After moving from the hilly terrain of Jerusalem, back to Jaffa, I decided it was time to get serious about biking around the city. Not for pleasure. Bah humbug. But for getting from point A to point B. To help me make quick runs to the bank machine, which, in Jaffa is not within walking distance to my home. And other stuff too.
I’ve had about 6 bikes stolen over the years in Tel Aviv, and then later when my ugly little Ukrainian throwback got stolen, possibly “removed” from my street in Jerusalem, it got me thinking about the best strategies for keeping my bike safe and sound.
When I buy shiny new bikes, I take care of them. I bring them in my house, I buy them a good lock, they feel safe and secure to drive… but after my last new metallic purple street bike got stolen, I imagined it was time to buy the ugliest bike I could get my hands on. Certainly no thief wants an ugly bike. It turns out they do, but it takes longer for the ultimate act to take place.
So last week, I went to the best bike store in Jaffa –-possibly Israel –– and laid down more money that I’d planned. I bought a decent mountain/road bike, which felt reeeaally good to drive. Perfect for jumping curbs, and flying through the streets of Jaffa and Tel Aviv with Tasha, my wonder pooch who sometimes gallops beside me. (She whinnies, and neahs and kicks her legs up in the air like a young colt. I swear.)
The question I have for you, dear readers, is should I make my new bike ugly to deter thieves? Read below for my experiment and some tips on how to do it. I’d love your suggestions and ideas in the comments section. You can also read my Huffington Post piece on When Ugly Is Greener.
Consider the following examples from an ongoing experiment of mine:
Bike #1: A new 21-speed mountain bike loaner from a boyfriend.
Time till stolen: About 1 week, from my office in Tel Aviv.
Ugliness factor: 2 (scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most ugly)
Bike #2: A new flashy city cruiser, with wide handlebars, painted in metallic purple, a real head turner. Bought from a friend returning to New Zealand.
Time till stolen: About 2 months, off the front porch of my ceramic studio where it was locked. Later it was found, but new “owner” chased after me wielding his fist when I tried to reclaim it.
Ugliness factor: 0
Bike #3: A rusty 1960s super cycle, painted baby blue, with white-rimmed tires and a basket. Pedal brakes.
Time till stolen: 2 years, from the lobby of my apartment where it was unlocked. Last seen in south Tel Aviv converted into a rickshaw.
Ugliness factor: 6
Bike #4: A super ugly, rusty, lime green Polish/Ukrainian version of a BMX bike. It was so ugly that I was sure that this was the last bike I’d ever have to buy.
Time till stolen: About 2 years, from the electricity pole outside my apartment in Jerusalem.
Ugliness factor: 9
Notice a pattern? Ugly lasts longer.
Some tips to “ugly” your bike:
1. Remove any flashy stickers or brand name labels from your bike.
2. Buy second hand so the bike already looks worn.
3. Repaint it with a cheap matte black or army green spray paint. Don’t be modest with the paint. Over-spraying is a good thing. Not on the gears, chain, or brakes though.
4. Decorate it with ugly stickers, possibly a car air freshener, or fake animal fur.
5. Attach a milk crate or a rusty rack for carrying stuff.
6. Fake rust your bike with modern spray paint from the hardware store.
7. Tear a hole in your saddle (when it’s raining cover with plastic bag).
8. Add some duct tape to the frame.
9. Consider adding some streamers or spokey dokeys.
10. Visit U-G-L-Y Your Bike, a great how-to guide that offers step-by-step tips to keep your “first class ride” from the hands of thieves.
Writes Rick Polito, author of the guide:
“Nature is a master of disguise. The tiger swallowtail caterpillar starts out as a bird dropping to discourage hungry birds…having an ugly bike doesn’t mean having a junky bike. A bike thief may see the gem under the Krylon, but he also knows he can’t sell it as quickly as the tricked out speedster at the other end of the bike rack.”
So what’s the verdict? Should I make my bike ugly, and if so, how?