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Saved By The Wheel Lock 37

Dutch bicycle in Toronto

Batavus Fryslan Dutch bicycle – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

I returned to Toronto on Tuesday after spending my long weekend in New York City only to discover that somebody had tried to steal my Batavus Fryslan bicycle from my front patio.

I live in a ground-level loft on a busy arterial road in downtown Toronto and my bike sits on my patio not attached to a stationary object, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone tried to lift it (I bought the bike in November 2010).

The would-be thief/thieves seemingly tried to ride away on the bike, only to realize that the rear wheel was locked, so they naturally didn’t get very far.

The thief didn’t appear to be much of a scholar either because my neighbour’s bike was also targeted, but the thief unceremoniously ditched my neighbour’s bike on her patio after what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt to lift the bike over the locked gate.

Perhaps deterred by the sheer weight of my heavy-duty Dutch bicycle, the thief decided not to carry the bicycle away, so they too ditched my Dutch bike on the sidewalk in front of my building.

My bike reportedly sat in front of the building for two days before my building Superintendent brought it inside and kept it safe for me until I returned from my trip.

Although the bike is fairly sturdy, it was not without damage. The rear wheel is kicked in and bent, and some spokes are broken, so it will at minimum require a new rear wheel.

Based on the evidence, I would venture a guess that the thief was probably drunk and looking for a cheap thrill, or perhaps he/she was just looking for a quick way to get home, knowing that bicycles are often the quickest & cheapest way to get around the city.

Dutch bicycle in Toronto

Batavus Fryslan Dutch bicycle – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

The trusty rear wheel locked saved my bike from – in all likelihood – ending up in a ditch or a river on the other side of the city.

I had always wanted to catch somebody trying to steal my bike with the wheel lock engaged. It would be amusing for me to watch his face at the moment he realizes that he won’t be able to ride away.

I imagine myself walking slowly up to the would-be thief and dangling the keys in his face with a smirk on my face, saying with a quiet, creepy voice, “looking for something?”.

The type of wheel lock that saved my bike is still quite uncommon in North America – which is a shame – because in my opinion it is the most useful and practical feature that exists on an urban bicycle.

WheelLock2

Batavus Fryslan Dutch bicycle – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

The way it works is that the key always stays in the wheel lock keyhole while the lock isn’t engaged and when you arrive at your destination, you park your bicycle, engage the wheel lock, take your key, and walk away.

You don’t need to spend any time trying to find a bike rack, a tree, or a pole to lock your bike to. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.

Sure, somebody could throw your bike on the back of a pickup truck. But have you ever tried to lift up a Dutch bicycle? You might as well steal a Vespa or a Smart car; I’m fairly certain that two tiny men could lift up a Smart car, but I’ve seen two burly men pull their groins while trying to lift my Dutch bicycle before.

Just like keys and ignitions come standard in automobiles, rear wheel locks should be a standard feature on all non-sport bicycles.

If you would like to add a rear wheel lock to your existing bicycle, check out David Hembrow’s “Dutch Bike Bits” website.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • dr2chase

    I’d like to find a wheel lock that works well with 60mm tires. Right now, I make do with a locking rear axle and a u-lock on the front wheel (a little more obvious than your wheel lock, perhaps I can avoid some bent spokes). But the (cargo) bike weighs 65lbs, so perhaps even less luggable than your bike.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      True, the visible u-lock would probably have deterred the thief who clearly wasn’t well versed on Dutch bicycles ;)

      Regarding the spoke damage, I just had the bike in for repairs about a month ago after somebody kicked it in while I was eating at a restaurant downtown. I had to get the gear box replaced on the rear wheel that time. This time the damage looks worse unfortunately.

      • dr2chase

        I’m a little curious about “in for repairs”. I realize that there are plenty of people who want to treat bike repair as being “just like a car” in that you pay specialists to do it for you, but as a practical matter, common problems (spokes, flats, gear adjustments, brake adjustments) are far easier than common repairs on automobiles. I’m more mechanically inclined than average and I’ve worked on both cars and bicycles — but I’ve worked on both cars and bicycles, and I know exactly which one is far easier.

        • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

          I’ve maintained my own bicycles since I was about 12 years old, so I know how to do pretty much anything with a regular bike.

