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I bike commute and just moved to a tiny third floor walk up. I was willing to give up some of my precious space to store the bike, but it turns out that the narrowness and curvature of the stairs makes it extremely difficult to get the bike up and down. If I was going to store the bike outside, what is the safest way to do so in terms of lock configurations? There's a thick lamp post that I can see from my apartment that I'm considering locking it to. Thanks!

EDIT: The bike is fairly expensive (~$1000) and I use it for both commuting and amateur triathlon racing, so I don't think a folding bike is an option. The cellar of my building is even less accessible than my apartment. Based on everyone's advice, sounds like making some small modifications to get it up the stairs and stored safely is the way to go.

  • 12
    Would a folding bike be pratical for you? – mattnz Sep 5 '18 at 1:21
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    If it is inconvenient to carry the whole bike into the apartment because of tight stairs, a partially disassembled bike (front wheel removed) might be easier to get it through. If you front wheel has a quick release axle it would take seconds to dis/reassemble it. – Grigory Rechistov Sep 5 '18 at 6:16
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    Is there no bike cellar or at least an inner courtyard with a bike rack (both preferably locked)? I’ve seen lots of bikes chained to lamp posts which have suffered from vandalism or from falling onto the road. It might also be illegal in your city. – Michael Sep 5 '18 at 10:05
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    @Michael Would the asker really be proposing to leave their bike locked to a lamp post in the street if they had access to a secure cellar or bike rack? Give them some credit. – David Richerby Sep 5 '18 at 14:57
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    @DavidRicherby oh, you've never lived in a building that had underground level assigned for cellars? Have a cellar = the owner/renter of the appartment has a cellar in underground, not that it's a part of the appartment... Just like with parking place or garage. – 9ilsdx 9rvj 0lo Sep 6 '18 at 7:41

13 Answers 13

33

Not answering your actual question, but this might be useful to you.

To get a bike through narrow or awkward spaces, hold the handlebars and pull it up onto its rear wheel so it is pointing straight up. It relatively easy to balance a bike like this and push it around on its rear wheel while holding the handlebars. In this orientation it's about as wide as a person and can be turned in place. It's easy to go down stairs and it's even possible to go up stairs by walking backwards with it. The rear brake can be used to stop it slipping backwards.

If you use this technique you may find you are able to more easily get the bike into your apartment, which will be much preferable to locking it up on the street, with respect to both theft or vandalism and the effects of weather.

  • 3
    This is indeed a very handy technique. Of course it only works with a bike with short or no mudguards. Typical European city bikes have rear mudguards going so far down that you can't put them in this wheelie position at all, and even with short MTB mudguards you can't traverse stairs this way. – leftaroundabout Sep 6 '18 at 9:48
  • With bike upright, you can even fit with it into a small elevator! ) – Kromster Sep 6 '18 at 10:56
22

This depends a lot on the city; different cities allow you to lock up to different things, and have different crime rates.

For example, I've been to major European cities where a lot of the bikes were happily locked where they would have been stolen in minutes in New York City.

I'd first start by removing things that could be easily stolen (lights, seatpost, etc.) or fastening them permanently / locked to the bike (e.g. using pitlocks on the seatpost). You can also glue in ball bearings into hex heads. Pitlocks can also be used on the wheels as an aide to locking them properly.

Then, use a good U-lock properly (leave minimum amount of space for someone to jam a jack in, difficult to cut) and a good quality chain if you're at home (so you have 2 tools). Make sure to grab the wheels (rim is sufficient) and the frame.

Also, make sure to lock to something that is safe to lock to (people have cut down small trees to steal bikes, or lifted something chained to a post over a post; or some things aren't as safe as they seem to some people, e.g. street signs which are often easily removable). The light post may not be a good idea; depending on the city, the police may cut the locks and impound the bike.

In spite of all this, there is a decent chance that a bike will get stolen in a tougher city; having a cheaper bike outside as a beater and taking out a nicer bike periodically (stored in your apartment) can help.


Alternatively, you can carry your bike into your apartment. It's inconvenient but its probably the safest option you have. Note that none of the above options prevent vandalism of the bike (as pointed out by Michael in the comments), which may or may not be of concern in your city.

