By Steve Worland.The reality of owning an expensive, or otherwise great, bike is that you need to care for it with the intuitive attention that you would grant a limb. Don't begrudge your bike that. It grants you the dexterity of many limb extentions in return. The impetuous days of clearing out old bikes with other out-dated junk are gone. Everyone is supposed to have a bike these days, just as everyone is supposed to care for the environment. A bike is no longer just a plaything of youth or whim, or a reluctant tool of a thrift economy. It's an active statement of modern thinking.
Inevitably, when objects become 'got to have', there are some who add 'at any cost'. Interpretations of need and desire get confused. At the one extreme, there'll always be someone to take that skip-destined bike off your hands in order to satisfy a rational desire to recycle and save. At the other extreme, greed gets the upper hand and the theft economy steps in to replace the satisfaction of work and reward. Fear of theft is possibly as big a deterrent to short trip bicycle use as safety, and yet most of those who could influence matters remain sadly complacent.
Most cyclists would prefer to use skip-destined bikes in town because safe town centre bike parking is almost non existent. I know of several riders who will not buy themselves the bike they want because they'd be frightened to leave it anywhere. And yet there are people I've spoken to in the bike industry who gloat that a large proportion of their sales come from theft replacement. Do they care? They'll certainly admit to feeling uneasy about it, but greed and apathy go hand in hand here just as they do where the environment is concerned. Why bite the thieving bastard's hand that feeds you?
The bike theft economy is, by default, shockingly well supported by the government and by most of the bicycle industry. How? Because so few planners and bike companies are willing to contribute to making bike theft more difficult and recovery easier.
Gripe city! What can we do about it? In some euro countries, bikes are registered to owners, like cars. It's a cheap system to run and it works reasonably well, apart from in thieve-to-export crime. In the UK, one of the few companies offering part of a solution is Datatag. The tag fits in your frame, you register your info and you can usually get a discount on insurance. Your bike might still get nicked, but you have a better chance of getting it back. If every bike brand did the Datatag thing at source, handling stolen bikes would become a more risky business.
The bike theft economy is accidentally nourished by the bike industry's complacency, in direct proportion to an increased demand and affection for bikes, especially MTBs. Finding ways of relieving this might boost bike sales and persuade more riders to buy the bike of their dreams. Til then? If you're bike stays with you for the whole of its active life span, it deserves that resting place in the garden.