bike seat trick

I had my bike seat stolen the other day, and when I bought a new one the guy at the shop showed me a good trick: string a piece of chain through the seat rails and frame, inside a piece of inner-tube. Chances are that your friendly neighborhood crackhead won't have a chain-tool on him and will move on to the bike at the next rack down. At least until everyone does this. So don't do this, ok?
Tags: , , ,

56 Responses:

  1. cryptomail says:

    Having nice things in this city is hard :( Sorry.

  2. mackys says:

    Hmm... I wonder if there's a way to do this so the chain is inside the seat tube, so it's even more of a pain in the ass for the crack-heads to get at.

    • That's what I was wondering.

      Also, Jamie, do you use locking hubs on your wheels and seat?

      • jwz says:

        Well, the rear wheel isn't an issue since the u-lock goes through that and the frame. I used to replace the front quick-release with a simple bolt, multiple nuts, and then bend the bolt over. But this time I got the triangular-socket "security" skewers, because at the time it seemed like less of a pain in the ass to just buy those than to dig around again in the bolt tray at the hardware store and do it myself. But again these are only secure in that your typical crackhead doesn't carry around an "exotic" socket set.

        • Hmm. The ones I bought a while ago for my wheels and seat are smooth and round with a weird key. Can't remember the brand, but I've learned at inopportune times (like, when I needed to take a wheel off) that they're a pretty good deterrent.

    • wisedonkey says:

      In that case they'll torch it or worse.

      • mackys says:

        Of course - there's always a way around. The idea is just to make them move along to the next bike, or make them screw around long enough that they get caught. There's no perfect security.

      • jwz says:

        The point, it's over there. Down the street. Locked to the next pole.

    • dolface71 says:

      There isn't; punching holes in the seatpost creates stress risers which are a really bad idea on a part that has to take a lot of lateral stress.

      You can also superglue a ball bearing into the heads of the hex bolts on the seatpost clamps; it won't stop a determined thief but it might make them move to an easier target. (Solder works too but it's a pain to do).

      The chain can also be busted by removing the saddle and post from the bike and then twisting.

      I use a chain and the ball bearings since having to ride home without a saddle a few years ago.

      • mackys says:

        Oh hell no, I wasn't advocating drilling into anything. My half-formed idea was more along the lines of a seat leash, but running inside the frame somehow.

        I guess you could run a cable the full length of the top tube, and secure one end inside the headstock somehow... that's tricky, though - you don't want anything binding up the front wheel. But I'm still at a loss on how you'd secure the other end to the seat. I guess you could drill small holes through the seat clamp to let the cable out... but then how do you secure the ends? Big fat ugly crimp fitting?

        I dunno.

        • blasdelf says:

          That's easy: the cable would be slipped through itself around the saddle rails, threaded down inside the seatpost shaft, and secured around the body of the bottom bracket. You'd need a seatpost with an open top, and a Shimano-style cartridge bottom bracket.

          The huge street bike rental fleets in Paris (Velib) and Barcelona (Bicing) have quick-release seatposts so you can adjust for height, but the seat tube is necked down at the top for the clamp portion, and the seatpost has a bolted-on bulged section at the bottom keeping it captive.

          • mackys says:

            > the cable would be slipped through itself around the saddle rails, threaded down inside the seatpost shaft, and secured around the body of the bottom bracket.

            I thought about that, but I was worried that some frames might not be open where the back tube meets the bottom bracket, particularly CF frames which I'm unfamiliar with. After really thinking about it for several hours, I concluded that the easiest and quickest way is to just get the thickest chain you can find, loop it through the triangle of the frame, and then secure the loose ends to the seat rails with a good padlock. Pretty much what Jamie's already got, just a little more resistant to bolt cutters.

            It's still vulnerable because it's outside the frame, and it's heavy, and it'll scratch the paint if you don't put something softer around the lower part of the chain. But it's simple, cheap, off-the-shelf, and easy for the owner or shop to remove with the padlock key. And you can use as big a chain as you want, so you get to choose how difficult you want to make the thief's life.

            The achillies heel of the inside the frame stuff ends up being how difficult it is to remove for maintenance. Pretty much everything I could think of ended up being either impossibly obnoxious to install and remove (if all the good stuff's inside the frame tube) or trivial for a thief to defeat (if there's anything outside the frame). The really big challenge is that you want the seat to never come all the way out of the frame. That way, whatever cable/chain you use to keep the seat in isn't vulnerable to bolt cutters.

