Whether you're riding one of our Peace Bicycles or a cruiser, mountain, fixie or any other kind of bicycle on the daily commute to work or to the store, one concern is always present – securing the bike while being away from it. One of the biggest slippery slopes that most bikers face is the conundrum of investing money on Dutch bikes that provide a better riding experience which unfortunately at the same time makes it more attractive to thieves to do what they do best. Thus, knowing the proper guidelines for locking up a bike is extremely important.
Depending on where you do a majority of bike riding, a lock is either imperative or super-imperative. The only place where this isn't ALWAYS true is Japan (thanks to their honor code). I've been there myself and it's amazingly honest. But everywhere else, even when stepping away from the bicycle for a split second to go inside the post office and mail a letter, vigilance should be practiced. An unlocked bicycle is extremely easy to steal and seeing a vulnerable two-wheeler almost urges people without that preconceived notion to at least hop on and take it for a spin down the block. Therefore, the first step in locking up a bike is to ALWAYS secure it when stepping away, even for just a second.
Deterring Your Bike From Thieves
A 2016 Aston Martin DB11 is much more appealing than a 1987 Buick Skylark. That being said, many thieves wouldn't bother trying to steal the Aston Martin because of the theft-deterrent technological features in the car. Criminals also likely won't waste their resources boosting an '87 'Lark because they really have no need for one. Therein lies the choice facing bicycle owners – install technical devices and high-priced locks to prevent theft or ugly up the bike so nobody wants it.
As long as the function remains the same, there's really nothing wrong with making a bike less appealing to thieves. Of course, this doesn't mean simply painting the bike an ugly yellowish-brown color, it could mean decorating it with a super large pirate flag or installing neon lights from spoke to stem – things that will make the bike stand out and increase the chances of being recovered even if stolen. Some tips for custom decorating a bike to deter thieves include:
- Cover up labels – some of the more expensive bikes in the industry (Giant, Trek, Specialized, GT) are almost name brands familiar with those outside of the cycling lifestyle. This could include thieves who would be more inclined to steal a bike if they thought it was worth a couple thousand dollars. Covering up the labels (tape, paint, removing them) or installing a Huffy or Roadmaster label over the top may be just enough to make thieves keep walking.
- Personalize – if you take a regular route to work or school at mostly the same time each day, the odds are you share your commute schedule with dozens of others. If you customize your bike with stickers, a license plate, a customer color, bright grips, etc. your fellow commuters are more likely to notice if somebody else (a crook) is riding it.
- Remove features – there's one thing to deter your bike from a thieve with bad intent but another to keep a boozy bar patron trying to jack a ride home. A drunk won't care if a bike is ugly but they will be more likely to walk home if the two-wheeler has only one wheel or no seat post. It can be annoying to take off a wheel, seat, or chain each time you park a bike but it could also save having to replace a bike.
It should be noted that making a bike less appealing to thieves is only an aside method to having a quality lock and using it properly.
What to Lock the Bike To
There are two key components to locking up a bike – 1) what to lock it with and 2) what to lock it to. It is not only safe practice to always lock the bike when stepping away, it's equally important to secure it to something that is not easy to manipulate. For example, a street sign post may seem like a sturdy object to attach the bike to but a thief could easily unfasten the sign part and simply lift the bike up and over – if not knock down the sign altogether. Whatever you're fastening the bike to should be secured solidly into the ground and unable to be modified to remove the bike. To a thief, time and covertness are of the essence so they'll rarely spend 10+ minutes while running power tools to snatch your two-wheeler.
The basics of what to lock the bike to include:
- Attach to an object that is thick and sturdy and can't be easily cut through. A wrought iron fence for example is a much better option than a wooden picket gate.
- Fences or posts that seem secure should be evaluated more closely. Nuts, bolts, and screws can easily be unfastened with minimal tools and in a small amount of time.
- Objects should be anchored to the ground securely so thieves cannot dig up or carry away the fastening spot.
- When attaching to a bike rack there are two principles to follow – 1) put your bike in the middle of the rack as the ones on the end are easier to manipulate and 2) make sure your bike is more secure than the ones next to it as a thief will almost always go for the easier score.
Something else to take into account is the location in which you keep the bike when unattended. The basics behind finding the ideal spot include:
- Find a well-lit area out in the open.
- Park the bike where there is a lot of foot traffic and pedestrians.
- Avoid train stations, bus stops, and other commuter locations that are stalking ground for thieves.
- Don't park and leave your bike if you notice unsavory loiterers in the area.
- Ask around the local bike shops or police departments if there are neighborhoods that are experiencing a lot of bike thefts. Avoid those areas.
Of course finding the perfect spot to lock your bike depends a lot on where you need to ride it to. Use as many of these tips as possible combined with the right type of lock:
What to Lock the Bike With
Thieves want to steal your bike and make your life miserable so you in turn should return the favor. A dedicated bike thief will likely get to your bike they're that intent on stealing it but your job is to at least make them work for it. What this means is using a combination of locks including U-locks, cables, chains, padlocks, etc.
- U-locks – the best line of defense for locking a bike are U-locks which are rigid devices that wrap around the bicycle frame and a secure object. There is somewhat of a slippery slope when it comes to U-locks (or D-locks) though. You want as small a U-lock as possible because it is easier to carry and provides less room for a thief to put a jack into but at the same time it limits the spots where the bike can be attached.
- Cable locks – for optimum safety U-locks and cable locks should be used in combination with each other. U-locks can be pried open with a pipe or jack while cable locks can be easily cut. The reason for the combination attack is to make sure that thieves have to be carrying both tools to steal the bike.
- Chains and lock – chains are obviously heavy and bulky to carry around but they are also sturdy and perhaps most importantly, flexible. Chains can be routed around the frame and tires and can be twisted though difficult locking spots. Granted they can also be cut but not without some effort.
- Wheel lock – finally a wheel lock is used not to secure the bike but to at least make sure it can't be ridden away.
It may seem like a nuisance or being overly-protective locking your bike with two or three different mechanisms every time you leave it unattended but you need to weigh how big of a nuisance having your bike stolen is. When it comes to protecting the bike there is no such thing as overkill.
How to Use the Locks
When figuring out how to lock your bike to an object, the goal should be to secure as many things as possible with one lock. What this generally means is routing either the U-lock or cables around the wheel, the frame, and the immovable object at the same time. This is especially effective when using multiple locks and securing both the front and rear wheels to the frame and an immovable object.
The last thing to remember is that although there are thieves out there and your bike will always be vulnerable – one, don't let that deter you from enjoying a ride and two, make their job of stealing your bike as difficult as possible.