Lessons Learned From Having My Bike Stolen

Not my bike, but I’d sure love to know the story behind this one.

The Man With the Big Keychain

An old friend of mine is obsessed with security. He carries a huge bundle of keys and makes his way through each day meticulously locking and unlocking anything that can be locked. He drives his car through the alley into the detached garage, and the door seals shut behind his back bumper. After locking the car, he exits the garage through the  door into his back yard (which features locking fence gates) and locks the deadbolt behind him. He climbs the back steps and unlocks the screen door and the interior door, then locks them both behind him. On vacation, he spends a good portion of his vacation time locking and unlocking boats, barbecues and sporting equipment at the cottage, which sits on a peaceful private lake with only a few widely spaced neighbors.

This guy isn’t overly fearful in other ways. Like many of my favorite people, he’s a perpetual teenager at heart who devotes his life to having a good time with friends. He is a great person to invite to a party and he has done very well in his career. But for whatever reason, he has taken up the habit of protecting the living shit out of each and every one of his physical possessions, because “the crime around here is really bad.”

The Other Man with No Keys at All*

Mr. Money Mustache, on the other hand, follows the opposite strategy when it comes to material possessions. I never lock the house when I’m home, and my cars and bikes often spend the night sitting casually unlocked out back as well, while I sleep with the windows open all summer. For quick errands, I’ll often leave my bike just chilling on its kickstand while I run into the market for some avocados, and even when I do lock up, I use one of those stretchy convenient 6-foot cable locks instead of the recommended bomb proof U-lock. Unless I’m on a trip with a lot of strangers around, I keep my phone and my desktop computer password-free so I can get to work more quickly when the mood strikes.

I’ve lived at a fair number of  different addresses over my lifetime and some were more crime-ridden than others. But they were all in Canada or the US – two relatively safe, prosperous countries. If you average out all the thefts and other threats I’ve been through over the years, it is remarkably low – and this is of course part of the definition of a prosperous country. I savor this safe environment and use it to live a freer life. After all, higher levels of trust between people leads directly to higher wealth.

My Carefree Attitude Backfires

But all this came crashing down one afternoon not long ago, when I went to grab my fancy Trek road bike from the back patio, and found it was no longer there.

That was weird. I could have sworn I left that thing leaning right there against a chair. I searched the shed, and my side yards, and everywhere else I’d usually leave a bike. No bike.

I felt the bottom dropping out of my stomach as I realized what had happened.

Although I’ve been a victim of theft less than a dozen times in my life, it is always a shocking, violating feeling when you realize somebody unknown has stolen something from you.  How could they be so bold, coming right onto my property and wheeling this thing away? At exactly what moment did this happen? Where was I when this dickhead was stealing my bike? Why couldn’t I have seen it happening, so I could come out and dish out some Justice? When you catch someone stealing your bike from your yard, do you just yell at the thief to get the hell out, or do you punch him down to the ground and stand with your foot on his neck while you call the cops and wait for them to arrive, occasionally hurling expletives down at the perpetrator and spitting on his face?

Although I’m not a violent man in everyday life, this swirl of uncertainty and rage quickly combined with immaturity and testosterone and soon I was wasting my mental energy torturing an imaginary stranger. And my practical side started acting on the fear as well. “This changes everything. Do I add cameras and security? Do I build a garage immediately to house all my belongings so they can be safely locked up? Should I move out of the city to get away from crime?”

After calming down for a few minutes, more practical strategies started to emerge. Sure, my bike had been stolen. But this was the first theft in many, many years of very carefree living. The Craigslist replacement value of that bike was probably about $500. What value do I place on a decade of the fearless freedom of leaving shit happily unlocked and not worrying about it? How about the value of my time saved in not spending my life fumbling with an enormous keychain like my friend? 90 seconds a day for ten years is 91 hours, or at least $4500 of my time at $50 an hour. I was still coming out way ahead.

Anyway, it was time to think about a more pressing issue: I needed to get myself back on the road. Not having a bike for me is equivalent to a car person losing all access to motor vehicles. I use a bike several times every single day to get things done. Switching to walking would have me on the sidewalk for 4 hours a day, and switching to a car for local errands would be even worse. Car Clown driving. Why not just squeeze my motorized racing la-z-boy right into the grocery store and reach my hand out the driver-side window to select my produce and canned goods?

The reason I had been riding that Trek road bike around in the first place was that my main commuter bike was temporarily out of commission. I had destroyed a few rear spokes in a careless incident with the big hauling trailer. So I decided to take that wheel over to the local bike shop to have it re-spoked.

It’s More Dangerous Around Here Than You Thought

At the bike shop’s service desk, I ran into the friendly owner and shared my tragic tale of loss with him. His reaction surprised me:

You left your bike unlocked in your back yard? Right up against a public park?



And here I was thinking I lived in a low-crime city. The stats say we’re much safer than the US median and my neighborhood is especially chilled out. Anecdotal evidence was backing it up until now: not only had I experienced no crime since I moved here 10 years ago, I didn’t even know anyone who had experienced any crime. It was one of those things you were vaguely aware of from the local paper, but it played no part in the average daily citizen’s life.

Could it be that the bike shop owner had formed his opinion based on a biased sample? Just like a paramedic thinks that cycling is horribly dangerous, a police officer thinks that criminals are everywhere, and a corporate lawyer thinks that painful lawsuits are commonplace, the owner of a bike shop hears from everyone who has a bike stolen, while having much less contact with those of us who still have happy, operational bikes. Even on Mr. Money Mustache articles like this one, we inevitably get commenters piping up that their situation is immeasurably more dangerous. “You can’t ride a bike or leave your garage unlocked in my city. Because things are truly scary here.

Don’t Confuse Bullshit with Safety

This is a key flaw in human nature that will bring you great profit if you become aware of it: we tend to prioritize our own experience above real science when forming impressions of the world. And we also put more weight on scary and bad news than we do on good news (or an absence of news, which is usually good too).

This form of judgement (along with other great human tendencies such as racism, fear of change and learning through gossip) was appropriate for most of human history since it was the best we could do before we had science and effortless worldwide communication. But nowadays, we can do better. To attain greater-than-caveman wealth, you must make life decisions using smarter-than-caveman techniques.

An impossibly cheap $35 and one day later, I carried my pristine and true back wheel out of that place and fitted it to my commuter bike. It was a joy to ride around again and I wondered what the big deal was: my life was simpler now with fewer bikes. I had more open space in my shed and I hardly ever used that road bike anyway.

I resolved to continue my old life of not being fearful of crime. As any student of statistics knows, it is foolish to base your life on a single, isolated event. If things continued to get stolen from my back yard, I would eventually step up security measures. But for now, why not be free?

Lesson Learned

And then, as if the Universe had noticed that I absorbed this life lesson correctly, my Trek road bike came back.

The bike had never been stolen at all – I had just left it at a friend’s house. In a zoo-like day of helping him move a few blocks, alternately biking, running, and driving the moving truck back and forth and stopping somewhere else for lunch then celebrating with beers at the end of the night, I had simply ended up walking home late the previous night and going straight to bed with no thought about the bike.

This is not unusual at all for me – although I can’t seem to purge my brain of the complete spec list of most cars in production and every last note of every last 1980s guitar solo, I am remarkably useless at keeping track of objects. One time I thought I had lost my own car for a weekend because I had left it at work. But hey, it was nice of my bike to come back to me.

So I went back to my regular, carefree, unlocked life.

And I still get a little thrill when I walk away from my bike when I’ve left it unlocked in a public place. “I’m breaking the rules! You’re supposed to lock these things up! Is the world really this safe? We’re about to find out!

I also love the Responsible Adult feeling I get when driving my car, which is insured only for liability against other people. If I crash that thing, I’m aware that it will be me paying to fix or replace it.

Living the Unlocked Life is is both a joyful celebration of living in our safe and wealthy society, and a reminder not to cling to material possessions. Instead of fooling yourself with the security blanket of insurance, you can use it as a reminder not to buy stuff that would be financially painful to lose. If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to buy it yet – otherwise the object owns you rather than vice versa.

But How Does All This Make Me Rich?

Fear of loss tends to prevent us from doing all the best stuff in life. Investing. Quitting our unsatisfying job or starting a new business. Building a fun and profitable local social network. Trying things that might result in minor bruises or embarrassing failure. Compulsive locking and protecting of our trinkets is not curing this fear – just masking it. Taking away the security blanket and just taking the risk breaks down the fear, and brings much better results over a lifetime.

* It’s true: I have eliminated keys from my life whenever possible. The bike gets a numerical combination lock, and I outfitted my house with a programmable deadbolt which is more secure yet much faster to operate. This also helps me overcome my tendency to lose objects like keys.

**Fearful vs. Prudent: With all this advocacy of danger, how do I avoid doing completely stupid things? I try to keep it in context of “making a profit”. For example, locking my door when I leave home for a month takes only a few seconds and provides a long period of benefit. Likewise for shutting off the water supply, using a seat belt, or having a reasonable password on my bank account. Low cost relative to expected potential benefit.

Compare this to, say, spending 10 minutes every day making sure not so much as a frisbee is left out in my yard for potential thieves. Or avoiding going for beautiful evening walks for fear of potential muggers: higher cost to protect against less likely consequences.

  • Gabrielle Bauer December 8, 2015, 11:22 am

    I like the way you think.

    • Steve December 8, 2015, 11:57 am

      Hey, you and me both! :)

      • Matt December 9, 2015, 1:06 pm

        This line, in particular, really struck me: “Fear of loss tends to prevent us from doing all the best stuff in life.”

        Based on my observations, the early retirement community tends to be pretty risk-averse (just look at how many people are uncomfortable with the 4% withdrawal rate and saving more to hit 3% or even 2%). I love this healthy reminder to keep that excessive risk aversion in check.

      • Jim Wang December 9, 2015, 6:31 pm

        Honestly, I think having this way of thinking is better anyway, it’s more freeing and relaxing. As they say, the things you own end up owning you.

