Lock it or Lose it! How to Lock Up Your Bike (Properly)

Raleigh bike lock
Good theft prevention

Losing your bike to theft sucks! Just ask one of the many people who have had to deal with this terrible situation. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help prevent this from happening. Check out the information in this article to help protect your ride from thieving hands.

Here’s a glimpse of what could happen if you don’t practice good lock usage, a poor bike left overnight during downtown Raleigh’s Hopscotch music festival.

raleigh bike theft
Results of poor lock usage

Most bike thefts are attacks of opportunity, and not targeted crimes. To the thief, it is whatever offers the easiest object to walk (ride) away with. Around Raleigh, most stolen bikes are left unlocked and unattended. Therefor, it’s pretty easy to reason that any lock is better than no lock. While this is true, it is worth noting that the most commonly violated lock is the simple cable lock. While they offer great portability and the convenience of locking to almost anything, they are easily rendered useless by wire or bolt cutters. A set of sharp bolt cutters can easily be concealed in a bag, and a few short seconds is all it takes to go allow someone near-instant access to your ride. Cable locks are ideal for situations where you are within eyesight of your bike (a restaurant patio or in a gas station, for instance), or are used to supplement other style of locks. They are best thought of as deterrents, rather than sound security.  Another option is a heavy chain, which is combines some of the advantages of both U-locks and cables.

Today, I’ll be using a U-lock as the example. These require significantly more intense equipment to compromise, and most thieves won’t have to tools or time to bother with it. The most ideal U-lock is the smallest, thickest one that is comfortable for your to carry. Large locks are nice because they allow you to lock up multiple bikes or to more objects, but are more subject to attacks of leverage or cutting. A small lock will sit much closer to your bike, and will put the thief more at risk of damaging the bike in the attempt, making it a much less attractive target.

Please pardon my muddy bike and scuffed up old lock in these pictures…it just means my stuff is well used and loved 😉

raleigh bike u-lock
Using a u-lock
raleigh bike lock
Using a u-lock to secure the frame

Here, we see the proper way to use the standard black “U” style bike racks. Note how the lock is attached to both the rack and the frame of the bicycle. It’s essential that you put your lock through the frame, and not somewhere like the seatpost or front wheel. In an ideal situation, you can lock the seat tube and rear wheel up to the rack…I unfortunately couldn’t get a pic with this bike because of the wheelbase and fat tires.

raleigh bad lock
Incorrect u-lock usage

Locking up like this…

raleigh stolen bike
Bike stolen after incorrect lock usage

…will likely leave you coming back to this. No good!

bad lock job
Missing the point entirely

Likewise, it doesn’t do you much good if you miss the frame and only put the lock on the rack. I have seriously seen this one a few times. Another common one is locking the seatpost, but not the tubes of the actual frame…some fast work with an allen wrench will leave you lacking a perch for the ride home. If you are in a hurry, it can be easy to make a mistake like this. Always double-check your lock! Those few seconds of assessing your lock can mean the difference of peace of mind vs. walking home at the end of the day.

raleigh bike lock
A good alternative to using the u-lock on the frame

You can lock up with the rear wheel, but ONLY if you lock the rim to the inside of the rear triangle. The reason this works is because you can’t remove the rear wheel with the lock inside the rear triangle, and you can’t remove the rest of the bike because the wheel is locked inside the frame. You would have to totally destroy the rear wheel to get the bike, which most thieves wouldn’t do…not only does it render the bike unrideable, but the rear wheel is one of the most expensive parts of a bicycle.

great raleigh bike lock job
An excellent lock job

The safest way to lock up your bike is with both a U-lock and a cable. The reason is that the tools which are effective in attacking one style of lock are useless against the other, so even if the thief can break one lock, the other will still be securing your bike. Plus, it’s just that much more that a potential thief has to deal with, which again is a big turn-off for the grab-n-go attitude.

raleigh bike lock helmet
Secure your helmet with your bike lock

Tired of bringing your helmet in to the bar, or it bopping against your hip as you shop for groceries? Lock it up with your bike! Be sure to attach the lock through the ear straps on your helmet, instead of just clipping the helmet to the bike frame or lock. Also, be sure to remove any lights, GPS units, or saddle bags. These are easy for passersby to remove without looking suspicious, and they can be expensive or hazardous to be without.

So let’s review real quick:

  • Most thefts are attacks of opportunity
  • U-locks are more secure than cables or chains
  • Be sure to always lock up your frame, and not just wheels or extremities
  • Take the time to lock up right, and always double check your work

It is also advisable to store your bike inside your residence, instead of locked up outside or on the porch. This may be difficult for some, especially those with small apartments or not much space. There are several style of hooks or racks available which allow you to store your bike inside without taking up a lot of room. Double plus, your bike is not left out in the elements! Likewise, don’t leave your bike locked somewhere around town for days at a time. Thieves notice bikes which are always left out in the same place, and have time to assess the situation before coming in for the attack.

Get yourself a good lock, and always be sure to bring it with you and use it correctly! By doing so, you will thwart thieves and ensure the safety of your ride.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *