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In the last year, 3 of my friends got their bikes stolen by leaving them "just for a minute" in front of a shop "while watching them through the window".

Nevertheless, sometimes I do the same. Maybe I didn't plan to bring a lock, and need to jump really quick to somewhere. Maybe there is a security guard nearby, or a bank camera. Maybe I am just too lazy to to dig the lock out of the bottom of my backpack, and have exact change to grab a beer. Maybe there is nowhere to lock to in a 100m radius.

My question is how to increase security in these dangerous situations.

A friend shared with me, that he shifts into the lowest gear - that way if someone tries to ride away the bike, it will take him quite some time. On the other hand, something that I do, is lean my backpack against the bike or even strap them together. IMO this makes riding off with the bike a little more difficult, while risking my backpack along with the bike.


Currently, the "derail the chain off the front chainrings" sounds most sane to me, because I can do it with my shoe, without getting oil on my hands. Still, carrying the lock on my waist, under the backpack belt, is the far best solution. Why do I even put it inside the backpack?

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How often does 1-2 minutes turn to 4-5 minutes or 5-10 minutes? The "hassle" of locking, at least with a light cable lock, seems well worth it to me. – Batman Jan 20 '14 at 16:21
Forget all solutions that involve deterring riding your bike away. That's not how they do it. They toss it in a van or truck and drive away, so you're just wasting your money on things that deter riding the bike. – Carey Gregory Jan 21 '14 at 4:40
@CareyGregory, why don't them inconspicuously ride the bikes away? Using a van exposes the registration plate, which can easily be remembered or recorded by a camera (in contrast to "a guy in grey hoody took my bike"). Furthermore, if the van strategy is utilized, I would guess they target busy bike racks, not single bikes, left in front of a shop. – Vorac Jan 21 '14 at 8:35
If you live in a place where 3 of your friends have had their bikes swiped by leaving them unlocked for a short time, I would suggest that you just LOCK the bike. The only other alternative is to simply accept that there's a risk it will be ripped off. – Angelo Jan 21 '14 at 16:15
Do what bike couriers do, ride a bike no one wants to steal. If you don't want to ride a dunger, looks can be deceptive - camouflage it to look like a real liability... – mattnz Jan 23 '14 at 2:22

Firstly, these suggestions are only going to make it slightly harder to ride away with your bike. I've heard the most common thefts involve grabbing the bike or bikes and slinging them into the back of a van, in which case it doesn't make much difference.

But against the casual opportunist/errant kid...

  • Have a QR parts and remove them - saddle, pedals?, bars?
  • I use a small velcro strap to make parking easier. This goes around the bars and pulls on the brake lever on when parking, makes it easy to lean it up against a wall without it wobbling. This might stall someone not expecting it.
  • Derail the chain from the front rings.
  • Best of all, get one of those super-convenient rear wheel/frame locks as below: The most convenient bike lock?

As long as you've got your key with you - some of them stay in the lock when it's unlocked - it's easy. No more excuses!

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I'd say the rear lock + light cable lock is the way to go for quick lockups - the cable lock gives you a ton of versatility over a U lock in places to lock to. . – Batman Jan 20 '14 at 15:50
I keep my cheapo combo chain lock spooled around my top tube, so I pull up somewhere quick and just unspool it around and lock it up. Gives me some peace of mind that I've at least made it more difficult than if I'd done nothing to secure it. – Jon Fournier Jan 22 '14 at 17:37
Yes, I think there's a big difference between a naff lock and no lock at all. – James Bradbury Jan 22 '14 at 17:54
Wheel lock seems to me to be far the easiest solution: it takes only one or two seconds to lock/unlock and makes it impossible to ride away on your bike. Of course the bike can still be carried away. – eldering Jan 23 '14 at 10:26

I would reccomend against this. It only takes 10 seconds to hop on a bike and make off. Although some suggestions come to mind

  • purposley derail your chain
  • carry a light, cheap combination lock. It takes a few seconds to fit and is better than nothing. you could store it around your seatpost for easy access
  • tie or put something between your spokes. Though this may damage you bike if an attempt to steal it is made.
  • ask the shop if you can put it inside. (its just the same as a pushchair, only with 2 less and bigger wheels)
  • fit a GPS tracking device inside your frame (this would be an expensive option)
  • carry your front wheel in with you

There are a lot of things you could do that would make it difficult to make a speedy getaway. Anything that would hinder you would also hinder a thief.

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I've heard a suggestion that you can turn the adjuster screw on your brake(s) to seat the pads against the rim, preventing the wheels from turning. Requires the pads to be close enough to adjust them to grab the rim, but it would slow the thief down (but maybe not for long). Similarly, you can use the velcro strap from your gloves to squeeze the brake lever, but this seems like it would be too easily defeated since it's so easily seen. But since bikes are easily carried away, the best thing to do is to lock the bike properly. – Johnny Jan 21 '14 at 21:00
Taking the front wheel off seems like more work than locking up the bike. – Wadelp Jan 21 '14 at 21:53
@Wadelp I'd imagine it is. I was providing a number of suggestions. – Mark W Jan 22 '14 at 11:33

I carry a luggage lock with a retractable cable for "just-a-minute" stops on the way home from work. It weighs nothing, is always in my bike bag (unlike a heavy lock) and it prevents the casual theft, although a determined thief could probably break it.

I'm not sure if it is the same brand, but this is very similar to the one I own.

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Just remember one thing, if you can't take the time to properly lock your bike to a fixed object, two people in a pickup truck can stop for a few seconds and pick up your bike and toss it in the back of their truck and be gone before you can get to the front door!

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Exactly. Bike thieves don't ride your bike away; they toss it in a van or truck and drive away. No mechanism meant to defeat riding it will matter in the least. – Carey Gregory Jan 21 '14 at 4:37
@CareyGregory It depends on the thief. Where I'm located, lower-end bikes are more often stolen by junkies who ride them off. Maybe vans and trucks are just a US thing? I've never seen or heard of this happening, but it seems like we get reports of someone riding off with a bike pretty frequently. – John Doucette Jan 21 '14 at 16:18
Where I live, single bikes are typically ridden away, but not for the bike's sake, but most often for transportation, regardless of their value. However, bike racks at the university or the station are typically checked methodically for the most valuable bikes, which are then thrown into a van or similar. – arne Jan 22 '14 at 7:54

At our local grocery store's bike rack, I see about 5 locks located there by, I assume, people who ride to grab their groceries regularly. That way they don't have to carry their lock with them all the time. Seems like a good idea for somewhere you pedal to regularly.

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I fasten my helmet though the rear wheel on the side it is most difficult to access it from. Thus making it harder to just try pushing the bike as you pass by.

For a more extended stop I remove the front skewer so you can not safely ride off on the bike.

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