        • Profit Greenly November 8, 2019, 12:15 pm

          What if you could add a GPS tracker to your bike essentially for free? Then you could still save all the time lost locking and unlocking your bike, but still have the peace of mind that if it does actually get stolen you can track it down? I guess you do waste a little bit of time/electricity charging the tracker up every week, but if you hook it to the battery of an ebike even this time isn’t lost. If anyone is interested in DIYing this I put together some instructions using an old Android Phone and Google Fi that can guide you.


    • Stockbeard December 8, 2015, 12:24 pm

      Yup. My parents never, ever locked the house when they were in, and would often leave it unlocked when we would go on short errands.
      It’s been a cultural shock to me when my wife yelled at me for not locking the door of our apartment while we were sleeping in it “it’s dangerous” she said. BS, we lived in Tokyo, one of the most secure cities in the world. But hey, no reason fighting with the wife if I could avoid it, so now I lock the door all the time, for no statistically good reason. The building has a key code too, so it’s not like a malicious person could easily get to our door either…

      • Kiwikaz December 8, 2015, 3:56 pm

        Last year I moved back to New Zealand and bought a house. On my first night there I realised that the front door was unable to be locked from the inside (only the outside). I realised that the previous owners had lived there and blissfully not bothered to lock their front door while they were home or overnight. Talk about culture shock! The first thing I did was call a locksmith LOL
        Even more unbelievable is that the place were I work does not lock the doors either – you could simply walk in and open the till (which is also not locked) and walk off with a lot of expensive merchandise. I said “are you crazy?”. They replied “well we’ve never been robbed in 20 years”.
        I also recently took a new car from a dealership for a test drive. The guy just gave me the keys and sent me on my way. I asked “don’t you want to see my licence and take my details”. He simply shrugged and said “I havent lost one yet”.
        You have to love New Zealanders – still trusting in the innate goodness of humanity. I guess that’s also the reason why our police officers remain unarmed on duty (yes that’s right, even our cops don’t carry guns in NZ!).

        • Venturing December 8, 2015, 6:55 pm

          We are also kiwis. We have just bought a new home and discovered that the garage has never had any doors. We are putting some doors on, to keep the birds out.

        • Linda December 8, 2015, 7:20 pm

          Welcome to New Zealand!!
          Yeah we also got culture shock when we moved to NZ 3 years ago from South Africa.
          Going from high security measures/high risk environment to low/low was mind blowing :)

          • Michal December 9, 2015, 1:17 am

            Is it really that different?

            I live in South Africa at the moment. I have done some things that people consider risky. Like walking through the Johannesburg CBD. Driving with open windows along some roads, etc…

            I do make sure that the car door and front door are locked. My boss takes it to another level by locking each door in his house every night, (and at the office too).

        • Jay C December 8, 2015, 10:15 pm

          I recently booked a bed and breakfast in rural New Zealand. I asked if she wanted my credit card to reserve the reservation. She said, “no just call me if you’re not going to turn up.” Gotta love that. We’ll be asking for asylum when we’re there next month based on American gun violence. Doubt it will work.

          As for MMM’s bike theft problem. None of that would have happened if he’d bought a $50 bike wheel alignment tool and done his own spoke change out. Shame on you MMM.

        • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:08 pm

          There’s even more irony here: Those locks are easily defeated. Often, you can kick in the door, easily break a window, or if the windows are open, move the screen and get in.
          It’s an illusion that the house is “secured” by the locks – the best they can do is prevent casual walk ins. And since most thefts are just opportunistic thefts, they work great!
          But it’s important to remember you only want to try to prevent the opportunistic thefts, because the others, you’re screwed anyway. They want to come in, they will.

          • Aitorbk December 25, 2015, 3:53 am

            You are right.. You need secure doors, secure windows, etc.

            It is quite expensive but I would go for it, for 5000$ you have peace of mind.

            As for not securing the bikes… well, where I live I would have to buy a new bike every day. It is not the the thieves don’t hace enough to live, they just steal to buy big tvs, etc (they live on benefits)

            I got one very expensive bike stolen from my house (was locked, but not secured) by pple on a courier van (don’t remenber if it was dhl or mrw), and also had license plates stolen from the car (i just move it once a week).

            And I am not living in a third world place. It is morningside in Edinburgh, the most expensive place in the capital of scotland… theft here is rampant.

            Now I have a “beater” bike, with very expensive components that is ligjt but looks bad: no problems.

            As for the truing of the wheel, well, I would get a truing stand: you have the space and the patience.
            You should also get either a spoke tension app or a spoke tension meter, that way first you put the same tension in all the spokes before truing the wheel: the wheel will stay true for years, if you don’t do it that way the wheel will buckle as it will have weaknesses that you can’t see.

        • KiwiSonya December 12, 2015, 9:49 pm

          I’m in NZ and never lock anything. I have taken rhe time to get to know everyone in my street so I’m sure someone would stop anyone walking out of my house with stuff. Also helps that I buy secondhand so there really is nothing worth stealing. I have been stolen from a few times (including on my wedding day) but that’s three times against what, a million interactions with my fellow humans. I’m with MMM, chill out everyone, it’s only stuff.

        • Lennier December 13, 2015, 1:30 am

          Even from here on the “West Island”, NZ cops seem remarkably chilled out.

        • James December 13, 2015, 10:31 pm

          I am not sure where you live in New Zealand but the large cities here have crime like any other place in the world. I’ve lived in two of the big cities here: Auckland and Christchurch and in both places I’ve experienced first hand crime: in Auckland my car was stolen (and I was later learned that it was used as an escape car) . In Christchurch I was renting a house that was broken into a few times before I moved in. My neighbor’s car got stolen two years ago. There are a lot of houses with alarms here (for a reason). I’ve always lived in “good” suburbs.

          There is a well known sign here in car parks: “Lock it or lose it” and the reason is that more than 20,000 cars get stolen in 2014! – have a look in: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11335191

          Don’t get me wrong NZ is a great country but you have to be vigilant – criminals will always look for the easiest option first.

      • William Stonerock December 9, 2015, 3:20 am

        I also live in Tokyo, with my boyfriend who is Mexican. It’s a bit of an annoyance that he “double checks” the locks before we walk the dog in our local park. I’ve had friends here who have had their home broken into…but ONCE, in a city of tens of millions.

      • Jim Wang December 9, 2015, 6:30 pm

        My parents were the same way, nowadays we have a garage. So we are “locked” in the sense that we open and close the garage, leaving all other doors unlocked. My wife will lock the door to the garage for extra safety but I feel it’s meaningless.

        Plus, in the end, if you want to get in, you break a window. At least an unlocked door doesn’t need to be replaced. :)

        • Profit Greenly November 8, 2019, 12:19 pm

          This is so true. I had an old house that got broken into while I was away once. The thief used a crowbar to literally push the deadbolt through the door frame. Fixing that door and frame cost more than all the stuff he stole put together (because we’re mustachians and don’t own any expensive stuff). The funny part is we actually had a key hidden under the door mat. If only he’d taken a second to look down and find it he could have saved me hundreds of dollars.

    • Amy December 9, 2015, 1:21 pm

      I think the same way. However, I am a little worried that a thief could figure out where MMM’s unlocked yard and home are. It would not be hard to do it from the clues in earlier articles.

      • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:09 pm

        Indeed, he may have set himself up for it. Time will tell. We’ll see if the news’ warning about not telling people you’re on vacation on social media have any value.

  • superbien December 8, 2015, 11:30 am

    This is so interesting. I grew up with parents with an attitude like yours (except minus the numerical lock – they just left the doors unlocked all the time; once a cop stopped by at 2 am to ask why our front door was wide open!)… except that we lived in a city legendary for its crime (and at that time, the crack epidemic).

    I knew at least 1 neighbor just on our *street* who was raped, shot, or murdered. We often had police choppers circling for 20-30 minutes over our house, looking with spotlights into the bushes. So basically, it was WILDLY inappropriate for them not to lock our house while we were all sleeping!

    As a child and teenager, I was often scared and worried, and woke up with a start at every noise. I would NEVER do that to my own children. I might live in a transitional neighborhood, taking a calculated risk, but I assure you that I would own and use locks, at a minimum. I won’t live in fear, but dammit, kids shouldn’t have to grow up scared because their parents don’t understand valid crime statistics.

    /Not exactly what you’re talking about, I know
    //Apparently that hit a nerve! :)

    • josh December 8, 2015, 12:14 pm

      That is a good point. I changed my careless ways and lock up to help SO feel more secure. Conversely, however, its also very hard to use crime statistics to put that fear/worry in perspective. We average about one dead body per year in my ‘hood (~1mi radius), but random violent crime is quite rare*, and more arguably does not respect the boundaries that people might assume.

      *Of course I also once had the misfortune of witnessing an altercation that resulted in the gunshot death of an innocent bystander. I like to think of that experience as constructive. I pay attention to my surroundings. But a distant friend in our group was so traumatized that I doubt she’s entered the city proper in the decade since.

      • superbien December 8, 2015, 2:09 pm

        I guess my point is that MMM is choosing optimism and serenity. That’s great, and I admire that as a life choice, and for the most part have made that my choice as well… mostly. But I have a fair number of examples from my own childhood in which it would have been better if my parents had been a little less optimistic about situations and people, and a little more suspicious. Because sometimes optimism, faith in God, or faith in humanity aren’t enough. Sometimes people are shitty, and that can really impact one’s life (whether that thing having happened to you was statistically probable or not – it happened, and good luck trying to tell yourself it won’t happen again).

        So choose some middle path – take reasonable precautions, remember that not all people are nice people (and you can’t tell which are which from their smiles)… but don’t live in shackles of fear and worry.

        • superbien December 8, 2015, 2:35 pm

          Actually, another commenter below mentioned that a key lesson drawn from this article was to free oneself from attachment to material objects. That actually helps me distinguish my own approach, which seemed contradictory when I was thinking about it.

          I care __very much__ about safety and security for PEOPLE. I don’t really care about security for THINGs.

          I used to sell things at craft shows – my policy was that if someone stole from me, may they be blessed, they must either really need it more than me, or have a brain glitch; either way, not going to get upset. Very few material possessions are worth getting too worried about (excepting a scant handful of sentimental items). But a break-in or other act that demonstrated that my family is unsafe? Serious angst and emotional upset.

