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29 November 2010 17 comments

„The seat didn't get stolen by itself"

Saddles, Bags, Etc. Bicycles
„The seat didn't get stolen by itself"

The following quotes (the title of today's post included) have all been fished from various cycling forums and constitute a broad-ish swathe of opinion on the general subject of saddle theft.

„If you’re worried about it, just take the whole damn seat post with you. Oh, and if you go that route, don't forget to cover that hole where your seat post went.“

„I use a u-lock, and a long braided-steel cable that goes through the front wheel, the rails on the Brooks, and the leather loop on the Carradice. And I still twitch when I can't see it.“

„If you have access to a MIG welder, get that seatpost at exactly the height you want and tack weld the nut to the bolt threads. Just plan the weld so you can get at it with a hacksaw or cutoff wheel or drill when you want to unweld it.“

„It's not the end of the world if someone were to steal my saddle, and the mental load of perseverating over it isn't worth it.“

Did anyone else learn a new word up there?

Saddle theft is often explained away to some extent as „a crime of opportunity“, i.e., that saddles get robbed because their owners haven’t done enough to deter even the casual passer-by from having a go. Not true.

Overwhelmingly, saddles get robbed because they can be easily sold on for a decent price, and the vast majority of saddles robbed will tend to have been robbed by someone who has gone in search of a saddle to rob.

And it’s unfortunately true if you have one, that a Brooks, more so perhaps than any other make of saddle, is the one a casual prospective buyer will gravitate towards, whether it be at a fleamarket or online auctioning house, thus making yours a prime target for thieves.

So. Who wants it more?

Assuming you have a Brooks on top, the cardinal sin would have to be using a quick release lever (clue is in the name) to set the height of your seat post. Nowadays, this functions literally (and i don’t use that word lightly) as an open invitation to everybody, LITERALLY EVERYBODY, to take said seatpost-and-saddle-combo away, should they judge either piece to be worth three seconds of their time. Literally. So, at the very least, use an allen nut and bolt.

Imagine trying to get sympathy from someone because you didn’t win the lottery last week. That’s how people will look at you when you tell them what happened.

Anybody with a passing interest in etymology will likely be familiar with the glut of theories that still do the rounds today in relation to the origin of the English word „sincere“.

Most of them are fairly convoluted, but nearly all have at their core the erroneous assumption that the word derives from a putting together of the Latin „sine“ (without) and „cera“ (wax).

Depending on which story you go for, something „without wax“ was at one time considered to be, broadly speaking, good. Lazy Roman stoneworkers, for example, are charged in one version with the practise of waxing marble instead of taking the time to polish it properly, thus causing non-lazy Roman stoneworkers to advertise the fact that they worked „sincerely“, or „without wax“.

So what has this got to do with minimizing the risk of saddle theft?

Drip some melted candle wax (perhaps something from Rapha) into the allen nut heads that fix seat post to frame, and saddle to seat post. Unless you live in a very hot country, the wax will get fairly solid, and remain so. The extra time required to clear the heads will deter... who, exactly? The opportunist carrying no tools, for sure. And perhaps also the ill-equipped amateur saddle thief, who might make a mental note to pack a box of matches next time out.

Waxing nut heads can also be employed as a preventative measure against brake block theft, which, believe it or not, is also on the rise. And if you’re concerned that in your absence somebody could be tampering with the tightness of your system pedals, you know what to do.

Next time somebody describes your bike as „insincere“, take it as a sharp-eyed compliment.

Right. Let’s take it up a notch or two, and look at how to give your more tenacious or dedicated purloiner of other people’s stuff the „vee-sign“.

Running some form of extra lock through the seat rails and closing it through the frame can yield what some might call a halfway acceptable „functional-ugly quotient“.

The dilemma now is whether to leave that lock on there all the time, or only when you leave your bike parked somewhere out of sight. If we were going to be grown-up and sensible about it we should maybe say "all the time", but a clunky lock can take the clean look off a bike quite easily. And while it's arguably foolish to be completely enslaved by the visually pleasing, it's surely equally ridiculous to sacrifice all aesthetic concerns at the altar of saddle safety.

A good compromise, with oodles of street credibility thrown in, is the (preferrably used) bike chain looped through rails and frame and re-linked, a popular one with knowing minimalists. Extra points for housing it in an old inner tube.

Let's also not forget that one or two companies have also begun to mass produce locking mechanisms for precisely our purpose.

But here’s the big one. Elegant, functional, not too messy. Let it sink in.

No, we obviously would not suggest something like this

First up, make sure both your seat post height and saddle position are how you’re going to want them for the foreseeable future.

Now get your hands on some ball bearings that will fit snugly into the nut heads we’ve already been talking about.

Superglue these bearings into the heads, and your work is done. Even someone who has ventured out with the express intention of taking a few Brookses back home with them is going to come unstuck, unless they’ve got some acetone or a flame thrower in their toolbox. Which if they have, let’s face it, means they really want that saddle.

