I got a new bike, now it's gone

Most cases of bicycle theft at Incirlik Air Base are due to individuals leaving their bikes unsecured or unattended. The 39th Security Forces Squadron released that only six out of 21 bicycle thefts reported were secured by a locking system; five of those six were secured in a highly visible location, like the dormitories. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cory W. Bush/Released)

Most cases of bicycle theft at Incirlik Air Base are due to individuals leaving their bikes unsecured or unattended. The 39th Security Forces Squadron released that only six out of 21 bicycle thefts reported were secured by a locking system; five of those six were secured in a highly visible location, like the dormitories. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cory W. Bush/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Many members of Incirlik Air Base use bicycles as their primary means of transportation during their assignment here. They're easy to ride, store and you don't need to cough up a bunch of money to be able to use it. On top of the paper work, registration fees and the months of waiting for my car to actually arrive here, I chose to opt out and like others get myself a fancy bicycle instead.

I even decked my bicycle out too! I equipped it with a golden speed chain, flashy lights on the front and back, portable air pump latched to the side, an aerodynamic helmet and probably the most important item, a five letter coded steel braided bike chain to keep it safe. All it was missing was a bell and it would have been the Rolls Royce of bicycles.

So there I was, coffee in one hand and helmet in the other about to make my morning commute to the office.  I had only owned my bike for approximately a week and a half, so I expected to see my bicycle securely locked just like I left it the night before. Instead all I found were the remains of my lock and accessories on the ground. It was like a scavenger hunt walking to work, finding bits and pieces here and there. Some pieces were even a couple hundred yards away from my dormitory.

So why am I sharing this with you and why does it matter?

Once a bike is stolen, there's little we can do except report it to the 39th Security Forces Squadron and let their Defenders start an investigation. Once stolen, the chances of recovering a bike are very slim.

Most cases of bicycle theft at Incirlik are due to individuals leaving their bikes unsecured or unattended. Recently, the 39th SFS released that only six out of 21 bicycle thefts reported were secured by a locking system, so five of those six were secured in a highly visible location, like the dormitories. Out of the housing units on base, Phantom housing had nine out of the last ten incidents reported.

With that being said, bicycle theft is no surprise to anyone stationed here, but there are many ways you can prevent this type of situation from happening to you.

The first thing you should do is register your bicycle. It's hard enough as it is to retrieve it once it's been stolen, but not having it registered will keep you from claiming it at all. Luckily, I registered mine two days prior to it being stolen. Registration is easy; just visit the 39th SFS Pass and Registrations office located in Building 833 and fill out some paperwork, which takes about 5-minutes.

The next thing you should do is lock it. You would think locking your bike would be common sense, but you would be surprised on how many bikes I have seen around base unsecured. Learn from my mistakes and purchase a heavy duty lock. I thought my coded locked would be enough to keep people from trying, but it wasn't even a match for the culprits bolt cutters, slicing right through the vulnerable chain. When it comes to shopping for locking devices, the thicker the chain--the better, which makes it more sustainable to theft.

Finally, report your bicycle being stolen in a timely manner. Don't wait for a few days to see if it magically appears again. The 39th SFS has many bikes with no one to claim them because either the owner never registered it, nor reported it stolen.

There's a silver lining to every story. Luckily, I had my bicycle registered and with the help of our local Turkish community and police, my bike was found and returned. So, take the time to do these simple things and you might just be able to help lower the risk of theft. Also, take the 5 to 10 seconds its takes to secure your bike. It might just save your ride and couple hundred dollars.