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Berlin bike theft: our tips to keep your bike safe

As you probably know, Berlin bike theft is a serious problem. If you haven’t had your bike stolen, you’re in a lucky minority. This number reached a new peak in 2017 with over 34,000 bike thefts reported to the police. (Just think how many people didn’t even bother to report the theft!) The report published earlier in the year described how bicycles are particularly likely to be stolen in front of places like railway stations, schools and shopping centres.

So although stealing bikes is as popular a pastime as ever, there are things you can do to make sure your bike is just a little bit safer.

1) Don’t leave your bike outside

It probably goes without saying, but if you have a valuable bike and you can avoid it, never ever leave it locked up outside (even in your courtyard) where you can’t keep your eye on it at all times. If I can, I’ll always bring my bike inside, or at least chain it to something inside – even if it involves carrying it up a steep flight of stairs to visit a mate who lives on the fourth floor. And let’s face it, all of your friends live on the fourth floor.

2) Safety in numbers.

If you’re with one or more friends, always lock your bikes on top of one another with more than one lock, preferably with the more valuable bike at the bottom of the pile. A lot of thieves will be put off stealing a more expensive bike if they have to get past two other less valuable bikes which are on top of it. More locks also = more security.

3) Always lock through the wheel(s) and the frame.

If possible, use two locks, one through the seat tube and rear wheel and one through the front wheel. It’s amazing how many cyclists, even those with more expensive bikes, only lock the bike through the top tube of the frame, or worse, just through a wheel. Better still: take off the front wheel and lock it to the back wheel and frame.

4) Lock your bike to something strong and unmovable.

Can a thief lift your bike over what it’s locked to? Is it locked to something that’s actually attached to the ground? Be especially careful of locking your bike to scaffolding or temporary street signs. Those poles aren’t always connected to the ground.

5) When using a ‘u/d-lock’ make sure you lock it to the seat tube and the wheel.

Simply putting the lock around the top tube can allow the thief to use the bike’s frame as a lever to pop it open, or just give the thief too much space to work with. Better yet, buy the smallest U/D-lock you can find, giving the thief less space to stick a car jack in it therefore making it more resistant to ‘leverage-based attacks’, as Sheldon Brown puts it here.

6) Invest in the best lock you can.

That is, not the one in the picture. Not all locks are created equally. No single lock is unbreakable, but some locks take longer to break open than others. Why not spend a little money to make sure you have one that is a little harder to crack open?

7) Get insured.

SO MANY cyclists don’t insure their bikes. In a city with as much bike theft as in Berlin, you’d be surprised how few cyclists actually insure their bikes. It really isn’t very expensive and hardly takes any time to do. In fact, I’m gonna go do that right now…

8) Make your bike easily identifiable by marking it.

Good tips here include etching your initials somewhere on the frame or at least writing your initials on each tire with tip-ex or a permanent marker. It’s much harder to sell a bike that has someone’s initials or some other identifying mark on it.

9) Know your area.

I’d wager that 90% of bike thefts could be avoided if people only thought a little more carefully about where they were locking up their bikes. Don’t assume that because it’s in a ‘busy’ part of town that your bike is safer. Forget the idea ’no one will steal my bike around here’.

​What can you do if your bike is stolen?

​Unfortunately, the chances of getting it back are slim. Firstly, report it to the police. The Berlin Police also have a registry of unclaimed bikes on their website – so your stolen bike could be one of these: https://www.berlin.de/polizei/service/vermissen-sie-ihr-fahrrad/

10th February 2018 0 comment
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New to cycling in Berlin? Here are 7 tips for you

New to cycling in Berlin? These tips could make your life on two wheels a little bit easier.

Cycle nice and cycle safe

Despite whatever crazy urban cycling videos you may have seen on YouTube (don’t watch this), the city isn’t a race course, nor is it a velodrome. Respect your fellow cyclists; don’t be ride aggressively; don’t feel you have to overtake other cyclists on crowded bike lanes and don’t ride dangerously in traffic. Despite what some of your cycling friends may say, motorists are not the enemy and their safety shouldn’t be jeopardized just because you need to get to work quickly.

Check your cycle lane privilege

Although it may seem appealing to you to imitate a salmon swimming upstream, cycle lanes are designed to be ridden in the direction of the traffic, not against it. That means you ride on the right side of the road, following the cars. Nothing annoys fellow bikers more than dodging someone riding fast in the opposite direction, particularly on a very busy bike lane at rush hour. It’s also dangerous!

Don’t run reds

Although it may seem tempting to go through red lights, especially if it’s clear to the left and right on a crossroads, don’t. You won’t be the first cyclist to be arrested, or at the very least given a stern talking to by the Polizei. It’s also worth noting that you will get absolutely no sympathy from them feigning ignorance because you’re ‘new in town’. Additionally, jumping reds can also harm crossing pedestrians and could even result in a fatal accident.

Don’t get doored

Berlin often has bike lanes sandwiched between moving traffic and parked cars. Add to this the fact that Berlin drivers and taxis often like to pull up and stop in the road, it’s possible that someone will open a door on the right of the car as you approach. Unfortunately, this is a scarily real prospect. If you are sandwiched between cars left and right, make sure you’re hyper vigilant. If it’s only parked cars on your right, make sure to give an exceptionally wide berth to any car whose door(s) may open.

