Lessons Learned From Having My Bike Stolen

Not my bike, but I’d sure love to know the story behind this one.

The Man With the Big Keychain

An old friend of mine is obsessed with security. He carries a huge bundle of keys and makes his way through each day meticulously locking and unlocking anything that can be locked. He drives his car through the alley into the detached garage, and the door seals shut behind his back bumper. After locking the car, he exits the garage through the  door into his back yard (which features locking fence gates) and locks the deadbolt behind him. He climbs the back steps and unlocks the screen door and the interior door, then locks them both behind him. On vacation, he spends a good portion of his vacation time locking and unlocking boats, barbecues and sporting equipment at the cottage, which sits on a peaceful private lake with only a few widely spaced neighbors.

This guy isn’t overly fearful in other ways. Like many of my favorite people, he’s a perpetual teenager at heart who devotes his life to having a good time with friends. He is a great person to invite to a party and he has done very well in his career. But for whatever reason, he has taken up the habit of protecting the living shit out of each and every one of his physical possessions, because “the crime around here is really bad.”

The Other Man with No Keys at All*

Mr. Money Mustache, on the other hand, follows the opposite strategy when it comes to material possessions. I never lock the house when I’m home, and my cars and bikes often spend the night sitting casually unlocked out back as well, while I sleep with the windows open all summer. For quick errands, I’ll often leave my bike just chilling on its kickstand while I run into the market for some avocados, and even when I do lock up, I use one of those stretchy convenient 6-foot cable locks instead of the recommended bomb proof U-lock. Unless I’m on a trip with a lot of strangers around, I keep my phone and my desktop computer password-free so I can get to work more quickly when the mood strikes.

I’ve lived at a fair number of  different addresses over my lifetime and some were more crime-ridden than others. But they were all in Canada or the US – two relatively safe, prosperous countries. If you average out all the thefts and other threats I’ve been through over the years, it is remarkably low – and this is of course part of the definition of a prosperous country. I savor this safe environment and use it to live a freer life. After all, higher levels of trust between people leads directly to higher wealth.

My Carefree Attitude Backfires

But all this came crashing down one afternoon not long ago, when I went to grab my fancy Trek road bike from the back patio, and found it was no longer there.

That was weird. I could have sworn I left that thing leaning right there against a chair. I searched the shed, and my side yards, and everywhere else I’d usually leave a bike. No bike.

I felt the bottom dropping out of my stomach as I realized what had happened.

Although I’ve been a victim of theft less than a dozen times in my life, it is always a shocking, violating feeling when you realize somebody unknown has stolen something from you.  How could they be so bold, coming right onto my property and wheeling this thing away? At exactly what moment did this happen? Where was I when this dickhead was stealing my bike? Why couldn’t I have seen it happening, so I could come out and dish out some Justice? When you catch someone stealing your bike from your yard, do you just yell at the thief to get the hell out, or do you punch him down to the ground and stand with your foot on his neck while you call the cops and wait for them to arrive, occasionally hurling expletives down at the perpetrator and spitting on his face?

Although I’m not a violent man in everyday life, this swirl of uncertainty and rage quickly combined with immaturity and testosterone and soon I was wasting my mental energy torturing an imaginary stranger. And my practical side started acting on the fear as well. “This changes everything. Do I add cameras and security? Do I build a garage immediately to house all my belongings so they can be safely locked up? Should I move out of the city to get away from crime?”

After calming down for a few minutes, more practical strategies started to emerge. Sure, my bike had been stolen. But this was the first theft in many, many years of very carefree living. The Craigslist replacement value of that bike was probably about $500. What value do I place on a decade of the fearless freedom of leaving shit happily unlocked and not worrying about it? How about the value of my time saved in not spending my life fumbling with an enormous keychain like my friend? 90 seconds a day for ten years is 91 hours, or at least $4500 of my time at $50 an hour. I was still coming out way ahead.

Anyway, it was time to think about a more pressing issue: I needed to get myself back on the road. Not having a bike for me is equivalent to a car person losing all access to motor vehicles. I use a bike several times every single day to get things done. Switching to walking would have me on the sidewalk for 4 hours a day, and switching to a car for local errands would be even worse. Car Clown driving. Why not just squeeze my motorized racing la-z-boy right into the grocery store and reach my hand out the driver-side window to select my produce and canned goods?

The reason I had been riding that Trek road bike around in the first place was that my main commuter bike was temporarily out of commission. I had destroyed a few rear spokes in a careless incident with the big hauling trailer. So I decided to take that wheel over to the local bike shop to have it re-spoked.

It’s More Dangerous Around Here Than You Thought

At the bike shop’s service desk, I ran into the friendly owner and shared my tragic tale of loss with him. His reaction surprised me:

You left your bike unlocked in your back yard? Right up against a public park?



And here I was thinking I lived in a low-crime city. The stats say we’re much safer than the US median and my neighborhood is especially chilled out. Anecdotal evidence was backing it up until now: not only had I experienced no crime since I moved here 10 years ago, I didn’t even know anyone who had experienced any crime. It was one of those things you were vaguely aware of from the local paper, but it played no part in the average daily citizen’s life.

Could it be that the bike shop owner had formed his opinion based on a biased sample? Just like a paramedic thinks that cycling is horribly dangerous, a police officer thinks that criminals are everywhere, and a corporate lawyer thinks that painful lawsuits are commonplace, the owner of a bike shop hears from everyone who has a bike stolen, while having much less contact with those of us who still have happy, operational bikes. Even on Mr. Money Mustache articles like this one, we inevitably get commenters piping up that their situation is immeasurably more dangerous. “You can’t ride a bike or leave your garage unlocked in my city. Because things are truly scary here.

Don’t Confuse Bullshit with Safety

This is a key flaw in human nature that will bring you great profit if you become aware of it: we tend to prioritize our own experience above real science when forming impressions of the world. And we also put more weight on scary and bad news than we do on good news (or an absence of news, which is usually good too).

