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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vandalism Could Kill

While I was at work today (Saturday), with the bike parked inside our warehouse at the back of the store, someone decided to steal the nuts off the motor output sprocket, which could have gotten me killed if the sprocket had come off when I was trying to accelerate into traffic.

Fortunately it came off during a left turn at an empty intersection, so when the chain tangled up because of it, I could let it glide harmlessly to a stop.

I debated whether to walk to a nearby house and ask to use their phone to call the police at that moment or not, and have them come by and see if they could dust it for fingerprints or something, but I realized that A) they would probably take hours to come since I was in no immediate danger, which B) would put me in danger of someone coming up to me and mugging me (as happened in 2003 when walking home one night), and C) they probably wouldn't do anything like dust for fingerprints or check for DNA but would probably instead just take the report, shrug, and do nothing about it. So I decided not to waste the time of either of us.

I checked my cargo pods to see if perhaps someone was playing a very dangerous and impractical joke on me, by putting the nuts in there after taking them off, but no, they did not. They were removed completely from the bike, and it appears my own tools that I carry on the bike may have been used to do it, because the toolbag was unzipped. I am uncertain if any of the tools are also missing, as they are not kept neatly in there, but they did not seem to be all present. I just don't remember which ones aren't there, and I won't find out until I try to fix something later only to find I no longer own a tool to do it.

At that point, whatever it is will be unrepairable and the bike will be scrap, along with any other project I have requiring that tool, as I can't afford to buy new ones.

Since the nuts for this were special in shape, and of a thread and size I have no others of, the bike is currently useless. I can't just go out and buy them somewhere--I don't have money for that, even if I knew for sure what they came from, or exactly what size and shape they had been. I'd have to guess, and try different ones until I got the right ones. Dangerous and even more money.

If I was willing to live with the knee pain, I could still pedal it, but it is so heavy even without the batteries and motor (which I would have to remove) that I can barely get it started while balancing it, on pedals alone. Sometimes I cannot balance it in this situation, and it curves wildly to one side while I try to recover, which on a street with traffic is likely to result in a collision.

So kudos to you, whoever you are that vandalized my bike. You've essentially rendered moot 3/4 of a year of work, and several other people's contributions, and destroyed my ability to travel around, get groceries, and go to work. Thanks.

If you see me limping for miles around town in the heat, wave from your comfortable transportation, ok?


  1. wow, did you see someone "steal" your stuff? I would be careful on accusing people. In all honesty, the welds don't look that great, and the constant use of zip ties and other "rigged" product makes me believe that maybe they could have fallen off. The bike doesn't look like its what you would call bullet proof. That's just my 2 cents.

  2. It's impossible for all four of them having been tightly on the day before and for so very long before that to suddenly "fall off". I could believe *one* of them could come loose, but even then it would have taken time to work it's way loose. Probably would take weeks, maybe months, to actually unscrew itself off the bolt from vibration (if it could at all).

    So someone, for whatever reason, would have to have actually removed them completely, on purpose.

    The accusation stands, in that someone did it. Who? I don't know. Anyone that came into the workplace at all, customers included, would have had access to it for some portion of 6.5 hours (the time it was parked in the back). Since I was in and out of the area during much of that time, the most likely time for it to happen would have been the last two hours that we were open, since I had to stay at the opposite end of the workplace, out of any chance of seeing anyone near it, for all that time.

    As for the comments on the rest of the construction of the bike:

    The welds may look crappy, but they are quite strong (overdone, if anything). I wouldn't trust my work well enough to sell something I put together, but I definitely trust it enough to ride it around all over.

    The zip ties don't hold anything together structurally; they hold a few things on like wires, my spedometer, temporary things like the throttle and amp gauge (becuase I keep repositioning them and experimenting with angles or spots on the bars/etc to get them just right, things like that).

    The bike is definitely not bullet-proof.

    My question to you, is what does your nearly-no-cost home-built transportation look like? And how far has it taken you around the places you live and work? ;)

    You see what mine is like; it's made the way it is because I can afford no better, as far as parts quality goes. So far it's taken me over 580 miles, and been quite an interesting project so far.

    This is the first vandalism on this particular bike, though there has been theft of my battery packs on the DayGlo Avenger when I was still first developing the lighting system on it.

    I'm sure it won't be the last, especially since this particular vandalism was targeted against that specific part, presumably to make the motor useless to me, or (unlikely) if they actually understood how it works and possible consequences of the chain coming off, to try to get me hurt.

    There were many things they could have simply stolen off of it if simple theft was their goal, most prominently the PDA used as a bike computer/spedometer. Even though it's worth at most $5-$10, it's the most valuable thing on that bike that can be easily removed. (Which is why I take it with me when I leave the bike, except when it's inside my home or inside my workplace).

    As a side note, my bike lock and cables are also missing. It's possible they were taken by the same person at the same time as the nuts, but I suspect that in my unloading of the cargo pods in my attempts to find the nuts (hoping they had left them in there as a "joke"), I may have left the lock and cable on the side of the road in the darkness (no streetlight there).

    I went back by the area after I realized it was missing (when I went to the grocery store a couple of days ago), but it's not anywhere around where I stopped after the chains entangled.

    So now I have to see if I can fabricate a U-lock type of security device that I can use my spare padlock on. I can't afford to buy a new cable or chain that is actually good enough to be a deterrent, and none of the ones I still have are A) long enough to work as a lock and B) tough enough to withstand even the simplest of attempts to break them.

    So I've been digging thru my stuff the last couple of days to see what I can rig up. I probably won't make a post or pics of it once done, because it *is* a security device, and the less known about it the less preparation thieves might have for removing it. ;)


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