Suspected thieves, found in possession of school bus full of bikes, quickly released

"These are not the bikes you're looking for. He can go about his business. Move along."

In the course of carrying out that arrest, police additionally seized a small school bus that was filled with bicycles; they believe the bus to be a mobile "chop shop" where stolen bicycles are reconstructed for sale. [...]

One of the three men was booked for grand theft, possession of stolen property, and conspiracy. The other two were booked for possession of stolen property and conspiracy.

And yet, despite being in possession of a stolen motor vehicle and the eye-catching yellow bus full of bikes, all of them were free within 48 hours and their charges were dismissed.

Banner police work there, SFPD. Really top notch.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Great bike lights

I've been using these bike lights for a bit over a year and I highly recommend them -- primarily because they are really not kidding about the anti-theft guarantee! Since I live in San Francisco, where we can't have nice things, they've now sent me three replacement lights for free, so that has definitely been money well spent.

Fortified Bicycle Aviator & Afterburner

These lightweight aluminum lights lock to your handlebars and seat post with custom security bolts, and are guaranteed to last forever - If they're ever stolen, broken or water damaged, Fortified will replace 'em! Swap batteries on the go with removable, rechargeable USB batteries. 150 lumens in the front perfectly illuminates city streets, while 30 lumens in the rear keeps drivers alert. If you're looking to fully illuminate the darkest suburban paths and urban alleyways, try the Boost version with 300 lumens in the front and 60 lumens in the rear to keep drivers at a distance.

They're relatively difficult to steal... The screws are pentalobe with a post: obscure but not unheard of. After the first theft, I "fixed" that by filling up the screw head with superglue. The most recent crackhead managed to steal half of the light, which isn't really going to work out so well for them.

They're bright and the batteries last a pretty long time. My only real complaint is that they turn on with a single tap, so often passing strangers using the same bike rack as me manage to turn them on accidentally, and I regularly come out to discover a dead battery.

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the collected jwz bicycle wisdom

I posted most of this as a comment in someone else's LJ who was thinking of buying a bike, but perhaps it is of more general interest.

I've been using a bike as my exclusive transportation in SF for about ten years. I've always ridden, but that's when I stopped driving a car except under extreme duress.

Here's how to begin your adventure as a commuter-bicyclist in San Francisco:

  1. Never take bike advice from anyone who owns bike shorts, clip shoes, a messenger bag, or a fixie. That's like taking car advice from someone who enjoys rebuilding carburetors.

    (Update: If you are this person, you need not reply with your indignant "corrections". You are not the person to whom this advice is addressed.)

  2. "City bikes" and "road bikes" are designed for some Jetsons-slick hypothetical future city that I've never seen. Or maybe for the bike paths in Los Altos or something. Here in real cities, roads are shit, and if you want your wheels and tires to survive curbs and potholes, you need a hybrid. They're a little heavier and a little slower. Are you racing? No? Then you don't care.

  3. So, get the cheapest hybrid you can stand. Shocks are a waste of money. You should be able to get a pretty nice brand new hybrid for $370 or so. You can probably get a used one for a hundred bucks.

  4. If you feel like you want a lighter bike so that it's easier to carry up stairs: don't bother. That's optimizing the wrong thing. You'll get used to it (by which I mean: become stronger).

  5. Get a bike that's the right size for you, and has properly adjusted handlebars and seat. The shop will adjust it for you. If they won't, or if they tell you it doesn't matter, go to a different shop.

  6. Get a u-lock. Lock through the frame and the back wheel. Your bike will be stolen, so don't get too attached to it. This also means, don't waste your money on junk like baskets and lights. Just get a backpack.

    It doesn't matter how crappy your bike looks: any bike is worth stealing for $2 worth of crack. Your bike is temporary. Accept this and move on.

  7. I always replace my front wheel and seat quick-releases with $2 worth of hardware store bolts, and then bend the ends over. This might have some negligible effect on theft. I refuse to be one of those people who lugs around 3 chains and disassembles their bike every time they park, so that's the trade-off I make.

  8. The bike-nerd at the bike shop will try to give you smooth, high-pressure (110psi+) tires, because they are more efficient. But if you don't air them up weekly or more often, you'll get pinch-flats every time you hit a pothole, which is always. Also, the gas station air pumps often only go up to 60psi anyway. Get knobby low-pressure (60-80psi) tires and they'll last a lot longer. (If you do end up with stupid tires, you might want to get one of these.)

  9. Likewise, make sure the tubes you get have the kind of connectors that the gas station air pumps take. Bike shop nerds like to fuck you with goofy connectors sometimes, out of sheer mean-spiritedness.

  10. Bike maintenance: don't do it, ever. It's not worth your time. Just take it to the shop. Getting them to replace a flat for you costs $20 and takes 10 minutes, including the tube, and you don't get dirty.

    It's a good idea to know how to change a flat, but why do it yourself when you can pay someone else almost-nothing to get greasy on your behalf?

  11. Safety: I follow the Zodiac approach: always assume the cars can see you perfectly, and are trying to kill you. If an intersection seems iffy, use the sidewalk and crosswalks. If big streets like Market and Van Ness freak you out, there are always less traficky ways to go, or just stay on the sidewalks.

    Do whatever you need to do to feel safe. You have nobody to impress.

  12. Grocery shopping: yes, you really can do it with a single backpack. The trick is, shop small once a week instead of big once a month.