This form of judgement (along with other great human tendencies such as racism, fear of change and learning through gossip) was appropriate for most of human history since it was the best we could do before we had science and effortless worldwide communication. But nowadays, we can do better. To attain greater-than-caveman wealth, you must make life decisions using smarter-than-caveman techniques.

An impossibly cheap $35 and one day later, I carried my pristine and true back wheel out of that place and fitted it to my commuter bike. It was a joy to ride around again and I wondered what the big deal was: my life was simpler now with fewer bikes. I had more open space in my shed and I hardly ever used that road bike anyway.

I resolved to continue my old life of not being fearful of crime. As any student of statistics knows, it is foolish to base your life on a single, isolated event. If things continued to get stolen from my back yard, I would eventually step up security measures. But for now, why not be free?

Lesson Learned

And then, as if the Universe had noticed that I absorbed this life lesson correctly, my Trek road bike came back.

The bike had never been stolen at all – I had just left it at a friend’s house. In a zoo-like day of helping him move a few blocks, alternately biking, running, and driving the moving truck back and forth and stopping somewhere else for lunch then celebrating with beers at the end of the night, I had simply ended up walking home late the previous night and going straight to bed with no thought about the bike.

This is not unusual at all for me – although I can’t seem to purge my brain of the complete spec list of most cars in production and every last note of every last 1980s guitar solo, I am remarkably useless at keeping track of objects. One time I thought I had lost my own car for a weekend because I had left it at work. But hey, it was nice of my bike to come back to me.

So I went back to my regular, carefree, unlocked life.

And I still get a little thrill when I walk away from my bike when I’ve left it unlocked in a public place. “I’m breaking the rules! You’re supposed to lock these things up! Is the world really this safe? We’re about to find out!

I also love the Responsible Adult feeling I get when driving my car, which is insured only for liability against other people. If I crash that thing, I’m aware that it will be me paying to fix or replace it.

Living the Unlocked Life is is both a joyful celebration of living in our safe and wealthy society, and a reminder not to cling to material possessions. Instead of fooling yourself with the security blanket of insurance, you can use it as a reminder not to buy stuff that would be financially painful to lose. If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to buy it yet – otherwise the object owns you rather than vice versa.

But How Does All This Make Me Rich?

Fear of loss tends to prevent us from doing all the best stuff in life. Investing. Quitting our unsatisfying job or starting a new business. Building a fun and profitable local social network. Trying things that might result in minor bruises or embarrassing failure. Compulsive locking and protecting of our trinkets is not curing this fear – just masking it. Taking away the security blanket and just taking the risk breaks down the fear, and brings much better results over a lifetime.

* It’s true: I have eliminated keys from my life whenever possible. The bike gets a numerical combination lock, and I outfitted my house with a programmable deadbolt which is more secure yet much faster to operate. This also helps me overcome my tendency to lose objects like keys.

**Fearful vs. Prudent: With all this advocacy of danger, how do I avoid doing completely stupid things? I try to keep it in context of “making a profit”. For example, locking my door when I leave home for a month takes only a few seconds and provides a long period of benefit. Likewise for shutting off the water supply, using a seat belt, or having a reasonable password on my bank account. Low cost relative to expected potential benefit.

Compare this to, say, spending 10 minutes every day making sure not so much as a frisbee is left out in my yard for potential thieves. Or avoiding going for beautiful evening walks for fear of potential muggers: higher cost to protect against less likely consequences.

  • Mrsurfermustache December 9, 2015, 10:08 pm

    Used to be me, but this last year have had 3 separate incidents of 2000$ plus worth of stuff ripped off. I mean like picked clean in places u wouldn’t expect it either. At home in daylight. South Island of New Zealand and a locked security storage shed.

    Back to the old adage, locks keep honest people honest. I do appreciate the post tho.

  • Matt December 10, 2015, 2:41 am

    This is exactly how I behave. You can either be really secure and lock everything up, all the time, and it be a massive pain in the arse, or you can accept that the very, very rare occasion it comes back to bite you, is worth the freedom from stress of not bothering.

    I regularly go out and leave the back door unlocked, I often forget to lock my car (I’ve even left the boot wide open on my driveway on a few occasions!) I removed the burglar alarm from our house after it just kept going off for no reason. I’ve removed an annoyingly sensitive car alarm from an old car before and I drove round for a year in a car that wouldn’t lock.

    So far, in the last decade, I’ve had one instance of theft from my car, which did anger me a lot at the time, but I got over it.

    I was thinking the other day about any items in the house I’d be really sad to lose if they were taken, and I couldn’t think of one thing.

    It kind of comes down to your whole outlook on life I think. Do you think the best of humanity on the whole, while accepting there are a few bad ones out there who you might come across once in a while, or do you think the worst and get surprised when you come across anyone decent? I’ll take the first view every time.

  • Talulahula December 10, 2015, 8:56 am

    Twenty years ago, my fancy mountain bike was stolen from my yard in Oakland–despite being locked to an iron rail with a heavy U-lock. I replaced it with a 1970s Schwinn Sportabout bought for $25 at a flea market. The bike is invaluable to me because it gets me where I need to go, and it’s great orange color makes my heart swell with pride, but it’s pretty much theft-proof because of its low resale value.

    • Doug December 13, 2015, 9:10 pm

      My husband and I are always saying that the best security system is not having fancy shit worth stealing.

  • Sean December 10, 2015, 10:55 am

    I was picking up some lumber with my father recently in my 2001 2 wheel drive Ford ranger (because I have a rental property and its used to make me money ;) While hurling 2X6s into the cab aggressively (I’m not sure why, maybe because its fun to throw things or maybe because I was letting out aggression) my father was like “Sean you cant be throwing those boards like that, your gonna scratch your bed.” I thought for a second about what he said debating on my response… all that came out was “and…”
    My sister has been recently listening to Dave Ramsey, I have since suggested the MMM website to her. Ramsey convinced her to trade in her 2014 Toyota 4runner for an older Honda civic. when she had the 4 runner she babied it and would have a hard time letting anyone drive it. recently at my parents house we needed to move her car. When I asked for her keys half expecting an argument she said “the keys are in it” my jaw hit the floor, she would lock her car at all times even when it was in her garage.
    My moral to the story is when you have nice things you spend a lot of time and energy worrying about said things. I smile a little inside when someone spills something in my truck because although it would wreck some peoples day, I really don’t have to worry about that…

  • Frugal Bazooka December 10, 2015, 11:00 am

    2 interesting issues raised in this post. The first: “is property or personal security worth stressing over” is unfortunately very relevant to the current state of the Union. The second, if you answer yes to the first question, then what are the best ways to secure life and/or property from potential threats.

