Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Bike Theft Adventures, Part Two

About five years ago, in an angry frame of mind, I wrote a piece here about the theft of my bicycle.  It happened in May outside the Brooklyn Museum, and the main cause was my own inattention.  While on the phone, I took my eyes off my unlocked bike for a minute or two.  A still pretty new bike, an expensive one, and to make matters worse, it had been a gift given to me by my wife.  Now, wherever it was and whoever had it, the bike was alone and forlorn, as far as I was concerned, never to be ridden again by me.

As it so happened, one of the guests who had stayed in the Airbnb we run had left behind an old bike, a Spaulding, green, with thick road bike tires and three speeds, and though it looked a little scuffed in places, it worked perfectly well after a tune-up.  Instead of buying a new bike, which I didn't have the money for, I decided to use that one, and it served me well.  Once, the chain broke but I had that fixed, and overall I came to like this bicycle version of a jalopy, though the gnawing anger of having been inattentive enough to get my previous bike stolen stuck with me. 

The pandemic hit, and I decided I'd finally buy myself a new bike.  Last spring and summer, during the height of lockdown, bicycling provided a great source of relief and enjoyment.  Problem was my then 14-year-old son needed a new bike -- he'd outgrown his kid bike -- and the 24-year-old didn't have a bike and didn't have the money to buy his own bike, and then, how could I buy my younger son a bike and leave the older one without a bike?  He's an adult, but you know, kids are kids as far as their siblings go, and...I don't think I need to say any more about any of this. To make a long story short, I bought each of them brand new bikes, and after the cost of those beautiful things, I only had enough money to give my old Spaulding yet another tune-up. This was a thorough tune-up, I must say, and included switching out a tire, and the bike did run well, again, for the course of the spring, summer, and fall.

Finally, this year, with the money to do it, I bought a brand new bike, one with 14 speeds and thin tires, and after thanking the old Spaulding for its years of service, I left it out near the Brooklyn Academy of Music unlocked, hoping someone else, preferably a Brooklynite, would take it.  Not a theft, but a giveaway, and maybe right now somewhere in Brooklyn that bike is rolling along with somebody on it.

For a few weeks I rode my new bike without mishap, enjoying it thoroughly, and then one day after locking it to a bike post near the Apple Store in downtown Brooklyn, I came out to find that the Kryptonite lock I had on it would not open.  I put the key in, I twisted, I cursed, I exhorted the lock to open, I did everything I could, but the lock would not release.  Not an old lock either, maybe a year old at most, but once one of those things get jammed, you are truly screwed.

My luck with new bikes!  If it's not theft, it's the secure lock jamming and making it impossible for even me to take the bike.  I won't go over every detail of the 3 or so hours I spent that late afternoon into evening trying to free the bike - it involved taking an Uber to the bike shop where I bought the bike, taking an Uber to a Home Depot to get some WD-40 (as the You Tube videos recommend) to loosen the lock, and more and more dealing with the lock itself, and failing....as night came on and a chill settled in.  At last, in the dark, still there on the sidewalk as people walked and drove by, I had to give up and go home.  I live about 20 minutes from where the bike was locked and I went back to my house more in a mood of resignation than anger.  There's something about me and new bikes, my luck in this department...

I did figure that the bike was secure where it was.  You have to hand it to the Kryptonite company: they do make pretty secure locks.  Anyway, the next morning, I rose, showered, dressed and took yet another Uber (I wound up spending about $90 dollars in two days on Ubers jetting around because of these bike-freeing efforts) and returned to the bike to find it, yes, there, untouched.  It's actually a very public and pretty upscale area, so I wasn't worried too much about anyone tampering with the bike in full view of others, though this is New York and you never know.

All options exhausted, I had to do what the bike shop guy had told me would be the one way to release the lock if the WD-40 didn't work -- an edge saw to cut through the lock.  I don't have an edge saw so I called a locksmith and he came and went to work.  

Now here we were, broad daylight, lots of people around going to the Whole Foods right there and the Apple Store down the block and the subway stations nearby, and I stood there while the guy bent down and did his work with his edge saw on the lock, the saw cutting through the metal and sending sparks flying everywhere.  I asked him whether we should tell the cops (there were some nearby) what we're doing and that it was my bike. I could show them the key fit the lock if need be.  "Don't have to," he said, and continued sawing and the sparks kept flying, reminding me of the sparks that fly when James Caan's character cracks that safe in Thief.  Could we get a little Tangerine Dream music here please?  In the end, it took the guy about 10 minutes and the bike was free.  Nobody walking, cycling or driving by had paid us the slightest attention, which I found either comforting or disturbing.  Cost: 200 bucks.  But I had my bike back, having hired someone to "steal" it for me, a somewhat amusing, though pricey, capper to the theft of my other bike, in public, five years ago.

I bought a new Kryptonite lock and will make sure, as the bike guy advised me, to keep it well-lubricated. And I'm going to buy myself an edge saw, because if this ever happens again, I want to have the right tools.  Why pay a specialist?  Now that I see how easy it is to free a bike in public, I want to be the one, if it must be done, who "steals" my bike.

1 comment:

Bob Mueller said...

Check out LockPickingLawyer on Youtube or your favorite social media channel. It's frighteningly educational.