As always, we appreciate your support... December 11 2014
As many of you are already aware, two windows were broken at our shop on Sunday night during demonstrations in Berkeley for Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others killed by police. We are deeply grateful to the marchers who intervened to prevent anyone from taking bikes or entering our shop, to all the people who helped us clean up all the broken glass, and to everyone who has contacted us to express their love & concern. We’re relieved that no one was injured in the process of looking out for us, and we are heartened to see the outpouring of concern & involvement for issues of justice in our society.
Some people have been asking how they can help or expressing concern about our expenses, or even offering donations. We want to reassure you & let you know that while we are touched by these gestures, we are not in need of donations at this time. But as a small worker-owned enterprise, we do depend on you. So the best way for concerned people to support us & ensure that we continue to stick around, is simply through supporting us by coming to us with your cycling needs. If you don't need anything right now, write a review or tell your friends about us, or keep in touch with us through social media or by joining our email list.
You can also support us by supporting the communities we are all a part of. Grow our community of cyclists by joining or volunteering for our hard-working advocates at Bike East Bay, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Marin Bicycle Coalition, & others. Support other worker-owned businesses & spread awareness of the cooperative movement. And please take steps to contribute to the fight for social justice in ways that feel meaningful & important to you.
PS - If you see boards over our windows in the coming days, don't worry! It's just a precaution.
The Pitfalls of Online and "Big Box" Bikes November 18 2014
Are you envisioning sharing the joy of cycling with someone special this holiday season, with a shiny new bike? Here are our top 10 reasons why you should buy from a local bike shop and not a department store or online.
1. Knowledge. We focus on bikes; it's what we know and love. We can recommend the right bike for you or your child based on riding style, experience, and age and ability level, and offer advice on everything from helmet fitting to local cycling events. You won't find that at the department store.
2. Service and Support. All new bikes will need readjustment after your first few rides to keep them working properly. That's why when you buy from us, you get a year of free tune-ups and the confidence that our mechanics can help you with any issue you may experience, throughout the life of the bike. That's something a big box store can't provide.
3. Professional Assembly. All our bikes come assembled by trained mechanics and are checked over again before they are sold. When it comes to department store bikes, we've seen it all - brakes that don't work, forks installed backwards, you name it! And we've watched many customers spend hours in frustration trying to assemble their online "bike in a box" purchases. Having a shop assemble it for you can add $100 to the cost of the bike.
4. Quality and Safety. A bicycle is a vehicle, and you're depending on it not to fail! When you buy a correctly assembled bike from a respected brand, you know you're getting something that will last. Department store bikes & bikes sold online are more cheap toy than road-worthy bicycle.
5. Warranty. When you buy from a local shop like the Missing Link, if anything goes wrong, we are here to help. Our bikes come with manufacturer's frame warranties from Trek, Bianchi, Surly, Jamis, Linus, & Dahon, and components are covered by warranty for a minimum of one year.
6. The Right Fit. A bike that fits is easier to ride & won't hurt your body, so getting the right size and having it properly adjusted is important. Mass merchants do not offer this service.
7. Demo. We provide the opportunity to try before you buy. If you or your child would like to test ride a bike, it's no problem - in fact, we encourage it! We also have a 30-day exchange policy on all new bikes, so you can be confident in your purchase.
8. Trade-in Policy. We accept bicycle trade-ins, which is a big help to parents if your child has outgrown their existing bike. And when they outgrow this one, we'll be here to help you with the next size up!
9. Support the Local Economy. When you shop local, more of your money will stay in your community to benefit your friends and neighbors. And local shops like Missing Link give back to the community in many direct ways as well. You may even have seen us helping out at events in the cycling community or at your child's school.
10. Human Connection. Wouldn't you rather buy from someone who cares? Department store clerks usually aren't Bike People, and their relationship with you ends as soon as you leave the store. Let us share our passion for bikes with you!
HEY, DON’T STEAL MY BIKE! (UPDATED!) September 29 2014
How to keep your beloved bike from being stolen in the bike-thief-infested Bay Area:
1) GET A LOCK THAT WORKS!
This means a high-security bike lock – either a U-lock, chain, or folding lock. There are big differences in quality and security among available locks, so make sure you are choosing a high-security model from a well-respected company. Cables are ok for locking your components (see below), but absolutely not good enough for your frame.
U-locks: The most popular choice. U-locks work well in combination with cables, are easy to use & easy to carry. They work with most bike parking racks, parking meters, & signposts.
Chains: Heavy-duty bike chains from Kryptonite have the advantage of being flexible, have a tough nylon cover to protect your bike’s finish, & come in several lengths & security levels. They are heavier than U-locks & folding locks.
Folding Locks: The Abus Bordo series of folding locks offer flexibility in locking. They are easier to get around fat tires or large diameter bike frames (like on some folding bikes) than a U-lock. They are also easy to carry with the included bracket, & weigh less than a comparable U-lock or chain.