          • postscript December 9, 2015, 12:23 pm

            Yes, this! As a small, not-very-strong woman and a mom, I pay lots of attention to the safety of people. But I don’t lock my bike up in my yard either, and have few possessions that can’t be replaced for $50 or less on Craigslist…

          • Liz December 14, 2015, 10:23 am

            100% agree! People are important, Things are just things.

            That’s why I lock my apartment doors. It’s easy and a mindless habit and prevents most intruders. My dog will take care of the rest, her bark will scare anyone away including our poor mail carrier.

            Not worth taking chances after I lived in a high-crime area and experienced 3 break ins, one by a HUGE guy with a knife!

            Awareness and logic are better than obsession.

            Great post MMM!!!!

    • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:10 pm

      There’s even more irony here: Those locks are easily defeated. Often, you can kick in the door, easily break a window, or if the windows are open, move the screen and get in.
      It’s an illusion that the house is “secured” by the locks – the best they can do is prevent casual walk ins. And since most thefts are just opportunistic thefts, they work great!
      But it’s important to remember you only want to try to prevent the opportunistic thefts, because the others, you’re screwed anyway. They want to come in, they will.

      • Lennier December 13, 2015, 1:35 am

        This is a good point. You can’t ever make your house completely secure, so just make it marginally more secure than the neighbouring houses. Opportunistic thieves (ie, most of them) will take the easy route.

        For instance, I have grills on all my doors and windows (they came with the house anyway), but I don’t bother to lock them (except the downstairs doors) because they’re quite inacessable and no one can tell anyway.

  • Rebecca Stapler December 8, 2015, 11:31 am

    Fear of loss is such a powerful motivator! I see it all the time when talking to people about life insurance, and how the insurance salesman scared them into a huge, unnecessary policy by bringing out a parade of horribles.

    • Jim Wang December 9, 2015, 6:32 pm

      You combine that with the fear of the unknown and you have two big fears that cripple a lot of folks.

  • Penny December 8, 2015, 11:44 am

    This: “We tend to prioritize our own experience above real science when forming impressions of the world.” So much of human nature is encapsulated in that truth. One bad experience (or one good experience) shouldn’t color all experiences, yet we very often allow it. I think that this is the emotional side of things that seeps in. I struggle with that with investing. I know to take the emotion out of it, but it’s a real challenge for me to do that at all times.

  • josh December 8, 2015, 11:52 am

    Bike crime & garage theft are (apparently) common in my Minneapolis neighborhood. I don’t lock my garage. I did start locking the house to accommodate SO. She is somehow ok with windows that cannot lock, a feature I used many times while adopting the door lock policy. I do lock my bike on errands. Sometimes I lock them together in the garage when I’m gone for days or weeks to at least turn that theft into a comedy show for the neighbors. Some friends think I’m a nutter, of course some relatives think I’m a nutter just living in a city where people get murdered. I suppose its all relative. I’m sure they’ll have the last laugh when I”m violently murdered for my meager processions.

    Granted, I do have a fairly elaborate alarm system. The monstrously irrational, weary, loud, and deceptively aggressive, 90 lb variety. Those exploring the perimeter of my space will come to know him quickly. But I’m not sure that counts as it was an unintended feature.

    I was the subject of a property crime once in college… Someone busted out the window of my unlocked car to steal nice sunglasses and dry cleaned shirts. That was a lesson to avoid fancy sunglasses and how to diy a junk yard window, possibly an illustration as to the efficacy of locks, who knows.

    • Nicole December 8, 2015, 2:56 pm

      Hi Josh. I”m in Minneapolis too. Best advice I’ve ever had is from my neighbor who owns a bike shop is simply this, ‘Just lock your bike.’ SKOL VIKINGS!

      • Dave November 10, 2016, 8:33 pm

        For the past couple months, my wife had been locking her bike at work with a cheap cable lock. After working late one night a few weeks ago, she walked out to find the cable lock broken near the post with the bike nowhere in sight. The devastation on her face was as if there’d been a death in the family. It’s not the monetary value. The bike is older than me and we have less than $100 into the bike total (flea market pick + odds & end repair bits). I admit it stung to wrench a bike back to life only to have some punk take it away on a whim. The 2 week old pair of cygolite’s on it is what frustrated me the most.

        The second half of the story: the day after her bike was stolen, I pedaled around the neighborhood and discovered her bike a few blocks away ditched next to some bushes on the side of an apartment building. Not a bad way to spend 20 minutes after work. My wife now brings the bike inside.

        Bike locks can be a small daily hassle, but decent ones can easily pay for themselves with even one reduced crime of opportunity and therefore less stress in total.

    • Aaron December 10, 2015, 7:18 am

      Too bad they didn’t just try the door. I’ve left my doors unlocked in some situations with the thought that I’d rather them just take stuff without having to bust out a window. They are going to take the stuff either way, at least I don’t have to go through the trouble/expense of replacing a window too (or deal with water damage, freezing temps at highway speeds, etc.).

    • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:13 pm

      Car locks are a joke. If you ever call CAA because you locked your keys in the car, you realize they are worthless. Never leave anything valuable in sight in a car… save you a lot of broken windows. But don’t bother with a car alarm, too often they are ignored. According to the stats, apparently the cars that need a special key to be started are discouraging thefts, at least for now, so it is worth considering when purchasing a new car.

  • jlcollinsnh December 8, 2015, 11:53 am

    Simple (and very entertaining) story.
    Important lesson.

    Over the years I’ve gotten steadily more careless (care less) about locking stuff up. And I hate carrying keys!

    Sometimes it drives my wife nuts. She locks everything and I guess as a woman she needs to be more cautious than a big ugly guy like me.

    Still, I never lock our apartment door. Security in the building is already over the top:

    —First you have to get by the concierge
    —Then you need a key to operate the elevator
    —once on our floor, you need a key to open the door to enter the hallway
    —If you make it that far, my door’s open. Help yourself. I probably should have replaced that junk long before now anyway.

    I do lock the car in our city. Having to roust a homeless guy who has taken up residence in it is more trouble than I need.

    • superbien December 8, 2015, 2:14 pm

      Interesting security! So does that mean that a person on the 1st floor can’t get onto the 3rd floor hallway? Or are all the keys the same, you just need to be a building resident to get in?

      • jlcollinsnh December 8, 2015, 3:45 pm

        Exactly. You only have access to the floor you live on. You can take the elevator to any floor with your key, it just won’t open the lobby door.

        Your question also gives me the chance to add two things to my original comment:

        —My mother had a phobia about, as she put it: Some “moron” just wandering into our house were the door to be left unlocked. Never happened. In fact I never noticed any morons roaming about outside the house either. :)

        —I do lock our door when we go to sleep. Just in case some moron makes it past the front desk, hot wires the elevator, picks the lobby lock and wanders on down the hall to our apartment. :)

        • Lynne December 8, 2015, 11:34 pm

          Heh. I’ve been the moron randomly wandering into someone else’s house…going to my apartment number but on the wrong floor, opening somebody’s unlocked door, blinking confusedly at the Wrong Furniture, realizing my mistake and walking back out (in some mortification – fortunately nobody seemed to be around to notice).

          I do always lock my door, partly out of reflex and partly because I think it’s too easy for some drunk person to make the same mistake in the middle of the night and I don’t want to deal with that. Seriously, though, if someone really wanted to get into my place, they’d get in. I just refuse to worry about it. Every place I’ve lived I leave the windows open all the time in summer, even if it’s on the ground floor. Fresh air is so nice, and you can’t live in fear. (I’d probably feel differently about that in some areas, but I’ve mostly lived in pretty safe-feeling neighbourhoods.)

          • Barbie December 9, 2015, 1:26 pm

            I did this once years ago and I hadn’t even been drinking. I went in the evening after work to a new boyfriends apartment that I’d only been to once. I was actually one building over from his but when I knocked on the door a male voice called out to come in and I did. I noticed that the furniture didn’t seem to be what I remembered. The guy yelled he was in the bathroom so I sat down and looked around more and realized I didn’t recognize anything! Just then he came out & didn’t seem at all surprised in his living room and was disappointed I wouldn’t stay and “party”!

            Yes…lock your door in case some directionally impaired person like me wanders in!

        • superbien December 9, 2015, 9:14 am

          That is good security, I’m impressed!

          Personally, I worry about morons from the street AND neighbors. But a) I’m a woman, and women are well aware that most rape is date rape or friend rape, not strangers, and b) I had a drug dealing neighbor in one apartment (and crowbar bending in our door frame). So I don’t itemize the virtue of people who happen to live near me.

          • Mari InShaw December 14, 2015, 11:53 am

            Yes, I was going to mention this reason to lock doors.
            I still have the habit of locking my bedroom door as for many years I lived in group houses with other girls sometimes they came with ‘visiting’ boyfriends. Didn’t want any accidents if someone got confused on the way back from the bathroom.
            When I was a kid I accidentally left the door of my parents’ house unlocked. Some junkie wandered in and tried to steal my mom’s meds. My parents were home at the time and confronted the man. Okay, that situation right there, having to talk to and convince crazy junkie to leave is reason enough to lock doors. Locking my doors keeps most people I don’t in my house, out.

    • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:16 pm

      Car locks are a joke, but they do discourage the total opportunistic stuff as you found out.
      I suspect as well most people don’t go around checking doors, so how would they know yours is unlocked? Security by obscurity/conformance.

  • R0b0t-Camel December 8, 2015, 11:54 am

    Nice. Tip: Used to work at a bike shop, and people would come in with u-locks/chains wrapped around their bike having forgotten their key/combination.

    U-locks were the easiest – a simple 2×4 at least 2 foot long supplied enough leverage (normally) to snap off a ulock, without even hurting the bike. Chain locks could be most often snapped off with bolt cutters. The best (i.e. most difficult, time burden) locks, and most recommended locks if one were to use one (I do): braided steel and covered in durable PVC to – difficult to hacksaw/cut, and can’t use bolt cutters.