    Whenever I analyze questions such as these I am always reminded of the role the mass media plays in creating various kinds and levels of hysteria. Hysteria does not have to mean frantic screaming and sobbing. It can simply mean that large groups of people dramatically change their way of living for statistically insignificant reasons.
    Unfortunately our gov’t and the media are the most hysterical players in our daily lives, and tend to implement laws and procedures not based on fact based reality, but media driven and politically inspired hysteria.

    My personal response to this is to reject nearly EVERY conclusion that the media and/or gov’t reach. Whether it’s tiny amounts of saccharine causing cancer or that no American can become wealthy just by investing and saving….I simply reject the conclusions the media makes about my reality.

    how that plays out in my daily life is that I make decisions about security based on my knowledge of the area I am visiting or living in and not on a statistic that is broadcast by a gov’t agency that no one can really fact check. if I lock a door or a bike it’s based on the facts on the ground, not baseless fear created by reporters that get paid based on how many people they can scare.

  • Stu December 10, 2015, 11:09 am

    Another Vancouver cycle commuter here. Bike theft in the downtown area is chronic. Its just a fact and not an irrational fear based opinion. If you leave your bike unlocked and out of sight for more than 5 minutes it will get stolen. I guarantee it! So you can carry on with all the fear-less optimism you want, after a couple a stolen bikes you will change your tune and invest in a decent lock. I just had mine stolen from a very public area with very a stout lock. I don’t spend much on commuting bikes so it wasn’t too tragic of a loss for me but its just a major inconvenience. Its a pain to have to have to find a bike on sale or a suitable used one – then pay out further for fenders, lights etc. Meanwhile I’m taking the bus to work which is almost as expensive as driving.

  • Lynda December 10, 2015, 11:31 am

    I recently read an interview about the Dalai Lama’s right hand man. He’s a monk and is apparently the happiest man alive. When asked how he deals with having almost no possessions, he smiled and quoted one of his teachers who said that “if you have a horse, there will be suffering”. This monk went on to further explain this by saying that if you have a house, you will have to replace the furnace or the hot water tank or whatever else needs fixing which boils down to suffering. If you have a vehicle, there will be repairs, again with the suffering. Funny thing is that now whenever I contemplate buying something, the first thing I ask myself is “how much will I suffer by owning this?” Some suffering I will easily endure (a bike, a dog, the house, etc.) but the less stuff, the less suffering. It’s so simplistic but so true.

  • Bob December 10, 2015, 12:43 pm

    Can’t disagree more with MMM on this one. Been a cop 20 years and if you’d seen the stuff I have you would not be hesitating to lock up your stuff and especially your doors and windows to protect your family. Call me jaded, but faith in humanity and simplifying your life by not concerning yourself with basic security is pretty damn naive at best.

    We have 3 kids in a very nice neighborhood in a very low crime area and we lock all our doors and I have a full wireless security system for the home with cameras. Here’s a protip: bad guys come to nice neighborhoods to commit crimes against people there because often there is more stuff to steal. Cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen burglars sneaking into homes through unlocked doors and windows while the family is there, asleep.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 12, 2015, 8:51 am

      Right, and that might be a perfectly valid attitude based on the crime in your area. Or it might be that your job has given you an inaccurate picture of how dangerous the world is.

      Just like people who watch the TV news have a COMPLETELY wrong impression of how big a deal terrorism is relative to more mundane but much riskier things like being a few pounds overweight combined with living a fairly sedentary life.. or driving a car on a regular basis.

      How scared are you of those last two examples? For me, they are hundreds of times more scary than having my home invaded by a stranger. Because they combine to give me a much greater risk of early death or a crappier life. So I spend a lot more time playing outdoors and making salads than I do securing my home against invaders.

      • Suvi December 20, 2015, 6:31 am

        A friend of mine had her home invaded, and she says she still gets scared just thinking about it. They were there when she wasn’t even home, but still, the shock of seeing all your things scattered around, all your personal belongins gone through, knowing someone came in where they weren’t supposed to, that’s a horrible feeling. And it’s not about the stuff. I know you don’t mean ill with that comment, just, people do have a right to protect their private space and to feel that they need to.

  • mralistair December 10, 2015, 3:07 pm

    I have a friend who has terrible luck with bike theft. My favourite one was that he left the bike unlocked leaning against a plum tree as he climbed it to pick some fruit for making chutney (on a canal path in london)

    when he got down the bike was gone. he didn’t even see anyone take it.

    he lost a bike but got himself a story that gets slightly better every time he tells it.

    Everytime i’ve had a bike stolen (3 so far) my immediate annoyance has soon been replaced with the “ooooh but this means i can get a new bike”

  • Bee December 10, 2015, 3:13 pm

    Another great article with a refreshing perspective! What I took out of this article is that, most of the time, we can make the choice if we want stress in our life or not. It took some time for me to realise that every stress I had in my life was completely self imposed and I could overcome it by changing my lifestyle and changing the way I react to different situations. For example, I was involved in a car accident a few years ago on Christmas Day, a four car pile up. I chose not to get upset or angry at the driver who ran his car into the back of mine, and the two cars in front of me weren’t upset either. It was a bit shock to the system in the crash, my car and another ladies car were completely written off. But it was Christmas, I was insured and there was no point getting bothered by it! So we all went our separate ways and continued on our travels to see our families. I got paid out for my car and chose to spend the next 5 months without a car (bought a new one right before winter), pocketed the money and traveled by train, tram or walked everywhere.

