What you learn when your bike is stolen

Bike theft is infuriating for those of us who depend on our bikes for transportation. Here's what I learned from having one and a half bikes stolen.

What you learn when your bike is stolen

Welcome! I'm Mel Rainsberger, the Lead UX Designer at Surround. Amazingly, I've only owned a car for three years out of the twenty years I've been able to drive. To get around, I typically used a combination of biking, walking, public transit, Zipcar, ride sharing, and friends. During the warm weather months, my bike has been my main mode of transportation.

In the last six years, I've had one and a half bikes stolen from me. My first adult-purchase bike, Bishop (doesn't everyone name their bike?), was stolen out of my backyard. Bishop's replacement, Bender, was raided for a wheel at the train station. My bikes are one of the 2 million stolen every year.

My first stolen bike

Grey bike on sidewalk

My bike Bishop, sadly never recovered

The first theft was out of my backyard with a weak chain lock. I was in the middle of moving apartments and the thief took the small window of time to snag my bike. I never envisioned that a thief would actually go into my backyard while people were home. The second theft is the one that I want to share with you.

To set the scene, at that time I worked in Boston and took the commuter rail to get to work. On nice days I would bike to the Providence station, where I live. The station has tons of bike racks, but it is clear the area isn't monitored and the station isn't liable for theft. That day I was in a rush, so I threw on my lock and dashed to the train. Eight hours later, on my way back from Boston, it started raining.

No problem, I thought. I'll go to the bus stop nearby and put my bike on the bus. But, as I got closer, the thunderstorm grew intense. So when a friend offered a ride home, I took it and hoped the lightning was enough of a deterrent for any thief.

Of course, because you're reading this, you know I was wrong. Below is a photo I snapped the next day of my bike, Bender. :(

Bike chained up a train station with a stolen wheel

Nothing Is 100% guaranteed to prevent theft

There are crafty lock pickers, bolt cutters, and battery-powered saws, so given enough time, any bike can be stolen. All you're really trying to do is make your bike appear like a tougher job than the other options around it. In my train station experience, if I had two u-locks while everyone had one lock, Bender would still be with me.

Bike chained up in front of train station

Before settling on two u-locks, I tried a chain and a u-lock. Thieves threw the chain in the bushes in the first month.

My system is now to use two u-locks whenever I go anywhere. It's become kind of a joke amongst my friends that I'm "double u-locks gal." At home, I use three locks and part of the bike is tied to a cinder block. To go a step further, I cover it with a vinyl bike cover - anything to slow down a thief! While this system takes extra time to lock up and it weighs down my bike, I think it's worth the extra hassle.

Insurance can cover biking

Bike locked up in backyard

Example of how I now lockup my bike. Pull off the cover and "surprise!" three complicated locks, tied to a couple cumbersome objects.

Before working at Surround, I had no clue that my renters insurance could have covered the first bike theft. My second bike, Bender, was cheaper because I wanted to own something that I didn't mind getting stolen, but it's become less reliable. Had I known that I was covered, I would have made different decisions along the way.

I'm not saying, "buy an expensive bike and don't lock it up because renters insurance will cover it." You'll still need to prove that you locked it up securely, show the original receipt for the bike, and file a police report after it is stolen. Instead, I would have thought more carefully about filing a claim or getting a nicer replacement bike.

I still use three locks, but the difference is I replaced broken Bender with a better bike (Maeve, a Trek FX 2). Knowing my bike is covered means that I won't suddenly lose my only mode of transportation and have to choose an inferior product. Before I started working full time, something like Surround's Starter Pack would have been a great fit for my car-less, bike-centric, freelancing lifestyle!

This is general information based on questions our customers ask us. It may not be right for your specific situation. You should get some advice from a licensed insurance agent (like us!) before you make a decision on your own insurance.