    Just sayin’ . :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 5:24 pm

      Wow, I had no idea a piece of wood could snap a U-lock!

      The braided steel cables that I use are pretty easy to cut as well – I once had to remove one for a friend, and the cordless grinder with metal cutting wheel got through it in just a few seconds. It’s really an amazing power tool, as long as you use it for good and not evil.

    • bknlz December 9, 2015, 9:04 am

      When I was a student in Savannah, getting your bike lifted was practically a rite of passage. Apparently it’s also very common for thieves to use those little jacks that come with a spare tire to quickly bend the bars on a U-lock apart.

      My secret security measure? Make your bike look as shitty and unappealing for the resale market as possible.

      • frugal bazooka December 10, 2015, 10:31 am


        reminds me of an old SNL bit. a crappy looking car on the outside, plush luxorious inside. No self respecting scumbag thief would bother with it.

    • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:25 pm

      Most locks only offer “opportunistic” protection: It prevents someone from just deciding “hey, that’s a cool bike, I want it” … if they come prepared you are screwed. They also make it so people have to act in a suspicious way to steal your item. But the locks themselves are a joke, more often than not. And how many locks have you seem stuck on a post, the bike long gone?

      • Pierre December 29, 2015, 10:34 am

        Yup, your bike only needs to be locked better than the one next to it in order to not get stolen.

        The lock on my bike is probably worth the same price as I paid for my bike* but without it I’d have to buy a new bike every month…

        *: I paid 50$ for my bike and then spent maybe another 50$ + my time to fix it. The lock cost me about 80$.

  • Steve December 8, 2015, 11:56 am

    It’s sad that we have so many people in this world who believe that they are entitled to things that they did not earn, nor particularly deserve. The truth of the matter is I’m a lot like you in my locking habits. In fact, I used to leave my garage door open and the subsequent door into my home from the garage unlocked, even when I was away from the house for an hour or two.

    The unlocked life – I love it! Until someone jacks one of my things…

    • Sara December 11, 2015, 1:36 pm

      I read a study by a behavioral economist once that found petty crime is actually a MUCH more difficult way to make a living, in terms of compensation per time spent, than most other ways of doing so. So, in a sense, some of these folks are “earning” what they take–just not in a socially acceptable way.

    • Samantha December 11, 2015, 1:44 pm

      I live in a very high-crime city, but I almost always* leave my car unlocked–not because I assume it’s not going to be broken into, but because I assume it is, and I’d rather prospective thieves simply open the door rather than break a window that would cost a high percentage of my car’s value to repair. My car is 15 years old and looks like crap, and I don’t keep anything in it that I’d mind losing (in fact, there are a number of things in my trunk that I wish someone would steal!).
      *I do lock my car up when I know it will be sitting in a strange location for several days and that I’ll be returning to it after dark. As a petite woman I don’t want to risk the situation of coming back to the car to find someone strange in it.

  • David Michael December 8, 2015, 11:56 am

    Thanks for sharing about your bicycle lost and found. I live in Eugene, OR, reputed to be the bike theft capital of the universe. Sure enough, after 12 years of traveling around the globe, partly by bicycle and resettling back in my favorite university town, it took only two weeks to have our two recumbents stolen from the bike stand in front of our apartment, despite the fact we had used U-locks and cables to secure them. Our favorite bikes, 18 years old and still fun and useful.

    It was a blow to our trust. The thieves left the Ulocks behind as they took our bikes apart to steal them. Maybe $200 value or less. We were angry for a few days, and then went on Craig’s list, and found two exact same models for $350 each, also about 18 years old but hardly ever used in beautiful condition. We were happy once again. But…we now store them in our apartment in the dining room where they share a space with our kayaks overhead. Not having a garage, our small apartment is taking on the overtones of a small REI store. Not sure why we have this type of theft but the police took a report and placed it with thousands of other such abuses.

    I’ll be 80 next year and figure I’ve lived through the best times in the USA (1950-1980). It seems a slow downhill slide with the help of do-nothing Republican Congresses who haven’t the slightest clue as to improving citizen’s lives in this country. It’s amazing to me that so many young people are dependent on drugs, apparently one of the major causes of theft. It’s a puzzle!

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 7:53 pm

      Wow, I was with ya there until you went a little off the rails with that last paragraph!

      Just to renew your optimism a little, the USA here in 2015 is measurably much better than 1950 through 1980 in almost every parameter that can be measured: life expectancy, most forms of crime, personal wealth, literacy, alcohol, tobacco and other drug addiction, and especially racism and social equality.

      Could it be that your perception of decline is based on localized changes in areas where you happened to live yourself?

      It’s something to celebrate with great joy, even as Mr. Money Mustache shouts his opinions about these last few issues that need to be cleaned up.

      • Philo Beddoe December 8, 2015, 10:39 pm

        I have to agree with MMM on this one David Michael. We have way better alcohol now than was available between 1950 and 1980….you must not have a Total Wine near you.

        • Sean December 10, 2015, 12:04 pm

          Not sure if that’s what MMM was referring to, but yeah, booze selection is WAY better than it used to be.

      • Mike December 10, 2015, 7:58 am

        It’s the 24 hour news cycle in the media (only focusing on the bad)…if that existed more in the 50s etc there would be more negativity about the past as well. Search for MMM “low information diet” article, it’s a good perspective.

      • ams December 10, 2015, 7:50 pm

        Well, death rates are rising for middle aged white people, while all other death rates are falling. This is a combination of drugs, suicides and alcohol related liver failure. So life is getting worse for some people! It still might not be as bad as in the 60’s-80’s though.

    • Rick December 9, 2015, 3:00 pm

      David Michael, you are absolutely right! 50’s to 80’s was the best of my life in the USA. It’s been downhill since. Sad really.

      • Mr. Money Mustache December 10, 2015, 9:29 am

        I hope Rick is just fucking with me here. Otherwise I need to make these articles and my follow-up comments easier to comprehend.

        • Frugal Bazooka December 17, 2015, 3:50 pm

          you can thank the media for creating the impression that the USA is in some kind of constant moral or financial downward spiral when the exact opposite is true. I’m old enough to remember how crappy the 70s, 80s and 90s were economically and politically. Were some things better? Yeah terrorism sucks, but we’ve always had that boogie man around…remember communism spreading all over the world and invading the USA? Don’t get me started on that nonsense.

          Far and away the world is a better place to live for more and more people. the fact that the media ignores that and focuses on 30 people marching down a street saying the US sucks doesn’t change the fact that for most people the world is better today than ever…come to think of it, good news never sold many papers or made good click bait.

    • Matt December 11, 2015, 8:41 am

      My guess would be that David Michael’s grandparents mourned the changes they observed in their later years, remembering fondly the days before zooming cars and talkies. As did his parents remembering when a coke cost a nickel.

      Vsauce recently did a fantastic video on this, giving examples of similar resentment thousands of years ago.

      I know when I look at the 50s-80s I see a lot of great things, but also think about segregation and white flight, decaying inner cities, the rise of manufactured food giving way to an obesity epidemic, the paving over of our country, and most importantly the abundance of bland beer.

    • Stephane December 11, 2015, 2:37 pm

      Yeah, even in Ottawa, we learned not to put our bikes in the common bike room. Locks were of no help. Too many people had the keys, and it was too much of a target for petty thieves – and a bike stand in front would have been no better.
      I am not sure if the US is sliding downhill, but I am sure the Republican’s harping of “socialism is bad” is definitely deteriorating things, as socialism is integral to human society (how do you have roads if we don’t pool our money together?). I also know the war on drugs is a total failure, and it’s time to move on to the next kind of solution. Maybe Portugal holds a clue. Some kind of legalization might work better (if we legalize the soft ones, maybe the hard ones will lose their appeal?). The status quo just makes the prisons rich.

  • Robyn December 8, 2015, 11:57 am

    I’m very much the same in this aspect. My mother and husband are both “overly-cautious” about safety and security, and it drives me insane. I guess I just tend to look at the world in a positive light. I think that most people have more good intentions than bad, and have seen it first-hand as a forgetful person. I can’t remember how many times I’ve forgotten my keys, cell phone, or purse in a public place, but I always return to find my belongings unharmed and my bank account fraud-free. Strangers have stopped to help when my car was broken down, and I’ve given rides to a couple of hitchikers, and no one raped or killed me. That’s not to say that there aren’t bad people out there, but they are statistically a minority.

    • superbien December 8, 2015, 2:23 pm

      Bad people are statistically a minority? You seem to have lived an incredibly charmed life, and are perhaps confusing optimism/luck with statistics. Try being a black man, or Jewish, or Romani, or Muslim… those same people who smile at you don’t smile at everyone. It’s nice that you have a positive outlook, and so far you haven’t been harmed by it, and there’s nothing wrong with being positive – but don’t take that next step and invalidate the experiences of those of us who have not lived such charmed lives.

      • Michelle December 9, 2015, 12:15 pm

        Ahh, I was wondering when someone would bring this up. Being a middle-class American white woman, I have enjoyed a relatively safe life with only minor thefts. But I have friends of color with very different experiences. But it is probably their fault for not living in a more prosperous neighborhood in our prosperous country?

  • Dan December 8, 2015, 11:57 am

    Glad to hear you got your bike back.

    It was interesting it hear you visualized all the mean things you would do to the perpetrator. When someone wrong me, I tend to visualize the brutal things I could do and then quickly the anger burns away and I am left with clearer thoughts about how to fix the problem.

    I don’t think I could give up on locking my bike but I do appreciate how much more freedom it would give me.

  • eric December 8, 2015, 11:58 am

    I wish more Americans had this attitude. Not only toward personal theft, but to crime in general and to terrorism in particular. We live amazingly safe and secure lives, and yet people adamantly *insist* on convincing themselves they’re in grave danger. Being cowed is incredibly costly.

    • Dragline December 8, 2015, 12:57 pm

      Yes, you make an excellent point. Paradoxically, the safer our society has become, the more fear has arisen.

      Most of it is induced by a diet of too much media, which makes unlikely events seem common when they are not. Politicians and advertisers also frequently play the “fear” card to induce votes and purchases. Fear is a powerful and primitive mammalian motivator. Most of what goes on in modern society is a bunch of over-reactions.