  • chillebrand December 10, 2015, 5:44 pm

    “Fear of loss tends to prevent us from doing all the best stuff in life.”

    I can’t help but think about the Syrian refugee crisis here. Americans are paralyzed by the idea of letting in Syrians, and in return we forfeit the great benefit that immigrant populations have brought to our country over the last several hundred years. What a shame to turn away vulnerable families out of fear for our own safety. Fear is never the answer.

  • Linda Coburn December 10, 2015, 6:04 pm

    I love, love, love this column. life is too short to worry about losing your stuff. I know I speak from a place of privilege and I very much appreciate that. But you helped articulate my own attitude about the stress of worrying about possessions over time having a real negative impact on life. Thanks!

  • carlos fernandez December 11, 2015, 6:50 am

    I agree w/ the general sentiment, but like many others… some mileage may vary. I’ve had 2 bikes stolen in the last year alone!

    I came across this blog a few months ago and immediately bought a bike, used, from craigslist, even the model suggested. It was killing my knees and wasn’t up to the tasks I was using it for, so I upgraded to a better bike w/ far superior components, faster, etc. Spent $400 on it. I was locking it up w/ a lock bought at Target. It got stolen a couple of weeks ago in front of a police station, City Hall, library, and right next to a wildly popular bike shop. I filed a police report, but I doubt I’ll ever see that bike again.

    My wife’s bike was stolen from our house a year ago after our front gate popped open on its own. Somebody saw that there were no cars in the driveway (there’s usually a minimum of 3 between us and our tenants) and saw off in the distance the hint of a handlebar.

    My new bike has a u-lock that comes w/ insurance ($200 or $500, can’t remember), so for me it’s worth it. Every single bike enthusiast I’ve met in my city has had a bike stolen, so it’s definitely worth it to protect your asset/fleet.

    My wife is stressed out about losing a $400 bike plus child seat, basket, seat cushion, etc. Strangely enough, she would NOT be stressed out at all if I bought a 2nd car at $10-15K. Makes no sense to me.

  • Malum Prohibitum December 11, 2015, 11:58 am

    MMM wrote, “Just like a paramedic thinks that cycling is horribly dangerous, a police officer thinks that criminals are everywhere, and a corporate lawyer thinks that painful lawsuits are commonplace”

    As a former police officer, and now an attorney, no wonder I carry a gun and lock my doors! I would have a hard time relaxing if I failed to do either one. I understand how uncommon crime really is, but I have seen enough bad things in my lifetime to be prepared and take some small preventative measures.

    Glad your bike was not stolen after all!

  • Ed December 11, 2015, 1:37 pm

    I am curious. Let’s flash forward a few years and you son is a victim of theft. Perhaps his laptop got stolen in the library while he left his knapsack unattended for a short period of time. Or maybe his bicycle is stolen, his only bicycle lets say.
    What then? Do you simply replace it and carry on as if nothing has happened. What would be the life lesson for him?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 12, 2015, 8:45 am

      Totally – quickly replace the item if it is something you still want to own. Then decide if it is worth stepping up your security measures or not.

      The total of ALL of our material possessions (cars, bikes gadgets, etc) with the exception of the house, is surely less than 5% of our net worth, which is exactly how I like it: very little need to worry about theft.

    • Kite December 29, 2015, 10:29 am

      Theft isn’t they only way to lose our belongings. My BIL’s house and all contents was lost in a natural gas explosion. I saw the effects of Hurricane Sandy take the cars and homes of people around me. The life lesson is that what we need to cherish and treasure are the things that cannot be replaced. Our loved ones and our health top that list.

  • Sean December 11, 2015, 7:35 pm

    You likely have homeowners insurance, which also is likely to have a vanishing deductible. If the bike had been stolen you could have replaced it with money you have already spent.

  • Florida Mike December 12, 2015, 5:55 pm

    While I agree we shouldn’t live in fear, the idea that having a laissez faire attitude toward security and trying to prevent our possessions don’t get stolen seems to be a it too carefree for me. I have had things stolen from me before and while it has not ruined my life, I DID have to pay to have them replaced! That part just sucks!

    I like the idea of living a relaxed life and not letting my “stuff” own me but spending a few hundred or a few thousand dollars here and there to replace anything taken from me certainly isn’t what I would say is appreciated.

    I like the idea of being relaxed and carefree but if one’s goal is to secure their own financial freedom freedom for the future yet some dickhead decides to insure their own security by stealing my stuff, then I really feel I need to do my best to protect myself.

  • Lennier December 13, 2015, 3:01 am

    Many years ago, at an old job, I was running late for work (I had to open up), and armed the car, but forgot to put the windows up. Some hours later, I heard the alarm go off and went out to find my glovebox open and all the CD cases gone.
    Cases, mind you, not CD’s. They were in the stacker in the boot.
    The thief, in his/her haste to leave when the alarm went off (shock sensor, no doubt) left me a pair of thongs (flip-flops, jandals, etc). :D

  • Doug December 13, 2015, 8:35 pm

    I was basically having this same discussion (more heated argument really) with my mother, grandmother, and sister this week, probably about the same time this article was written. It was slightly different since they were talking about how women have to be so much more on alert than men against violent crime, but basically same concept. While it probably is true that women are at a bigger risk of violent crime, the risk even here in gun-crazy Alabama is way less than a lot of bigger risks that they completely shrug off. My mother is on high alert, pepper spray ready, when crossing the Wal-Mart parking lot in broad daylight (might not be so crazy in a Wal-Mart parking lot specifically given the impressive concentration of crazy there), but she doesn’t think anything of driving there like the gas pedal in her Mustang is stuck to the floor. She could not get the connection no matter how hard I tried to point it out. I also didn’t mention that her diet/size/lack-of-exercise is the real scary killer lurking behind her with a twitchy finger on a hair trigger.

