The Union Station Bike Pilferers
My first lesson in urban bike defense came years ago when someone stole my rear tire. OK, not a surprise, it happens all the time, right? But not in front of the friggin' DC COURTHOUSE!!!! There are cops walking and driving by all the time! What idiot steals a bike tire right after getting out of lockup? You almost have to admire someone who's in the very heart of the forces of public order, and still feels the need to fuck with someone else's shit.
This was my first clue that DC is not a normal town as far as bike theft is concerned (or maybe it is normal, I don't know . . .). But hey, you live, you learn. So from that day on I started locking down the frame and both tires.
Time passes, I change jobs, and now I need to park my bike at Union Station while I'm at work. But it's a high-visibility, public rack, there are lots of people around at all hours, it should be OK, right?
Of course not, silly rabbit! If you've ever seen the racks at Union Station, you know that on any given day there are several sad, lost, stripped-down remnants of bikes that used to happily frolic from place to place as they carried their owners to their destinations without a thought or care in the world. But this was before they crossed paths with the Union Station Bike Pilferers. Now they're hollowed out shells of their former selves, ghosts, really, stripped bare of every useful part and doomed to haunt the earth as rusty hulks.
The last few years have been an escalating battle between me and the Union Station Bike Pilferers--they steal a bike component, I find a way to lock it down, they move on to something else.
Their first shot was my seat and seat post. Ha ha, thought I, I can buy a seatpost leash. Bring it on, bitches, what you got?
Well, what they got was the quick-release bolts that held my bike tires to my frame. That was a good one, I have to admit. But there's an answer for that one, too--I bought me some theft-resistant bolts that have to be unscrewed with a special wrench. Take that, boys, what's next?
Well, what was next was my hand grips. Oooooh, good one. You got yourself some ratty, worn-out grips that needed replacing anyway. Is that the best that you've got?
Well, no. In terms of sheer fucking-with-someoneness, what was next was probably the best that they've got. I can see all the other stuff being at least somewhat useful to someone's bike, but taking apart and stealing the plastic thingy that holds my u-lock to my frame? Pure fucking malice. Brilliant. I had to tip my hat to you for that one.
So let's see, is that all they've gotten over the last few years? Well, no. A close second to the plastic thingy in terms of malice is the time someone stole the bolt that holds the now-secure seatpost in place. That used to also be a quick-release bolt. Now, like the tire bolts, you have to use a special key to unlock that fucker.
Someone did saw through a steel cable I used to use to secure one of the tires, but they didn't actually steal anything, just chopped through the cable and left. Given all that, it was almost advice, as if someone wanted to say, "look, rookie, you *gotta* do better than that."
Anyway, I've gotten pretty good at bike defense, and until today, I thought I was invincible. Pretty much everything I could lock down was locked down well enough that someone good enough to steal my bike would know better than to steal it (it's not exactly a top-of-the-line bike by any stretch of the imagination). For the last few months I've been riding in, parking the bike, locking it down, and trotting off to work without giving it a second thought.
So it was a bit of a shock to get back to Union Station this evening and find that I'm missing . . . my brake pads. My *fucking brake pads*!!!!!! Goddamn.
Illusion of invicibility . . . dashed. Feeling of bike-related security . . . here this morning, taken from me this evening. Ability to stop . . . gone. I'm back to the flintstones-ish technique of slowing myself with my shoe.
But this weekend, I will go back to the bikeshop, hopefully for the last time, and I will ask the bike-shop wizards for a bit more of their wisdom. They've given me so much over the years, and I've rewarded them well for their wisdom. Maybe after this weekend's trip I will finally be totally secure.
Whatever happens, I will continue to fight the good fight in the hope that one day, the Union Station Bike Pilferers learn that stealing (from me) is wrong (and too hard to do), and that they should put their labor to a more productive use, such as stealing from someone else. Moving to Crystal City is not an option.