      For every “bad thing” you think might happen, particularly those that could induce death, its worth it to take a reality check to see what the chances really are. For example, you are more likely to get killed by lightning than a terrorist attack. We don’t appreciate these things and don’t act accordingly.

      • superbien December 8, 2015, 2:26 pm

        Very much agree that we overestimate the danger of terrorism, and the role of 24/7 media in stoking those fears. I have seen enough of the bad things that happen in real life, I don’t need to see every bad thing happening across the globe. I often have to take media fasts to deal with it all.

        • Kay in Mpls December 9, 2015, 8:09 am

          So true, dragline and superbien. It’s still true that ” we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Perception, perspective, past experiences. ..all play a part in our ability to discern any kind of real danger. For me, it’s best to question all assumptions, especially my own! Peace and thanks for your thoughtful contirbutions here!

          • superbien December 9, 2015, 9:20 am

            Well no, that’s not what I was saying, that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.

            I was saying that there are *plenty* of real things to fear, so take reasonable precautions – eg physical security and mental alertness – and *then* make MMM’s choice not to fixate on fear.

            Fear that is based in reality, but paralyzes one out of joy, is just as misguided as blind optimism that the universe poops rainbows and everyone is kind to each other.

      • Lennier December 13, 2015, 2:16 am

        Maybe we need to start a War on Lightning instead. ;)

        • Carrie December 13, 2015, 9:48 pm

          And snakes! I never liked those sneaky legless f’ers! Get rid of them before they take over our country and ruin democracy!!!

  • Ben December 8, 2015, 12:09 pm

    I believe that a lot of thefts are crimes of opportunity. When you make it easy for someone to steal something, the chances are greater that you will become a victim of theft. Just use common sense — don’t leave valuables in plain view/unattended.

  • Nate R. December 8, 2015, 12:12 pm

    No bicycle lock is full proof, and I certainly think you can go too far with trying to make your bike invincible. But is a U-lock really that hard to use? I got mine used for $20 and it takes only a few seconds to lock both the frame and wheel, making my bike more secure than the more expensive one next to it, drastically reducing the likely hood that it will be stolen.

  • ohyonghao December 8, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Was curious about your rear wheel trouble. For hauling things have you thought of a tandem hub? They are built to withstand much more weight than normal hubs are, though it looks like you have a nice 36 spoke rear wheel. If it goes out of true frequently it may be something to look into, if it’s an isolated incident then by all means, go with what works.

    My friend and I taught ourselves to true wheels with getting only 1 specialized tool and an old bike frame in place of a truing stand. I’ve kept my wheels true with it, and my friend has built entire wheels for his personal use (being over 300lbs you have a larger tendency to break spokes, or untrue the wheel).

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 8:02 pm

      The broken spokes were caused by me leaving the bike connected to the trailer (and supported only by its kickstand) while I loaded it up. The wiggling eventually knocked over the bike, twisting the hitch and the trailer’s beefy aluminum arm right into the spokes with great leverage.

      I too learned how to true/straighten wheels as a kid – it is a fun thing to do. I haven’t yet learned how to replace a whole clump of spokes and end up with a straight wheel afterwards.. Yet.

      • Charley Crissman December 11, 2015, 9:46 am

        If you know how to true a wheel, you’re like 75% of the way to knowing how to build one. All you really need to learn is how to measure/pick out spokes, how to lace them (if building from scratch), how to pre-stress them, and how to know when they’re tight enough.

        That said, spokes are ~$1 apiece, and your shop has a professional truing stand (~$250) and spoke tensiometer (~$50) that will help them to do a better job. You’re also fairly likely to get the pre-stressing wrong the first time and end up with the wheel back on the stand in short order. Given the labor time, parts, and tools involved, $35 is a screaming hot deal and a nice way to support your local bike shop.

  • Michelle December 8, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Ha my husband is pretty similar to you. The other day we actually had a mini-argument about how he needs to lock his bike even if it’s on the roof rack on our car. He told me “I don’t want to live a life of fear that my stuff is going to be stolen.” I had to laugh when he said that, but I’m glad he is so positive.

  • Jonathan December 8, 2015, 12:27 pm

    We live in a relatively low crime area, but I accidentally left my car unlocked in our driveway three times in 2013, and every single time someone had gone into it. The first time we had a GPS stolen, the second time it was just a bag of coins, the third time they had gone through our glove compartment and while they didn’t find anything, the contents were strewn all over the front seat.

    We moved in 2014 to an even better area of town, but there have been three thefts from motor vehicles in a 1 block radius of us since December 1st. We keep our garage locked up since it is attached to our house, and definitely keep our doors and windows to our house locked.

    I feel safe where we live, but it’s worth the peace of mind to use our locks.

  • Chuck December 8, 2015, 12:28 pm

    Thought-provoking post! I was especially interested by your claim “90 seconds a day for ten years is 91 hours, or at least $4500 of my time at $50 an hour. I was still coming out way ahead.”

    Would you explain a little more how the time saved is worth 50 dollars/hour? I understand the idea of opportunity cost, but in my view, 90 seconds a day prevent you from working 8 hours a day on a carpentry job. I wonder if looking at 10 year cost really applies to such small amounts of time, especially when it takes away from something subjective like your enjoyment of the amount of leisure time you have. Is there any difference in one’s experience between 4:00:00 vs. 3:58:30 of daily leisure? Of course, there is SOME amount of decreased leisure that would affect one’s experience, such as commuting an hours each day, but I wonder whether it applies to such small amounts of time..

    I’m not posting this to be a complainy-pants – I just found it interesting to think about and I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again!

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 5:20 pm

      That is a good challenge Chuck, but I really do think it’s worth adding up small things over a large time and assuming they will be cumulative. Even if there are exceptions sometimes, on average the math works out.

      For example, I love to spend my time productively as much as possible. Writing, building, stuff with friends, family, exercising, reading, etc. Inevitably, my fun comes to an end not due to an energy shortage, but just by the fact that bedtime arrives and I know I need to get some sleep to remain on the normal 24-hour cycle. So every bit of time waste that I can eliminate (especially unpleasant filler stuff like finding and operating keys and locks) brings me a more joyful life.

      As for the money part of it: although I don’t NEED any more money, I do still tend to earn the stuff whenever I spend time productively. People still working towards financial independence get even more benefit from extra cash. And freeing up time to either work more effectively or increase your health or skills is generally very valuable. Here’s a post on exactly that: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/18/why-your-time-is-worth-way-more-than-25-per-hour/

      • Jeff December 9, 2015, 9:03 am

        When it’s 90 seconds, it might be less about time waste and more about removing distractions from your mind. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked somewhere in the house to go get something and been distracted by something completely unrelated. Sometimes it’s an hour before I get back to what I was doing.

        And if you forget your key somewhere, then it’s a lot more than 90 seconds lost.

      • Jeff December 9, 2015, 9:10 am

        My wife and I live in a fairly safe part of Durham, NC. Our house was robbed while we were away at work. We figure we lost about $1,500 worth of stuff. Everyone told me to get a monitored security system. We did the math and figured out it would be cheaper to be robbed every 5 years than to pay someone to watch our house. It’s been 5 years, and we haven’t been robbed again so we’re ahead!

        Like MMM, most of the stolen items were old stuff we should have craigslisted years ago. So rather than get a security system, we’re focusing on paring down our possessions.

        • superbien December 9, 2015, 9:23 am

          You’re awesome. What a great approach! :)

          I wouldn’t get a security system to protect my stuff, but to protect people, maybe.

          • Jeff December 9, 2015, 10:31 am

            Thieves aren’t interested in hurting anyone. That’s why they come during the day.

            • Posted On December 11, 2015, 10:02 pm

              An extra step you can do to protect your home is to install a security company sign near the doors, visible from the street. Thieves look for the homes that don’t have these signs. It doesn’t have to be from a real company, but a home made one should look real. That’s it!

            • Mr. Money Mustache December 12, 2015, 8:37 am

              I’ve always wondered about that trick: has anyone found a study or data on whether or not it actually works? Or do we just assume intuitively that it would scare thieves away?

              I’m too lazy to research it right now, because home invasion crimes are not a significant risk for me. But for a more motivated person, definitely worth checking out.

            • Chris December 14, 2015, 9:13 am

              We had a rash of break-ins in our neighborhood several years ago that prompted an emergency community meeting. All of the local police attendees agreed that in their combined decades of experience they had never responded to a burglary at a home that had a security sign. Not a system, just a sign.

              If you’re still paranoid about break-ins, there are several deterrants available for around $5 each. You could install them on all windows and doors for a small investment. A loud noise is all it takes to keep 99.9% of burglars out of your home.

  • Lady Fordragon December 8, 2015, 12:32 pm

    I tend to be a bit cautious at times, which probably stems from having our house broken into when I was still living at home in Queens, NY. Even though I’ve been living in OH for the last 8 years, I still tend to worry about whether or not various items are locked. Meanwhile, my husband is completely content with leaving his bike, the front door, car, etc. unlocked. This article actually reminds me of a time within our first year of living in our current house when he forgot to close the garage door when heading to work. As a result, our garage door stayed wide open for ~9 hours (with our side door unlocked). When we got home, everything was exactly where we left it, thus confirming that the neighborhood that we live in is quite safe. Even though nothing was taken, I still like to double check that the garage door has been closed every morning before heading to work.

  • C.R.E.A.M. December 8, 2015, 12:42 pm

    If you do happen to get property stolen, you may be able to deduct it on your tax return. See IRS Publication 584 and the following topic is discussed here:


  • Pete English December 8, 2015, 12:46 pm

    I like the spirit of your post, while also worrying it smacks of a certain elitism if too broadly applied. See jcollinsnh, who reports he doesn’t lock his door, but pays to live in a building with “over the top” security, a concierge at door, a lock on elevator, and a separate lock for his floor. Paying to live in a safe neighborhood is a little like this too, in kind if not degree.

