It finally happened. Sometime between the early evening last night and this afternoon, Shanghaiist’s bicycle was stolen. Yes, it was locked. Twice. And no, we did not bring it into our apartment, to the collective shock and incredulity of our landlord and the retired woman that minds the front entrance of our apartment block. Shanghaiist had naively believed that the four flights of stairs we schlepped the thing every time we used it (almost daily) would be enough to deter what few opportunists found their way into our building in a “safe” part of town. But ultimately, one of the immutable truths of Shanghai life prevailed. Your bike WILL get stolen.
Against the warnings of friends local and expatriate, those cyclists among them each with their own woeful tales of theft to share, we purchased a good RMB 1,600 mountain bike in the summer of 2003, no small expenditure on a modest teacher’s salary. The bike served us well until we were relieved of it today, and indeed more than paid for itself in saved taxi fares. Beyond financial concerns, we maintain that a bicycle is without question the most efficient way to commute within Shanghai, albeit not always for the faint of heart. On those rare days we were prevented from traveling by bike, we could not help but look through the taxi window (generally in a state of gridlock) and imagine the dangerous and thrilling ways in which we could be speeding past, through, and around traffic to our destination.
To be honest, knowing the high rate of theft among bicycles, we had been expecting this for awhile, so we can’t say we are particularly shocked. But we do miss our bike. We had some good times. If anyone sees a maroon Giant 740 with a gimpy front reflector and a shady-looking rider wearing a smug expression, please drop a line. In the meantime we’ll be walking and cabbing like a chump, working up the nerve to move on to our next bike.
Now, you’re probably thinking: “Sucks for you but how does this affect number one?”
We did manage to avoid theft of a “high profile” bicycle (serious bike enthusiasts should refrain from laughing) for nearly three years, so we consider ourselves relatively successful at avoiding the pitfalls inherent in temporary bike ownership. A few Dos and Don’ts:
DO get a cheap nondescript bike if you are not superficial. Bike thieves go for flash. Paint over any flame decals with a color like rust.
DON’T ever park your bike somewhere unattended. It WILL get stolen, very likely before you’ve dismounted.
DO park your bike in an enclosed parking lot if possible; we were able to park for free in the basement of Plaza 66.
DO drag your bike up to your apartment and lock it inside each night. In your bedroom, tucked into your bed is ideal if you don’t mind sleeping on the couch. (Thanks to our landlord and gate ayi for that one.)
DON’T go for the flimsy “wraparound” cable locks or chain locks.
DO get a sturdy “U-lock”. Bike thieves have nightmares about U-locks.
For more woeful tales in a similar vein, go here; for an informative little piece on cycling in China, go here; for a very serious piece with useful tips, and with a passing reference to China (find it!), go here.
Photo from www.giant.fr.
Also on Shanghaiist:
Pedal pushers in the city
Shop Talk: Speed Cat Bicycle on Xiangyang Lu