I've moved to Amsterdam a few months ago, and have started using bicycles; I mostly cycle from home to work.

I've been using typical old(ish) used bikes, black-color omafiets of some obscure make, with a front basket mounted. It had a (simple?) ring lock and a 20-25 EUR chain lock.

My first bike was stolen from near work. Never mind the circumstances, but I bought another one and made sure to always keep it in my workplace's locked bike shed where I feel it's pretty safe.

However, just last week, my second bike was stolen from near my home. I had parked it at a main intersection - assuming the visibility numbers would make this a safer choice. Both locks were on, and the chain affixed the bike to a metal bike-stand. Still, it got stolen overnight.

I'm wondering what to do...

  • Should I plan for my bike occasionally getting stolen and repeatedly buy cheap ones?
  • Should I buy a more sturdy, more expensive lock for my new bike?
  • Should I spend money on customizing the bike so as to make it more theft-repellent?
  • Perhaps I should just change my assumptions and park my bike someplace less conspicuous to begin with? It would make the bike less visible to bike thieves, but would allow them to operate more safely, since few people would notice and if someone noticed they could just run off.

Advice would be highly appreciated.


  • Amsterdam-specific (and Amsterdam-popular-bike-model specific) answers are welcome; and that fact, specifically since the city is very prone to opportunist bike theft, makes this question a non-dupe in my view.
  • I can't keep my bike indoors overnight - I'm living in an apartment building with a narrow staircase and not much room, this is not a relevant solution (for me at least). Obviously if I could keep indoors it would be a whole different issue since bike thieves don't break into people's houses (that makes them burglars).
  • I'm not going to find my bike, so I'm only asking about next time.
  • 2
    Make it highly conspicuous with spray paint or coloured tape, stickers etc.
    – Carel
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 12:37
  • 4
    @Carel: And is there solid evidence that thieves don't take the conscpicuous bikes? Also, stickers are usually not water-resistant enough for the Dutch climate, I would think.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 13:30
  • 1
    @Carel: That's just a theory. I mean, it's true that it's easier to spot, but it's just a theory that it matters to bike thieves. I mean, there are a million bikes in Amsterdam, the chances of me even having the opportunity to spot my bike after it's been stolen is very slim. Also, suppose I spot a bike that looks like mine. I can't even prove it to anyone - and it's not like I can steal it back...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:10
  • 1
    "assuming the visibility numbers would make this a safer choice" Nope. Not how it works in Amsterdam.
    – Mast
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:46
  • 2
    In addition to sturdy locks, consider a bike that has a quick release front wheel which you can take with you. Who will steal a locked bike with only 1 wheel??? In some areas (not sure about Amsterdam) you can register the serial number with the local police so it's on file and will be returned to you if it turns up.
    – NotJay
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:33

14 Answers 14

  1. Buy more secure lock(s) for your bike - I have a Kryptonite New York Standard and a Kryptoflex cable that I leave in work for my commute. I also have a New York Fahgettaboudit Mini for using about town on my single speed (no quick release installed on this bike).
  2. Utilise new/better lock from above to secure your bike in a more productive fashion. Personally I will place the u-lock through the rear wheel and seat tube like the image below

Good bike lock strategy

You also have to consider that thieves want a quick and easy job. If your bike is secured like the picture above with a strong lock, they'll probably just move on to an easier target unless it's a very valuable bike which you've locked in public, something I'd advise against.

  • 5
    +1 for leaving one of the locks at work, locked around something. That way you don't have to lug it back and forth.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 14:42
  • @RoboKaren exactly, they're quite heavy and more so when they're robust.
    – ynnekkram
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 14:54
  • 7
    +1 for utilizing the lock correctly. Too many bikes get stolen because their lock is improperly placed.
    – Mast
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:48
  • 1
    This is a good way to keep your bike from being stolen, but unfortunately there will be thieves who will still try to steal your bike and will likely damage it in the process (especially the paint). Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:52
  • 3
    Great answer: Kryptonite, tick. One technique to break a u-lock is to put a long pole through the lock and use your body weight to twist/flex the lock free. Shorter u-locks like the ones linked are stronger than the one pictured as they flex less. This technique is less desirable to attempt if the lock is high (you might have to climb up to get your body weight on the pole). Therefore place your lock as high us up as possible, like on the top tube.
    – Ross
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:21

A cheap ring lock like the one pictured below can be defeated in less than one minute with a screwdriver. Furthermore, even a good ring lock (one that that isn't easily broken and might take a few minutes to defeat with a screwdriver) has a fundamental and fatal flaw - the thief can simply pick the bike up and put it in the back of their truck or van.

