Looking for a cheap cruiser bicycle, bike thieves should rot in hell.
August 30, 2013 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Less than 3 months ago, I bought a Raleigh Retroglide cruiser bicycle from my local bike shop. I loved it; it was stolen from the train station last week. I want to replace it this weekend. I noticed the slightly cheaper Northrock OCM cruiser at Costco. Should I try that, get another Raleigh, or do something else?

I use it for my three-mile, very flat commute to the town's train station, and sometimes for riding to the neighborhood beach. I'm a 6", 240lb guy. I liked that the Retroglide was single-speed with minimal maintenance, I want something I can leave at the train station in all kinds of weather. I also liked the upright posture of the cruiser - basically I want something like a very affordable Dutch-style city bike.

The Retroglide was about $330 a the LBS. I was mostly satisfied. The middle bar was a little high (hard to get my leg over getting on or off) and the seat was a little too bouncy. It was also very heavy but as my ride is flat that didn't bother me.

The Northrock was $250 at Coscto, unassembled. With no gears and coaster brakes I can handle the assembly. The bike is much lighter than the Retroglide. It has a quickrelease front wheel, which is a detriment - just means it's more likely to be stolen.

I have no confidence in the security at the train station, it's likely someone will try to steal the bike again. As such, $330 is really the most I want to spend. Bikes that aren't stolen tend to get fucked with, quickrelease parts aren't great. I had a cable lock on the bike that was stolen, it was cut (found it in the grass) so I'll get the more expensive Kryptonite u-lock with a cable lock to loop around the front wheel.

I'm not going to buy a used bike off Craigslist, because my time is limited: I'd like to get this done tomorrow. I've spent enough time on CL this week to know that most bikes for sale now are old mountain bikes that don't look as comfortable. And since my last bike was ripped off I'm disinclined to buy used and possibly support a thief.

I can't really tell from the website if the Northrock is as large as the Raleigh. The Raleigh's "Seat Tube Length" is 475mm/18.7" - is that the same as the "18" Frame Size" advertised for the Costco bike? I sat in the demo model in the store but couldn't tell.

If it's helpful, there's also an REI nearby.

In sum, I want a cheap cruiser bike that will survive locked up outside with minimal maintenance. Is there any good reason to spend $80 more on the Raleigh? Is there another bike model I'm overlooking?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're worried about the quick release, you can replace it with a locking skewer that takes a 5mm hex wrench. I use those on my commuter.

If you're still worried, you can get special skewers that take a funky proprietary tool to unlock, but I'm afraid of losing the tool.

Going with a U-lock and cable is a good start.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:36 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just a quick thing - your front wheel won't go anywhere if you replace the quick release skewers with ones requiring an allen key and, more importantly, if you lock your front wheel as well as your back one. These aren't really negotiable options if you plan to leave your bike in a high risk spot like a train station.

Also - I found that wrapping up my bike from head to toe in tape made it a lot less attractive. It's harder to tell its age, you can't easily see the brand it is devalues it massively for a quick sale. Sure, it feels wrong to do it to a new bike but it will greatly improve your chances of having it for more than 3 months.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:39 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend buying a used bike at a local bike shop. New bikes are shiny and attract attention, but other than that have little that a quality used bike won't offer. Buying from a LBS will mean that its been refurbished and is ready to ride.

Since you need a bike ASAP you could consider getting one at REI, then looking for a good used bike. REI has a very generous return policy.
posted by cubby at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not actually responsive to your question, but I wanted to mention that many credit cards have theft protection for 90 days or so on purchases you make and will reimburse you for your loss.
posted by saeculorum at 6:56 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding MuffinMan's point about the tape. I actually spray painted mine a funky shade of neon green that made it much less attractive, made it very identifiable, and made me feel better whenever I chipped the paint.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2013

I want to second (third?) the suggestion to get a used bike. Bike theft deterrence doesn't need to be perfect, you just need to be a less attractive target than the other bikes at the station. Most bike thefts are not committed by professional thieves, they're usually crimes of opportunity by addicts looking to flip them for a quick profit, since bikes and bike parts are a fungible commodity on the street. So, incremental improvements in deterrence matter: a better U-lock (consider Abus), a bike chain securing your seat, an older (and therefore less salable) model. If there's a bike co-op/nonprofit which refurbishes and sells used bikes in your neck of the woods, $300 will buy you a lot more bike, and it will probably be less of a theft risk at the same time.

