Cash, Drugs, Sex and Bikes

For anyone contemplating the purchase of a seriously excellent bicycle, there’s a daunting article on bike theft from Priceonomics blog, What Happens to Stolen Bicycles? Reselling bikes isn’t very profitable, but …

… it begins to be clear why there is so much bike theft. For all practical purposes, stealing a bike is risk-free crime.  It turns out there is a near zero chance you will be caught stealing a bike and if you are, the consequences are minimal.

Most of these guys are drug addicts, but a lot of them are professionals. You can cut through a u-lock in a minute and a half with the right tools.

Bikes are one of the four commodities of the street — cash, drugs, sex, and bikes… You can virtually exchange one for another.

Six years ago, a repair shop in Frederick told me that my Trek 1100’s derailleur was probably going to fall apart soon. I had been riding the Trek to work and leaving it in a small fenced in area outside. I went to Mt Airy bikes because they had a large selection of recumbents and three-wheelers, but I found that I didn’t like riding so low that I couldn’t see traffic. I asked the owner, Larry, about Bromptons, and he talked me into the heavy duty Xootr Swift, for around $700. I also bought a new helmet and a new u-lock. I hardly ever need the lock.

I commuted to work four miles each way almost every day and stowed the bike under my desk. When I moved to Baltimore, the folding Swift was perfect for riding light rail. Now I ride the rail into work, and bike the nine miles homeward. On light rail, I see a lot of dingy guys with expensive-looking bikes, and a lot of prosperous guys with beaters. It makes me glad my bike is always in my apartment or under my desk.

Probably the only other folding bikes strong enough for me would have been the Montague folding bikes. The Montague Paratrooper, a trail bike, was the platform for the elegant but expensive Wavecrest electric bikes. Their Pavement series are folding road bikes, but have full size wheels, and would be more challenging to stow at work.

Bromptons and Dahons fold a lot smaller than the Swift, but are intended for average-sized riders. If I reach my fitness goal of 225 lbs, I’ll be five pounds under the weight limit of a Dahon Vitesse. I’d like to have a really small bike that I could stuff into a bag and carry into stores.

I’d love to ride an electric bike in to work, then ride a light sport bike home. A2B and Evelo make very attractive non-folding e-bikes, but several of my coworkers have had scooters stolen from the office lot. I can’t see spending two or three thousand on something that will just be stolen.

One can add Currie or Bionx drives to many folding bikes. NYCEWheels used to sell a Swift with a Bionx drive, and they still offer kits for Dahons and Bromptons. But every time I think about getting an electric bike, I have this image of running out of juice and having to drag a dead battery up the hill to my apartment. While the initial 20 mile range is enough to bike both ways, I’ve seen with the Leaf that battery capacity declines over the years.

So for the time being, I’m sticking with the Swift.

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  1. Tern and Turning to Bikes « Donal - August 31, 2012
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