Nov 092010
How to lock a bike

Thieves know how to steal a bike. Even if locked. As a result it is important to know how to lock a bike securely to make life tough for bike thieves and make sure you are not another victim of cycle theft.

One problem I found is that there are too many bike locking guides available. It’s too difficult to know which guide to read and which to follow. No two guides say the same thing!

I’m confused by all this information

The range of opinions is confusing and did not make me confident that I was doing all I could to fight bicycle thieves and make sure my bike is not stolen.

For instance, Sheldon Brown (who Going Going Bike admires hugely) says you should “stop worrying about having your saddle stolen” but Jim Langley (another cycling sage) says that when you leave your bike you should always “take with you any easily-removed accessories and components such as … [the] quick-release seat and seatpost.”

All the different and conflicting advice demonstrates bike locking is a matter of opinion not fact. But which opinion should I follow? How should I protect my bike?

To create some clarity, I trawled through as much online advice as I could stomach and settled how I want to lock my bicycles. Hopefully this is useful to you.

My approach is based upon personal experience and the advice of others. I want to be practical and sensible. I want to lock my bike securely without taking away one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling. The sense of freedom it gives us (check out our post on the freedom of cycling for more on this).

1 – Choose as good location as possible

I don’t fret about where I lock my bike. I refuse to cycle 500 metres away to find a more “secure” cycle parking spot. Life goes on, cycle theft is a bit random and you need to be pragmatic. If possible I lock my bike:

- in a well lit area;
- where plenty of people are walking around;
- somewhere that “feels” secure;
- near other bicycles; and
- where I can see it (if I am in a pub etc).

Others have advised me to lock my bike in an area with CCTV cameras and not somewhere which shows I will be away from my bike for a long period of time (eg cinema). I ignore this advice.

2 – Lock my bike to something secure

I try to find something really secure and strong to lock my bike to. However, if I am only away from my bicycle for a short while I will happily lock it to something that could be broken by a determined thief. I want to keep my bike safe but I can’t be too risk averse. I try to find:

- a dedicated cycle rack; or
- an immovable, strong object that your bike can’t be lifted off.

I don’t want to annoy non-cyclists so don’t lock my bike where a sign says bikes will be removed (I think this is like putting junk mail through a letter box that says “no junk mail”).

3 – Take a lot of care about locking my bike securely

This is the bit that I am most precise about. It can take a bit of time to lock a bike securely but I think a well locked bike is a significant deterrent to a bike thief.

- I always secure my rear wheel with my D-lock (an Abus Granit X Plus). I feed the U shape through the wheels and rims, around the seat stay and through the immovable object (see image above). Once locked, the rear wheel cannot be removed and the bike is securely fastened to the object.

- I always secure my front wheel with my chain lock (an Abus Granit Steel O Flex). I feed the chain through the wheels and rims, around the down tube and through the immovable object.

In each instance I don’t let my locks lie on or near the ground, where they can be smashed.

4 – Remove some accessories

- I remove my front and rear lamps from by bike. I also remove my saddle bag.

- However, I can’t be bothered to remove my seat post and saddle. I think this is too much effort. Plus I can’t work out where I would put them when I am not on my bike.

The “saddle removal” question is perhaps the most contentious issue and I am happy for you to persuade me to change my habits.

See also

The importance of bike frame numbers

Two good locks for maximum security

How to keep your bike safe

What to do if your bicycle is stolen

Learn more about Going Going Bike’s Prove It system


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