Big question: Is there any way to increase the security of bolted on portions of a bicycle?

Specifics: I cycle as my primary mode of transport (in East London) on a early 90s steel road bike with drop bars. It's a good bike, though it could use a paint job. A few weeks ago my bicycle was securely locked in a place with moderate foot traffic (I'd guess someone walked by every 3-5 minutes) for about 4 hours. During that time, someone undid my (quill) stem and the brake cables (at the caliper) and made off with my handlebars, stem, brake levers and brake cabling. So with that in mind, does anyone know of means to secure that portion of my bicycle?

(Part of my concern is that I'd love to move to STI/Ergos from my current downtube thumb shifters, but I can't escape the nagging feeling that a move like that would have massively increased the replacement cost of this theft, and I'm yet to find an acceptable security strategy)

Update: Was just directed to https://pinheadlocks.com/store/en/ by jstutters on twitter which is clearly close to what I'm after, though not quite right for a quill stem. If anyone has experience with this sort of system, I'd love to hear about it and if anyone knows of something similar that works with quill stems/threaded headsets that would also be very useful·

Second Update(Nov 2014): I've taken to using a full setup from http://atomic22.com they're pricy, but exactly what I was after. Been using them for a couple months now and am thus far very pleased.

  • 3
    For your quill stem you can employ a technique that I've had success with: Take a ball bearing and place it in the allen key hole and then melt wax or low temp solder into the hole. It is just annoying enough to keep an opportunist thief from taking advantage, yet easy enough to remove in a controlled environment for service.
    – Tha Riddla
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 15:09
  • 1
    For some screws (that are standard sizes) you can find Torx-head replacements. These would likely stymie the average thief, and they're not particularly inconvenient for you. Eg: fastener-express.com/metric-star6-lobe-screws.aspx Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 15:42
  • thanks for the tips guys. I may use both in combination...
    – alsothings
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 16:05
  • Velo Orange also makes very affordable security skewers (though I might add that they don't fit 126mm rear wheels). PitLock also makes all manner of very high quality security devices.
    – WTHarper
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 17:11
  • 3
    You may want to use the following method of locking your bike. dailymotion.com/video/…
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 16:51

6 Answers 6


For quill stems, you can use a rubber cement to glue a ball-bearing into the socket on the stem bolt, making it so you can't get at it with an allen key.

You'd obviously want to use a glue that can be removed with a solvent, so that you'd be able to do regular service.

  • 1
    How about filling in the hexagonal receptacle of an allen bolt with lead solder.
    – Kaz
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 7:42
  • I hadn't thought of that, until it was mentioned below. Solder might be a really good solution, although it might get messy if you don't have a desoldering pump handy when you need to reverse the job. Still, this might well be the best method, and I'm going to consider doing this to seatposts & saddle clamps.
    – cmyr
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 20:18

I've heard good things about Atomic 22, and they have a quill stem fastener. I haven't used them myself though, so don't take this as a recommendation, and ask around!

The only other vendor I recall hearing about is Pitlock, but like Pinhead I don't think they have a quill product.

Otherwise, the ball-bearing + wax or solder method is probably easiest.


One additional technique that works quite well is to camouflage your bike by making it look UGLY. Add reflective tape bits everywhere. Leave scratches and scuffs or cover them with a clear or mismatched paint. Put a ratty cover on your saddle. Cover brand names wherever possible. Zip tie junk wherever. Soft beeswax mixed with food coloring and rubbed on chrome parts will protect the parts and make them look terrible. Get creative! You can go a long way to making a great bike look like a total junker, which makes it a less than ideal target-especially for opportunistic thieves. Ideally you can do this without damaging your bike, too!

The uglifying technique alone won't stop bike theft, but it takes your bike off of the radar of most thieves.

It might also be worth it to consider buying an actual junker for commuting and keeping your nice ride for nice rides (considering a cheap bike costs $100-200 while replacing your wheels/handlebar groups/brakes/etc costs much more).

  • 4
    It you want your bike to LOOK like a junker, it practically has to BE a junker. A truly nice frame and wheels really stands out regardless of surface treatment-- if you can tell, the thief can tell. You can't "hide" stuff like phil wood hubs, nice mechs, brifters. Instead of going through the trauma of making a nice bike ugly, it is much better to tune up a beater.
    – Angelo
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 17:34
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    @Angelo: I suppose if you are in the "it's not $5000 carbon, it's a junker" camp, your comment is valid. An early 90's steel frame (Read the OP) can easily be made to look like a junker, even if it was the best money could buy back then, and to tell you the truth, probably makes a better all round bike than most of the plastic frames built today.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 3:51
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    I read a blog from a New York cycle courier - spending 9-10 hours a day on his bike he wanted it light weight, reliable and fast. He never locked it up, and never took it into buildings (too slow and not allowed). The bike was a fully kitted out with Ultegra components and weighted nothing. How - making it look ugly to the extreme. He embraced "rust" and stuck frayed "canvas" on his tires.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 3:56
  • I have a 1992 Bridgestone RBT. It isn't totally junky-I touch up scratches with clear and blue paint; I taped over the Nitto logos on my handlebars, stem and seatpost and over the White Ind logos on my hubs; I keep a painted nylon cover over my Brooks saddle; and I have a 2 plastic Buddhas zip-tied to my front rack. It wouldn't fool an expert, but will keep prying eyes on the lookout for a "nicer" bike.
    – WTHarper
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 2:08
  • 2
    Buddhas... nice touch....
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 4:15

Replace all of your allen bolts with security allen bolts.

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There's really nothing you can do to stop a determined criminal, only slow him down, but security bolts will add a level of confusion which will quickly deter the average opportunistic thief.

  • If you do this, make sure to get the equivalent grade of hardness in the bolt. Cheap bolts from the local hardware shop are likely to be softer than you need, so take the old bolts to a specialist fastener shop.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 9:57
  • Also remember to buy two of the right tool, and store the smaller one in your on-bike kit and the larger more comfortable one at home.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 9:58

Pitlock is head and shoulders more secure than Pinhead, which can be defeated.

That said, for my "errand bike" I use the cheaper Pinhead locks in combination with ugliness plus JB Weld in nearly every allen head on the whole bike.

Probably overkill. For this bike I don't plan to upgrade anything so it's not a problem -- and the occasional required part replacement can be handled with a hammer and a punch to break away the JB weld.


There is a fairly new solution for securing components I came across recently that hasn't been mentioned here yet:


It's basically a filler for existing bolts that needs a special tool to remove them (the keyword being "existing", meaning no replacements necessary).

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