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Liberate yourself with a beater bike!

Last Updated on September 6, 2022 6 Comments

My every day bike is what some people would call a “beater bike”. What’s that I hear you cry? Well, a “beater” is usually an old, cheap, tatty looking bike that’s so unattractive that no-one would ever steal it. And even if someone did steal it, you wouldn’t care. Because it’s so ugly you could never love it. And it’s so cheap you could replace it without upsetting your other half.

A typical beater bike

That’s the idea anyway. In reality, even beater bikes are stolen if they’re not properly secured. I’ve had bikes that a clown would think twice about riding, stolen the first time I left them outside because I “secured” them with a crappy cable lock. As always, the opportunist thief will take anything they can get.

And this idea that you don’t care about your beater bike doesn’t work for me either. I love my beater and I’ll be gutted if it’s ever stolen. In fact, without getting too weird, I think it’s very difficult for anyone to ride the same bike every day and not form a close relationship with it.

And I ride mine every single day. It gets me to work and back. Rain or shine. I ride it to the pub. I ride it to the club. I ride it to the shops. I ride it every opportunity I get.

My beater bike

It’s certainly not a handsome bike. It’s covered in scratches and gathers more every day. And when the components wear out, I buy the cheapest replacements my local bike shop’s got. But I keep the tires pumped up and the chain well oiled. So most of the time it’s a nice ride. It doesn’t turn any heads, but it gets the job done without any worry or fuss.

That’s the beauty of a beater. It just works. And you don’t worry about it. And this is an incredibly liberating feeling for anyone who’s only had “nice” bikes before. Because if you’ve got a nice bike, you’re always worrying about it. You’re worried about it getting scratched. You’re worried about it being stolen. Maybe you’re even worried about it getting wet!

And this worry often limits how you use it. You won’t take it here because it might get damaged. You won’t leave it there because it might be robbed. So you don’t use it. Or you use it less. Or you use it, but won’t leave it too long. And of course you can’t concentrate properly while it’s out of your sight!

With a beater there’s none of that. Take it anywhere. Leave it anywhere. This means you use it more. And this is what bike riding is all about for me. Using it everyday. Using it for every possible journey. Without any stress.

And if you get a good lock there’s very little chance of it being stolen. I leave mine in the same place in the street all night, every night. It’s secured with a decent U-lock and a half decent chain lock. I’ve had the handlebar grips stolen, the seat stolen, a really nice bike seat cushion, and various parts of the breaks stolen. But never the bike. It’s just not worth their hassle it seems.

So here’s to the humble beater bike. The understated workhorse of the streets. Getting thousands of us where we want to go every day. Long may you ride…

About the author 

Carl Ellis

I've had bikes stolen in London, New York and Barcelona. Yep, I was a serial, international, bike theft victim. In 2015 I decided to stop the rot. And not a single bike's been stolen since! Brakes, yes. Bells, yes. But they're another story. Everything I learn, I document on this website. More about my story. Contact me. LinkedIn.

  • I had to chuckle at “Maybe you’re even worried about it getting wet!” – right now my brand new E-Bike is standing in my living room because I installed the lock holder and the bags this morning (old Ortliebs don’t work on the thicker E-Bike carrier tubes) and haven’t even done a test-ride yet because it’s been raining all day.

    As for the “beater”: I’m actually quite proud of my old bikes because I’ve put a lot of work into them and the fact that they ride as well as they do (and I do NOT agree that a nice (new) bike rides better – actually, I’m very unhappy with recent developments in bike manufacturing) is a reflection of my skills. But I could still live with them being stolen, because I know where I can get other old bikes for very little money (from a rural charity shop) and then I’ll have once more all the fun of doing them up to my standards. 🙂

  • I blench at the term “beater bike,” or, for that matter, a car that someone calls a beater. Because, the reality is that I ride my early 1980s Fuji Touring series iii to work every day, and the bike definitely shows its age, with worn paint and decals, rust, and scratches. However, the bike is sound, and I keep it up, and in fact added nice fenders, a Brooks saddle, and a rack for panniers, and I count on it to be reliable for commuting and errands. Bikes take a beating on public bike racks, and it’s nice not to have to worry about another scratch or nick on the paint. Vintage Fujis are not highly collectible, but they do sell, because they are well made quality bikes. Mine has a lugged frame that is quad butted, VA lite tubing. So, it’s not worthless and I would be quite unhappy if it were stolen. It’s not a beater because I don’t neglect, nor do I abuse it, and I certainly value it.

    • I hear what you’re saying Jason. And I’m not keen on handicapping myself with a truly shit bike just to thwart the thieves.

      But while your bike may look well worn, that Brooks saddle is going to attract a lot of attention and you’d be facing a significant financial loss even if it was only the seat that was stolen.

      The idea of a beater bike is that they don’t get much attention and there’s no big financial loss if it’s stolen.

    • Jason, as you said, your bike is not a beater, and you do sound as if you were very sorry to see it stolen. So this article doesn’t really apply to you but rather those about finding the most secure bike lock 😉

      Whereas I have by now neglected one of my old ones for so long that I would be almost happy if somebody stole it (apart from the problem of getting back home – they are welcome to take it from the open garage where it’s standing around unlocked) – it would safe me from having to get it back into shape.

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