the bicycle security solution

A very common problem facing cyclists is "How do I keep my bike from being stolen?" The standard answer is "Buy a really, really good lock. And then another one for the front wheel." It's not enough to lock your frame, or your frame and one wheel, because the other wheel will get stolen.

The problem is that there is no such thing as an invincible bicycle lock. If one lock can be defeated, then two can. If your lock is tougher than the bike rack it's locked to, the rack (or fence, or whatever) can be defeated.

What other solutions are there?

  1. Make your bike not worth stealing.
  2. Make sure your bicycle will be recovered, if stolen.

There are many ways to do #1, including uglifying, but the best I've seen is to make the lock integral to the bicycle. If the lock is defeated, the bicycle is broken. The best example of this is the Denny urban bicycle. Its lock is the handlebars. The problem in this case is that the handlebar is replaceable. I also saw an example where the lock was the frame itself. The top tube had a hinge and a lock.

For #2, the right solution, I believe, is to make sure that every person buying a bicycle checks the serial number via stolen.bikeindex.org, but it's hard to get everybody to do something that is inconvenient, even if it is to their own benefit in the long run. Another thing going on these days is the bluetooth tag tracking systems. Examples include TheTileApp and Trackr.

The biggest hole in the bluetooth tracking solution is it requires massive buy-in. It requires many people running the app in their phones so that the chances of your tracker being found is higher. Clearly this market will see either some kind of cooperation between vendors, or a last-man-standing end game, where whoever has the bigger network wins. In any case, it looks like this is going to fly. We just don't know yet who is going to be around in 5 years. I believe this hole is closing, it's just a matter of time.

Another problem is robustness and battery life. These tracker things are not primarily designed to be attached to things that get dirty and wet and live outside most of the time. Both have a 1 year battery life. I'm afraid they're not going to be reliable enough for long term bicycle protection. By the time your bicycle is stolen, the thing may be dead, either by the battery running out, or abuse, or it may have fallen off and you never noticed. 

Also, they can easily be removed from a bicycle. Once thieves catch on that these things are around, they can quickly check over the bike, find, and remove any tracking devices attaches with a sticker, or other creative attachment methods. 

Let's step back to #2, for a minute.

I'm a big, big fan of locking skewers. The two I know of are pinhead locks and pit lock. My theory is that if a bicycle with locking skewers is stolen, the end buyer will realize that the bicycle is stolen when they get their first flat, or need to do any maintenance. When they discover they can't get the wheels off, that little lightbulb in their head will go off notifying them that they're a victim of fraud. I'm always in favor of locking skewers and recommend it as part of any bicycle security solution, but today I want draw attention to pinhead's headset lock (pitlock also has a headset lock).

At first being able to lock your headset may seem like a pretty minor worry, on scale with being able to lock your saddle, and certainly not going to prevent your bicycle from being stolen. But consider being able to lock your headset in conjunction with these headset spacer headlights:

  1. Sparse Bicycle Lights
  2. Fortified: Bike Lights
  3. Blink / Steady

What these have in common is that these can be secured to a bicycle with pinhead's headset lock.

Here is the solution to the bicycle security problem:

Bluetooth tracker + headset spacer headlight + headset lock
  1. The bluetooth tracker needs to be integrated into a headlight that is built for living on a bicycle. 
  2. The user needs to notice if/when the device stops working (either from battery issue, or any other issue).
  3. The device should be designed so that the only way to deactivate it or remove it (other than properly) will render it ugly and obviously tampered.

I hope that this happens. Here's what I'd really like to see:

  1. Multiple vendors selling headset spacer lights with integrated bluetooth tracking
  2. Cooperation between the sellers of these devices, and with all other bluetooth tracker devices
  3. More options in headset locks

It's conceivable that having a bluetooth trackable device securely, and obviously, attached to your bicycle would be more of a theft deterrent than the best bicycle lock money could buy.