  • David December 8, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Love it. I was really convinced this was going to end the same way it ended for me when someone stole my bike at the age of 11. My friend’s grandparent felt so bad about my bike being stolen that he bought me a shiny new Walmart bike. THEN, a week later, I saw a very suspicious teenager cruising around on my beloved BMX bike. What could I do, but chase him down with my new shiny Walmart mountain bike? I chased him down, grabbed a hold of my bike, and called the cops. 1) I got TWO bikes out of the deal at the end!! 2) I learned at a young age to register my serial number and take pics of all of my bikes.

    I do have to say, having bikes stolen is very common in many parts of the country. In middle school I would never bike to school because everyone I know who parked their bike outside got it stolen. This was before I knew the value of u-locks. Colorado is nice when it comes to bikes compared to places like Chicago as a kid.

    Keep it up. Loved the post — makes you really question our obsession with safety/security.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 8:09 pm

      Holy shit David, that is a pretty badass story. 11-year-old Walmart Bicycle Vigilante, pulling a James Bond high speed takedown maneuver and then topping it off with a Citizen’s Arrest.

      Nicely done – NOBODY would commit crimes if every victim was that hardcore. ;-)

  • Gene December 8, 2015, 1:03 pm

    Great story MMM. I think you were enjoying some Colorado Legal the night you walked home.

    On the serious side, our society is pretty damn safe these days and we tend to lock up everything we own. Growing up in the 80’s, we didn’t lock anything up and this was a time when kids were snatched and all sorts of other crimes ruled the roost.

    I think we all need to just loosen up a bit and enjoy life.

  • Sean Clancy December 8, 2015, 1:05 pm

    Hey Mr. MM, I gotta say I’m not completely with you on this one.
    One thing my mom said to me that still rings true is “Trust in Allah, but tether your camel.”
    I think that mantra is most apropos in this case.
    If you did anything at all to customize your bicycle yourself, did you include this time paid at $50 p/h to offset the $4500 price you alluded to for fumbling with keys for 10 years?
    I personally find this $4500 “key wage” somewhat of a red herring, I mean, do you consider how much money you’ve “lost” showering for more than the bare minimum of 60 seconds? How much money have you “wasted” sleeping in?
    If indeed your bike was stolen, how much would it cost you at $50 p/h to search and go and buy another one off Craigslist?
    Likewise, you have lost your freedom, as alluded to, which has got to be worth something.
    I actually go to the store and do not lock up my very expensive bike sometimes, so I can sorta see where you are coming from. I put it in the highest gear, and undo both wheel quick releases, and keep an eye on it from the checkout, but never would I leave it outdoors unlocked for extended periods of time.
    In addition to the possibility of your bike being stolen, the elements are hard on components, which leads to more time maintaining it (@$50 p/h).

    From a mustachian math standpoint, buying something and and not maintaining it/having it stolen just doesn’t make sense…why buy it in the first place?

    Better yet, why not sell that Trek yourself, donate the money to a charitable organization, and get a tax receipt as well?

    I’m totally with you on not locking the house while I am home. I pick up hitch hikers, and have offered them space on my lawn to set up tents multiple times, but I guess I’m just not at a point where I want people to unburden me of my possesions.
    I’ll leave items outside in the BBQ for people to pick up at my house that I’ve posted on Craigslist and trust them to slide the money under my door if I’m out.

    • Wynn Chen December 9, 2015, 7:38 pm

      I agree with you Sean, especially this statement: “From a mustachian math standpoint, buying something and and not maintaining it/having it stolen just doesn’t make sense…why buy it in the first place?”.

      I do feel a sense of pride when I own an item and maintain it… in this case “maintaining” also includes keeping it safe from theft. If I have a bike that is crucial to my day-to-day life, that I’ve worked on and improved over time, then you bet I will take the extra 30-60 seconds to lock it up. It honestly seems like the more “Moustachian” thing to do, rather than not locking it up.

      Now I do see some valid points in the opposing side… of course you can’t go too extreme in security. There’s no way to enjoy life if you worry about every little thing being stolen all the time. I’m sure we all agree there is a compromise to be made somewhere, but I guess where most of the commenters here draw the line and where I draw the line are different.

      I’m not sure why where we draw the line may be different. Maybe I am different points in my life than some of the commenters here…? I really don’t know. I just know I would truly feel like a sucker if I lost a bike or something just because I didn’t lock it…

      As for the friend in the article that locks up all his stuff with a hug set of keys. Maybe that is a little excessive, but I can see myself doing something close to that and really enjoying it. I’d feel very pleased with myself and (dare I say it) smug knowing that I am taking full responsibility of my possessions and things by protecting them from the elements or outside forces. Locking it up would almost be like a “ritual”, and if someone stole it from me then, then I wouldn’t mind. It would have been my best effort vs the thief’s best effort, and the thief won. But to me, at least I gave it my all.

    • Nick December 10, 2015, 11:52 am

      Agreed. While I understand where MMM is coming from, not locking your belongings where I live is just senseless. Crime/location has a lot to do with it and might be the “real science” you talked about.

      Growing up in the NW suburbs of IL, my parents essentially never locked the doors to the house and never had issues. In Milwaukee, people literally drive through the alleys in trucks on a daily basis looking for stuff to take. In one 5 year stretch of renting in Milwaukee, my roommates and I have been burglarized multiple times. I don’t want to get too much into the details of each situation, but the thefts were:

      46″ flat screen TV
      Acura Integra
      air compressor
      TWO lawn mowers…and they even filled up the gas tank before taking the lawn mower one time!

      That doesn’t even count the money, credit cards, games, Pokemon cards, necklace, iPod and $300+ camera stolen the one time we had a thieving new roommate – don’t worry, we were able to get him arrested.

      I agree with Ben – most thefts are crimes of opportunity and locking things up is just one of many ways to prevent them. My cousin in Chicago has his house decked out with sensors on the doors, a camera in the living room, etc. I’m not quite there yet.

  • Troy Rank December 8, 2015, 1:08 pm

    The most profound part of this article is to not own anything that would crush you to lose. It’s almost like saying that material possessions aren’t important… hmmm ;) It is both financially and mentally freeing to own less objects.

    I often lose things and claim them stolen myself, so this makes perfect sense :) Consequently, I woke up this morning from a dream that someone had stolen my motorcycles and it made me realize how much I don’t really need them even though I attach so many memories to them.

  • Scott December 8, 2015, 1:22 pm


    Just went from your website to cnn’s advice on saving and retirement, what a contrast…save 3% to get the match!

  • Tyler Merry December 8, 2015, 1:22 pm

    Hey Pete, What would Mr Money Mustache say when he heard you gave away $35 to re-spoke/true a wheel? hehe… ( http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/13/domestic-outsourcing-practical-or-wussypants/) Sorry to break your balls, keep up the good work!

    • Nicole December 8, 2015, 3:14 pm

      Truing is an art and needs to be done correctly, especially if it’s for hauling something and multiple uses per day. $35 is almost free considering the amount in the saddle by MMM.

      • Tyler Merry December 8, 2015, 3:58 pm

        Sure! Truing a wheel is hard. Hard work is hard. I take advantage of specialized craftsman as much as the next mustacian. “think about the reward of puzzle-solving. It’s not the results that make you happy, it’s the using of your own mind and skills to advance your own cause. ” (link below). I am not saying getting a wheel trued by a professional is bad, or getting a mechanic to change the breaks on your car is bad. Its just hard to say a ton of things and have everything line up. $35 is nearly nothing for a mode of transportation that burns fat and saves you money… The true price comes from stealing your ability to use your mind and learn skills, not from the out lay of capital. (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/07/how-to-tell-if-youre-a-complainypants/)

        • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 8:15 pm

          Tyler is right – technically the most Mustachian choice would be to fix the wheel myself. I could do it just fine.

          Ready for my excuse? The real excuse is simply that I suck: I haven’t been managing my time efficiently enough to get that done AND all the other things was working on at the moment of the theft (in reality this happened several months ago).

          But the second level of my excuse is that at least I was spending all my waking hours, to the best of my abilities at that point, learning new stuff and doing it. I hired out the bike wheel in order to spend more time building my house, writing this blog, raising my boy, and all that. The saved time was NOT spent on golfing, watching TV or kicking back on a vacation. :-)

          • Newbie December 9, 2015, 9:55 am

            Isnt’ this a bit of a slippery slope? I pay someone to come and clean my house 2x per month which frees up my time to work at home on the computer earning money and spending time home schooling my son 3 days (while he goes to a local Charter school 2 days as part of their program). The peace of mind it gives me and happiness is WAY more than the output of money resources. But then couldn’t this be said of many of us that deeply feel the opportunity costs of our fixed resource: Time. In fact, if money wasn’t a consideration I might farm out more of the mundane tasks and spend the time kicking back with my family on way more vacations gaining experiences that I would remember a lifetime…

        • RubeRad December 9, 2015, 8:56 am

          Here’s a great link to learn about wheelbuilding:

          But building and properly tensioning a wheel is probably one of the most difficult tasks in bicycle maintenance; Nicole is right, $35 is practically free for the benefit an experienced wheelbuilder can provide. It’s not about laziness, you can work as hard as you want at tensioning your wheel, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t end up with a strong, true wheel.

  • Scott December 8, 2015, 1:42 pm

    I agree with everything in the article except for swapping keys for combinations. Having to remember a dozen codes is far more stressful to me than a few physical keys.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 5:10 pm

      To be fair you’d have to compare twelve keys to twelve codes. But codes are almost always programmable. You could set everything to the same combination if you had a problem remembering numbers.

      • Knapptyme December 8, 2015, 8:57 pm

        True, but locks are also programmable (setting the pins) to one key if you reset them yourself. I learned this little locksmithing trick since finding this blog and re-keyed my own house, deadbolts and all, to one single key. It was fun seeing all the parts and components to a lock and how it works.

