The problem

It sounds foolish, but I have too often torn the valve loose from the inner tube by rotating the wheel so that the valve is pressed against a closed wheel lock. Wheel locks are common in the Netherlands and Germany, and I live just near the border. The rotation of the wheel is usually caused by pushing the bike while still locked, but also by gravity while removing the bike from the upper level of a double decker bike rack.

Are there any precautions I can take to reduce the likelihood of this happening? I would prefer solutions that work well with Presta valves at about 6 bar / 85 psi.

If you forget to check, the probability of locking between the spokes is 1/N, where N is number of spokes (~30), but the chance of pushing against the valve is more like 1/2N, as you probably stop as soon as you feel a resistance, which is roughly equally likely to be a spoke or the valve. The chance of ruining the tube is less again, as you may be lucky enough not to press hard enough; although that is hard to estimate, I know from experience that it is annoyingly high. Losing a tube every 600 (30×2×10) times you locked it would be bad enough.

Possible solutions

The following occur to me:

  • Do not close the wheel lock between a spoke and the valve — but if you are absent-minded, as I am, (or in a hurry) you will still be at risk of doing it now and then.

  • Open the wheel lock before moving the bike — also a problem if you are absent-minded, and barely practical with the double decker rack.

  • Do not use wheel locks — but round here you encounter them a lot.

  • Somehow reinforce or pad the area round the valve — sounds implausible to me.

Who can suggest more or identify the best?

(Somewhat) related questions

  • 5
    It's honestly hard to see an answer beyond "Take more care not to do that." Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 23:52
  • 1
    Dutch locks provide minimal security, so I'd personally remove it from the bike and use something more robust. Chain + D lock is considered more secure cos you're locking to something rather than just leaving it free-standing.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 3:59
  • 1
    Engage the lock last thing, and make it the first thing that gets released. That way it can't drag. Also consider checking your rim's valve hole for sharp edges.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 4:05
  • @Criggle: thanks for the tag! My wheel lock does actually have a chain as well, so its not so bad – but maybe “wheel lock” is not the right term then.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 11:13
  • 1
    I’m a bit miffed by the downvoting: I think it is adequately researched and clear, so presumably people are saying it is not useful to the “present-minded” majority – but to me it is a real problem and Chris H’s answer and Criggle’s comments have helped me. Saying “Take more care” was less helpful, @DavidRicherby; it would help if I could establish a mental trigger analogous to “About to shut front door ⇒ check keys in pocket first”!
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 11:22

7 Answers 7


A bike I sometimes borrow has one of these locks, and I can't say it's ever been a problem. You've given the answer in your question: Do not close the wheel lock between a spoke and the valve. If you're prone to forgetting this, what you need is a way to make the valve more obvious. I've had automatically illuminated valve caps before. That would do the trick, even in darkness, but the cheap ones I've used haven't been very waterproof. Alternatively putting a spoke-mounted reflector in that range of spokes might help. If even those don't stop you, something like tape between the spokes either side of the valve should prevent you locking up on the bit of the wheel, but might get in the way of the valve and will almost certainly end up making a mess.

  • I think that you have probably chosen the best of what occurred to me, except that I had not thought of making it mechanically difficult to overlook. You sound a bit dismissive, but I have done this often enough to be sick of it; perhaps you underestimate how absent-minded some people (including me, obviously) can be.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 21:25
  • Most wheels have one valve stem, but there are probably 28 or 32 spokes per wheel. so by random chance you'll blindly put the wheel lock through the cap with the valve once in 28 or 32 times. That's only 3.1% to 3.5% of the time.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 3:56
  • What about a single quick wrap of paper tape around the two spokes that are adjacent to the valve, and around the valve itself? (o==O==o) like that, so pressing the lock tongue encounters some resistance ? Easy enough to tear off if you need to access the valve proper.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 4:03
  • @Criggie in my climate paper tape would be papier mache in a week most of the year, but plastic insulation tape would work. The OP is also in northern Europe so is likely to have similar climate to me.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 7:17
  • 1
    @ChrisH paper tape (ie masking tape, painter's tape) is a lot more durable than you might think. Its not strong, but I've had some that has lasted years marking a replaced spoke. My point was to provide some way for OP to avoid the 3-4% of sectors in the wheel that contain a valve. Personally I thnk those locks are utterly useless.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 10:52

In the end, what has worked for me has been, as suggested by David Richerby, to take more care not to close the lock between a spoke and the valve — but since I am absent-minded, that was easier said than done. “Take care” in itself is unhelpful advice, because you still have to remember to take care, and if you can remember that you can remember to check.

