Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Lock Your Bike Properly

Part of my new "How To" series

If you ever have had to leave your beloved bicycle unattended anywhere other than safely secured within your home you've had that thought: "I hope it doesn't get stolen."

Me; I love my bicycles so much that it is a rare occasion that I let them out of my sight when using them to run errands or making a stop to refuel on a long ride. There are times, however, that I must leave my bike and take proper precautions. While I believe that there is no longer anything that could classify as theft prevention there certainly are some great deterrents, and any longer the secret is for your bike to be locked up better and made less attractive to thieves than the one next to it. So; let's delve into that.

One of my favorite websites, Lifehacker.com recently ran a story on how to lock your bicycle properly; featuring a lot of the advice of the legendary late Sheldon Brown. The article certainly was good - and I'm definitely not one to pick a fight with Sheldon; who is more of an expert on all things bike-related than I, but I did feel that there were some things that could be addressed better along with some tips and methods that I have learned or developed which I would like to pass along.

The article suggested a couple of ways to lock your bike with a U-Lock: First; running the lock through your rear wheel inside the rear triangle then around a secure object...

(The 2x4 stud in the photo is meant to represent a parking rack post, parking meter, or other secure object.
I in no way recommend locking your bike to a 2x4...)

This works because you cannot remove the rear wheel from the frame with the lock running through it while inside the rear triangle - effectively locking the wheel and bike together. 

You can also include the frame inside the "U" if your lock is large enough to allow it...

I like this method as it looks a little more secure - psychologically deterring a potential thief from messing with it - and it means there is less of the lock's "U" easily accessible for cutting.

However, while the article dismisses this next fact; I think it's a big one: This does nothing to secure your front wheel. The article excuses this by saying that the front wheels generally are of less value to a thief but I disagree. Add to that the fact that for the most part any longer the concept is not to prevent theft; but to merely make your bike look like too difficult of a target and get the potential thief to move on. 

So I submit the following: the method I have used for years and taught to everyone who has asked.

With or without quick release front axles; I believe the more secure method is to remove the front wheel and set it next to the rear wheel while running the "U" of the lock around both wheels; the frame if possible; and finally a secure object. Here's a closer look:

You'll see both wheels next to each other and the lock around everything. I like this because it doesn't take much longer to complete (there's no shame in practicing at home or asking your local bike shop for help if you're nervous). It also secures the front wheel in addition to making even less of the lock accessible for cutting. Again; if the name of the game here is making your bike look less attractive to a potential thief - which bike wins?

This one?
Or this one?

My other tips:
  • ALWAYS use at least a U-lock. If you're locking with a cable lock your bike WILL be stolen. It's just a matter of when.
  • Combine a couple of locks if possible - it's heavier to carry; but more complicated. A cable or chain with a U-Lock is a real hassle for thieves.
  • Remove all your lights, computers, and other valuable items (unlike my example above...)
  • Lock in a higher-foot-traffic area. More people milling around gives thieves less time to mess around.
  • Honestly: find a poorly locked bike (cable lock...) and lock next to it.
  • Take your bike inside with you when ever possible (my favorite...)
  • This last one requires some personal responsibility and a good memory, but: in higher theft areas I will open my wheel and brake quick releases too. That will either a) take the thief longer so they'll give up or be hassled or b) be caught off guard when they need to hop a curb or stop quickly and end up wrecking. They'll get slowed down and maybe hurt and might get stopped - but either way; won't get far. You have to remember to close them up again though or the same may happen to you.
Do you have any great techniques for securing your bike? Personal experiences? Share in the comments!


  1. What a great idea for the Ulock. The trick is just finding a spot that you can get all the bike close enough to (to lock it). Sometimes lining up the bike w/o a rack can be harder than parallel parking a car!

  2. Most companies provide only a single set of keys, and it is a good idea for owners to have another set made and keep them in a safe place, so that car owners are able to remove their wheels when they need to.



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