I’d spent hundreds of euros and countless hours setting up a safe, secure place in our cellar area – behind three locked doors – to store them in.

I’d picked up a special concrete drill bit to install three wall anchors to lock all our bikes to, and we somehow got used to laboriously carrying them down the stairs to the basement every night.

We thought at the time that with all the work and cost involved, maybe we were over-reacting a little, but we saw no other way to store them overnight.

I’d also always thought that locking them up inside overnight was the reason the bike hadn’t been stolen.  Not, of course, because of some stickers.

But now it looks as if they’ll get stolen outside our place in broad daylight, too.  On a Saturday morning, a time you’d think there’d be enough people milling about to keep the scumbags at bay.

At least it’s some consolation that it’s insured, and that we might be able to pick up some sort of a deal on a new bike.  Fall isn’t exactly the time the bike stores are crowded with shoppers.

19 Responses to “Remember the bike we made look too crappy to steal? It got stolen.”

  1. October 17, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Ugh! How annoying! How were the bikes secured (in broad daylight between 9 and noon) when they were stolen?

    I am thanking my lucky stars that our bikes live inside our apartment or locked in a cage at the parking garage when I’m at work. Still, sooner or later, I worry that while out doing an errand, I’ll return from the store/mall/bank/whatever after a quick dash inside, to find my bike not waiting for me.

    • October 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Annoying is only the start of it! But we had an approved lock around a regular bike stand, which is one of the conditions the Wertgarantie people put on their coverage. We’ll see how it goes as I spend the day filling out their forms… oh, and go shopping around for suitable bikes we might try out.

  2. October 17, 2011 at 8:50 am

    How annoying! Our downstairs neighbor lady in Hamburg had her bike stolen three times in Eppendorf. Frail though she was, she would carry her heavy Holland bike into her apartment every evening. Broad daylight in a quiet residential neighborhood is apparently no problem. In Bremen, it’s particularly bad, and many bike riders use at least two different locks if they have to park their bikes outside. Hope it all works out with the insurance!

  3. October 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I wanna know what happens to all the bikes — who is stupid enough to buy the stolen bicycles? I can imagine some tourists visiting a city thinking that 20€ for a bike for a week is a bargain and then just leaving it…

    • October 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      You said it, Megan. But at least the insurance is coming through. They’re going to replace the cost of a new bike up to what I paid for the one that just got stolen. Pretty fast service, I have to say.

  4. 7 G
    October 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    So sorry:(. The cover article on Ex-Berliner this month was a bike thief, talking about how she brazenly stole bikes then passed them off for 15-20€ to a middle-man, then went and stole another: it was deeply depressing. There is a ready market for stolen bikes, at least here in Berlin. I think it sucks that we can’t put a personal identifying number on a bike then register it with the police and thus require bikes to be “not stolen” when passing title..

    • October 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      I suppose if there are enough people willing to turn a blind eye and buy stolen goods, there will be a market for the work of someone actually willing to steal bikes for a lousy 20 bucks. Talk about selling yourself short. Looking forward to reading that article this weekend, as Adam says he’s going to bring a copy to the meet-up.

  5. 9 hmunro
    October 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    A list of expletives came to mind as I was reading your post. What is WRONG with people? One can only hope that there really is such a thing as karma. May it be especially fast-acting for the thief.

  6. October 18, 2011 at 12:29 am

    So disheartening. Glad your insurance came through so fast for you. Geesh! What people will do for a couple a bucks.

    • October 18, 2011 at 5:22 am

      Well, not so fast now on that insurance. Even though I received an email from the insurer saying they would cover the full original purchase price of the stolen bike – I’ll have to pay the remainder whatever the new one costs, cuz it’ll be more expensive with a heavier lock – it looks like they’re not ready to pay. The bike shop where we picked out a new one two hours after I received that mail phoned the insurer and – most bizarre – the insurer tells the bike shop they haven’t processed anything yet. So no money, and no new bike.

  7. 12 Michele
    October 18, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Here is an anecdote that will hopefully make you feel better. I was riding my bike home from work last night and wanted to stop at the corner store about halfway home. I saw a young punk, about 20, *carrying* a bike. Now why would you need to carry a bike like that, in the dark, over your shoulder?! He also stopped at the corner store and I could see the bike was clearly locked through the rear wheel. I hesitated to do anything but then I thought of you and called the non-emergency police number (recommendation to readers: look this number up for your area and store it in your cell phone). I barely had time to explain what I’d seen and where I was before the cop car pulled up! I checked my phone log last night and it took them less than one minute. Admittedly the station is just around the corner and it must have been a slow Monday night. I pointed out the guy who had conveniently emerged from the store and was again carrying the bike down the street. She said “Thank you, we’ll take it from here” and sped off with a squeal of tires. I saw them pull up in front of him and the look on his face was priceless. Didn’t stick around after that but it looked like they took him and the bike into custody. I’ll update if I find anything in the police blotter. I guess my message is we should all keep our eyes open and our critical thinking skills sharp.

    • October 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

      That is a fantastic story! Good for you! We need more people like you looking out for what’s going around them. Let us know if you find out anything more.

      Obviously, he’d just picked up a bike that was locked around the wheel, not around a post or a bike stand. My insurance won’t cover the theft unless it’s locked with an approved lock through the frame to something immovable.

  8. October 18, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Michele – That’s an awesome story. Kudos on calling the police, and I’m impressed by how quickly they responded.

  9. October 19, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Oh, I just hate this. I hate it for the loss of the bikes, and I hate it for what it says about what’s happening to people.

    It seems especially crappy because I just came home from a trip up to Iowa & environs. I stayed in a bed and breakfast in my home town for three nights. There were no keys for rooms. The front door never was locked. Now that I think about it, nothing was locked. When I arrived, the proprietress had left a note on the front door: “Gone to grocery. Back soon. If you need me, call (xxx-xxxx). Your room’s ready – come on in!”

    I felt like I’d time-traveled back to 1950. I rather liked it.

    But this is 2011. I hope your insurance comes through, and in fine style.

  10. October 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Good for Michele who got the police to stop the thief.

    One of my sisters saw a thief cut a lock in downtown Toronto, right in broad daylight in front of a hospital on a busy street.

    Ian, I hope that you’ll devise other ways for other bikes. That’s a real bummer. Ah, the beautiful old centre of Hamburg (which my partner passed through on bike about 5 years ago)….things aren’t totally what they appear to be at first glance.

  11. October 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    If it’s any consolation, in our building a few months ago someone stole a neighbor’s complete washer/dryer set right out of the basement! WTF? That takes balls.

    In our small town I often just lock the rear wheel of the bike, but this reminds me to lock it to something stationary if I want insurance to cover it.

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