2) USE YOUR LOCKS CORRECTLY
Take accessories like lights with you, and don’t forget to also lock your wheels, saddle, & seatpost! Stolen wheels, saddles, & seatposts are extremely common, & these items are expensive to replace. It takes about 6 seconds to remove a quick-release front or rear wheel. Bolt-on wheels take only slightly longer with a tool that fits in your pocket. We recommend that you use one of the following methods to lock your wheels, saddle, & seatpost.
WHEEL LOCKING METHODS
U-lock + cable: Probably the most popular method. Put one U-lock around the bike parking rack & the rear wheel (inside the rear triangle of the frame), & run a cable from the U-lock around the front wheel. Although cables are easily cut, we find that thieves in our area typically won’t bother just to get a front wheel. Pros: less costly than some other options, relatively easy to use. Cons: less secure than a U-lock or locking wheel skewers, some people find it inconvenient.
Two U-locks: Put one U-lock around the bike parking rack & the rear wheel (through the frame), & a second U-lock around the frame & front wheel. Pros: very secure. Cons: heavy to carry, you have to buy 2 locks, requires 2 keys.
Pinhead or Pitlock wheel locks: Replace your wheels’ quick-release skewers with a skewer which requires a key to open, so they are locked on to your frame. Pinhead also makes a lock for bolt-on wheels. Pros: very secure, very convenient when locking up your bike, lightweight & nothing additional to carry around (except the key). Cons: higher cost than some other options, you must have the key with you if you want to remove your wheel or bring your bike to a shop for maintenance.
SADDLE/SEATPOST LOCKING OPTIONS
Seat leash cable: This is a thin cable which goes around your frame & under the saddle clamp, tethering the saddle & seatpost to the frame. Extra cable length is taken up by coiling it around the seatpost. A determined thief could disassemble the saddle clamp & remove the cable, but we very rarely see that happen.
Seat leash chain: This is a short chain with a built-in combination lock which goes around the rails of the saddle & your frame.
DIY seat leash: Some people use a length of old bicycle chain inside a section of an old inner tube (to protect your frame), & fasten it around the saddle rails & the frame with the help of a chain tool.
Pinhead or Pitlock locking seatpost binder bolt: These replace your existing quick-release or allen key binder bolt (which holds the seatpost to the frame) with one that requires a key to open, & come in kits that include wheel locks using the same key. Not compatible with all types of seatpost collars – sometimes you can replace the seatpost collar with a compatible style.
Anti-theft binder bolts/seatpost bolts: These bolts use a customized hex head with a pin in the center & include the specialized tool to fit it. They are available in various lengths & sizes to attach your seatpost to the frame & the saddle to the seatpost.
HEADSET LOCKING OPTIONS
In rare cases, a thief may steal the stem & handlebar from the bike, along with everything that is attached to the handlebar such as the shifters & brake levers. This is mostly a concern when bikes are left parked outdoors overnight, or when you have very valuable components. Here are some methods for securing those components.
Pinhead headset lock: Pinhead’s 4-pack of locking skewers includes locks for the front & rear wheels, seatpost, & headset. The headset lock replaces the top cap & adjusting bolt on a threadless headset, thereby locking the stem onto the bike. A determined thief could still remove the handlebar from the stem.
Anti-theft bolts: The customized hex head with pin bolts we have for locking the seatpost, may also work for the headset in some cases. As above, a thief could still remove the handlebar from the stem.
DIY candle wax method: Some riders will drip candle wax into the heads of the bolts for the components they want to secure. The wax will have to be carefully picked out before a tool can be used on the bolt, & this is too time-consuming for most thieves. Don’t use this method for anything you need to adjust regularly.
3) BE SMART & MINIMIZE RISK!
Always lock your bike. Lock it when you run into the store “just for a second.” Lock it when it is inside your house, office, garage, workplace, dorm room, or car.
Lock it if it’s in your yard – even if there’s a fence. Lock it inside of bike parking rooms, corrals, & cages. Basically, lock your bike any time you take your eyes off it.
Never leave it in a car, it's just not safe. It's terrible enough to get your bike stolen. It's even worse to have to replace a car window on top of it. Thieves breaking a car window to grab a bike is more common than you may think.
If you have access to (more) secure parking, use it. Locking your bike inside a bike room at your workplace, gym, or apartment building, or in an attended parking garage, is better than locking it on the street or in your backyard. Consider taking advantage of Bikestations and/or bike lockers at BART.