          However, the Dutch bike is different. The parts are specialized, and a matter as simple as changing a tire is no easy feat on this bike, so I take the bike in normally once a year for a tune-up and then the rest of the year I do absolutely no maintenance whatsoever to the bike.

          I prefer this approach. Instead of maintaining and tuning my bike myself every week like I used to do when I had a regular mountain bike, I take it in once a year and I don’t even have to do so much as even oil the chain because the parts are all internal.

          It’s a different approach, but one that I find preferable and more reliable.

          • dr2chase

            I guess I don’t see why it can’t be both reliable, AND easy to maintain. The old Raleigh 3-speed (enclosed chain, also) has this property. I am working towards this on my cargo bike; not quite an enclosed chain, but one important part is covered.

          • Nick

            I have the AXA Defender on my Gazelle and it is fantastic. I have the chain attachment that slips into the slot opposite the key. The chain always remains firmly wound round the frame with a loose loop that I wrap around solid objects. The locking procedure is far simpler and quicker than fiddling with a separate u-lock and keys. The Dutch bike, with all its complexity and multitude of parts, has radically simplified my urban cycling. I firmly recommend the wheel lock.

  • dr2chase

    I’d like to find a wheel lock that works well with 60mm tires. Right now, I make do with a locking rear axle and a u-lock on the front wheel (a little more obvious than your wheel lock, perhaps I can avoid some bent spokes). But the (cargo) bike weighs 65lbs, so perhaps even less luggable than your bike.

  • http://twitter.com/Kasheik Kasheik

    Thanks for sharing this.. I live in NYC.. I think I will invest!

  • http://twitter.com/Kasheik Kasheik

    Thanks for sharing this.. I live in NYC.. I think I will invest!

  • Chris

    I have the same or similar lock on my Swedish Skeppshult and people always ask me what it is. Often they think it’s some kind of mechanical assist. I’ve also thought I’d like to catch a thief in the act but perhaps not at the cost of spoke damage. Lastly, I can’t believe you don’t lock your bike to an immovable object. Do you now?

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      I probably will after I get the wheel fixed. When I’m home I don’t think it’s as big of a deal because it’s right outside my window, so I’d probably see/hear someone. However, I should have locked the gate and/or the bike while I was away for 4 days.

  • Chris

    I have the same or similar lock on my Swedish Skeppshult and people always ask me what it is. Often they think it’s some kind of mechanical assist. I’ve also thought I’d like to catch a thief in the act but perhaps not at the cost of spoke damage. Lastly, I can’t believe you don’t lock your bike to an immovable object. Do you now?

  • Cecily Walker

    I have the exact same bike, but discovered that the keys for this lock are so flimsy that they easily bent inside my bike bag. The only thing I kept in the same pouch was my iPhone. Because the keys bent so easily, it was only a matter of time before the key broke in the lock, rendering the wheel lock useless. I’m glad your lock was able to keep the thieves at bay, and I hope you never have the same luck I had with mine.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      That’s odd Cecily – I haven’t had the same issue. I wonder if the newer versions of the bike have flimsier keys? When did you buy yours?

      • Cecily Walker

        I bought mine in October 2010.

  • Cecily Walker

    I have the exact same bike, but discovered that the keys for this lock are so flimsy that they easily bent inside my bike bag. The only thing I kept in the same pouch was my iPhone. Because the keys bent so easily, it was only a matter of time before the key broke in the lock, rendering the wheel lock useless. I’m glad your lock was able to keep the thieves at bay, and I hope you never have the same luck I had with mine.

  • USbike

    The balloon bikes from Velorbis use the Basta click 3 wheel lock. It’s at least wide enough to accommodate 60 mm tires. Take a look at this site: http://axabasta.intermix5.nl/cat/front/item_info.asp?currentpage=1&pagesize=15&id=1&level=2&Svalue=&search=&lijst=&s1=&s2=&s3=&item_id=526

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    I never woulda thought that type of wheel lock could actually be useful for anything. Good to know it delivers.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      As long as the bike is heavy enough to deter a thief from carrying it away of course ;)

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    I never woulda thought that type of wheel lock could actually be useful for anything. Good to know it delivers.

