A little attention paid to your bike’s security goes a long way. When parking your bike outdoors, there is no point snickering at the notion of anyone stealing your bike. Many people see no point investing in bike security and are reluctant to spend money on a quality bike lock. But you never know when lady luck has other plans, and those few dollars you were planning on saving in the form of a cheap lock might end up costing you your dearest bike.
Get the Right Bicycle Lock
Cheap locks can be cut open with ease. Thieves can spot a cheap lock when they see one, and these bikes are usually their easiest targets. You can find superior locks at bike shops or sporting goods stores. To find out which kind of bike lock is ideal for you, you may take a look at my review page on the 6 best cable bike locks of 2018.
It is best to use more than one lock, preferably at least two good quality locks of different types. This will help discourage thieves who have only the tools to deal with one type and don’t want to deal with the extra trouble.
You can use a hardened steel U-lock as one of the choices. Also called as D-locks, these are inflexible loops in a U or D shape and are ideal to fasten the frame and/or wheels to a solid object. The size of the U-lock should ideally be small enough to disallow the thief from levering it open with a jack or any other tool. It should be just large enough to maybe fit over your real wheel, frame and the object you want to attach to the bike.
You can think of getting heavy chains too, though they may be a bit of a hassle to carry around. But if highest security for your bike is your priority, you may find the pain worth it. A 15mm thick chain is a good enough security. Try to use a thick padlock with your chain to deter bolt cutters.
Cable locks may be good as supplementary security, but as standalone security, they are not a good option, because these are the easiest to cut through. You can buy one with a thick cable, like around 20mm in diameter, which are fairly harder to cut. Moreover, use them to secure attachments that are less precious with the frame.
How to Lock your Bike
After purchasing a lock with a fairly good review, some of you may need help with the daunting task of how best to secure your bike with your new found lock. The task may not be all that daunting if you have a few important tips under your sleeve.
- Try to lock your bike in a well-lit area with plenty of pedestrians.
- Always lock your bike to a solid, sturdy object that cannot be lifted over or broken, if you can find one.
- Lock according to value - frame first, then back wheel, and finally front wheel.
- Try to get a good and tight fit. The less room there is inside the U-lock or chain, the tougher it will be for thieves to apply their tools effectively.
- Best way to position your lock is off the ground with the keyhole facing down.
- Many people make the mistake of locking their bike by a component that can be easily removed, like the front wheel. It makes it so much easier for the thief to simply remove the front wheel and then happily walk away with the bike within seconds.
Follow the sequence of steps below when securing your bike. Trust me it is well worth the time taken.
- Pop out the front wheel, if your bike has a quick-release front wheel. Then lock it up with the rear wheel. The front wheel is less valuable than the rear, but you should still try to keep some level of security or even an opportunistic passerby could flick your front wheel. If your front wheel is not removable, you can loop a cable lock around the front wheel and the bike frame, and if the cable is long enough, you could slip in the rear wheel as well. Lock the cable together with the built in lock or a padlock. For better security, you could use a second U-lock to secure the front wheel to the frame instead.
- Secure the wheels and frame to a steady object, one that cannot be moved. Using a U lock or D lock, secure the back end of your bike to another object. Place the stronger U section of your lock around the rim of your rear wheel, your unattached front wheel, your rear frame, and the immovable object, then lock the U with the straight bar.
- If you find your U lock to be too small to fit around every object, then just use it on the rear wheel and the stationary object but place it "inside" the triangle formed by the three back sections of the bike's frame. This makes it almost impossible to pull the frame away from the wheel. This is a good way to deter thieves, since they would have to destroy the valuable rear wheel before taking the bike, which they wouldn’t want to do.
- Do not attach your U-lock to the crossbar of the bike. This is the down-sloping bar between the seat and the handlebars. This ends up providing a good leverage in breaking the lock.
- Remove or lock any accessories before leaving your bike. Anything that is removable like bags, lights, baskets, bells, etc. should be taken with you or secured with their own cable lock.
- It’s a good idea to secure the saddle with a long cable. This can be done as follows. Use a D lock on the rear wheel, pass it through the frame and an immovable object. Secure the front wheel using one end of the cable. Push a loop of the cable through the rails of your saddle; secure by passing the free end of the cable through the loop. Lock the free end in the D lock.
Finding a Sturdy Support to Lock Your Bike
Not all bicycle parking racks are an ideal support. When looking for something to attach your bike to when locking up, check for the following:
- Sturdiness: The support should be thick and sturdy. Try not to select thin steel objects that can quickly be cut apart.
- Tightness: Check metal racks or railings for bolts; these can be disassembled by a talented thief.
- Firmly rooted to the ground: Try to shake signposts well to test whether they are anchored firmly to the pavement.
- Height: A tall thief can simply lift your bike over the top of the support or sign post. Try to use something that is attached to the ground in two places, such as a sturdy bike rack.
How to Mount a Bike Lock
You can usually carry your bike chain or lighter cable lock in your backpack or a basket mounted on your handle. But when carrying along heavier U-locks you may find it more convenient to use a mounting bracket positioned on the bike frame. There are plenty of mounting brackets available in the market. Here is how you can install your mounting bracket on your bike all by yourself.
- Select where you want to install it: You can choose the top tube, down tube or seat tube. This will depend on your preference or whether you’ve already chosen one of the positions to mount your water bottle cage.
- Install the bracket: Insert the rubber shim on the webbing strap to start, and adjust the angle of the bracket body to so as not to let it come in the way of your pedals. The U-lock snaps in with a click. There are a variety of brackets available, each with a different functionality and design. There are some that can carry oversized U-locks, flashlights, etc. Secure the hook-and-loop fasteners around the mounting block on the handlebars or top tube, and pull them snug.
How to Set Up a Combination Lock
Nowadays, cable locks with a number combination are widely available and setting up these locks are just as easy as ABC or 123! When using for the first time, simply flip the small ‘reset’ lever up 180º until it is level against the lock head, in order to free up the dial. Then, the rotate the dials one at a time to set your desired 4-digit combination.
If you want to change or reset the combination, perform the following steps:
- Unlock using your current combination, and detach the cable from the lock housing.
- Flip the reset lever on the end of the lock up to 180 degrees until it is level against the lock head.
- Set your new combination.
Inside the Mind of a Bike Thief
The best piece of advice you can get about your bike’s security is from a reformed bike thief himself. I have had the opportunity to converse with a former bike thief who did so to supplement a bad habit he was forced into. According to him, the easiest bikes to pick up are, as suspected, those secured with cheap thin locks. “It was just a matter of a push and a pull and the lock would break in my hands”. He says the best way to lock your bike is using two thick chains through both wheels and frame. Although there are tools to cut through chains too, it takes a lot of time, so thieves usually avoid such hassles.
Another bike thief spoke of one of his standard tricks. He would often damage a tyre, so that the owner would leave the bike there long enough for him to gather the tools necessary to flick it. He advised that if you ever find your tyre punctured you should take your bike with you. Thieves also tend to keep watch over places where expensive bikes are frequently parked. It is advisable to park your expensive bike somewhere indoors instead.
Once successful in stealing the bike, the thieves have a whole gang to help along the way. Your favorite bike is instantly re-painted, so that even if they pass it by under your nose, you wouldn’t be able to recognize your own bike.
Everyone looks out for their own best interest, so there’s no point in blaming the thief. When you give them a chance, they take it. It’s a simple equation for them. So it’s up to you to keep your bike locked and safe.
Follow my advice and leave your comments in the section below. If you found the article useful, do share it with others.