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09/11/2010 // HOW TO, INFO 16 Comments

How I lock my bike


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

16 comments [leave one]
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  • Nick Pettersen November 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I use exactly the same technique as you and have so far managed to keep my present bike for over a year which I use to commute into Central London every day (superstitiously touching wood now!). The only thing I would add is not to lock your bike to the old fashioned cast iron railings. These are quite easily shattered/broken with one or two hits with a large hammer. And finally, please don’t encourage the thieves by buying “second-hand” bikes from markets or Gumtree without seeing some form of covenant.


    Andrew Nethercot - Going Going Bike November 17, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Nick – top tip…definitely avoid locking your bike to old cast iron railings.

    Also agree about your approach to buying in markets or on Gumtree…if buyers don’t check that the bike hasn’t been stolen they will encourage bike theft and could face criminal proceedings!


  • sussex lad November 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Those bars you have locked your bike to are easier to cut than your D lock. I know someone who had their bike nicked this way.


    Andrew Nethercot - Going Going Bike November 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Sussex Lad – that does not surprise me!

    We have some “proper” bike stands at the end of the road but that space is a known target for bike thieves…so, I park my bike on these railings for the same reasons as I give at point one above…it’s feels safe, is well lit and has lots of people walking by.

    I would rather attach to somewhere stronger (or even better in an underground carpark) but this is my compromise


  • Heather November 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    A lightweight cable, hooked through your saddle support and onto your d lock will at least secure your seat post to the bike. They weigh next to nothing so it’s not a hastle to carry one. It will deter an opportunist thief from nicking your saddle but not the seasoned bike thief. But then again, nothing will deter the seasoned bike thief…


    admin November 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Heather – that’s another good tip…you can often see saddles (often Brooks ones) with a cable securing them.


  • Tony November 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I lock my back wheel as shown but use a Pitlock security skewer for my front wheel. I don’t worry about my saddle, who’d want a used Brooks? It only fits it’s owner! I did once lose a (dynamo) headlamp and had a bar end and brake lever loosened. All 3 items used the same size allen key. I used to fill the headset bolt heads with gasket sealant to deter someone stealing my forks and front wheel as this takes time to dig out. Wish I’d done that to the headlamp bolt!
    Also, small locks are better than big ones as it’s harder to get a jack etc. in place without a gap.


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  • Andrew December 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Re. preventing the saddle getting stolen, I can’t be bothered either locking the saddle to the bike or removing the saddle, so I replace the quick-release for the saddle with a straightforward nut and bolt – I’ve never had a saddle nicked (I have had a reasonably nice saddle for many years so I think it would have been stolen with a quick-release fixing).


    James - Going Going Bike December 31, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Andrew – great idea. A quick release does make it too easy for thieves to quickly steal the saddle and seat post.

    I wonder whether a nut and bolt is a better detterent than a bolt that requires an allen key? A friend’s saddle secured with an allen key bolt was nicked whilst we were in the pub…


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  • nick April 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    CCTV -
    at my college there were around 12 bikes (all very nice expensive ones – obviously) stolen last summer alone. however the area they were stolen from had no CCTV on them ans do nobody saw or recorded the incident.
    The College also has an area where 140 bikes can be parked and has 4 CCTV cameras overlooking the area. all the cameras are also IR enabled so work in the night as well. There have never been any bike thefts from this area! and to flaunt this fact some rich guys seem the have a competition where they lock up their £700 boardmans with hardly anything – and they still have a bike left at the end of the day with which to ride home on.

    I live in central cambridge, which apparently is one of the biggest areas for bike crime in the east of england. i have had my bike stolen from my back garden in the past.


    James - Going Going Bike April 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Nick – It’s interesting to hear your story…I’ve known instances where CCTV has been no deterrent at all, or where it is simply not effective enough to be helpful. Clearly your College has taken the issue seriously and installed some excellent kit…although it sounds like there remains a problem?

    Cambridge does seem to suffer from bike crime…although this could simply be in proportion to the number of bikes that are ridden?

    Advice remains to use two good locks, and (if possible) keep your bike inside at all times!


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