Ring lock from wikimedia

A chain lock (even one that is 20 euro) or wire lock can be cut with small bolt-cutters, small enough to put in your jacket. The same bolt-cutters could have easily destroyed your ring lock too -- even very good ones. Total time about 10 seconds.

Wire lock cut

What you really need is at least one lock that can't be defeated by bolt-cutters. Get a U-lock with very thick shackles (> 12mm). Get two if you can -- one you leave at home and one you leave at work.

For example, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini has 18mm shackles. Most bolt-cutters only go up to 12mm (1/2"). So the only way to cut the Kryptonite is to use a grinder, which is noisy and takes more time (about two minutes with a grinder).

enter image description here

  • 1
    At work I park in a locked shed (with a serious locking mechanism) that can't be defeated by simple mechanical means. But I guess I'll try the U-lock approach. How thick are "very thick shackles"? @ynekkram suggested an $80 one that looks really sturdy.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:01
  • Ring locks are functionally similar to wheel locks on motorbikes, and I've seen a 400 kg motobike pused away with the locked wheel simply on a dolly/sampson/wheeled carrier.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 9:06
  • Thick is more than 12mm minimum. Portable bolt cutters usually have 12mm/half inch jaws.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 9:43
  • Ever seen a U-lock where the thief picked up the whole of the bike and turned it around a few times? If not, come to Amsterdam where that is a popular method to break U-locks.
    – Willeke
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 15:31

I know you said 'I'm not going to find my bike', but it is definitely very helpful to figure out the spots where bike thieves try to sell your bike on. I have retrieved more than one stolen bike that way!

In Amsterdam there is a service every Wednesday (in different locations) where you can let the number of your bike be registered and they will engrave it on the frame of the bike in a visible spot. That will both deter future thieves and make it easier to find your bike if it does get stolen again.

See this page for the times and locations for the engraving.

  • 2
    Oh, that's not a bad idea... I guess what it means is, that if it ends up in a "proper" bike shop or in the fietsdepot again after being stolen, it will be returned to me?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:13
  • 3
    I think so, although it may depend on the bikeshop. If it gets cut away later by the AFAC I think they notify you as well if youre the registered owner. At the very least it will make it easier to notify the police of the theft and let them know which bike you're looking for, so it increases your chances of retrieving it. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:18

Get folding handlebars so you can carry the bike up the steps into your apartment. Make room for it inside (just get rid of something else you don't really need such as an old chair, an old bookcase, an old girlfriend...).

enter image description here

  • 6
    That is an odd-looking bike, do you have a link to the rest of it? I guess its a complete folder?
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 4:25
  • 1
    @Criggie Here you go: goo.gl/dsMgyU
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 3:34
  • 3
    @Scott Um. That's no a link to a photo of the whole bike. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 7:52
  • No I don't have the pic of the full bike sorry. Folding handlebars seems like an interesting idea and practical too. For example, some buses allow bikes on the front and pre-folding the handlebars would allow closer spacing of them so perhaps they can carry 3 bikes instead of just 2 and not have to reverse one of them so the bars don't bump each other.
    – David
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 9:26
  • Could be a good subsitiute for aero bars, if you could deploy them while riding...
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 22:34

Since others have answered the "what kind of lock to use" aspect quite well, I'll pretend that you're a mark for the bike-thieves now, and that they will not leave you alone no matter what kind of lock you employ.

As such, I'll address other strategies here; a lock — no matter what the quality — can only buy you time against a determined thief. If your bike is accessible all night long, then no lock is truly sufficient, especially since this place near your apartment sounds like a comfortable spot for them to continue to operate.

Lockers: If there are sets of bicycle-lockers in your general area, you might consider availing these, and then walking or taking public transit a few stops to get back to your apartment. This may or may not work depending on your schedule. To find out if there are any nearby, you can probably get a map from your local bicycle-advocacy group or bike-shop.

bicycle lockers

Friends or neighbors: Similar to the locker-strategy, someone may have space nearby, like a big truck or van they never use, a house with a good fence (and a scary dog?) or maybe they have a garage. Give them rent (or cookies) in exchange for the space. Clearly, this requires some trust and I'm aware you're new to the city, but you could meet a nice old lady or something walking. Maybe you won't use this idea right away but will move house later and it will become an option.