If you can get John Brooks on the phone, and are able to prove that this is how yours got taken, I'd nearly dare say he’ll give you a new one.

love this post!
the brooks on my racer got nabbed from right under my nose not too long ago... ive since added the chain loop device (with old tubing) to my commuter bike AND i lock it up, so its pretty damn safe.
but ive yet to replace the seat on my racer... but with that genius ball bearing idea i think its time for a new brooks! yeay, so excited. such a great idea! can keep the minimalist look and weight off the frame too!

jessie king 23 May 2016 at 15:24
It's good, no? The method, I mean, not the post.
GARETH 23 May 2016 at 15:24
I have 2 Brooks saddles, a limited edition Blue Swift and a green B17 Special with a matching Challenge tool bag. They are attached to a quick release and my saddle goes where I go no matter what. My bike can get stolen, I do not care, but I would freak-out if someone pinched my Brooks saddle.
Matthew 23 May 2016 at 15:24
That's my picture up top, two stolen saddles and one stolen bike ago. That saddle remained on the stolen bike, but my roommate had the same custom cable and it got cut outside of Edinburgh Castle. I used a cable lock this last time and it got cut.

Lessons learned:

1st - write your name all over the underside, also in sneaky places that won't be marked out. Though this might incite vengeance from a thief caught out by the police.

2nd - do the ball bearing trick - I was waiting to get help getting it fitted for new handlebars and that did me in

3rd - see about a skinny U-lock just for the saddle

4th - keep it covered in most public places when you leave it for a while
shamfrancisco 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Nice idea. How about this? Instead of using hot wax, try solder. Use a soldering iron to get it nice and hot then fill in the allen nut head with that. It will be harder to melt than wax, yet easier to remove than the glued ball baring if you need to adjust your saddle height.
Richard Hughes 23 May 2016 at 15:24
How do you remove solder?
BREGAN 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Having to lock your saddle to the frame, as well as locking your bike to a secure fixture, makes going out for a ride even more of a chore if you end up carrying a hundredweight of locks and chains with you.

What happened to cycling being an impulsive and convenient thing? The paranoia of theft is killing this.

Bring back public lynching, for anyone convicted of bicycle theft. That'll learn 'em.
Chrissy J 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Bregan asked: "How do you remove solder?"

Heat the solder with a soldering iron until it liquifies, then hoover it out with a rubber squeeze ball that slurps it up.
Tom 23 May 2016 at 15:24
If anyone has a Brooks seat stolen - check eBay over the following weeks - 90% chance it will be sold on there esp if new. I had my beautiful (brand new) Brooks B67s stolen 2 days ago - 24 hours later - spotted it on eBay. Then you can either tell the police (if you can prove it's yours) or buy it back - they sell them very very cheaply. I told the police.

If you look at Brooks saddles sellers on eBay - many of them are crooks - it's so obvious by their descriptions/behaviour. I've seen some serious bikes (which must have been so loved by their owners) being sold with starting price of 99p and no reserve.

Additional sad thing as that many people must buy them knowing they must have been stolen ;// Fight back people!!
Henri 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Well I had my stolen on Tue and it was secured with chain, bad idea. Morron waited for 3 hours before taking it exactly 10minutes before I was about to depart from that spot
(Bethnal Green).
It's sad cause there's feeling that those are nearly always the very same thiefts selling it on nearby bricklane market.
My advice secure it well and don't leave it in a spot when U know it may happen.
By the way what comes around goes around!!!
Patryk 23 May 2016 at 15:24
I just had my brooks swallow stolen last night...It was locked with both a kryptonite U-lock AND the bike chain covered with inner tube. I only had the seat for 1.5 months and am depressed. I think the only way to actually keep the seat from being stolen is to take it with you everywhere. If i ever decide to get another brooks that's my plan. Thieves will get what they want if they want it. They've seen it all.
russell 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Is there no company that is making a locking allen bolt (like the locking hubs on wheels)? no? I better get on that quick.
js 23 May 2016 at 15:24
You can get alphabet stamp kits for stamping leather. Customising your saddle with your name, or perhaps an ancient voodoo curse or creative swearword, will probably help to deter thieves.

Jonny 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Sadly enough, my red Red Swift Philadelphia was stolen yesterday - despite a plastic bag to hide it & superglue / wax on the screws, by breaking the saddle clamps. In front of my house, over night. *sigh*
Wolfgang 23 May 2016 at 15:24
Another idea I've had is to write or draw something on the saddle, thus ruining the looks and making it hard for the thief to resell it. Obviously, won't work if the looks of the saddle matter to you, and won't work with black saddles (I don't think). And I haven't figured out what substance would show up well on the leather without damaging it and without rubbing off. Perhaps the Brooks people can help us with this?
Sonny 23 May 2016 at 15:24
We are actually working on a contest of sorts in this vein!
BREGAN 23 May 2016 at 15:24