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I recently saw a small clip about how to securely lock your bike. I was wondering what are your tips for minimizing the chances of getting your bike stolen.

Here are a few of my tips:

  • use 2 chains
  • take the saddle off ( makes it less attractive, especially in a bike rack )
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Definitely take the saddle off. I learned that one several years ago after a 7 mile ride home sans saddle. –  user313 Sep 14 '10 at 16:11
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I made this one community wiki; the way the question is structured (asking for tips) precludes a single answer that will address the question completely. –  Neil Fein Sep 14 '10 at 19:18
    
Taking your saddle off is less important if you don't have quick release saddle. Many bikes have them now, but mine doesn't. Actually took me be surprise but after I thought about it, it made sense. How many times do you actually adjust your saddle? Just one more thing to get stolen in my mind. If somebody is going to use tools to get at the saddle, try probably won't stop at the saddle. A single allen key is all that's required to take most front forks. –  Kibbee Dec 6 '12 at 13:30
    
This whole thread and that video make me never want to let go of my bike ever again. Screw locking it up, I'm strapping it to my backpack! –  Oli Jan 21 '13 at 23:10
    
In the Netherlands, large bike parking spots are cleaned on a regular basis, removing junked bikes. Although you first get a sticker or a leaflet on your bike and a waiting period, a bike sans saddle may look like a junker. –  SQB Jun 18 at 9:08
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15 Answers 15

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Lock related

  • Have a better lock than the bike next to yours.
  • At the very least get a lock such as this one: http://www.bicycleworkshop.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b1s93p186 they are relatively difficult to break and are easy to operate meaning you'll lock your bike as a matter of course.
  • Don't use a cable lock. Bolt cutters snip them in like 5 seconds.

Location

  • Use a chain lock to attach your bike to something, but (and this is important) never lock your bike to something that would make it inconvenient for someone else.
  • Lock the bike to something solid.
  • Never leave your nice bike outside overnight or for extended periods of time during the day (but you're already doing this because you don't want to leave your precious bike out in the rain right?).
  • it should be in a reasonably populated, busy area
  • if you park in one area frequently, try to move around a bit - thieves might notice a decent bike often in the same place

Bike Tips

  • Get a cheap, ugly secondhand bike for city use.
  • Get allen key skewers as opposed to quick release
  • Keep your lights and/or cycle computers with you, not on the bike
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+1 for your first point; I try to lock my bike next to a fancier bike that is locked more poorly. –  kevins Sep 14 '10 at 13:56
    
sadly, my crappy looking (and it was crappy in reality too) bike was stolen despite being locked in a very public place with high foot traffic. The nicer bike next to it was ignored. So don't rely on either of those. I made the mistake of thinking that high visibility and crappy bike meant I could get away with a thick cable rather than a u-lock, but I was wrong. –  Peter Recore Sep 14 '10 at 15:38
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I would add: Don't use a cable lock. Bolt cutters snip them in like 5 seconds. I have 2 friends who lost bikes in very public areas in broad daylight in nice neighborhoods and the similarity is that both were using cable locks. –  user313 Sep 14 '10 at 16:27
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Many people want ugly bikes because they think they are not stolen. As a consequence many thieves target ugly bikes because they are easily sold (and easy to steal by the way). –  mouviciel Jul 5 '11 at 22:42
    
Down here may theives carry allen keys and a 5 sided "security" key as a matter of course. Usually they just swap an unlocked front wheel onto an unlocked frame and ride off, but people do lose parts. The cost of secure skewers is high ($80-ish) but I use them on my Rohloff/dynohub commuter bike just because it makes it so much easier to lock, and means I can use a mini D lock for near-complete locking. –  Мסž Jul 7 '11 at 3:19
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To avoid bike seat being nicked

  1. Take it with you (not always practical)

  2. Use a cable or chain to attach it to the bike frame. These are made commercially, but even a fairly token bit of wire rope works - the people who will cut that will generally also cut your lock.

  3. Get allen key skewers as opposed to quick release. This reduces the chances of theft, but in some cities, thiefs carry allen key sets.

  4. Buy a proper locking bolt for it. One example is pitlock. If you're buying those for your wheels the additional cost for a seat bolt is low.

Take number 3 a step further. This is a great tip I learnt from a NYC bike mechanic: - Find a ball bearing thats same size as allen key hole. - Dab some grease/vaseline in hole - Place ball bearing in.