  • James Reel December 8, 2015, 2:33 pm

    Buying and using a U-lock, as a protection of one’s investment, is a sort of insurance, and I realize that Mr. Money Mustache regards most insurance as a tax on people who are bad at math. But isn’t there a point, especially for aspiring Mustachians living frugally, investing abundantly and for whom replacing a $500 bike is not easy, at which buying a lock that costs less that 10% of the bike’s replacement cost is a prudent investment, even without succumbing to rampant American security paranoia? I know MMM sometimes exaggerates just a wee bit to illustrate an important lesson, but for someone living the Mustachian life, a stolen bike is a much bigger deal than, say, a stolen TV.

  • Vawt December 8, 2015, 2:41 pm

    A truism for sure: “This is a key flaw in human nature that will bring you great profit if you become aware of it: we tend to prioritize our own experience above real science when forming impressions of the world.” I find this happening all of the time especially in finance related matters like credit scores, identiity theft, etc. Some people are convinced online banking is the wild west!

    • Metro detroit December 11, 2015, 7:40 am

      Except for that if DOES matter about your individual experience. I wouldn’t call my neighborhood high crime, but if I leave out an unlocked bike for more than an hour, it gets stolen. So even the couple times I’ve just forgotten and run in the house, I’ve had a stolen bike. It’s just too easy to take. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, maybe it’s just because I live next to the bus stop, maybe some creepy car salesman is sitting in my bushes taking my bikes hoping I’ll give up and buy! But a person who doesn’t take a hint from that, we’ll that’s not smart. I already assume Mr money isn’t knocking the lockers who have reason though, because if he had to rebuy bikes all the time I’m sure he’d remember his locks. To be honest though, I just assumed that’s how it is everywhere since I see bikes locked everywhere.

  • Giovina December 8, 2015, 2:41 pm

    I would be really sad if my bike got stolen, I have had it since I was ten so it has sentimental value and also gets me around everywhere I need to go. My sister has gotten two bikes stolen, one locked with a cable outside the mall and the other unlocked in her backyard. I have had my bike seat stolen, and the brakes damaged, but I consider myself lucky it wasn’t worse. I know a few people who have had the wheels stolen off their bikes too. So you could say, I am very aware of the bike theft problem and do everything I can to prevent it, which means never leaving my bike without locking the wheel and frame to a sturdy pole with thick chain lock. Bike thieves are awful, despicable people.

  • Drew December 8, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Value of a U-lock just depends on the chance of getting a bike stolen. MMM makes a case that in Longmont, these chances are lower than bike store owners and popular mythology would suggest. Maybe that’s true everywhere. That said, at the risk of sounding like one of the squares that MMM rightly mocks, in MY city (Oakland CA) my anecdotal experience indicates that the chance of getting an unlocked bike stolen or a car with a bag in it broken into is DARN GOOD. I’ve decided that my psychic health and my stash are both better served by taking certain precautions, because when I don’t take those precautions, and my stuff is stolen, I get mad at the world and suspicious of my neighbors and that’s worse than just carrying my backpack inside from the car or taking 1.5 minutes to lock my bike. It ain’t hard to lock a bike, and U-locks last a lifetime (I’ve been using mine every day for 10 years).

  • Tawcan December 8, 2015, 2:54 pm

    Living your way is way better than living in constant fear. When we returned from our 2 week vacation recently we realized that our backdoor was unlocked the entire time. A few times we’ve also left our front door unlocked over night. I think the more you fear, the easier for you to encounter “bad” things.

  • Jim Grey December 8, 2015, 2:56 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve always been that guy to leave his house unlocked during the day when I’m home and leave my car unlocked almost everywhere (why not? It’s old and there’s nothing inside worth having). I never really thought about it before now, but your words about the carefree life resonate with me.

  • Rob December 8, 2015, 3:47 pm

    Why not take the Stoic approach? Imagine yourself never having a bike, and being forced to walk everywhere. Then when you look in your backyard and see this awesomely engineered piece of efficiency, you’ll be ecstatic that you can use it to get everywhere in a fraction of the time that you normally would!

  • Alternate Priorities December 8, 2015, 3:49 pm

    “not to buy stuff that would be financially painful to lose. If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to buy it yet – otherwise the object owns you rather than vice versa.”

    This was my exact mistake in college. I sensibly bought a bike instead of a car my freshman year. However I bought a really nice bike on dishwasher wages. I couldn’t afford to replace it when it was stolen. I saved up the next summer and bought another. It was stolen as well and I must admit it took me far longer than you to calm down. I still have the third bike I bought for college 15 years later and i’ve pretty much recovered from the obsession i developed with locking it down. At this very moment it’s leaning against the front of my house unlocked!

  • Grayum December 8, 2015, 3:49 pm

    Playing the cheeky mustachian devils advocate, haven’t you proved to yourself that of you didn’t have the bike you wouldn’t go out and buy it? And therefore shouldn’t you immediately get on Craigslist and list it, and then add the $500 to your ‘stache?? :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 5:07 pm

      Yes! Excellent logic Grayum – I should definitely have sold that bike in the past.

      Nowadays I am back in acquisition mode since I got rid of a different bike, have more storage, and frequent visitors from out of town. I’m actually looking for one MORE used bike in the next year.

      • Marven December 9, 2015, 12:06 am

        Of course! One is always just a bike short of how many bikes they should actually have, right?

        • MrFrugalChicago December 9, 2015, 11:48 am

          Two formulas for how many bikes you need.

          N + 1 where N is the current number you own


          D – 1 where D is the number of bikes that would lead to a divorce.

          • Janet December 9, 2015, 5:41 pm

            This made me chuckle as we included this in our wedding vows:

            “I promise never to question how many bikes you need”.

            Currently he has about 5 :/

  • Myles December 8, 2015, 3:59 pm

    Another great post. I always enjoy talking about risk – especially when it comes to riding bicycles. This is a fun article about how bad humans in general are at evaluating risk. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200801/10-ways-we-get-the-odds-wrong

  • Steve41557 December 8, 2015, 4:04 pm

    I think you should leave stuff out you want to be taken. For example, I heard of people trying to get rid of an old refrigerator – no one would take it. So they put a “For Sale” sign on it, and placed it in their front yard near the road, and left. When they came back later, it was gone.

  • Julie and Will December 8, 2015, 4:26 pm

    We were getting upset on your behalf about the “stolen” bike, and we’re very glad to hear of the happy ending–both in terms of the return of the bike and the continuation of your philosophy towards material possessions.

    Sadly, in Chicago (where we live now–but hopefully not for too much longer!), we don’t have much choice but to lock up. We once came back home to a broken-in house where our possessions were strewn all around. It looks like the perpetrators left in a hurry when they heard us return, so we made it home just in time to avoid worse catastrophe.

    We agree with your philosophy about not purchasing items you cannot afford to get stolen, but loss of material possessions isn’t always the most disturbing aspect of a theft, right? Perhaps more than the actual losses sustained, we were upset about the sense of violation of our private space. Our home, our bedroom, our dressers exposed and rifled through. There’s often a loss of innocence and trust, and we have to work to retrieve those–as it looks like you have.

    Again, we’re glad of the happy ending all around.

  • Josh December 8, 2015, 4:46 pm

    Interesting article! I generally share the same perspective, even after having a laptop stolen, bike stolen, and two cars with liability-only insurance totalled by friends who borrowed them.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 4:58 pm

      Wow! I’ve lost the odd drill bit and saw blade to carefree friends, but never a car. Congratulations on your highly relaxed demeanor!

  • Dee December 8, 2015, 5:12 pm

    This reminded me of an incident when my daughter was about 10 months old and had an ear infection. On Friday we went to the doctor and then the pharmacist and then picked up a couple things at the grocery. It was dark by the time we got home and collapsed. The next morning the sun was streaming in the window and we were both feeling better when there was a knock at the door. It was the mailman. I opened the door and he said, “Ma’am, this is a real safe neighborhood but it’s still best to not leave all your keys in the lock on your door overnight.”

    • Nuke December 9, 2015, 7:35 pm

      Awesome story.

  • Adam December 8, 2015, 5:22 pm

    Funny, I was just thinking the other day about how much money locks have saved me, easily thousands. I could supply many anecdotes, but suffice it to say there is significant geographic variation. I feel somewhat responsible for my part in reducing preventable crime, too. Reporting from bicycle utopia Portland OR, you ought to lock it if you like it!

  • Mr. 1500 December 8, 2015, 5:49 pm

    Hijack post alert

    “This also helps me overcome my tendency to lose objects like keys.”

    I have a similar mind because I can’t (and don’t really want to) keep track of anything. I hate keys. I hate wallets. I hate carrying credit cards and cash.

    I lose sunglasses constantly.

    Where is my &^%$ing hat??!!!!

    In an ideal world, my phone would have my drivers license on it, bluetooth keys for everything I need to unlock, ways to pay for stuff, etc.. My ideal reality is just about here.

    Lately, I challenge myself to see how much junk I can get rid of each week. Less is more. Much more.

    I’m glad your wayward bicycle found it’s way home! Perhaps one day, we’ll have autonomous bikes that can find their own way back! Stop me, that is just ridiculous! I’m smiling though picturing riderless bicycles cruising down the street…

  • Rebecca C December 8, 2015, 6:48 pm

    Two points:
    1) I agree completely with your perspective that a medium to high level commitment to safety and theft prevention is a real cost that we should consider when making to decisions. As a woman who really likes walking places, I have been aware of this for a while. I love walking at night. If I change my behavior or let fear invade these peaceful evening walks, I’d be paying a pretty hefty price that I’m not willing to pay. I’m not advocating for foolishness, but I’m also not going to give up a lifetime of quiet nighttime walks because something bad may possibly happen. Please, don’t tell my mother how strongly I feel about this…

    2) You use crime rate and bicycle theft rate interchangeably throughout this article, and I’m wondering if the two are as closely related as you think. Bicycle theft relies on a pretty heavy demand for stolen bicycles to be a lucrative pursuit and a high demand for bikes may be negatively correlated with high rates of other types of crime. A cursory google search didn’t produce anything to support this, but maybe someone else has seen this theory fleshed out? Are crime rates and bike theft rates always closely linked?

  • Venturing December 8, 2015, 6:50 pm

    I’ve had things stolen out of my car twice, both times it was locked. However, I have on many occasions forgotten to lock it and not had anything stolen. Based on my highly scientific enquiry we should all leave our cars unlocked.