City rentals: I've lived in some places where the city offers bike-rentals everywhere, and the special racks always have at least one bike sitting in them. Although this may cost you some money (sometimes there's a discount card you can get if you're a frequent user), you save on upkeep, and you don't care if one specific one gets stolen (or rented by someone else).

Municipal bicycle-rental station

Insurance: There are likely insurance policies out there which will cover a stolen bike, and you may even be able to just expand one of your current policies to include it. This may require you to register the bike somehow, or use a specific kind of lock, but it would allow you to rest easy.

Longterm strategy: You might want to determine whether there are any cameras nearby this parking area where your bike was taken. If there are, it would allow you do some sleuthing. Regardless, you could petition your apartment complex's administration and/or city/neighborhood authorities to create more bicycle-storage or put up cameras in the area, which would hopefully discourage this kind of theft in the general vicinity.

  • 3
    Some of this is very sound advice, but not quite for my situation. I'm in town for a post-doc; I don't speak dutch; my building only has 4 tenants and no owners; in Amsterdam, bike lockers are unrealistic due to sheer numbers of bikes; and while you can rent bikes in Amsterdam, there aren't any of those special racks and for that price I might as well have my bike stolen occasionally. Ditto for insurance I think.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 9:49
  • @einpoklum "Nobody" owns the building? Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 0:30
  • 2
    @SeldomNeedy I interpret that as "there are no owners residing", viz it's all tenants.
    – Móż
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 6:08
  • 1
    "If there are sets of bicycle-lockers in your general area, you might consider availing these, and then walking or taking public transit a few stops to get back to your apartment." Having to take public transit for a few stops completely defeats the point of using a bike for transport. Most people don't cycle much farther than half an hour at a time and you've just added 15-20 minutes to that journey. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 7:51
  • @DavidRicherby Just providing suggestions.The amount of time a tube-ride would take really depends on the quality of tube-service, OP's immediate topography, and also his sense of timing. In D.C. for example, this would add maybe 5 minutes. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 4:24

I don't know exactly where you are, but I knew a woman who lived in an area with many canals where unlocked bikes tended to get thrown into the canals. A friend of hers had her bike stolen, and instead of getting a new one, she hauled one out of a canal and cleaned the major dirt off. It rusted into unusability within six months, so she pulled out another one.

This solution may not prevent theft, but it will certainly save on replacement costs when theft happens.

  • I'm not next to where the smaller canals are, I'm near the Amstel. Also, frankly, I would not feel safe enough to ride a rusty bike which has been in the canals for a while. I'm not saying that's necessarily bad advice, but it's not for me.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 14:29
  • Fishing with magnets for hooks ? Sounds interesting.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:28

I think you need to plan on your bike being stolen/damaged a few more times, maybe many more times. The Netherlands have a big bike theft problems, Amsterdam tops that by quite a bit.

My mode is always to have a bike that looks less than the ones besides it and lock it with better locks.
Two different locks, best one that is not that common in the area. Often locks on Amsterdam bikes are more expensive than the bike itself.
A lock that is common where you used to live but not in Amsterdam might work better than a more expensive lock common where the bike is parked.

Did you look for a guarded bike parking near where you live? There are quite a few spread around the city and you might find that it is only a few minutes walking for you.

I find one on Weesperplein and one at Amstelstation. If you google maps on bewaakte fietsenstalling they all pop-up on the map.

  • +1 for saying I should consider paying more for locks than for the bike. Considering how much I've spent on locks that were broken already, I might as well try a super-hard-to-break expensive one. Although - some people say that with the proper tools you can break any non-insane lock, so...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:33

One data point:-

I kept a €20 bike locked on the street in the Amsterdam grachtengordel (not dead-centre) for several months with a two locks:-

  1. A ubiquitous lock mounted on the seatpost that passes through the rear wheel.
  2. A not-very-expensive chain lock that looks like this:-

    Chain lock

    IE: the key-lock is encased in a metal tube and the chain is secured in the tube with bolts.

Perhaps I was merely lucky.

Other thoughts...

A black omafiets (high handlebar) is a desirable style and even a cheap item might be more of a target than other styles, eg a 3-gear Gazelle. Perhaps you meant you've owned this (old) contemporary style? (I don't know the name, I think of it as a school or student bike.)

