I'm likely to have to commute to somewhere that's less than ideal for security. The whole thing is less than ideal but it's only for a couple of weeks.

Using using the beater bike I already have isn't an option: it's 23 km under time pressure, and sometimes I'll have to use the hybrid with child seat (and try to get there in 55 minutes). I'd rather use the tourer if I don't need the child seat. In either case I'll take two locks (probably one D-lock and one cable lock, possibly 2 D-locks). There are some fairly solid iron railings to lock up to, and both bikes are already security marked and registered.

So as an added detterent I'd like to make the bikes look as undesirable as possible -- how can this be done in a reversible way? While Reduce Resale Value to Avoid Theft? (Uglify) is closely related, the answers there concentrate on permanent approaches, and I'm specifically after something more temporary.

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    Lots of duct tape? – T_Bacon May 8 '18 at 10:34
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    @T_Bacon possibly. I don't want to find myself asking how to get the glue residue off without damaging the paint! – Chris H May 8 '18 at 10:59
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    Carefully! :) A bit of soapy water, a sponge and some elbow grease should do it. In reality it will be very difficult to achieve the look you're after without it either being somewhat obvious or actually damaging the bike to permanently disfigure it. Ideally you would find somewhere reasonably secure to store your bike or be able to bring it indoors. I appreciate that's not always possible though. If I was you I'd just take the beater and make it work for the couple of weeks required. – T_Bacon May 8 '18 at 12:58
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    Dodgy, ripped and heavily worn saddles often add a certain "look" to a bike. Perhaps pick up a cheap as chips one and give it some abuse, then swap it back to your pristine, comfortable one after the couple of weeks are up? Assuming you can stand riding it with said dodgy saddle, of course. – Diado May 8 '18 at 13:54
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    Perhaps add a dirty foam top tube protector like used to be popular on BMXs in the 80s? – Diado May 8 '18 at 13:57

I like stickers. Lots of stickers. Almost anything will do, promo stickers after often cheap and fairly easily available. First put reflective tape on the key areas of your bike, then cover as much of the rest of it as you can with stickers. They will inevitably fade and degrade, but you can help that along by spraying muddy water on them then over-spraying with dilute varnish once the water dries if you want (use acetone specifically to damage the printing if you can).

You can also often downgrade components cheaply - with drop bars hit the bargain bin and buy some cheap, thin bar tape and wrap that over your existing stuff. If you're lucky you'll be able to get two mismatched rolls :) And look out for wrecked bikes and swipe components off them. Rusty, bent seat clamp mounted reflectors, for example. The goal is obvious things that don't affect how the bike actually works.

You could also use packing tape to strap an old torch to the handlebars. Don't use it as a light, it's there because it's big and ugly.

All of that will come off fairly quickly using a plastic scraper and a craft knife, but it'll look convincingly ugly. For security, I would use secure wheel and saddle attachments (like Pitlock) because that way you can use a grungy old lock around the frame like all the other beater bikes do. Spray paint them black before installing, and don't be too fussy about it. Then get a half decent chain lock (secure, heavy) or cable lock (lighter, not as secure) and thread an old inner tube over it. That way it looks cheap and awful.

  • I have several of those options available anyway, like rusty reflectors. I've also got pinhead skewers (etc.) already. Thanks – Chris H May 9 '18 at 5:57
  • Accepted as the most thorough answer, though all were interesting – Chris H Jul 11 '18 at 15:25

Dodgy, ripped and heavily worn saddles often add a certain "look" to a bike. Perhaps pick up a cheap as chips one and give it some abuse, or use an old one you've got lying around, then swap it back to your pristine, comfortable one after the couple of weeks are up.


I wrap the frame in old inner tubes. This has the added effect of protecting the paint job from scuffs and dings.


Insulation tape.

In multiple colors to suggest a really bad taste, as opposed to single color conspicuously hinting at a bike that's been intentionally uglified.

Adding some rusty bits and pieces from the other bike would help.

I'd say also remove panniers, or any accessories that scream "quality".

There are sticker glue removal solutions in stores. I've been using some cleaning solutions normally used in furniture manufacture for cleaning up marker writings, excess hardened glue and stickers from the final product before shipping.

Stickers instead of insulation tape have the downside that, being made of paper, they don't come off in one piece, making them even harder to peel off cleanly.

Further adding some really ugly (cheap, cracked) mudguards could contribute to the overall cheap feeling.

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    I've got a pannier that screams anything but quality -- cheap and shabby. – Chris H May 13 '18 at 19:21
  • Insulation (electrical?) tape would work, you could also try painter's tape. If you do go with tape, you could place a few stickers on top of the tape, or paint over the tape. Paint/stickers on tape would certainly uglify it. Choose stickers which signal to would-be thieves that you are a punk... – sam May 15 '18 at 18:12

Once I was hauling some long boards, so I wrapped parts of frame and brake cables with cheap painters tape (one that is more like paper). After some rain and sun it looked quite ugly.

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