    I think a lot of the problems in the world, but very especially here in the south, can be traced back to completely misplaced fear bordering on complete paranoia. I was raised that way, and it took me a long time to get over the conditioning that I wasn’t going to get killed/raped/mangled/murdered/beaten when I ride my bike down through the lower-class predominantly African-American neighborhood that lies in the 3 miles between downtown and my quiet little 1958 subdivision (which so many too-much-news-watching people including residents think is crime ridden. WHY?!? So quiet and so boring). I’m still a little afraid of the murderers with steering wheels in their hands, but that’s another place where the perception isn’t quite as bad as reality. I’ve about finished bludgeoning to death the statistically scariest monster that is the spare tire I’ve had around my waist since elementary school.

  • Carrie December 13, 2015, 10:11 pm

    My husband and I make a habit of locking the front door whenever we use it (to the point of locking each other out every so often) but it feels necesary where i live (high crime rate – especially crimes of opportunity). We once had a random guy high on crack just walk through our front door one day when we home hanging out. Unfortunately for him i saw him coming in, screamed, jumped over a dining room chair and ran and slammed the heavy front door on his hand, breaking it. The cops came to take him to the hospital (no charges for either me or the crackhead, poor guy!) but the cop suggested we keep our doors locked rather then rely on my apparently over-developed fight-or-flight responses to protect us. Keeping our house, car, and shed locked up is a small price to pay to avoid the hassle of the kinds of crimes we have around here. I’d rather have to deal with a key to get to our garden tools, bikes, car, and ladder, then find out someone used them to rob or attack someone else (not uncommon in my neck of the woods).

  • TomTrottier December 13, 2015, 10:36 pm

    Fwiw, I do lock my bike outside my back door. 10 seconds to lock up, 10 seconds to unlock. That’s my tradeoff between serenity & security. We each have to find our own.

    BTW, the house locks/bars which keep outsiders out, may keep insiders in when there is a fire….

    As for keys, I’ve taken up what my sons do, keeping keys on a carabiner I hook onto my pocket or belt loop. Keeps them both accessible & secured. Paint/anodization wears off, so an unpainted ‘biner looks best longer. And hey, it’s cool…. Combination locks take little time to open for people who know how….

  • Chris December 14, 2015, 8:06 am

    I love you MMM, but I have to call BS on this one.

    The doors of my 2002 Saturn are always unlocked. A couple months ago some teenagers went through the neighborhood breaking into cars. Every driveway had cars with opened doors and all the owners’ crap in the driveway. The saturn was untouched. Shitty Car = Passive Security System. That’s where I thought this was going.

    Your philosophy makes total sense for my bike (even though I disagree with it). I bought it on craigslist for $100 8 years ago (TOTAL STEAL!!!). It makes less sense for a bike with a “resale” value of $500. Leaving it unlocked in your back 40 is one thing, but the grocery store? Come on dude!! Take care of your shit. I use my decades old bike lock because it insures that I won’t have to walk home from wherever I’ve ridden to. Plus, I like the damn bike!!! I like it more than I like my car!!! I like it more than I like my neighbor’s Lexus!!! I understand that we all strive to be want-less monks that value nothing but our own existence, but that’s a nice freaking bike!!!! Bikes are cool!!!

    Does $500 mean that little to you now?

  • George December 14, 2015, 9:14 am

    Hey Mr. MMM!
    Thank you for the hilarious visual of Mr. BadAss incarnate apprehending and reprimanding himself! Apparently being able to coherently talk the police through a theft, while standing on your own neck comes with being BadAss… :) Glad you “found” your bike! You’re the man!

  • Patrick December 14, 2015, 10:05 am

    I find that this mentality is incredibly powerful! My friend has a new 2015 Dodge Ram crew cab 4×4 luxury racing truck complete with oversized aggressive mud traction tires and a lift kit so that he can reduce his effective payload/towing capacity/safety and MPG. He is OCD about that truck staying perfectly clean and even threatened to assault someone if they scratched it. Point is: my car is much cheaper and getting a dent in it the other day from a parking lot didn’t give me more than 3 seconds pause as I evaluated and realized that it did not compromise the safety of my bumper at all. Living outside your means can have very significant mental repercussions!

  • Thehappyphilosopher December 15, 2015, 10:12 am

    I like your style MMM. I’ve noticed over the last few years I’ve learned to have less attachment to things and see higher value in presence and experience. It has been a slow transition and I’m definitely not as badass as you…but I’m getting there. I think it really helps to have less things of lower value, but that are very functional and bring joy. My beat up 20 year old steel commuter is not really a high value target for bike thieves, so I don’t worry about it (even though I always lock it up, haha). My carbon road bike is not high end, but it does increase my anxiety when I have to leave it out, even locked up.

    PS: Just reading the title of this post and seeing that picture of the stripped down bike make my blood pressure go up a little. Don’t do that again man, I was worried for you! ;)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 15, 2015, 2:39 pm

      Haha, glad the picture scared you, that was my goal!

      But I don’t think that tiny red kid’s BMX (formerly) with 20″ wheels is quite the type of bike Mr. Money Mustache would use to get around town. That should have been a clue right off the bat.

      • Thehappyphilosopher December 15, 2015, 4:06 pm

        Fair enough, but it scarred me in the same way a coiled rope may be mistaken for a snake. The reaction was automatic…my poor adrenal glands!

  • Luke McCarthy December 15, 2015, 10:57 am

    That’s easy to say when you live in one of the most SWPL places in America.

  • Vicki from NZ December 15, 2015, 11:13 am

    I refer to the article about ‘dogs’, our large dog stops people stealing my bike trailer and numerous prams, bikes, car all unlocked in our carport. As for carbon use of dog ownership, I feed her on fresh food from my urban homestead farm……which I started a year ago when we moved to the suburbs so we could bike everywhere. I took the plunge, backed a business from home that others knocked and it has been scary at times. But the rewards are massive, each day is full of more exciting developments! I discovered excessive optimism is amazing, when you ask for things in a positive way a highway of awesomeness opens up in your life. As for locking my bike at the supermarket, I have owned my old school specialized bike for 20 years and I lock it because I would be gutted if somebody stole it.