What I did was to establish a mental trigger analogous to “About to shut front door ⇒ check keys in pocket first”, strong enough to break through whatever else one is thinking. Locking yourself out of your house is perhaps sufficiently drastic to make it relatively easy to establish a trigger, because of the associated emotions (or maybe it was not, but in any case it is now long-established!); for the case of the bike lock I needed to work on it. One must, of course, associate the trigger with the initial situation – the later misfortune is too late!

The point is to ensure that the physical movements and/or the more or less automatic thought processes of parking the bike and bending over towards the lock trigger an association strong enough to break through whatever else one is doing if one is deep in thought or conversation. What seemed to do it was practising the association (with the intent and the view and feel of the lock) a few times: bending towards the lock, rehearsing the thoughts and actions while maintaining awareness of the context. At first it was not altogether reliable, but each time it did work it reinforced itself (with a little help from me) — and that worked fast enough that the risk of damage in that period was pretty low.

I did try making the valve more obvious as suggested by Chris H (just with some paper masking tape), but that does not help much if one’s thoughts are elsewhere; it does however make it easier to see if you are in the danger zone once you have remembered to check, even though I have since removed most of it. It may also have been consciousness-raising enough to reinforce the association; a bright colour (as per rclocher3) would have probably done that even better. I did also try to arrange it so that it would physically obstruct the lock, but that did not work that well, though I forget why.

I have not established a trigger for opening the lock, nor tried fortifying the valve area or using a different lock.


As an absent-minded person myself, I sympathize. How about spray-painting your valve a bright color, like fluorescent orange? If the valve is much more obvious, then maybe you'll remember to look for it when you lock the wheel.

  • Might be better to spray paint the area around the valve or something, but you have to be careful if you have rim brakes.
    – Batman
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 2:43
  • One problem with this is that on a bike with a wheel lock one probably has a guard round the wheel, making it not very visible, and one may have grown accustomed to doing it mainly by feel anyway, barely looking. But it may be consciousness raising enough to get one associating the check with the intent or action.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 10:59

I haven’t had a wheel lock in my hands for some years, so I’m not sure if this is really possible, but: How about mounting the wheel lock as far downwards as possible and using the shortest valves available? Would this allow the valve to move underneath the locking bar?

  • That is a nice thought, and maybe there are locks are available with more space — I would like room for a Presta valve to pass; maybe I am actually having the problem because these locks are not designed for them.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 13:05
  • The Dunlop valve on my old bike didn't interfere with the lock. They fit in the same valve hole. However 5 bar might be too much for Dunlops.
    – gschenk
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 21:29

Place a safety reflector (dutch Kattenoog) between the spokes next to the valve. It may prevent you from locking it there, or at least remind you of the valve.

bike with wheel lock and yellow safety reflectors (cc-by-sa 3.0 Brosen via Wikimedia

  • This was already suggested in Chris H’s answer (without a photo or the Dutch term).
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 11:02

Recently, a new wheel lock has hit the german bike lock market. Its locking mechanism is being surveilled electronically. This features an automatic test whether spokes would interfere or not.

In theory, this should also be able to test for a valve to interfere. (Yet, I personally don't like the lock for other reasons. Plus, the test is adjusted way too sensitive). Anyways, this is the bike lock I'm referring at.

Otherwise, I can but see the options of 'prevent locking at the bad spot' (by usage of a Kattenoog) or 'enhancing noticeability' (by giving the valve an unusual color and/or shape).

  • ▲ because it seems to be interesting and relevant information, although I am not convinced that I would want this lock or that it would solve the problem: it sounds as though what it checks is whether the lock will close cleanly, and not whether there is an obstruction within about 6° on both sides of the lock.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 9:54

Proper tire inflation should also be checked because even if your tire lock is placed somewhere not in between a spoke and the valve,the tire can rotate from the rim when the bike is pushed with a tire lock on. The inner tube will go with the tire since it has a greater surface contact with it than with the rim prompting the valve to be left with the rim as the tire turns. This can happen several times before you will have your valve cut. You can have an earlier cut by the you inflate your tire with a tilting valve as a result of the improper inflation.(hernia effect)

  • If your tyre is flat enough to allow movement around the rim, its far far too flat to ride. I can't see this being a significant problem during normal usage. Welcome to the site - thank you for your contribution. Please do have a browse of the tour to see how things are a bit different here, and have a go at answering other questions.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 20:56

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