On July 9th, 2012 I was sitting at a campground in Geneva, Switzerland when a young man across the way called over, “Is your name Darren?”
Turns out the man’s name was Scott and he was a BicycleTouringPro.com reader who had recognized me from my photos on the website and knew that I was in the Geneva area for the start of the Bike Switzerland Challenge Tour.
In fact, Scott was at the campground with his friend Tim, and the guys were just about to take off of their first day of long-distance bicycle touring the following morning. Tim was going to be riding with Scott for a little over a week or so, and Scott had plans to continue on his own for several months after that.
We spent some time that evening and the following morning talking about our travel plans, work, etc, but we eventually went our separate ways and I’ve been following Scott’s travels by bike ever since.
Since leaving Scott in Switzerland, he’s made his way to Poland, France, Spain and a number of other European countries.
A few weeks ago, however, while stopped in Paris, France, Scott had his touring bicycle stolen from him…. and the events that followed are what I’d like to share with you.
Start by reading Scott’s article about his kidnapped touring bicycle, how he went about securing another bike, and the mistakes he made along the way. Then, read the following:
I wanted to share Scott’s story with you because there are two very important lessons to be learned here.
First of all, never leave your bicycle locked up outside overnight in a big city. Never!
You can leave your bicycle locked up for a few minutes, but never for an extended period of time.
Generally, I try and limit my bicycle’s alone time on the streets to less than 15 minutes. If I can cut that time down to 5 or 10 minutes, that’s even better! Even when the bicycle is locked up, it should never be alone and on the street for hours on end. That was Scott’s first mistake.
He should have brought his bicycle inside with him! It may not seem easy to bring your bicycle inside some places in the world, but you need to figure out a way. Even if you can’t bring the bike inside the apartment or hotel room where you are staying, there is usually a secure garage, closet, store room or hallway inside your building or a neighboring building where your bicycle can be kept. In some cases, you may wish to secure your bicycle with a lock even after the bicycle has been brought inside.
Side note: When planning your places to sleep each night, always tell the people you are staying with that you have a bicycle. Try saying to them, “I am going to have a bicycle with me. Will that be a problem?” or “Do you have a safe place where I can store my bicycle when I get there?” If the answer is “No,” then you need to find another place to stay. It’s that simple.
Secondly, Scott made the mistake of trying to purchase a bicycle for his long-distance bicycle tour that was not really designed for long-distance touring. This mistake cost him both a significant amount of time and money.
I talk about this at great length inside my book, “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles”, because this is a mistake I see people making all the time.
Trying to save a little money, readers like yourself try and use bicycles that aren’t designed for bicycle travel on long-distance bicycle tours. “After all,” they seem to tell themselves, “a bicycle is a bicycle. I don’t need to spend the extra money to get a proper touring bike. I’ll make due with what I have.”
The problem with this strategy, however, as Scott quickly discovered, is that many non-touring specific bicycles fall apart under the demands of loaded bicycle touring. A non-specific touring bicycle will get frequent flat tires (as Scott experienced), be susceptible to multiple broken spokes, and in some instances, the frame of the bicycle itself will break apart (which as you can imagine, is super, super dangerous).
Scott was able to realize very quickly that his first bicycle purchase was not a good one and he did a good job of speedily correcting his mistake. He did so by going to Rando Cycles (which as you would have learned by reading “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles,” is France’s largest and most well-known touring bicycle company) and securing a proper touring bicycle.
The good news is, Scott is back on the road now and his new bicycle (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) is doing a great job of getting him from place to place.
Scott will surely no longer be leaving his bicycle locked up on the street overnight… and after reading this article I hope you won’t ever make that same mistake!