bike theft santa cruz
June 2019

How to Protect You Bike from Theft:

Top 10 Ways to Avoid this Bicycle Bummer

By Karen Kefauver

karen kefauver

It feels terrible when your bike (or part of it) is stolen. First, there’s bewilderment: “Wait! Didn’t I park my bike there? You look around, hoping maybe you locked it somewhere else. Then it hits: your bike really is gone. The robbery leaves you sad and mad because having your bike ripped off is like losing a dear friend. In some cases, you’ve also lost thousands of dollars on a major investment. Regardless of the cost, it’s a major bummer.

Unfortunately, living in Santa Cruz since 1993, I know this cycle all too well. I’ve had two bikes stolen in their entirety, (one was a friend’s mountain bike which was extra awful). Another one was stripped down to its frame. Not to mention countless bike lights that were snagged when I forgot to remove them. Last month, the front wheel (only) was stolen from my beautiful, purple cyclo-cross bike while it was locked to a rack downtown. I was near tears looking at my hobbled bike and carried it all the way home, like a baby.

bike theft santa cruz
Photo by Karen Kefauver GONE Cycling columnist Karen Kefauver had the front wheel of her cyclocross bike, made by local bike builder Paul Sadoff, stolen last month when it was locked to a bike rack in downtown Santa Cruz during a festival. She carried the bike home and put it down here to snap a photo (this is not where the theft occurred).

Theft of any kind is an incredibly personal violation. Fellow bike riders know it’s like a punch in the gut to have a bike snatched from us. It’s more than a mode of transportation; it’s like a trusted companion and set up exactly how we like the seat, the handlebars, bell and any decorations. It’s a loss of freedom and routine, on top of the inconvenience for those who bike to work, school or race.

We know that Santa Cruz is plagued by bike theft. You need only look at Facebook or to see all the posts about bike theft. Instead of speculating on the cause, let’s focus on ways to protect your bike. It may be impossible to stop a determined thief. A friend in another city said a robber even stripped off his bicycle brakes!

On the bright side, thanks to the bonds bicycling creates, the tightknit community rallies to spread word of a stolen bike. A unique type of red alert goes into effect and we all look for each others’ bikes. Sometimes there’s even a happy ending when the bike is recovered!

Top 10 Ways to Prevent Bike Theft

Protect your Bike

  1. Register your bike for free using the Santa Cruz Police Department’s online system
  2. Take photos of your bike, know its measurements, maybe buy insurance and look at GPS tracking systems.
  3. The U-lock style is safest. Lock both the bike frame and the rear wheel to something immovable, in a bright, well-populated place (but not in a big crowd). Have the keyhole turned downward and have as little space as possible between the lock and the object it’s locked to.
  4. Consider replacing a quick release seat and wheels with bolts, buy a wheel lock and/or second U-lock.
  5. Bring your bike inside, never leave it out overnight. Lock your bike even inside your garage, on your balcony or in your backyard. Don’t leave it unattended even for a moment. If it’s in your car, cover and lock it.

Where and How to Store Your Bike

  1. The City of Santa Cruz provides 84 bicycle lockers in downtown Santa Cruz that are available for rent to the public. They’ve proven secure so far.
  2. Consider renting a Jump bike for a short trip if it’s a late night out.
  3. Remove all lights and accessories (bike bags, maybe even the seat) from the front and back of the bike when you lock it somewhere.

After the Theft

  1. Report the theft so police can maintain records and be on the lookout.
  2. Post the pictures and measurements all over social media and ask others to share the posts. Check the SCPD Facebook page for your bike:

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and know your fellow cyclists have your back!

Karen Kefauver is a Santa Cruz-based social media marketing coach, freelance journalist and avid cyclist. Read more of her stories here: and send story ideas to: [email protected]

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