Lock it up

Simply put, Berlin bike theft is out of control, and no matter how smart you think you are when locking your bike up, there’s a bike thief who is smarter. We’ve written a whole article of tips to help you avoid getting your bike stolen – so you might want to check that out for more info. In essence: only lock your bike up when you must, buy the best lock you can and remember that any lock can be broken, depending on the desirability of the bike and how much time the thief has to crack it.

Ride your bike (don’t ride the ubahn with it)

Yes, you can take your bike on the u-bahn, but Berliners don’t really like that. Bikes get in everyone’s way on a crowded train and the reception you’ll receive can be frosty, to say the least. It can bad enough fighting for a space on the s-bahn on weekends in a designated bike carriage. It might be raining cats and dogs, but we would suggest that if you can brave it, for your own self-preservation and for the sake of the other passengers, ride your bike.

Choose the right gear

Nah, we don’t mean the kind of gear that’s on the back wheel of your bike; we mean the bike you ride, and the stuff you ride it in: that means:

  • – wear a helmet
  • – get some waterproofs (yeah, even waterproof trousers!)
  • – run bigger tires for cobblestones and sketchy road surfaces
  • – get good lights
  • – get a good lock
  • – get mudguards, if your bike can accommodate them
10th February 2018 0 comment
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10 Berlin winter cycling tips

Like me, before moving to Berlin you probably heard story after story of how brutally cold winter can be. You probably imagined weather Siberian in severity: frozen lakes and canals, deep snow and frostbitten fingers. But while Berlin’s winters are cold, they’re not that cold.

Cycling throughout the winter needn’t be unpleasant, and I would personally rather cycle in the sub-zero than pay to be crammed into a smelly U-Bahn carriage day after day. Plus, cycling through the winter gains you the respect of your not-so-tough fair-weather cyclist friends.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure that cycling in winter in Berlin isn’t as perilous and traumatising as you might fear:

1) Layer up

Cycling in a big coat over light clothes is a rookie mistake. Not only are you weighed-down and less agile, but you’re also going to get very hot, very quickly. Wearing a few thinner layers gives you a lot more options and enables you to easily remove one or two and stuff them in your backpack: try doing that with your goose-down parka. Fabrics have come on a long way, and you can buy ultra-light, surprisingly warm down layers pretty reasonably these days.

2) Re-route

Knowing the right routes to ride is key to safer winter cycling. Avoid super-busy, dangerous roads and stick to roads with good-condition, adequate bike lanes. We would also avoid streets with cobblestones as much as possible: they are murder in the winter.

3) Go into your shell

Waterproof shell, that is. If there’s one item that is absolutely essential for urban winter cycling, it’s a good waterproof jacket – it rains quite a lot in Berlin. Invest the most money you can in it, because it’ll save your ass. Something with a hoodie is highly recommended. And as anyone who’s bought a cheap ‘waterproof’ jacket knows, not all are created equally.

4) Leave your hat on

We are big helmet people. Wearing one of these ugly plastic things is even more crucial in the winter, for obvious reasons. Snow/ice/rain etc.

5) Look after your extremities​

Your extremities are the most essential bits to keep warm. That is, your head, your hands and your feet. Wearing canvas sneakers probably isn’t going to cut it, so get some (long) woollen socks and leather boots or shoes. Get some gore-tex, waterproof gloves. It won’t take long for your hands to get absolutely freezing, stuck out front on your handlebars. If it’s seriously cold, you will want to cover your face with a balaclava, or fleecy facemask. Or just grow a beard, if you can. Last but not least, keep something warm on yer noggin, like a beanie or fleecy skull cap to wear under your helmet.

6) Get lit

Lights, and good ones. There’s a lot less daylight in winter, and the Berlin fog can be killer. You also want as many cars to see you as possible.

7) Burn (more) rubber

The biggest tires your bike can handle are what you should be riding during the bad weather. It’s baffling how many people ride thin tires when it’s wet, let alone when it’s rainy or snowy. Skinny tires might get you there faster (although the jury’s out on that) but on wet, cobble-stoned streets, you’re just asking for trouble. More surface area on your tire increases contact and grip on the ground, and that’s exactly what you need when the weather is bad. What’s more: air those tyres down a touch for cycling in the winter. It makes them a little grippier.

8) Always be on guard

If you don’t already have them, you could do far worse than fit your bike with fenders, or mudguards. You can get away without them, if you’re prepared to get very wet when it rains. It doesn’t mean completely overhauling your bike; there are many decent clip-on options available. However, if you ask us, full length fitted mudguards are the way to go for any serious all-weather cyclist.

9) Ride safe

You can get away with a lot less in the winter than you can in the warmer months. So, maybe decrease your Schwindigkeit (that’s Deutsch for speed) a touch. Think before riding like a maniac, because stopping times on slippery roads are a lot longer than when it’s dry.

10) Know when to give it a rest.

Just because you’re A Serious Cyclist, doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in danger just for the sake of getting to work on two wheels. There are times when it’s just stupid to ride your bike, and Berlin does have a cheap and (relatively) reliable transport system. There are days when you’re allowed to use it.

9th February 2018 0 comment
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