Started the school year with stolen wheels

Editors note: Minor corrections made on 9-6-11.

The fall semester at Arizona State University started last week. In preparation I pulled my blue Schwinn out of hibernation. In mid-June, I fell on gravel leaving a deep gash on my arm and painful road rash. Now I felt ready to hop on my two-wheeler again. Last school year, I was seen peddling as my primary transportation around town, on campus and to the light rail.  I take pride living in a bike friendly city, not to mention enjoy saving money on gas and a pricey parking permit.

Thursday was the first day of school. Within five minutes, I reached the light rail stop at University and Rural roads on ASU campus. I walked over to the bike racks and choose chose a spot to lock up. After securing the bike frame to a rack with a Kryptonite U-lock, I considered its safety for only a second and walked off to catch the train.

Once or twice during the day I wondered about my wheels, but I was absorbed in my new classes and put the thought out of my head. Eight hours had passed until I returned to my bike. Just then a dust storm approached, the sky began to darken and I thought to myself I’ll be home in a few minutes on two wheels.

As I looked toward the bike rack, I realized something was wrong. The bike sat tilted and much lower to the ground than I remembered. Both wheels were gone. . . Really? Oh no! Who could have done this?

I looked around and people buzzed by me on skateboards and bikes and I realized the traffic at this transit stop was constant. Each person that passed looked focused to get to their next destination and I figured no one would pay enough attention to stop a bike thief.

I felt violated. My bike was in one piece this morning. Now it was inoperable. Frustrated, I left the bike remnants locked to the rack and went home to decide my next move.

My negative attitude was clouding my logic. I posted the photo below to Facebook and went for a run. When I returned home, a friend offered me a set of spare wheels that fit my bike. Yes! This disaster was turning around. I stopped by to pick them up later that night. I was so grateful. My friend did not even charge me.

The next day, my roommate attached the new wheels and took it for a test drive. I was relieved. Now to take some precautions. I went to Tempe Bicycle.  I asked an associate if theft was common and he said that he sells wheels and new locks to about five customers a day. Wow! I was just one of the cyclists affected by theft that day and this was only one of several bike stores in town. Police could never catch that many bike thieves. I would have to be smarter about where and how I locked up from now on. I asked for locking lug nuts for quick-release tires to prevent this from happening again. He walked me to a display with locks and cables and pointed to an empty row showing that the lug nuts were sold out. Instead I decided to purchase a long cable to weave through the tires, making the bike less desirable to thieves.

Recommendations for new bikers to Tempe:

How I found my bike.. without wheels.

  • Buy a good U-lock. Cables can be cut by thieves. Kryptonite is a strong brand that also provides the option to register and insure your bike.
  • Lock your bike to a stationary object like a pole or bike rack.
  • Find a visible and well-lit area to leave your bike.
  • Secure other components such as a quick-release seat or tires with extra cables. Make your bike difficult to steal. Thieves will usually go for the easiest target.
  • Register your bike with ASU Police or the The National Bike Registry.
Here are some additional tips from the City of Tempe on bike theft. For information on how to file a police report for bicycle theft, check out this ASU website.

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