    • Sean December 9, 2015, 8:13 am

      I used to feel the same way. Until two instances changed my behavior. First incident was finding cigarette butts in my ashtray,
      And footprints on the inside of my windshield. Second one was finding evidence that
      Someone was clearly sleeping in my car. I now lock the doors and leave absolutely nothing in the car. Problem solved.
      I live in east Vancouver, so I’m not worried about my personal safety, but the well
      known drug problem here has people stealing whatever thry can get their hands on, especially metal for resale. My 14′ aluminum boat was stolen ftom beside my house the first night I unlocked it to prune the tree it was locked to.

  • Dean December 8, 2015, 6:54 pm

    I had my bike stolen out the front of my apartment in June. It wasn’t locked at the time.

    I bought a replacement bike (off Gumtree) and use a cheap cable lock to secure it. That’ll deter the casual thieves, but anybody dedicated enough will steal it regardless of locks.

  • H Franks December 8, 2015, 7:10 pm

    Sorry to take the opposite position but some of us live in cities where the police don’t care about property crime. I live in a close in neighborhood of Houston (so that I’m close for a 2 mile commute and can walk to grocery, bakery, restaurants, etc). I speak from experience. This past Friday, some punks shattered my glass back door and ransacked my house (like you see on bad spy movies). They stole laptops, camera equipment and jewelry. Some here could say I need to be more minimalist but that should not be necessary. While I have insurance, my 14 year old daughter is now terrified to be in the house alone or to come home to an empty house after school. Unfortunately, the underfunded Houston Police treat property crime as a report writing exercise and make no effort to solve. In our area of Houston there have been 19 robberies with the same MO in the past 30 days. Some day these punks are going to find someone home and hopefully that person will teach them a lesson that bullets fly faster than they can run. I understand your attitude about things – but remember, property crime also is a violation of your space – even more so when they ransack your house. Please don’t make light of it.

    • nic December 10, 2015, 8:59 am

      I have to agree here. We live in a “good” area but have been hit by break-ins or theft from temporarily unattended items 5 times in the past 10 years. People who say “don’t buy things you can’t afford to lose” are TOTALLY missing the point. When I buy $500 prescription sunglasses, I buy them because I need them. I have a high prescription and so my glasses are costly no matter what. I can afford to replace them, but why should I have to work for another $500 (after tax) which costs me about 20 hours of labour, to supplement some &#$&*^#&. It means my budget and my family goes without other things now. I find it verrrry difficult to shrug and say “oh well……”. The police want you to drive to their reporting station and waste an hour or more reporting this. they do not fingerprint or do anything but provide you with a report number, which, by the way, even if you do not make an insurance claim, may be used against you for your insurance rates. Not to mention to feelings of violation that someone’s disgusting criminal hands have been all over your personal things and in your space. I cannot let this go with an “oh well……”. While I don’t advocate giving yourself an anxiety disorder over it, to say that some outrage is not normal and justified, and that taking steps to protect yourself is not a good value, rings false to me.

      • Ellie December 10, 2015, 2:21 pm

        Same here. We live in a safe neighborhood in a nice town, where the police are constantly imploring the residents to lock their bikes, lock their garages, lock the front door when you are in the back yard, etc etc. The biggest crimes here by far are theft and burglary of unlocked cars/bikes/homes–crimes of opportunity. We have no security system in our home and so far have never had anything stolen in 25 years, but we do pay attention to our police department’s wishes when it comes to playing it safe. It has become second nature to be careful. The only time I even think consciously about safety is when I venture into the Big City.

        • nic December 14, 2015, 11:58 am

          “This is a key flaw in human nature that will bring you great profit if you become aware of it: we tend to prioritize our own experience above real science when forming impressions of the world.” Hmmmmm……… are we extrapolating the Longmont experience to everyone – based on MMM’s own experience? Not everyone lives in such a charmed area. In theory, it seems more Mustachian to take care of your investments in things that you own and need. I agree that some people go over the top with precautions, but to create easy opportunities for crime to occur is also not a great idea.

  • VP December 8, 2015, 7:28 pm

    I agree with almost everything in that post.


    I buy my $299 commuter bikes at target so that when it gets stolen, I just go buy another one. Hopefully, whoever stole it rides it!

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 8, 2015, 8:30 pm

      Great post on your JWZ blog. I agree with everything except paying people to fix your flat tires. But that might be a regional difference: here in Colorado we have “Goat Heads”, a spiky plant that pops your tires at least once a week no matter how many thornproof tubes/tires/liners/slime/FixAFlat you install.

      As the family mechanic, I fix several flats a week, and I can do it in under 5 minutes. It takes more than 5 minutes just to bike from my house to the nearest bike store. Paying myself $20 per fix, I am ahead at least $20,000 at this point! (1.2 flats per week for 16 years in Colorado)

      Correction: my newest bike, the Prodeco Storm electric bike, has come with amazingly tough tires that have not yet been goatheaded in the entire year I’ve owned it. On the other hand, the three of us went for a bike ride today on other bikes and all three of them have slow leaks on both tires. All need more tube patching.

      • Jeff December 9, 2015, 8:53 am

        Which is why I was surprised you didn’t fix the bicycle wheel yourself!

      • RubeRad December 9, 2015, 9:00 am

        For mountain bikes or other bikes with tires wide enough to run at relatively low pressures (<40psi or so?), it is quite common nowadays to convert to tubeless tires with sealant that does a great job instantly plugging thorn holes.

        Conversion kits generally cost well over $50, but it's not too hard to DIY, here's one method:

      • Jeremy December 9, 2015, 10:51 am

        Ahh, Goatheads, how I hate the little buggers.

        Perhaps I’m just lucky, or haven’t been riding enough (the grocery store is in walking distance, after all) but after my first few encounters with them, I put slime in my tires, and haven’t had an issue since. I’ve also learned what the plants look like and have made a point of avoiding them when its safe to do so. There’s more of the weed growing on and along the sidewalks than the streets. Slime isn’t a cure-all, though After enough punctures, you’ll develop a slow leak again. But a dozen punctures before having to re-inflate daily instead of just one? Yes, please!

        I also make a point of keeping a spare tube and the tools to replace and fill it on the bike. Being able to do field repairs means not having to walk home. Yeah, swapping a tube in the snow is going to suck, but walking a bike home is going to suck more.

      • My Other Feet December 9, 2015, 1:36 pm

        I’ve been bike commuting on the Colorado Front Range on a set of Continental Town Ride tires that came with my bike. They have a plastic or rubber barrier in the tire that has _never_ flatted in six years of riding. All of the other tires I’ve had, across three different bikes, have flatted, but not these. These tires are coming due for a replacement, and I hope that Continental hasn’t changed the technology in this barrier! If you’re still having trouble with thorns, you might check out Continental tires. (p.s. I don’t work for Continental, or have any interest in the company — I’m just thrilled with my tires.)

      • David December 9, 2015, 3:12 pm


        I live in Parker, CO and I’m looking to convert my hybrid bike to electric so I can commute 18 miles to DTC via the cherry creek trail. Your experience with flats makes me second guess my choice. I’d be riding to work via bike about 2 to 3 days a week. Would it make sense if I have to fix flats all of the time? And, riding 18 miles is a long way, especially if flats are an issue. Any recommendations you could give would be huge. Great blog.

        • Frank December 9, 2015, 3:48 pm

          I would guess I average maybe one flat per 500 miles in CO, with the majority of those being on the mountain bike. On Cherry Creek Trail, flats wouldn’t even factor into my decision-making process regarding riding a bike – go for it, it is such a great trail!

          • David December 9, 2015, 8:39 pm

            Thanks Frank. I just moved here from Orlando so these spurs are news to me. I was thinking about thorn resistant tunes while getting schwalbe marathon plus tires…they are really puncture resistant from what I’ve read. I’m still trying to find the right ebike kit. I’m looking into Dillenger right now. 1000w, 10ah battery. 700 bucks.

        • Meadow Lark December 10, 2015, 9:08 pm

          I rode 4 miles on the CCT 5 days a week for 7 weeks this spring and didn’t have a flat and didn’t put slime in my tires. It’s a pretty clean trail. As soon as I got back to NM I bought slime, though. We have lots of goatheads, too. I suspect MMM is riding off the beaten path…

  • Sean December 8, 2015, 7:37 pm

    A quick note about something that helps save time locking a bike. Use “pinhead” locking bolts/nuts on your axels, seat post and headset, then carry a quality smaller u-lock since you don’t need to lock your wheels any more or worry about your seat post disappearing. An unlocked bike in Vancouver will disappear pretty quickly (as can seat posts, though less frequently), so the stress just isn’t worth it. It’s a good compromise.

    • Rocketpj December 9, 2015, 10:27 am

      Vancouver is a weird special case, particularly near the Downtown Eastside and its
      vortex of misery. In our time there we lost 3 bikes over 12 years – one from in front of my office, two from our garage (in the 4th break-in in 6 months, after all the tools were gone).

      That said, Vancouver has shockingly low violent crime compared to most of the world. Property crime is an issue, but its all on the ‘quickly pawnable’ level. I’ve walked and biked through the worst neighbourhoods, I lived in the DTES for awhile, and only once did I worry about my physical person. And that time was more of a mental illness/unpredictability thing than a crime thing.

      Now that I’ve moved to the SUnshine Coast we don’t even have keys for most of the doors on our house. For whatever reason the previous owners didn’t, and we haven’t had any issues at all in 5 years. Our garage is unlocked, and I never lock my car or bike in town here. Ironically, my parents – who moved here from 3 decades on a remote farm, lock everything all the time despite nearly 7 decades of experiencing zero crime.

      • sean December 10, 2015, 1:15 pm

        The safest place in the whole city, maybe even the lower mainland, is the downtown core, unlike many other cities. There are just lost souls looking to fund self medication found on the DTES.
        Vancouver is very much a crime of opportunity city, so any measure taken to reduce the ease of theft goes a long way.
        By far, the most dangerous thing to do in this city is to cross the street as a pedestrian.


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