How to Lock Your Bike

It’s a sad fact that thieves do target bikes, and some estimates say that only as few as 5% of them are ever returned to their owners! And so if you want to reduce the risk of losing your prized ride, then here’s some general advice.

Always lock your bike!

It may seem like an obvious statement, but always lock up your bike! Many unlocked bikes get taken from people’s gardens, sheds, and garages. And although it may take only a minute to pop into a shop to buy something, that’s all the time required for an opportunist thief to jump on your bike and make their escape.

Select a good lock

Kyrptonite New York 3000 Lock
Kyrptonite New York 3000 Lock

There are many different types of lock: U-locks (sometimes called D-locks), chains, and cables. Each over different levels of protection, and you should pick the appropriate lock for your circumstances. U-locks are almost always better than chains, and chains are almost always better than cables.

The general consensus is you should spend around 10% of the value of your bike on locks. So if your bike is worth €1,000 then you should be looking to spend €100 on locks. The temptations is, however, to save money and go for a cheaper lock. However, in this case, you really do get what you pay for – and scrimping on a good lock is really a false economy.

Two locks are better than one!

twolocksIn high-crime areas, many people say that you should use two locks, of different types. This means using both a U-lock and chain (or U-lock and cable) to secure your bike.

The reasoning behind this is that many thieves are opportunists and only carry a limited range of tools with them. A set of heavy-duty bolt cutters may work on a chain, but they won’t be much use with a U-lock. Conversely a small wheel jack can be used to force open a U-lock, but won’t be much use with a chain!

Some thieves in Dublin also pick up and twist the bike frame itself, and use it as a lever to try and break the lock. With two locks, the bike movement is a lot more restricted.

Locking best practice

  1. Always lock your bike through the frame. If you attach the lock to a wheel or to the seat, then it’s an easy turn of a bolt to remove the wheel or seat, and the rest of bike is gone.
  2. Sheffield Bike Stand
    Sheffield Bike Stand
  3. Always lock your bike to an immovable object. Make sure that whatever you’re locking your bike to cannot be unbolted or dismantled to release your bike. If locking to a signpost in the street, make sure the bike (and lock) cannot be lifted over the top of the pole. Also avoid locking to brittle old iron railings, because with just one hard knock with a hammer they will shatter! Look out for a Sheffield Stand (pictured) as they provide the best locking options.
  4. Always lock as many bits of your bike as possible. This is particularly important if you have quick-release wheels or other parts. Learn how to thread your lock through both the frame and one of the wheels, and then use a secondary lock for the other wheel.
  5. Always fill your lock. You should aim to have the least amount of free space inside your lock as possible. This gives thieves less room to move the lock around and leverage it with tools. If you have loads of room inside your lock, consider buying a smaller one.
  6. Lock your bike in a busy public location. If you leave your bike somewhere secluded then the thieves will have plenty of time to work on your lock undisturbed.
  7. Take a note of your bike’s make, model and serial number. The serial number is often stamped into the frame on the bottom bracket (the bit under the pedals). Check if your local police service has a bike marking and/or registration service. This will all significantly increase the chance of getting your bike back if it does get taken. The police recover thousands of stolen bikes a year, but mostly don’t know who to return them to. Also consider tagging your bike with a security tag, such as the ones available from the International Security Register.
  8. Take accessories with you. Don’t leave detachable things such as lights, cycle computers, bags, and even saddles on your bike, as people will steal anything that’s not nailed down.
  9. Be suspicious if someone has tampered with your bike or lock. It has been known for some thieves to disable a bike, so that you are tempted to leave it out on the street longer. They may let down your tires, buckle your wheel, remove your saddle, or put glue in your lock. All these tactics are used to make you leave behind, so that the thieves can come back at a quieter time and work on the lock in peace.

Maximum Inconvenience

Bike thieves will generally always go for the lowest hanging fruit first. Therefore if your bike is locked up well, and there are other bikes nearby that are poorly locked, then they will probably go for the other bikes.

A determined thief can get through almost any lock, given enough time, and you should lock your bike in such a way as to give them the biggest headache – in the hope that it prompts them to move on.

Grading your bike locking

Take a look at the following video of a guy called Hal in New York, which has some great advice about locking your bike:

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog

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