It looks like there used to be an organization like this in New Haven, if that's still near the location in your profile--it would be worth trying to contact them.
posted by pullayup at 8:09 AM on August 30, 2013

If you're going to assemble the bike, you may as well go to Walmart, get a cruiser for cheap, and make sure the thing is assembled decently yourself. Assembly being perhaps the biggest risk of buying a Walmart bike. FWIW, Walmart also sells a couple large size single speed cruisers that a 6' person might appreciate. One with 29" wheels, and another with oddball 32" wheels and almost a step through frame.

Speaking of which, a step through frame (girl's bike) might be less attractive to thieves. And the mixed spray paint thing makes for an ugly bike that's easy to identify and possibly less attractive to theft.

I live in a beach town, and generic cruisers are available from various small independent bike stores very reasonably priced. Though, as you've figured out, cruisers seem surprisingly attractive to thieves. They seem to be treated as virtually disposable and are very common.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:13 AM on August 30, 2013

Also, I don't want to sound too victim-blamey here, but locking a bike with a cable lock is asking to have it stolen. Most cable locks can be cut in seconds with bolt cutters, which are close to silent and fit in a shoulder bag. Bikes locked with cables and non-hardened steel chain will be the thief's first target. Cheap/off brand U-locks can also be cut with bolt cutters. Mid-range U-locks are better, but can be cut in a few minutes with a hacksaw. Expensive U-locks, like Abus and the Kryptonite Faghettaboudit series, can still be cut in a minute or two with a battery-powered angle grinder, but this is noisy and creates a conspicuous shower of sparks, which is enough of a deterrent to make them effective. Whichever lock you're considering, it's likely that you can google up a video of someone breaking it. Watch it, and if it seems like it wouldn't attract attention in your train station, you should spring for a better lock.

Also, buy the smallest U-lock possible. If there's room to weasel it between the lock and whatever you're locking to, U-locks can be pried open with car jack. Small U-locks discourage this.
posted by pullayup at 8:24 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

SO, I got MY bike stolen. The one I got when I was single and had a job... a NICE bike. I didn't want to spend more than 300 but it was difficult replacing a 900 dollar bike with an entry level bike. I looked a lot an was very discouraged until I tried the Costco one. The Costco one I had is better quality than I could have got anywhere else. Even used bikes were this price or more. I love it and it was pretty simple to assemble.

Good luck.
posted by beccaj at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2013

Here's the deal: Cable locks, no matter how thick, are a joke. They can be cut in seconds using a $10 tool (bolt cutters) that you can hide in a coat or backpack.

If you don't want your bike to be stolen, you MUST get a decent U-lock or chain lock. Hardened steel U-lock and chain locks must be cut with a noisy expensive angle grinder (or a car jack).

For better protection, use two decent U-locks, one to lock the front tire to the frame and one to lock the frame and back tire to the bike rack.

Also, uglify your bike. Wrap it with duct tape and spray paint the tape ugly colors. Cover any badges or brand markings. Cover it with bumper stickers. Anything that makes it uglier or more work to sell will discourage resale thieves, who are the only ones with the tools to break good U-locks.

Your bike doesn't need to be impossible to steal, it just needs to be harder to steal than other bikes around it.
posted by zug at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Piping in to quadruple support uglifying your bike. You want a townie bike for an easy 3-mile cruise to places (train station, beach) roaming with thieves. Get whatever cheapie bike is available for sub $100 and yeah, spray paint sections, put a call out to your Facebook friends for stickers, hot glue a plastic Godzilla to the bars, add a kiddie basket with a bunch of plastic flowers woven through it. Make it yours. You'll end up loving the ugliness of it and no thief will go near something so identifiable. And if they do? Well, you'll mourn more for Godzilla than for the bike.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:06 PM on August 30, 2013

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