  • 1
    Is there really no lock on that chain? Just a couple of bolts? Do you carry a wrench with you and unscrew the bolt when you want to use the bike? Is that common in Amsterdam? It seems like a lock would be both more secure and more convenient.
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:17
  • 6
    @Johnny - no, the lock is on the other side of the box containing the bolts; but the mechanism is such that you have to turn the key, then pull the bolts out (they are spring-loaded and return by themselves) to release the chain. Cheap but very sturdy.
    – Floris
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:41
  • Ahh ok, that makes more sense
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:45
  • I did own a black omafiets - that's what most of the cheap used bikes are (well, either that or the diamond frame). Anyway, what you describe is basically exactly what I had for locks and that's how I locked my bike. I guess either you got lucky or rather I have gotten unlucky.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:30

What part of Amsterdam are you in? I've been told any place that is near students is a bad place to keep your bike. If you really want to be vigilant do a google search for compact GPS units or something like this http://www.spybike.com/ and hide it on your bike. I usually get a used bike of questionable origin when I visit. There are a few good places to go. I have even heard of someone finding a past stolen bike for sale at the market. Don't lock your bike with a standard major brand padlock. Many of these lock brands have masters keys. A skilled bike theif can easily pick a lock in a few seconds if they have had plenty of practice with the particular model. A battery powered angle grinder or a portable plasma torch can cut any lock in a few minutes. A really determined bike thief is going to get your bike if they really want it. I've actualy locked my bike next to bikes with bad locks in hopes that someone would take their bike instead of mine.

  • I'm East of the Amstel, west of Oosterpark. But - can you tell me which brand locks are considered unsafe?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:39
  • 3
    "Park next to an easier target". Best advice.
    – Floris
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:42
  • I stay in the Nieuw-West and it s a little quiet there at night so people have a little more time to work unnoticed. Master locks series 1-3 used to have master keys for the locks. Something with a shrouded shackle is good a choice. If money is not object you could get a Mul-T-Lock interactive like this: ebay.com/itm/like/… But your weakness would be your chain and a lock like that is probably going to draw attention. A plain case hardened steel chain with a nylon cover is usualy ok paired with a good lock. I also lock my wheel lock as well. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 22:44
  • @einpoklum it's not a question of "which are unsafe" but "which are safe". Look for the Sold Secure mark. Abus locks might be easier to find than Kryptonite in .nl, but both those brands have many good options.
    – user1914
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 2:50
  • @AdamEberbach In tests Sold Secure Gold rated locks were all broken in less than 42 seconds. One Sold Secure Gold rated lock was broken in 10.6 seconds with just small cable cutters.
    – bain
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 12:28

Here's an idea. Let me know if this sounds ridiculous:

  • Lock the bike with 3-4 different non-trivial chain locks (the kind you can get for 15-25 EUR).

While chain locks can be broken, each one takes some time, and breaking one of them doesn't help you with the others. It might draw more attention, but for a somewhat shabby-looking bike, it should probably not be worth the trouble.

I would just leave them on one of the bike racks near my home, and at work I have the shed arrangement.

(I will have a ring lock too, for convenience and for driving around with in case I need to leave the bike for a couple of seconds.)

  • 1
    I once heard the proposal to use different types of locks, because many thieves have just tools for one type of lock with them. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:59
  • @PaŭloEbermann: I heard that too and I don't buy it unless they're very special locks. Whatever you use to cut through a chain will do the job nicely for a cable and most probably also a ring lock. And if you can dispatch a U-lock, you can probably get through chains etc.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 23:00
  • 1
    @Oxinabox: A quality U-lock can not be dispatched with a bottle jack or crowbar - they are far too strong. And yes, manufacturers (and test institutes) do try it. With a good U-lock, the only realistic option is an angle grinder, which is heavy, makes a lot of noise, and still takes at least one to two minutes.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 9:22
  • 2
    @sleske if you can get a bottle jack in it. You can break it. Considering these ( bvahydraulics.com/Catalogs/MiniBottleJacks%20Spec%20Sheet/2306 ) come in up to 20Ton -- that's like hanging a dozen cars off of it. I'ld like to see anything that is practical withstand that. Now that is a high end bottle jack, but you are talking about a high end U-lock. I agree they are tested, but they want to balance cost and weight into the factor. I imagine an expensive U-Lock would stop most bottle jacks. But the average $30 one I got from the hardware store, isn't going to stop much. ... Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 9:41
  • 1
    When the CTC did an article with a bike thief he demonstrated using a stubby bottle jack on U-locks - it's small enough to go in to a U-lock sideways, see this photo and another, and he broke every lock in less than 45 seconds.
    – bain
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 18:39

In addition to all of the other suggestions, I would recommend removing one or both wheels at night. You could easily carry and store these. A thief would more likely steal a bike that was not useless so he would steal another bike instead.

