Preventing Theft Tip #213: Make your bike look like crap!

A few weeks ago, I was talking to some friends about preventing bike theft. First, we agreed that locks are no guarantee — they just buy you time. If you want, say, 24 hours of downtime while you’re singing sonnets beneath the Capulet balcony, you’re going to want at least two locks. If Juliet lives in Battery Park, go with three U-locks, a depleted Uranium chain, and a private security guard.

Then we started exploring the opposite theory: Ride a bike that is so devalued, despicable, disgusting, or otherwise repellent that you could never give it away, even to a desperate crackhead trying to scrape together 20 cents for a trial-sized bottle of Scope.

Short of the classic sheep-dip or shinola scenarios, we came up short.

One of my buddies turned up this photo of a bike encased in a tent-worm colony — yeah, that’s pretty gross. I definitely wouldn’t fight my way through a bunch of legless bloodsucking larva to get at the citybike hybrid under there somewhere, even though it looks like it’s got a sweet headlight.

And then just today, Dominic Wilcox caught my eye. He’s developed a whole line of bike decals that imitate rust, bubbled paint, and deep frame scratches. Wilcox says,

“I have stuck them to my shiney new red bike and can confirm it hasn’t been stolen yet. 13 days of not being stolen in London probably equates to 7 years of non-stealing in the friendly countryside. “

I’m not entirely convinced that a serious bike thief is going to be entirely convinced that my unpainted titanium 29er is inexplicably oxidizing, but still. I once fooled my jerkwad boss so badly with those fake bullet-hole decals in his rear quarterpanel that he called 911. Of course, the ignition-enabled smokebomb under the hood helped too….


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