  • Joel December 15, 2015, 11:40 am

    Should have entitled this piece, “Dude, where’s my bike?”

  • Doug December 15, 2015, 1:16 pm

    Somewhere there is an optimum between the extremes of not caring at all about security and being hyper worried about it. In my life I’ve had 2 bikes stolen, neither of which were worth that much (I fished one out of someone’s garbage) so it’s no serious loss and partly my fault for not locking them. I lock my bike I have now when it’s left unattended, but with a cheap lock and chain and it’s never been stolen. No one’s going to bother with a 30 year old (but fully functional) bike. Other things stolen have been trivial, like a pair of binoculars stolen from my car, unlocked because of the freezing rain forecast for that night (no great loss, they were dropped and were thus misaligned), a plastic petrol can, a flashlight, and a few other low value items. I would rather risk losing a few small items rather than have the stress (and the bad health it can cause) of worrying about locking up everything in sight.

  • Graham Freeman December 16, 2015, 12:04 am

    Hi –

    I’m with you in general, but I disagree when it comes to passwords – especially bank passwords! Please, use a password manager, and have it use strong passwords on your behalf.

    When it comes to security, bikes and banks are like… um, well, they’re very different.

    With your bike, your exposure is limited. First, by your immediate geography. There are only so many people who will be in the area, so the pool of possible thieves is fairly limited. Second, by the methods by which your bike may be stolen. Even a crew with a large truck can only steal a few dozen bikes in a night. Third, by the impact it has on your life. Sure, it’s inconvenient and demoralizing to have your bike stolen, but even a high-quality e-bike only costs $5K or so. (And of course a great non-electric bike can be had for $500.) It’s enough money that anyone would care, but for most people it’s not so much that it would cause most people would lose the ability to pay for food or housing.

    (Let’s ignore for the sake of argument that you can die riding your bike, whereas it’s statistically impossible that you’ll die in your bank. Your password practices can’t change this. Besides, I’m always right.)

    Your bank! It’s attackable from anywhere in the world, via nearly infinite methods, and on a difficult-to-imagine scale. A successful attack can completely disrupt anyone’s life, and seriously threaten the ability of most people (even Mustachians) to pay for food and housing, even if under other circumstances such costs were inconsequential.

    Consider this attack: A tech-savvy miscreant sits in Berlin, purchases access to your malware-infected computer from a criminal gang based in Odessa for a few bucks, and uses that access to purchase your info on a data aggregation site (~$20) and then uses that access+info to call in to your bank, get past the security Q&A, and set up some international wire transfers. Or, let’s say the miscreant instead just buys access to your email account (for even less money), uses that to identify your go-to bank rep, and emails that person (from your email account, in your name) a directive to pay “my new software consultant in Berlin” $5K to start, then higher increments until they get suspicious. It doesn’t take much sophistication to cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, the vast majority of which you’ll never get back. And the time! Imagine the time and stress it would take to figure out (1) something happened (2) WTF happened (3) how TF it happened and then finally (4) how to clean up.

    So, yeah. Use strong passwords, dude. Get and use a password manager, such as LastPass or 1Password (both are good, and inexpensive), and use a strong passphrase to access the password manager. Remember that one strong passphrase, and let the password manager tool remember the rest of the passwords/passphrases for you.

    Thanks for hearing (reading) me out. I am an opinionated person. But always right, mind you. :)


  • chacha1 December 16, 2015, 6:31 pm

    “To attain greater-than-caveman wealth, you must make life decisions using smarter-than-caveman techniques.”
    LOL thanks, I needed that. :-)

  • Carrie December 16, 2015, 9:34 pm

    To summarize: dude gets drunk, forgets bike at friend’s house, and squeezes a whole blog post about theft, safety, and freedom out of it. Well played.

    • Kathy Abell December 22, 2015, 5:31 pm

      I wish there was a “Like” button on these comments to MMM blog posts. ;)

      I sometimes think about starting my own blog but there are a couple of things (ok, excuses I use) that prevent me from doing so: (1) it sounds like more work than what I want to take on at this point in my life, and (2) what would I write about? Now it looks like maybe I just need to get drunk and forgetful to release my inner creative vision. LOL

  • Lars December 16, 2015, 11:25 pm

    Great post and too funny about losing cars – I have done this a few times along with other possessions that eventually come back to me. I like how this nets out in the end. On balance we can’t let fear rule but need to be prudent. I grew up in the country in Calif w/no issues or exposure to crime and then throughout my career have lived in many big cities and witnessed some pretty scary stuff. Had my car broken into twice when in Sacto, car stolen twice in Seattle. First it was parked in a locked garage and then recovered. Same car was then swiped when parked on the street. Doors were locked, nothing out of the ordinary in routine. It really threw me and replacement value from insurance was almost nothing. I did get past it and take strong but not extraordinary measures. I just don’t have the mental energy so, apply diligence where it seem required and live on.

  • MelD December 17, 2015, 7:41 am

    Fascinating reading – any other non-North American readers?! I’m not saying there’s no crime here in Europe but gosh.
    The only time I have had any theft was because I left my things hanging just inside my unlocked (and probably open – the cat opens the handle…) front door. A little cash, a couple of vouchers are all that were taken. Yes, it was rather a shock as that kind of thing is so rare. It didn’t make any difference to our behaviour, really. This is in 30+ years of living here.
    There have been two nice unused bikes unlocked outside my front door for several years, as well as one hanging in an unlocked outdoor room. I live in the middle of a small town (25K). I can’t remember if I locked either of the two cars sitting on my drive or not, just now, it doesn’t matter. We walk through town at night, as do our daughters, with no concern. Our grandson bikes to school alone. He’s 7. For some reason, I’m not attracted to North America. I wonder why (not).