= Only way to get ball bearing out is with a magnet.

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interesting idea with the ball bearing –  solomongaby Sep 15 '10 at 10:40
    
but then you have to carry a magnet in your saddle bag too. My repair bag is big enough already! –  Unsliced Sep 15 '10 at 10:41
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Depends if you need to adjust saddle height. I see no reason to adjust my height whilst out and about. Therefore not relevant for me. –  Simon Sep 17 '10 at 8:05
    
do you know where you can get paramagnetic ball bearings? In that case (if you can find strong enough), even a magnet would not help you. Can you ask your mechanic how would s/he take the ball out of the hole in that case? –  user652 Mar 10 '11 at 10:21
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If you want to use something less messy than grease/vaseline you can use candle wax. You can get it out by melting the wax with a lighter or with a toothpick. –  sixtyfootersdude Jan 28 '13 at 20:46
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In France, a bike coding system exists. It consists of a unique engraved code and a central database indicating the owner of the coded bike and whether it has been stolen. This both makes the bike less attractive and easier to recover when stolen.

Of course all the advices about locks are relevant even with this system.

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Those only make it easier to return once it's recovered. They may make ownership easier to prove if they haven't been damaged. –  Мסž Feb 22 '11 at 1:52
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They also make reselling harder. –  mouviciel Feb 22 '11 at 13:31
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A recent article in the Guardian: Bike thief tells how to stop your cycle from being stolen:

  • don't use a cheap lock
  • don't assume CCTV will deter
  • put it in a popular area
  • if you return to your bike and it's punctured/damaged, move it as it could be that a thief has done it to buy more time
  • if you park in one area frequently, try to move around a bit - thieves might notice a decent bike often in the same place
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You may be able to leave the lock at your regular parking spot. Saves carrying it around. –  Andy Morris Jul 7 '11 at 9:22
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Here's how I deal with the three main threats:

  1. Keep the bike from being stolen with a small, chunky u-lock.
  2. Keep the components from being removed with security skewers
  3. Make sure the structure you're locking to can't be dismantled.

U-lock: I use the Kryptonite Fagheddaboudit lock, which maybe a bit of overkill in retrospect since it's quite heavy for a u-lock. Small locks prevent thieves from fitting prying jacks inside the U.

Security skewers: These replace your quick-release skewers. They can only be unscrewed with a custom key that comes with them. Each key is different, so these are much better than simply using allen key skewers. They're pricey (~$80 for the two wheels, headset, and seat), but unlike a cable lock, they secure not just your wheels, but your front fork and seat as well. They also weigh nothing, require no cable-wrangling each time you park, and can't be clipped. I've found them to be well worth it. I use Pinhead skewers: http://www.pinheadlocks.com/

Verify what you're locking to: I know a guy who avoided bike theft in NYC for years using the above two tools, but who was finally undone when he locked his bike to a workers' scaffolding at a construction site. The thief simply removed the cross-bar that he had locked to, and made off with the bike. Another common honeytrap are those removable stop signs (the kind where the post is attached to a post stub in the ground, using a unscrewable bolt).

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I've watched Youtube videos of people breaking locks:

  • Cables: little bolt-cutters, concealable in jacket - about 2 seconds
  • Heavy chains (as used for motorcycles): huge bolt-cutters with 4-foot long handes - up to 20 seconds
  • U-locks: either an angle-grinder (requires AC power) or a hydraulic car jack - about 4 seconds

Executive summmary:

  • Use a chain and/or U-lock, not cable
  • Don't park a U lock next to an AC power outlet
  • Keep chains off the floor if possible
  • U-lock should hug the bike (so that they couldn't get a car jack in to prise apart the U lock without also destroying the bike)
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Angle grinder doesn't require AC power -- there are many battery-powered units available now. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '11 at 4:07
    
Actually, the RIGHT cable can be fairly frustrating (though I've never seen one that was "ideally" constructed). Bolt cutter jaws tend to be relatively dull, and the jaws don't come tightly together. And the larger the bolt cutter the more this is true. A cable that's loosely woven and mashes in the jaws of the cutter will be quite resistant to cutting, and placing the cable inside a "fat" jacket will force the use of a larger, duller bolt cutter. I suspect that bike cables of this sort aren't sold simply because it would be hard to convince people that they'd work. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '11 at 4:14
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If you must lock your bike in a public, unsecure area, firstly make the environment as hard to work in for the thief as possible:

  • ideally make sure it's well lit
  • it shouldn't be hidden away in a dark alley
  • it should be in a reasonably populated, busy area

That way, even if your bike looks attractive, the thief isn't going to be able to be particularly keen on working over your preventative measures.

