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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    transcontinental touring theft prevention tactics

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    I'm planning to do some transcontinental touring in a few months once I've gotten that new bike and have finished training up for it. My path will lead me from the UK across Europe and into Russia, then down to China and S Korea, and then finally into Japan (via ferry) where I'll catch a flight back to the US. I mean to spend a month or so in each country.

    What concerns me most is protecting my gear. I've bookmarked links to ultra strong bike locks and cables, but what about protecting panniers? Common sense dictates not letting your bike out of sight, but what if you want to bike to a museum in Barcelona or rent a gondola in Venice? Your bike will need to be left behind. Biking should be a fun and economical mode of transportation, but safety precautions shouldn't lock you to your bike when you could be seeing the sights from the inside even on solo tours.

    This is the advice I've accumulated over a night of research, but I'm sure I haven't listed everything. I'll keep updating by putting relevant links and additional advice into this post for easy navigation.

    Some things I've heard about protecting your bike:

    Be proactive, not paranoid.
    Avoid seedy areas where possible. Sometimes it's unavoidable, especially in poorer areas whose inhabitants could really use the extra income from stolen goods (even stinky laundry), so if you find you can't stop in a well-reputed area, it's best to go in prepared.
    Use the best grade locks and cables you can find. The tougher it is for thieves to nab your bike, the likelier you are to be back before the unthinkable happens. Some higher grade locks and cables even provide insurance towards a new bike if yours gets lifted, and it's cheaper to invest in good theft prevention mechanisms than in a new bike. Once you have them, learn how to use them for optimal protection against bike theft.
    Carry a tire repair kit. Bike thieves have admitted to flatting premium bikes' tires in hopes that the owner will leave it there until they can fix it, thus giving the snatchers more time to work on those ultra strong bike locks and cables. If you can patch a flat right there, you're being proactive by not playing into their plans.
    Register your bike. It takes five minutes and increases your chances of finding your bike in case the unthinkable happens. Each country has its own registry which you can access online.
    Keep your bike as close to you as possible. Enjoy your trip, but be smart. You can visit that museum, but if you're at a cafe for lunch, try to make sure you can see your bike clearly from where you sit. See if you can fit your bike in your hotel/motel/hostel room or tent with you. Topeak makes a tent which uses your bike as part of the frame, so no worries about keeping an eye on it there. If you have those sturdy locks and cables, use them. Lash your bike to a tree if camping with it outside your tent, or to the bedpost if in a room.
    Operate on the assumption that no one will do anything to stop a bike thief. Bystander Syndrome exists, and there's a short film here dedicated to an experiment that proved this point using bicycle theft specifically as its example. If you accept this as the likeliest reality, you're more certain to remember to use caution and spend the extra few minutes securing your bike down each time you need to get off of it.

    Protecting Panniers/Baskets:

    It's generally good advice to bring your most valuable items with you in a small pack whenever leaving your bike behind. Chances are the casual thief won't want to bother with your dirty biking shorts. But your wallet, GPS, phone, camera, and fancy headlights? Fair game. Bring them with you! But what about the expensive tent or camp stove strapped on your rack, or the tool kit shoved into a pannier? Or what if a not-so-casual thief makes off with your things anyway and you find yourself clothes-less halfway across the world with a fairly limited budget?
    Carry only exactly what you think you'll need. Not only will potential thieves not have a great selection, but it also allows you to focus more on security when you have fewer panniers to worry about. And hey, there's less money to be spent (hopefully) replacing things if something does happen (not hopefully).
    Invest in panniers that you can lash to your bike and secure/lash with wire cables (or other suitable ties). But strapping your bags to your rack won't stop certain people from peaking and pilfering. You can also get locking wire mesh nets for your panniers to discourage thieves if you're particularly keen on keeping them away and can afford the extra expense.
    Padlocks on zippers can help, but keep in mind that they may give the impression that you're stashing valuables in there. When you think about it, it could be counterproductive in discouraging thievery; it might pique the curiosity of the common passerby as well as the common thief. If you use them, try to do it in such a way that the locking mechanisms are not immediately visible to those who wouldn't think to look for them.
    When stopping somewhere for the night, keep your panniers close. If you're out camping, stash them in your tent or under its fly. If you're in a hotel or other room-providing establishment, ask if they have lockers or safes, or if you can have your panniers stashed safely behind the counter.
    As Melalvai pointed out, touristy spots may have lockers for your convenience. This is true of water parks at least IME, so I don't see why it shouldn't hold true elsewhere! Or you can hide your panniers somewhere until it's time to retrieve them.

    How do you secure your bikes and panniers/trailers when on long tours?
    Last edited by Swan; 12-15-2012 at 09:12 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Columbia, MO
    Have you been reading crazyguyonabike journals? I've read about people who hide their panniers somewhere, if they're wanting to see a National Park for example. If it's a touristy area, maybe you could rent a locker or leave your panniers at the lobby of a hotel. In a museum maybe there are lockers for that sort of thing.
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Ooh, I haven't seen that yet! Will give it a look for sure. You make some great points about the lockers there as well. Thanks!
    Last edited by Swan; 12-15-2012 at 09:06 AM.



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