  • Steven December 19, 2015, 6:53 pm

    Well, Mr MMM, I live in the Netherlands where everyone rides a bike, and theft is quite a problem here. When the weather is nice I use my old (1988) french racing bike and if i I lost it it would be a severe bummer because even if i could buy an identical one it wouldn’t be MY bike. I had 2 expensive ($ 900) bikes stolen from my front garden, one locked and the other unlocked.
    And off course I can buy new bikes if I want, and indeed paying for insurance is robbing yourself . Buy a lock and use it. A 2-kilo Olox motorcycle lock gives me the nice feeling I can ride my favorite bike till 2035.

  • BobJ December 23, 2015, 2:34 am

    I’m with the “over-secure-lock-it-up-nuts”.. My grandfather always told me.. “a fool and his money are soon parted”. In this case I believe it is foolish to leave anything of value unlocked or unguarded.

  • Kite December 29, 2015, 10:15 am

    How did I miss this article!
    A few days after it was posted, on the Third Sunday of Advent, the gospel was about giving away your second coat. Indeed, in the words of Dorothy Day, if you have two, you have stolen one from the poor.

  • Jared December 31, 2015, 10:15 am

    My bicycle was stolen during the past week. My wife and I were out of town for the holidays. My bike was unlocked, sitting on our fenced in back porch in our gated apartment complex. I read this post shortly after. I agree with MMM. I’m just excited to get a new bike.

  • Derrick January 1, 2016, 10:35 am

    While I completely subscribe to not locking your Shit up, including your house…. Because if someone is on your backyard trying to get into your house, they will and if the house is locked, they’ll just break a bunch of Shit to do it……. I think you need a punch in the face. You have a road bike, you never used, that would be worth $500 on craigslist. Through thinking that it was gone, you even came to the mindset that you didn’t need it. Call up the old MMM, invite him over to your fancypants house and ask him to give you a good one, right in the nose. :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2016, 11:09 am

      Dude, you are right of course – I have a ridiculously fancy house/life with way to many possessions. Did you know I also have two luxury motor vehicles that I only drive about once a month as well?

      The only problem is that if you called the OLD MMM, he’d be even more excessive. When I was 21 I bought a $16,000 almost-new sports car (about 23,500 if you inflation-adjust that to 2015 dollars which was about 33% of my entire gross annual income at the time!!!)

      The lifestyle of slightly less consumption is one I have been easing into. By age 50 I might be down to the “single bike” lifestyle.

      • spaceman January 28, 2016, 5:14 pm

        You’ve probably mentioned this before, but what kind of sports car did you have? Cars are my only FI weakness.

  • TheGoyWonder January 13, 2016, 10:21 am

    Re: Bikes – the worse your neighborhood, actually the safer your bike is. “Those” people wouldn’t be seen dead on a bike. But in a college or otherwise gentrified town, I’m U-locking plus a cable for the wheels.

    Re: Home security – Nobody is going to break into your house to run out with your television over their shoulder (as shown on television, obviously). Laptop maybe, but as electronics have become commodities you soon won’t see that anymore either. Face it, your shit ain’t that great.

    The only things worth burgling are cash, guns, and maybe drugs. For instance if you ran a cash business, it’s a reasonable assumption you’re hoarding cash to dodge taxes and your house is worth burgling. Guns are the big one, worth far more on the street than retail. Without those things, you’re only defending against the opportunistic snatch or accidental walk-in.

  • Julia January 16, 2016, 12:36 am

    I live in a city (Modena, Italy) that is well known for bike thieves. They will take anything. I’ve lived here 15 years and have had at least ten bikes stolen. Cheap bikes, rusty bikes because I won’t leave a good bike chained to anything. They’ve taken my kids bikes and a bike that I took the seat off AND locked to a pole.

    I will however stick to your investment advice ;-)

  • Jared January 28, 2016, 6:23 am

    I am having so much trouble getting motivated to bike in the cold. My latest excuse is that I have lost my headlight, I mean that is kind of important, but a quick stop to Dick’s would clear that up. My second obstacle is my spouse who is insisting that our road is too unsafe to bike on. With that though I’ll probably just have to straight up start a fight and bike anyways. I probably wouldn’t let those obstacles stop me if it where 70 degrees out. But it makes a convenient excuse to avoid the freezing windchills. I really don’t want to get a second car though. and there is no public transportation where we live either.

  • Skipper January 28, 2016, 2:06 pm

    I’ve had my bike stolen twice, and both times it came back to me. The first time it was ridden away by a drunken college student, who was immediately apprehended by police. They had my bike before I knew it was missing. The second time, it was nabbed right off the ramp of the fire station where I work (the nerve!), and ridden for a while by a “local miscreant” who was also apprehended by police shortly thereafter. The only problem I encountered in all of this was when the police decided they needed my bike for evidence and kept it for six months. Then I really had no bike, even though I “owned” it.

    • RH January 28, 2016, 3:03 pm

      Interesting. I wonder if someone had their car stolen if the police would keep it for 6 months for evidence. Seems a bit unequal!

  • barnetto February 4, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Which programmable deadbolt? We tried one (battery powered) and it kept getting stuck. We had given up on it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 7, 2016, 5:57 am

      Hey Barnetto – it’s the Schage BE365. The reason I like that one is you use your arm power to do the actual unlocking (instead of a tiny battery powered motor like the Kwikset competitor does). The Schage electronics just control the connect/unconnect relay, which means the bolt never gets stuck and each replacement 9V battery lasts several years.

      I updated that footnote to link to it on Amazon.

  • Ben H March 15, 2016, 5:14 pm

    Thank you Mr. MM.

    I really needed that last paragraph. Fear of Loss is a bitch.

  • S-Dot April 6, 2016, 2:49 pm

    Oh to be free again…
    Where I grew up, on a small island in New Jersey, people left beach cruiser bikes around unlocked because it was implied that “if you needed a ride, you could use it”. You would be shunned by the community if you took the bike home for personal use. The idea was that you were supposed to leave the bike unlocked for the next person who needed a ride. Great system. Everybody knew which bikes were the beaters.
    Now I live in Portland where everything gets stolen off your bike. I even have to bring my lights into work because people always take them. But there are good people in this city who balance out the thievery. One day I came out of the office and there was a note on my bike that said “your bike is going to get stolen tomorrow, you should move it”. Thanks random note leaver, for restoring my trust in fellow citizens.