It's a harsh tip, but make your bike look less attractive: muddy, tape, bad paint job, old. I know bikes are about self-image, but if your bike doesn't stack up well against the one next to you, then they'll go for that one.

Remove all bits that are easily removed. Replace your Quick Release seat stems and wheel skewers with lockable ones. On my commute bike I carry a spanner, not a QR wheel.

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I believe "well lit" isn't actually particularly useful. The deterrent is people (on foot) looking. Well lit just means it's easier for the thief to see what he (or I suppose she) is doing. –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Sep 14 '10 at 14:49
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So, with all other factors being equal, you'd suggest leaving it somewhere dark in preference to somewhere well-lit? –  Unsliced Sep 14 '10 at 14:54
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We just got a city mayor that cycles - and the new bike racks are in front of public buildings in heavily trafficked areas instead of hidden down alleys where they don't spoil the pretty view. –  mgb Sep 14 '10 at 15:29
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Well-lit areas means that if a thief wants to steal a bike, they have to do it in plain view. (Not that most people will actually do anything to stop a bike thief.) –  Neil Fein Sep 14 '10 at 19:22
    
@Neil Good parenthetical point. See youtube.com/watch?v=J7zb8YXrmIA :) –  Jason Plank Feb 20 '11 at 4:40
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Make sure that the object that you're locking to is actually firmly attached to the ground. I've seen enough poorly maintained bike racks where it's possible to lift up one end and work the chain or lock around. Also, locking up to a pole, parking meter or sign? are you sure that no one is going to lift your bike over the top?

As long as you can find one, I suggest always locking up to a well maintained public fixture meant for locking bikes to.

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Use two locks of different types (eg Chain and D).

I've felt pretty smug in the past when I've come back to my bike to see one of the locks snipped, bike still there.

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Lock the bike to something solid.

Put the bike somewhere it is in view of a lot of people and lit if at night.

Try to put your bike next to other bikes that are worth more and don’t have as good locks

Using two different desings of locks is a good option, but you then need to transport both locks – see these questions on locks

You may find you enjoy yourself better if you have a cheaper bike that you are not so concerned about being stolen.

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I make it a habit to remove all the lights & computer & lock the bike in a VERY public area for short stints. If I am on tour and check into a hotel I will take the bike into my room with me or make arrangements with the lobby staff to keep it locked in the lobby. I haven't had a problem with any of the hotels (big or small) regarding security of the bike once I explain the situation to them.

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I live in a big city, ride frequently, and have had a couple of bikes stolen. These days, I:

  • Have a modest bike,
  • Try to lock up in a visible place,
  • Don't leave my bike outside overnight,
  • Keep my lights in my bag, not on the bike,
  • Use a good U lock, no bigger than needed, and
  • Use locking skewers to keep my wheels and seat from going places.

So far, following this approach, I have had the same bike at least 5 years, with nothing stolen from it.

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After viewing countless videos, blogs, reviews, etc. this is the best page on locking I could find.

Excerpts from the page:

  • Lock the bike to something that is very strong, very securely anchored, and cannot be disassembled by thieves, such as a parking meter.
  • Ensure that the bike & lock cannot be lifted over the top of what you're locking it to.
  • Two complete locks are better than one, especially if both locks are attaching the bike to separate strong immovable objects. Locking the bike in two places also inhibits thieves from using the bike as leverage to break your lock. Whether they succeed or fail, they'll damage your bike if they try.
  • As a rule of thumb, cable locks are relatively vulnerable. Do not use cable locks as a primary lock, and only use them as a secondary lock if you are satisfied with the limited protection they offer.

...and there's a lot more there in the way of detail.

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I know it sounds incredibly stupid, but getting a bike with a striking color (such as this -love it btw) might reduce at least a bit the chances of getting stolen. I've read it happens so with cars, so I figure it might apply to bikes as well.

The reasoning behind it is that it draws too much attention and it is harder to sell.

What do you think?

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I like these tips from the Kryptonite guys. Here tha basic:

  • Use at least one U-Lock (better with aonother kind of lock)
  • Release the front wheel and lock it with the back one
  • Don't leave space for a tool to break your U-Lock.
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