How to Lock Your Bike

Use these bicycle-theft prevention tips to keep your ride safe from thieves.

  • A tall signpost is not always a safe bet against theft— a bicycle burglar could easily lift your bike over the structure with the help of an accomplice.
    Photo by Fotolia/ArenaCreative

Reposted with permission from Urban Velo

Theft is a very real problem for the urban cyclist. Nearly everyone has a story of a bike being stolen, with far fewer triumphant tales of reunion. Keep your stuff locked up if you want to ride it tomorrow.

This is easier said than done. Everything from hardware store cable on up to the boutique bicycle locks are marketed as “high security.” One is clearly a better choice than the other, with plenty of middle ground. The right choice for you is a lock just a bit better than the next person’s — cut-throat, yes, but tactically effective.

Check your surroundings. If everyone else has a high-end U-lock and you've got a cable, kiss your bike goodbye. There is a reason the everyday riders of New York carry around those giant Kryptonite chains, and it’s not just ‘cause it looks cool. Make sure your stuff is at least on par with what the knowledgeable locals use. Cheaping out on a lock isn't worth it.

Besides just locking up in the first place, technique is more important than given lock model. This includes how you lock, and what you lock to. Lock the frame; no excuses. Don’t loop it through just a bolt-on wheel, or the seat post, stem or some other removable component. Do make sure that what you’re locking to is sturdy. Your fancy lock is only as good as what it’s locked to — lock onto a chain-link fence and you might as well tie up your bike with a length of wire. Give whatever you’re locking to a shake to make sure it’s soundly connected to — and can’t be unbolted from — the ground to slide your lock off. A tall signpost is not too high to lift your bike over if a thief has an accomplice. Locking up inside your home is not to be underestimated either— plenty of bikes disappear due to break-ins.

Proper U-Lock Technique: Small U-locks are more than a fashion statement— by their nature, it is hard to jam a leverage device inside of them in use. With a larger shackled lock, be sure to fill the inside of the lock with your bike to prevent a car-jack attack. With either variety, avoid placing the lock on the ground so that a hammer and pick is hard to brace against for attack on the key mechanism. Avoid situations where the bike itself may be used as a lever to attempt twisting the lock open.

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