  13. If you try to dangle bags on your handlebars, you will die.

  14. Cross train and trolley tracks at a 45° angle or more, or you will die.

  15. You really do need to tuck in or roll up your right leg. (You probably won't die, but you'll shred your pants.)

  16. You don't need to ride up Haight. Take Fell or Fulton and then go through the Panhandle.

  17. The City is only 7 miles across. Nothing is as far away as you think it is.

Update 2: Oh great, here comes the peanut gallery. Thanks, Cory Rob, srsly. I'd recommend against reading the comments here unless you're the type who reads comments on Youtube. Or maybe you just want to hear a bunch of fixie-hipsters with sand in their vaginas tell me how wrong I am and how you should spend a fortune and do all your repairs yourself.

Update 3: After getting 200ish comments on day one, I went through and deleted most of the redundant ones, and most of the ones from butt-hurt bike-nerds and mechanics. I've also turned on comment screening, and won't be approving new comments here unless you really have something new to say.

I'm a little (just a little!) surprised at the level of vitriol this one provoked. It's like I farted in bike-church. You'd think I was making fun of Linux or something.

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today's market report:

According to the JWZ Bicycle Index, one of today's leading market indicators, bicycles are trading briskly, up 1.0 points from just five months ago.

Our score so far:

    Sep 2006:   stolen from outside Metreon, 4pm
    May 2006:   front wheel stolen from outside Metreon, 1am
    Feb 2006:   stolen from a quiet side street in The Mission, late at night (cut through the rear wheel!)
    Sep 2004:   stolen from outside Metreon, 7pm
    Jul 2002:   handlebars stolen from outside netik's place, 4am
    Jun 2002:   stolen from DNA Lounge back room
    Nov 2000:   stolen from outside the Market @ 3rd BART entrance, 5pm
    1991-ish:   somewhere in Berkeley

If I'm eyeballing this graph right, I think the asymptote is somewhere in early 2008: at that point, I'll be buying a new bicycle daily.

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'tis the season

Still life with tree and what's left of my bike:

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gadget review


  1. You may recall that a few months back, I bought a Gerber Recoil multi-tool to replace my Leatherman Wave and found the Gerber to be sorely lacking. Well, the new fall line is out now, and I just picked up a Leatherman Charge Ti, and it is the Best Tool Evar. It's very much like the Wave, except that all the interior tools lock, and it has a replacable-bit socket set. The scissors seem better too. It is truly a thing of beauty.
  2. I also picked up a Hobson bike seat, which has independent ass-cheek suspension. It's very comfortable! I've had other split-seats before, but they've always still been closed at the front; this is a lot better. Your package gets to just dangle in the breeze.

  3. Please STFU about the open-a-Kryptonite-lock-with-a-bic-pen thing. I know. I know. I know. I've been sent that like fifty times already. I'm getting more mail about that than I got about the fucking casino spammer. Knock it off already. (And no, I doubt that's how.)

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time for the bi-annual bicycle theft

Yes, it's that time again: the time where our indiginous crackhead population reminds me never to get too attached to my bicycle. This time it was stolen from in front of Metreon. I think I must have fucked up, though, since the lock was still locked around the post I chained it to, so the best explanation is that somehow I managed to completely miss the bike with the lock. I mean, I've only been locking up my bike once a day for my entire life. After so short a time, it's easy to get that wrong. But the only other explanation is that someone had a master key, and re-locked it just to fuck with me, which seems more than a little unlikely.

Our score so far:

    Nov 2000:   stolen from outside the Market @ 3rd BART entrance, 5pm
    Jun 2002:   stolen from DNA Lounge back room
    Jul 2002:   handlebars stolen from outside netik's place, 4am
    Sep 2004:   stolen from outside Metreon, 7pm

Before 2000, I'd had the same bike since a theft in 1991 or so, which was a pretty good run.

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a chicken, a hypnotist, a bicycle theft

Shop Blunder Stops Chicken-Hypnotist Tour

Tue Jun 25,10:11 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - An Alaskan chicken-hypnotist who cycles around the world with a traveling circus has ground to a halt after a charity clothes shop in Scotland sold her bicycle by mistake while she was in the fitting-room.

<LJ-CUT text=" --More--(13%) ">

Emily Harris left the $1,800 bicycle leaning on a mannequin inside the British Heart Foundation shop in Edinburgh while she tried on a shirt. By the time she came out the bike had been sold for $15.

"I went into shock. I started shaking and I said 'what a lot of' with some expletives attached a few times," Harris told Reuters on Tuesday.

She said the shop staff apologized profusely but did not give her the proceeds of the impromptu sale.

"We're hoping the person who bought it will have the decency when he realizes the mistake to bring it back," said Jo Hudson, a spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation.

"Someone's got an incredible bargain unbeknown to everyone including our unfortunate shop attendant."

Harris had built the bike herself around a German-made frame while working in a bicycle shop in New Orleans and had ridden it across much of the United States and Canada as well as Spain, France and Britain.

The 25-year-old from Palmer, Alaska, was touring Britain with a group of bike-riding circus artists who perform for children, financing their travels by busking in town centers and parks.

Harris performs as a fire-eater, puppet-master and concertina-player but her star act consists of hypnotizing chickens and making them play the piano, she said.

She was hoping the person who bought the bicycle would realize the mistake and return it to the shop, but failing that planned to request a working visa to make enough money to buy a new one.

"My plans are put on hold until I can get a bicycle. I can't do anything without one," she said.

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