            I thought of all sorts of crazy shit. (Yes, I have too much free time.) Most of them involving a bolt with a flat ground onto the end and drilled for a padlock. Come out through one of the water bottle bolt holes, or something. Discarded that because how the hell are you going to screw in a bolt from inside the frame? Or if you put the bolt in the other way, how are you going to secure it inside the frame so a thief can't just unscrew it from outside? And do that in such a way that it's not an insane pain in the ass for your bike mechanic to undo it when they need to? I even considered some kind of friction fitting that would jam itself inside the tube, but that'd probably be a bad idea on a CF frame.

            Anyway, I'm getting pretty long-winded here. If you're interested to talk about this more, drop me a private LJ message and we can yak about it elsewhere.

            > The huge street bike rental fleets in Paris (Velib) and Barcelona (Bicing) have quick-release seatposts so you can adjust for height, but the seat tube is necked down at the top for the clamp portion, and the seatpost has a bolted-on bulged section at the bottom keeping it captive.

            Huh, that's cool. I wonder how you do get the seat out when you want to replace it?

            • blasdelf says:

              There isn't a frame out there that isn't open at the center of where the seat tube meets the bottom bracket — it's absolutely necessary when welding or brazing for the gases to escape, it's needed for drainage on all frames, and it's needed for inspection after joining the tubes (even on CF frames where the threads are glued in).

              You'd unhook it by simply removing the cranks and bottom bracket in the normal manner using standard tools — the bottom bracket would just be inserted through the loop at that end of the cable.

              Replying here because jwz has pagerank seeping out of his orifices — if I regularly find my own comments here whilst googling, I'm sure other people do; and I wouldn't want to spare them any conclusions.

              • jwz says:

                Yes, we wouldn't want to deny the world any of these fascinating, fascinating musings on bicycle frame design. If you're going to rape me for my pagerank you should at least buy me dinner first.

            • Tiny, bolt-manipulating robots which live inside the frame. They are powered by a thermopile running off the rider's burning hatred of bike thieves. If the bike is stolen, they climb out of the frame at night and whisper terrifying dreams into the thief's ears as they sleep.

  3. kaishaku says:

    Awesome. It's like a super-industrial zip tie. I need to do this somehow with my motorcycle's license plate.

  4. mattallen says:

    Is it possible that for some people, simply welding the seat on permanently would work?

    • jwz says:

      I totally would have done that if I had a welder sitting around.

      On a previous bike, I drilled a hole through the frame and the post, stuck a bolt through both, and bent it over. After a few weeks, it got internally kinked enough from the weight of my ass that it wasn't ever coming out.

      • dzm6 says:

        Maybe I'm missing something obvious here, but is there a reason a crapload of epoxy wouldn't do the job? If you never plan to take the seat post off again and don't have a welder handy then a liberal application of epoxy to the outside of the post and the inside of the frame tube should pretty effectively keep the post from ever moving again.

        Extra bonus: Epoxy can be easily (and cheaply) had at any hardware store. No drilling or welding is needed.

  5. skreidle says:

    I'm pretty sure I've seen a commercial product that accomplishes this and is concealed entirely within the seat post.. attaches at the bottom end to the mounting bolt for a seat tube water bottle holder, and at the top... don't recall, but it was mostly hidden overall. :)

    • lovingboth says:

      Why would you want it hidden?

      • skreidle says:

        Aesthetics aside, I'd think an unexpected deterrent (hidden seat retention device) would be more effective than a visible one*. If it's visible, the thief knows what they're up against from the get go, and can walk up prepared; if it's hidden, they might walk up, give the seat a yank, and decide it's not worth the time and effort to figure out what's retaining the seat and how to bypass it.

        * I'm only applying this in this specific context, not extrapolating to retention of wheels, bicycles, etc. and visibility of methods thereof.

  6. headlouse says:

    There are also locking skewers you can get for you seat post which is a heck of a lot more aesthetically pleasing then this chain method. Pitlock makes the best locking skewers.

    That said I've escaped so far having my seat stolen by just watching where I lock up and having a normal hex bolted on seatpost. Every bike owner should in the very least have a bolt-on rather than a quick release seat post-unless they do the pain in the ass thing of bringing their seat in everywhere they go.

