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Bicycle Theft in Germany

Germany has a high incidence of bicycle theft and it is purported to be getting worse.

Bicycle Theft in Germany: We lock our bikes almost every time we leave them. We are sensitive to unlocked bicycles and we see a few, but very few. When in a train station for example, we take our bikes inside, right up to the ticket window or just outside of a shop. Even then we lock them if we are more than a few feet away. We see a lot of people doing that. If our bikes will be out of eyesight even for a minute or two, we quickly lock them up. Frequently, one of us will stay with the bikes while the other goes into a shop or travel office.

I have not had any experience with theft in campgrounds but I have a strong suspicion that all bikes are locked, if not to themselves, then to a tree or a post. Any bicycle bags are probably in a tent, if there is one. I doubt if there is much theft except for the opportunists who are looking for an easy mark and an unlocked bike is an easy mark.

In over 10 years, we have never had anyone steal anything or even notice anyone paying attention to bikes except when we are standing with them, like on a train platform. Our bags are inexpensive to begin with and well broken-in (read this as shabby and worn-out). Fancy bags, such as the ubiquitous Ortleib bags, may attract more attention from thieves but not for the contents rather for the bags themselves. Ortleib bags are expensive and have an undeserved elevated status among cyclists. Ok, sure, they are watertight but so are other bags. We waterproof our cheap worn-out bags by first putting the contents inside plastic bags that we get free when shopping. It is miserly of us but it works great.

When I bought my new bike in 2004, I choose a common brand with common equipment and accessories so it would blend in a little. Nevertheless on the seat post, I did away with the quick disconnect in favor of a nut and bolt because the saddle and seat-post shock absorber costs over €150 by themselves. With a quick disconnect, a ne'er do well can upgrade his own bicycle in 0.0 seconds.

When we stop at a church or a museum, we might leave most of the bags on the bikes and lock them together while we go inside. However, since we were warned several times in Strasbourg about theft, we became a little more religious (only about locking bikes, not going to services). Nowadays, one of us remains with the bikes while the other goes inside. At a museum though, I just bring the most valuable stuff (electronics, wallet, passport, etc.) inside with me and take the chance with the rest of it. I would actually enjoy the opportunity to purchase all new bags and clothes as mine are all old and worn out. I would be unhappy about having to buy a new bike while on a tour somewhere away from our home base in Kassel.

We live in Kassel, for a few months each year and we have friends and family in Kassel. Everyone has a story about stolen bikes either their own or someone they know. The common thread is the stolen bikes are unlocked at the time of theft. However, we both ride nice bikes and would not want them stolen. So if we do lock them up, I try to leave them in a very public place. To cut or break a bike lock, even an expensive lock, takes a few seconds at the most. I think most thefts are done by amateurs who spot an unlocked bike. The professional with bolt cutters or liquid nitrogen (spray it on metal for a few seconds and the metal is so brittle it breaks when you hit it with a hammer) will get your bike no matter what you do. There are not many of these professionals - thankfully.

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