TO THE PREPARED THIEF, every bike rack is a buffet. You think a cable lock will keep your beloved wheels in your life. The thief knows a simple pair of aviation snips cuts through that cable like butter. You’re convinced a locker-style combination lock will outsmart a crook. He pops it in seconds with a shim—just slides it in between the body of the lock and its fishhook tip, and your bike is his. (A good bandit can make a shim in about five minutes with nothing more than a beer can and a pair of scissors.) U-locks? Routinely opened with a Bic pen jammed into the keyhole. Even with that rare unbreakable lock, a bike is no safer than its anchor; outside Guthrie Hall at the University of Washington sits a metal rack that bike thieves have sawed straight through.
The components, meanwhile—the lights, seats, handlebars, derailleurs, and brakes that turn a frame into a ridable bike—can go for hundreds of dollars each on the black market. With no serial numbers, these parts, unlike frames, are untraceable. “As long as you’ve got the proper tools,” Justin, a University Avenue fixture who has swapped stories with more than one bike thief and asked that his last name be withheld, explained, “you can just walk up to a bike and be like, ‘I want those rims, I want those handlebars, I want that seat.’ ” A buffet.