  • Ann May 8, 2016, 11:45 am

    This reminded me of a holiday I took in my 20’s backpacking alone in Australia. My small backpack/camera/wallet/mobile was stolen – all I had left was some clothes in a larger pack. Initially, it was annoying to speak to the bank to access more money/file a police report, and I did miss my camera, but everyone I dealt with was kind and considerate and there really was a newfound freedom in not needing to worry about where these things were anymore. Also, happily the police found everything 3 weeks later – although money was taken there was just enough money left behind in the bag for the police to post to my new location! (a few towns away). Freedom really is limited by the amount of stuff you feel compelled to carry around!

  • Jennifer July 6, 2016, 11:36 pm

    Dude. I emailed you like three years ago that I was hit by a car while driving my scooter to work. I am still pissed you don’t take stuff like that seriously. Dumb, I guess, but it happened to me and I am still dealing with it. I came to your site to try to figure out how to invest to live off the interest because my disability ran out. Not to rain on your parade, but crappy stuff happens and junk. I am glad you found your bike.

  • Luke August 3, 2016, 2:41 pm

    Hi MMM,

    I really enjoyed this article when I read it last year because it aligned with my personal thought process and relaxed style of living. Unfortunately though, I had the displeasure of experiencing the same feeling of the bottom of my stomach dropping out. After recently purchasing a new fat tire bike to lengthen my mountain biking season into the snowy winter, I happily pedaled my commuter bike to a very nice wine and beer establishment to purchase a locally brewed six-pack and celebrate with friends. In broad daylight, on quick errands in and out of stores, I almost never lock my bike up either. Twenty steps into the store, grab my barley pop, check out and back out the door in five minutes. Who is ballsy enough to snag a bike leaning up against a store in the sunlight in town? Apparently more people than I thought.

    Being a person interested in economics and risks, I understand that the percentage of something like this happening is very low. But it still happened . Walking out of that store to find my bike had disappeared in that short of time span stunned me. It is such a violating feeling. From kicking myself in the ass for not locking it up to trying to calm myself down from being so furious at whoever decided they needed the five finger discount on my bike, my mind and energy were being drained. But what could I do? I filled out a police report, called local bike shops, shared a post on FB, checked CL every day for new bike sales, and the chances of my wheels coming back to me are still slim. After a few days of that reality set in, and I began bike shopping.

    Although I love bike shopping and get very excited when looking at the different models and test riding them, to have to make an unplanned purchase of around $800 to get an equal replacement is not exciting. Even though as an engineer this cost is recoverable without much time, $800 is a lot of money for most middle class citizens, especially the frugal ones. Could I scour CL for something closer to $500? Easily. However, in my humble opinion, a bike is one of the smartest purchases a person can make for a number of reasons. I do not have a problem supporting my local bike shop (which I love and who gives me deals on bikes and equipment) and as an engineer I enjoy picking out exactly which bike I want to spend my hard earned George Washington’s on.

    My point is, this was all very avoidable. No I will not stop riding bikes in town and living a relatively carefree life, but the reality is not everybody is as respectful as I would like to believe. A good bike lock costs around $25 and it takes maybe 30 seconds to secure your belongings while still getting your beer and avoiding the bottom of your stomach dropping out. That’s one of the cheapest insurance policies I know of. I try to look at it this way: I would not leave $500+ laying on the sidewalk, so why leave a fine piece of equipment that is designed to be easily mobile out unlocked? Lock your bike up and live a happy life 

    Thanks for listening!

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 6, 2016, 8:57 pm

      Great story, Luke! And sorry to hear about the loss. It makes sense that your sense of worry rises after something like that happens – a natural response. It also depends on how much joy you get from leaving your bike unlocked. Some people feel worry right off the bat – these people might as well lock the bike. But I love free mobility. Sandals, no helmet, no bike lock – coast down to the store on a summer evening, flip down the kickstand, grab some groceries and a beer or two, and zoom on home. That’s $100 of joy every time I do it!

      As for the effect of your story on the calculus: Over 100,000 people have read that article, and you’re the first one to report a theft like that, so we are still not looking overly risky so far.

  • Francois February 5, 2017, 12:13 pm

    “Although I’ve been a victim of theft LESS THAN A DOZEN TIMES in my life”

    OMFG, your pants ARE on fire! That is not normal at all!
    You need to change some habits of yours to reduce your exposure.
    Most thefts are crime of opportunity. Don’t make yourself one ;)

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 6, 2017, 4:48 pm

      Is that true Francois?

      First of all, this is a math question and I wasn’t very precise to begin with: all you know from my article is that I have experienced between 1 and 11 incidences of property crime in my life. But since you got me curious:

      The FBI says that property crime affects about 2.5% of people in any given year: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2015-crime-statistics

      Since I was 41 when this article was written, I guess you are right: you might have expected me to have suffered only a very few thefts in my life.

      But most of this stuff happened in my youth in downtown Hamilton, Canada, which was a shitty place for crime: 2 thefts of bike accessories (from my locked up bike) in university, plus one entire bike. One marijuana plant disappeared from my house. My brother lost pair of speakers. My mom lost one fairly nice SLR camera.

      Years later in Louisville, Colorado, someone stole the upgraded JVC stereo out of my wife’s 1993 Honda Civic (locked and parked in front of our house).

      Another 5 years later, someone stole my baby stroller while I was playing with my then-toddler son in the park (!?). That same year, a thief vandalized one of my construction sites and stole some copper pipe.

      No thefts at all since roughly 2007.

      As far as I can tell, none of these could have been prevented by “reducing my exposure”, other than possibly staying indoors at all times and not owning anything that is ever left outside.

      Since the total value of everything I’ve ever lost is less than a rounding error in the average person’s wages over these 25 years, I’d rather just keep enjoying life.


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