Bicycle theft. Huge problem. Personally I think bike thieves should get a date with Dick Cheney's stormtroopers. Heck, waterboarding's too good for them. Bike theft is a heartbreaking thing, with few happy endings. Rot in hell bike thieves!
How to avoid bike theft?
First off, good locks. U-lock, small ones better than big ones. I also booby trap my bike by locking a master lock to the chainring, around the chain, making the bike unrideable. I may act all full of angst, but you know I am a bit of a softie, because while I have thought of setting out an unlocked bike on the street, with the padlock on the chainring, to see what hilarity ensues, I have never acted on this impulse. Fortunately I have also never forgotten to take the master lock. Usually my tactic is "don't leave my good bike far from my sight", meaning I will wander through Safeway with my rig in tow, rather than lock it up outside if I am at say, the 4th/King Safeway. Actually, at 4th and King I check my bike at Warm Planet, go shopping, then go get my bike back.
Second - for god's sake don't store your bike in the garage! Especially if it is not your own private garage. I seriously think bike thieves hang out at the Lombard Gate, then follow people with expensive road bikes into the Marina, to see who leaves bikes locked in shared garages. A shared garage is great for a thief - once you get inside you can work on the lock, unfettered, for hours. Even a non-shared garage is very sketchy. Seems every time I get an email entitled "Stolen Bike Please Help!" the thing was stolen from the garage. If you must store your bike in the garage, I recommend the following tactic. Hide the good bike under something that really obscures the fact that it is there, and go get the cheapest beater you can and store that one in plain sight. Maybe the thief will take the crappy bike.
Or not. You see, the best way to keep your bike from being stolen is to have a bike nobody would ever want to steal. Case and point...
Behold the Crappy Pink Diamondback!
This bike has been on my street on this street cleaning sign ever since I moved into our house in August. Sometime in December, the saddle disappeared. In February - as you can see - the LOCK disappeared. 3 months later, the bike is still there, not even the street cleaners who show up the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month will take it away. It's so crappy that the owner decided they apparently had more use for the lock than the bike itself, and left it barren and unlocked, daring any and all to take it. Yet the Diamondback stays put, in the heart of a major city rife with bike theft. The bike is not in some obscure place that no thief would dare to go, given that some cretin already relieved the bike of its fine taiwan-made throne, yet felt no need to remove any of the other components or take the whole bike.
So there you go - if you are willing to rock the Crappy Pink Diamondback you will fear not the slings and arrows of bike thievery. Do it if you dare!