    Most crimes are crimes of opportunity and quick release just creates an opportunity.

    • headlouse says:

      Granted the locking skewers don't stop people just stealing the seat-is that what happened?

    • jwz says:

      Yes, quick-releases are a menace.

      My seat was hex-bolted. I assume an allen wrench is in the standard crackhead utility belt these days.

      • kou says:

        I've had two seats stolen with quick-releases, but none yet with the allen wrench. The last theft was just this week, coincidentally, on a cheap thrift store roadie, I could not easily remove the seat clamps and figured theft of well-worn damaged seats was unlikely. I was wrong.

        There are many security products including cables that attach under the seat, as well as various locking-screw type of products I have been checking out. Many of these are part of a skewer package, and I'll mention only the ones with seatpost protection.

        The most common are Pinhead, also rebranded as OnGuard, whose removal tool uses pegs that fit into what otherwise appear to be a one-way indentation (about $50 for skewers and seats). Pitlock is the most expensive option, it uses a socket with a custom curve ($80 or more). Online you can find skewer/bolt sets from Sunlite and Tranz X which use 5mm allen key ($~12). Tranz X also makes one with a 5-sided pentagon bit (~$30).

        The one I think I will settle on is Oredon SafeRing, through xxcycle (France) or PBK (UK). It's mostly a European item seen in France and the UK, but it looks solidly built and a good value for the money. Might be defeated using a spanner wrench but I doubt anyone in my area will have even a similar product.


        The author does not receive any consideration for the mention of any of these products, and does not have affilition or financial interests in related businesses.
        (oh, and yes, all the security products cost way more than the $12.99 bikes they are on)

      • scullin says:

        I guess I operated under the assumption that the whole point of quick-release was take it with you. My grad school was a "bike friendly" university, which meant it was bike thief heaven. Looking at a bike rack there you would think that bicycles were sold without seats.

        • gytterberg says:

          Mountain bikes have quick release seatpost collars so you can lower the seat in order to really "rip" a "bitchin" downhill and get all "physical" on the bike without the seat being in the way. Cheap mountain bikes people buy to ride around the city copied those and now everybody has an easy-steal seat.

          • scullin says:

            Ah. This was central Illinois, so it was rather light on mountains. Finding an incline was a bit tricky, really.

        • rodgerd says:

          My workplace's expression of wisharcycle-friendliness is removing a few car parks to create a locking bike cage accessible only by a specific security swipe loaded on an access card.

  7. allartburns says:

    another anti-theft trick:

    If it's a part held on by a hex head bolt, epoxy a ball bearing in the middle of the hex. If you ever need to get it out, you can drill it out pretty easily.

    • Wax works almost as well as epoxy (at least for bolts that usually face up), and is much more easily reversible.

    • jhnc says:

      Just epoxy filling in the hex has been sufficient to prevent either my leather saddle or my derailleurs being stolen for the last decade. (Though the only time someone tried to steal my (front) derailleur before I did that, they got as far as unbolting it before they were stymied by the fact that the chain runs through it...)

      Surprisingly, the brake and shift cables seem to be enough to stop anyone trying to remove my unsecured handlebars.

  8. Wow, how long did it take to get your seat stolen? Here in New York, that trick is common knowledge, I think the bike shops even do it for you. Pretty much every bike has that done. Kinda sad how pervasive bike theft is. Of course, I saw a dude going at a bike chain with a cold chisel and hammer in the middle of a busy sidewalk one day...

  9. chaobell says:

    Either seat theft isn't a big problem around here (4 years, same seat, quick release and all) or nobody wants my decrepit old duct-tape-wrapped seat.

    I guess I really should go get a new one someday.

  10. skreidle says:

    Unrelated to bikes, but I saw a friend post a photo from here and thought it was from you before I scrolled up a few more lines:

    Poking around the site, I think there's plenty of fodder for your posts. :)

  11. One of my bikes has a seat leash. This costs about five bucks at REI and deters the kids / krakheads who in my experience do not yet carry hex wrenches. The other bike, which is 27 years old and predates things like quick-release seats, has a stainless steel bolt from the hardware store. You need two wrenches to loosen it so again this deters the casual 'take anything I can remove in five seconds' thieves.