Windy City Sports

Why Did You Steal My Seat Post?

By Jeff Banowetz

During triathlon season, it’s easy to get caught up in all the high-tech bikes. Even if you’ve got a perfectly good bike of your own, it’s almost impossible not to see the newest, lightest and fastest creations that engineers can imagine and wonder, maybe it’s time to rethink my ride?

Often sticker shock will scare that out of you. But even if we can’t afford a carbon-fiber masterpieces, most of us will at least do what we can to make sure our bikes are as sleek as possible. Maybe we’ll splurge on new wheels or better components. Heck, they sell carbon-fiber water bottle cages for a reason—people will buy them. The point is, we’d all like a bike to salivate over.

And then, there’s my commuter bike.

The purpose of this bike is to get me the 1.4 miles from Union Station to the offices of Windy City Sports. Since it spends much of its life locked up outside, I want it to abhor people. I want people to turn away at the thought that anyone would ride such a hideous thing. That’s the only way to keep it from getting stolen.

And for more than a year, it worked. I rode a $20 Schwinn that a friend found at a garage sale, and thieves left it alone. No one coveted my bike, and it got the job done.

Unfortunately, it was hit by a car. I wasn’t on it, thankfully, but my guess is that someone tried backing into a parking space and went too far, mangling my locked bike against a parking meter. Either that or they really didn’t want to feed the meter.

In any case, I upgraded to an old, suspension-less mountain bike that was hanging in my garage. It had some wear and tear but would do the job. I planned to eventually find another beater, but this ride was a lot more comfortable, and it’s summer, so why not enjoy it little?

Alas, less than a week later I arrived downtown to find my seat and seat post missing. Stupid. I’d meant to switch out the quick-release, but I didn’t have a bolt that fit the tube. Now it was too late.

But as mad as I was at myself for the mistake, I was just as incredulous about someone stealing my old seat and post. After all, who does that? The seat was cheap and ragged. I can’t imagine they could get more than $5 for it. It cost me nearly that much just to take the El one stop back and forth to the office.

I stewed as I walked to the train and re-examined my opposition to the death penalty.

If I’d been stupid and someone stole one of my good bikes, at least I’d understand why: They have value. But this seemed to be theft for the sake of theft, just to make my life more difficult.

I had several other saddles and seat posts at home, but of course nothing is ever that easy. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if bike manufactures choose their seat tube diameters by a random number generator. A smarter idea for the thief would have been to hold my seat post for ransom. I would have gladly paid for its safe return rather than going through the parade of ill-fitting posts that I diligently carried to work each day.

Maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas.

In any case, not a week after my seat-post fiasco, our Associate Editor Kate Bongiovanni had an even odder theft occur. The seat-post bandit struck again, but when he stole her seat and post, he left her with an older, uglier seat and post that didn’t quite fit her bike. It was as if the thief was participating in some bizarre “take a seat, leave a seat” strategy. Or maybe it’s some kind of catch-and-release program for newly rehabilitated bike seats?

Now we’d really have a story if it turned out that the thief had given Kate my seat. Unfortunately, no. This new seat doesn’t seem to fit any of our bikes.

So are we left to believe that the thief has discovered the lack of a market for beat-up old bike seats? I’m not taking any chances. I twisted a rusty old bolt as tight as possible to my new seat tube. Hopefully, that’ll end this ridiculous game of musical bike seats.

The Chicago Police Department has gotten a lot of attention for its cameras in high-crime areas. And now there’s video surveillance to enforce speeding, running red lights or not paying your toll. They seem to be getting results. Is it too much to ask for some cameras to put an end to this seat-post larceny? They could even shoot lasers to temporarily stun the bike-part bandits?

OK, I guess that’s unlikely—thank you very much ACLU. So we’ll all need to be more diligent in making sure our bikes are locked up securely, no matter how ragged they look.

Otherwise you’ll only have yourself to blame for the saddle sores.

Jeff Banowetz,
jeff@windycitysports.com

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