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I live in a city known for extremely high rates of bike theft (Prague, Czech Republic). I'm therefore looking to make my bicycle appear as cheap and ugly as possible to deter possible thefts.

What are the best ways to do so, which won't affect the quality of the cycling?

marked as duplicate by Daniel R Hicks, Community Sep 18 '15 at 14:00

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    paris hilton stickers maybe? – cherouvim Sep 18 '15 at 12:10
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    Uglify a nice bike is not going to fool any pro thief nor most amateurs. – paparazzo Sep 18 '15 at 15:15
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Buy a cheap and ugly bike to start with, but one that fits you. Fix up the gears/tyres/brakes to good enough. If it gets stolen you haven't lost much, but hopefully it won't. I'm in the process of doing something similar (including overnight storage outside).

Some suggestions:

  • No drop bars and no suspension make it "just a bike" and less valuable (assuming that a thief would try to sell to someone who doesn't know much about bikes).
  • Very mismatched tyres - one city bike, one "urban MTB" style - will look more different than they feel.
  • Don't fit fancy pedals, especially not clipless - they're a giveaway.
  • Don't forget component theft:
    • Nutted axles are good.
    • Security hardware for quick-release axles or the seat post could help, or could act as a giveaway.
    • Normal screws (e.g. for pannier racks) can be replaced with anti-tamper torx.
  • Don't be mean with the locks.
    • Look around and you'll probably see cheap bikes locked up with decent locks -- a decent lock doesn't mean a decent bike
    • Generally this means a D-lock through the frame and round the back wheel (or round both chainstays).
    • I'd always have a second independent (cable) lock through the other wheel, to something else solid if at all possible.
  • Think of ways to make it hard to ride off on the bike even once it's unlocked. This could be anything from a a rear wheel lock/padlock round the rim to taking the saddle off. Do you know if the thieves in your area ride off or put bikes in vans? Removing the saddle reduces the resale value in the latter case.

You may not get the riding quality you'd ideally like, especially if you like to go fast on the open road but actually this sort of thing can be quite fun to throw around.

You might have the option of going for a folding bike and taking it indoors. But that will almost certainly affect the riding quality even if you spend a lot of money on it.

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popular techniques in approximately increasing order of cost include:

  • dirt: mud, road grime, let them cover any shiny parts
  • stickers
  • pad bits of the frame with old inner tubes held on with duck or gaffer tape
  • apply spray-paint in ugly or mismatched colours (optionally after keying or stripping the original paint). Then put stickers over the top
  • cover any desirable decals or etched logos with paint or stickers
  • strip some of the paint off entirely and re-paint in mismatched colours
  • even more stickers
  • strip some of the paint off entirely and, if steel, allow to rust a bit before clear-coating over the rust

    you can also clear-coat over stickers if they're not that weatherproof

  • cosmetic damage to non-functional parts (scuff or cut the saddle, scuff levers or bars, choose the brightest bar tape you can and get it really dirty looking)
  • You could skip the "paint stipping" and spray paint it directly – Bibz Sep 18 '15 at 12:44
  • True, I wasn't sure it'd take well to all surfaces. – Useless Sep 18 '15 at 12:46
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    Even better to make it ugly ;) – Bibz Sep 18 '15 at 12:52
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    Some paints may be better than others for making your bike look ugly. – Kibbee Sep 18 '15 at 12:57
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    Do note that many of the above techniques will scream "Uglified bike!!!" – Daniel R Hicks Sep 18 '15 at 13:25

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