This could also backfire by making your bike MORE noticeable which could draw the attention of a thief.

  • 4
    This could also backfire by making your bike look abandoned, which might mean that people steal any removable parts from it and might mean that the city council remove and dispose of it. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 19:36
  • 5
    Removing bike wheels is not the done thing in Amsterdam (and the rest of the Netherlands and will result in more damage.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 19:38

have you considered foldable bikes that can fit in a backpack? there are many cheap variations which you can take essentially anywhere and consequently, indoors.

  • This is much closer to a solution than anything else so far, in as much as it is not too inconvenient to follow.
    – Jekowl
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 22:02
  • This answer duplicates parts of another previous answer and adds no value. Please read the other answers before you post.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 23:59

Amsterdam is a tough place when it comes to keeping bikes safe. Of the people I know who live(d) there, the bikes they keep/kept outside are in such bad shape that I myself am afraid to ride them... so if you can find a bike which is completely covered in rust and has a broken headset, you can buy a "middle-class" bike chain lock and leave it outside. Otherwise, I'd do what ynnekkram suggests, but keep in mind that a lot of thieves will still try to steal your bike and will likely damage it in the process (especially the paint).

  • 1
    I've already had a bike thief leave a half-key in a chain lock, making it impossible for me to open it :-(
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 15:52
  • Not sure how I can help you there, but I guess at least feel happy about how nice riding in Amsterdam is compared to many parts of the world? I mean, you guys have separate bike lanes with their own traffic lights... Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 16:04
  • 5
    Lanes are for bikes by default here. You mean to say, some streets have car lanes... :-)
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:47

Yes I voted to close as it is multiple questions

I think a better question is bicycle security and risk management
You want to minimize theft and minimize impact in the event it is stolen

  • Cheapest bike that does the job
    • This not only makes the bike less attractive to thieves but also less costly for you to replace
    • A used bike is going to be less expensive.
    • Amsterdam is fairly flat. A single speed (SS) is probably sufficient. A SS is going to be the cheapest bike. And there are less components to steal. I have SS for commuting that is actually a nice bike to ride and I have about $400 into it.
  • High end locks(s)
    Put $100+ lock on a $300 bike
    Make sure the frame and both wheels are locked
    Make sure you are locked to something secure
    There are tricks of stop signs that can be lifted out of the ground
    best bike lock
  • Secure components
    Cheap components is a deterrent
    Definitely want a ratty seat and ratty pedals
    Kind of need to risk decent wheels and tires or the bike is just not very ride-able
    Can get security bolts and security skewers
    Cheap trick is bearing in hex bolts held with grease or wax
    Never leave lights or bags on the bike - you can get quick release seat bags
  • Location
    High visibility and high traffic
  • Record and register the serial number
    Not only gives you a chance of getting the bike back but is can shut down criminals. If the police go into a garage and see 10 bikes of various sizes they are pretty sure they are stolen but cannot prove it. A registered bike lets them prove the bike is stolen.
  • Another extreme is a folding bike that you can take into you apt and work. But a decent folding bike expensive.
  • 2
    I think some of your suggestions are not very practical. First, a used SS bike is ~130 EUR ~= $145 (and that's what I got last time). So your nice bike is 3 times more expensive than mine... and that also makes folders not so relevant. Also, if I put $100 of locks on a $300 bike, I should put a 43 EUR of locks on my next bike. That would preclude getting most of the U-locks recommended here (especially if I want two locks). Finally, I did keep it in high visibility and high traffic, and it looks like that might have been the problem. F
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:46
  • Second hand folders can be had from about €50, www.marktplaats.nl for instance, but to get one you want to ride longer distances you may want to pay a bit more.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:58
  • @Willeke Then folder is good suggestion or a bad suggestion?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:05
  • 1
    If OP has the space and is willing to carry a folder up the stairs to his apartment, it is a good suggestion. But if a folder is not working where he lives, (narrow stairs, small apartments) is it not much use. I mentioned the price of a second hand folder to help OP if he is considering buying one.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:08
  • Carrying a bike up and down the stairs every day is at the very least a hassle. But it is a valid suggestion, so +1.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:26

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