  • myob1776

    I have one of these on my Bullitt and another on my Velorbis, and agree that it’s the most sensible type of lock for everyday use. I’m guessing we’ll see more of these over here as people grow into the idea of bike commuting. Of course it’s not foolproof, but it’s tough to crack because of how closely it hugs the wheel, offering a thief very little leverage. If I’m going to be away for any lengthy of time I’ll still use the big old Kryptonite, though, and lock it to something solid.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Agreed. I certainly shouldn’t have left for 4 days without at the very least locking my gate. As always seems to be the case, we left a bit hastily, so locking the gate or my bike wasn’t top of mind…

  • myob1776

    I have one of these on my Bullitt and another on my Velorbis, and agree that it’s the most sensible type of lock for everyday use. I’m guessing we’ll see more of these over here as people grow into the idea of bike commuting. Of course it’s not foolproof, but it’s tough to crack because of how closely it hugs the wheel, offering a thief very little leverage. If I’m going to be away for any lengthy of time I’ll still use the big old Kryptonite,

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Agreed. I certainly shouldn’t have left for 4 days without at the very least locking my gate. As always seems to be the case, we left a bit hastily, so locking the gate or my bike wasn’t top of mind…

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    As long as the bike is heavy enough to deter a thief from carrying it away of course ;)

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    That’s odd Cecily – I haven’t had the same issue. I wonder if the newer versions of the bike have flimsier keys? When did you buy yours?

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    I probably will after I get the wheel fixed. When I’m home I don’t think it’s as big of a deal because it’s right outside my window, so I’d probably see/hear someone. However, I should have locked the gate and/or the bike while I was away for 4 days.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    True, the visible u-lock would probably have deterred the thief who clearly wasn’t well versed on Dutch bicycles ;)

    Regarding the spoke damage, I just had the bike in for repairs about a month ago after somebody kicked it in while I was eating at a restaurant downtown. I had to get the gear box replaced on the rear wheel that time. This time the damage looks worse unfortunately.

  • dr2chase

    I’m a little curious about “in for repairs”. I realize that there are plenty of people who want to treat bike repair as being “just like a car” in that you pay specialists to do it for you, but as a practical matter, common problems (spokes, flats, gear adjustments, brake adjustments) are far easier than common repairs on automobiles. I’m more mechanically inclined than average and I’ve worked on both cars and bicycles — but I’ve worked on both cars and bicycles, and I know exactly which one is far easier.

  • Cecily Walker

    I bought mine in October 2010.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    I’ve maintained my own bicycles since I was about 12 years old, so I know how to do pretty much anything with a regular bike.

    However, the Dutch bike is different. The parts are specialized, and a matter as simple as changing a tire is no easy feat on this bike, so I take the bike in normally once a year for a tune-up and then the rest of the year I do absolutely no maintenance whatsoever to the bike.

    I prefer this approach. Instead of maintaining and tuning my bike myself every week like I used to do when I had a regular mountain bike, I take it in once a year and I don’t even have to do so much as even oil the chain because the parts are all internal.

    It’s a different approach, but one that I find preferable and more reliable.

  • dr2chase

    I guess I don’t see why it can’t be both reliable, AND easy to maintain. The old Raleigh 3-speed (enclosed chain, also) has this property. I am working towards this on my cargo bike; not quite an enclosed chain, but one important part is covered.

  • Nick

    I have the AXA Defender on my Gazelle and it is fantastic. I have the chain attachment that slips into the slot opposite the key. The chain always remains firmly wound round the frame with a loose loop that I wrap around solid objects. The locking procedure is far simpler and quicker than fiddling with a separate u-lock and keys. The Dutch bike, with all its complexity and multitude of parts, has radically simplified my urban cycling. I firmly recommend the wheel lock.

  • http://total-locker-solutions.co.uk/ Lockers

    I had read the whole content and good to read that the bike stored by the rim lock. A bicycle secure is quite generally any device that is able to secure the bike to a firm structure.

  • http://total-locker-solutions.co.uk/ Lockers

    I had read the whole content and good to read that the bike stored by the rim lock. A bicycle secure is quite generally any device that is able to secure the bike to a firm structure.

  • Christian

    I’m quite a rascal when it comes to my dutch bicycle and partly, it was my fault for parking it in front of a shady apartment and not locking it. I can’t afford to lose one again.

  • Christian

    I’m quite a rascal when it comes to my dutch bicycle and partly, it was my fault for parking it in front of a shady apartment and not locking it. I can’t afford to lose one again.