Don’t leave your bike locked outside overnight, or lock it for hours every day at the same time in the same location. Don’t lock your bike to an object that is not solidly attached to the ground – a “sucker pole” is a pole that a thief can lift up to slide your lock off & take your bike. Don’t lock your bike to an object that will allow the lock to be lifted off the top, either – for example, a pole without a sign bolted to the top of it. It doesn’t matter how tall it is. Thieves will stand on a buddy’s shoulders or on top of a vehicle & take your bike. Don’t lock your bike to an object that is easily cut – such as a chain link fence, wooden fence posts or signs, trees, thin metal railings,etc. Think a thief wouldn’t cut down a tree to take your bike? Think again.
AND of course, be prepared just in case your bike does get stolen after all: take photos, record the serial number, & register your bike.
More resources & info we like on bike theft prevention & stolen bike recovery:
Used Bikes Buyer's Guide August 22 2014
At the Missing Link, we always have many more people inquiring about used bikes than we have used bikes available. A used bike can be a great choice for those looking to save money or who want to reduce their environmental footprint - emphasis on the "can be." Here's what you need to know if you are considering buying a used bike.
1) Buy something that fits.
Don't be tempted into buying a bike that isn't your size just because you need something now or it seems like a good deal. It isn't a bargain if you end up paying with discomfort or injury. Bikes for adults are measured by frame size, usually in inches for city and mountain bikes and centimeters for road bikes. But a frame size that fits you well from one brand may not be the right size in another.
A very general rule of thumb for choosing a frame size is standover clearance. To check the standover on a bike, throw a leg over the frame so that you are standing over the top tube of the bike. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart, and reach behind you to grasp the saddle with one hand. With your other hand in the middle of the handlebar, lift both wheels of the bike off the ground as high as you comfortably can. The distance from the wheels to the ground should be a minimum of 1" for a road bike, 1-2" for a city/hybrid bike, and 2-4" for a mountain bike. Depending on the way the frame is designed, you might have more standover clearance, but you should not have less. Wear your cycling shoes if you use them, or a shoe that is flat and not particularly thick-soled, when you do this test.
2) It pays to be patient.
Since there is a high demand in our area for used bikes, it may take some time checking for-sale listings and inventory at local shops to find just what you are looking for, in your size.
3) Consider the overall value.
A used bike may be cheaper to buy than a new bike, but it might not be such a good deal if you have to spend $100-$200 right away getting it tuned up and replacing worn out parts. We recommend that you take the bike to a shop to see whether it needs any maintenance before you commit to buying it. The shop can also inspect it for any signs of frame damage or worn components. A good shop should be willing to do this estimate for no charge.
You'll also want to keep in mind that a used bike will not include the manufacturers' warranties, or the one free year of service that is included with a new bike from Missing Link. We offer other benefits with our new bikes as well, such as the 30-day exchange period, a 10% discount on accessories, and our buyback program.
4) Don't buy a stolen bike.
One bike is stolen every 3 hours in San Francisco. They are stolen because there is a market for them. A few minutes of effort on your part can help make sure you aren't contributing to the problem.
Reputable shops such as Missing Link, The Spoke, Changing Gears, or Street Level Cycles take steps to ensure that their used bikes are not stolen. We generally recommend avoiding flea markets entirely, as they have been trouble spots for the stolen bike trade.
If you are buying from an individual, ask if they have any documentation showing they legitimately own the bike, such as the receipt or proof of bike registration. If the seller does not have proof of ownership, check online registries to see whether the bike has been registered or is reported stolen. First, find the bike's serial number. It is usually stamped into the underside of the bottom bracket (the part of the frame where the pedals & cranks are attached), but it may also be stamped somewhere else like the rear dropouts or the headtube, or printed on a sticker instead. Check this link for more info on finding the serial number.
You can search the databases at BikeIndex.org and BikeShepherd.org using this serial number or by description. Local advocate Jenny Oh Hatfield (@plattyjo) & Stolen Bike Registry (@StolenBikesBrk & @StolenBikesSFO) also tweet stolen bike alerts, and you can tweet the serial number to the Bike Index TwitterBot @isitstolen and you will get a reply telling you whether there are any bikes reported stolen matching that serial number.
Serial numbers do have a few drawbacks, however. They can sometimes be difficult to read or entered incorrectly. For example, is that a number zero, or the letter O? Thick paint can make it hard to tell the difference between 6 or 8 or 9. And some bike companies include a manufacturer's number in addition to the serial number. For these reasons, I do recommend searching by description instead of or in addition to serial number. This way you can find any bikes that match the description, and then check whether the reported serial number looks like a match to the numbers on the bike you are considering buying.
Lastly, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. I hope I don't need to tell you this, but don't buy a bike from a random person on a street corner (unless you are a good samaritan who buys it with the intention of trying to return it to the legitimate owner). If anything seems fishy about the seller, trust your gut and don't buy the bike.
Just the other day, one of our members helped facilitate the return of a stolen bike by finding it listed on one of the online registries. And we've heard of many other happy reunions. These tools can work! Read Jenny Oh's great article and take steps to protect your ride.
Image credit: Erik Benson (local artist)