  • There in Germany you can lock the bike outside where you want if you don't disturb other vehicles/people, even sometimes I forgot to put the U lock and only locked the bike with the "clip" for days and nothing happened. Pretty sad to listen on some countries the vandalism is that high even to stole bikes... – Troyer Sep 6 '18 at 11:47
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    if your parts are expensive enough (electronic shifting etc.), thieves will cut your frame and take the parts they want. so IF you have a "nicer" bike as you call it, the only safe way is to store in your apartment as you mentioned. – bucky Sep 6 '18 at 12:35
  • After gluing the ball bearings, how would you later access the hex bolts? – Sparhawk Sep 6 '18 at 22:48
  • My grandmother was, at one point, the only person where she worked to not lose her bike because it wasn't chained to the bike rack when the thieves rolled up with a self-loading logging truck and just picked up the whole rack and left with it... Inside is safest if the thieves in your area are at all determined. – Perkins Sep 7 '18 at 7:28
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    @Sparhawk - It's hard. You spend some time popping them out ( hard for you, hard for them ). – Batman Sep 8 '18 at 11:32
10

I successfully keep a cheap old bike in a theft-prone area.

I'm on my second in 4 years because the first deteriorated, not because it was stolen. I use a good D-lock (it cost about as much as the bike, that is £/$/€30-50) through both chainstays to a bike rack. This secures the back wheel as well as the frame. The front wheel has a cheap cable lock through it, and the frame, to the rack. Both wheels use old-fashioned nuts rather than quick-release skewers.

I haven't had problems with the saddle being taken; again it's a nut rather than a QR. Accessories (pannier rack, bottle cage, lights) are attached using anti-tamper torx screws, though this didn't stop half my front light being stolen. The back light has been damaged (vandalism?) more than once, but is securely fastened to the pannier rack. I try to run with everything fixed to the bike as whatever I take off I have to carry on a longer ride (my commute is bike-train-bike with this only used for the 2nd ride).

The bike is also security-marked and has a big sticker saying so. The local police do this for free every few months otherwise it's quite pricey. One of the biggest deterrents though is that it's locked up near more expensive bikes (at the station), but at least as well as them.

  • 1
    A €30-50 bike is not much of a target - which may be a good strategy for avoiding theft. A cheap but decent city commuter bike is going to start at around £/$/€500. – AutomatedMike Sep 5 '18 at 11:02
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    Depends. A lot of cheap bikes make great targets are stolen in NYC for various reasons. Same with college campuses. – Batman Sep 5 '18 at 11:04
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    @AutomatedMike I think your definition of 'cheap' may be a bit niche. I have commuted by bike for many years and never owned anything more expensive than £100. Admittedly I'm not well off so maybe I just don't know what I'm missing. Is there really a compelling reason to spend another £400 on a bike? What qualifies a bike as 'decent' for you? – Clumsy cat Sep 6 '18 at 9:11
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    @Clumsycat oh, there are many enthusiasts who wouldn't even consider any bike below 1000£... but in the city this really is stupid, the cheaper the better. I bought my current bike for 60€ (mind, I've easily spent 200€ on spare parts since), and I lock it with a 40€ lock... It's the first bike that's lasted me more than two years before being stolen! – leftaroundabout Sep 6 '18 at 9:58
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    @clumsycat, I bought 3 bikes last year: the one I describe above for £/€35 in a junk shop, a second hand mountain bike for £350 and a new tourer for £1000. Each has its own uses. I certainly couldn't do my long rides on the city junk, but for a few km a day it's great. – Chris H Sep 6 '18 at 11:09
4

I would second mattnz suggestion. Try a 20" folder, I have commuted on one for several years, and it was fine.

They are quite small folded or open. Easy to get up stairs and much easier to hang up in your appt compared to full sized bikes.

Many other advantages for the urbanite: easily goes on buses, cabs, metro, and easy to scab a ride with friends part-way on any journey.

The disadvantages are just the imaginary stuff that moaning myrtles always come up with.

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    Oh the disadvantages are real alright. I own a cheap 20" folder, and while its never the best bike for a specific ride, its good enough for every ride. If I could only own one bike it would be a small wheel folder. – Criggie Sep 5 '18 at 11:12
  • How much is a "cheap" folder tho? I've been under the impression that they are all kinda expensive (I know, all relative terms...). – JPhi1618 Sep 6 '18 at 18:38
4

I used to apply the rule that any lock you buy for a bike should be 10% of the value. But this theory has failed me a couple of times - with old bikes worth ~$100. People will steal any bike that looks easy enough.

D-locks are far better than cable locks - it's cable locks that have failed me twice. I've never had a bike with a d-lock stolen. I've had it that people have tried to put a crowbar through the d-lock and twist it to break it, but it just ruined the d-lock meaning I couldn't get the d-lock off but the bike was still safe. The d-lock was permanently full of scars where people had tried to cut it off. The kind of d-lock I bought was an Abus mid-range for ~$40.

Also fairly common was just to leave the heavy d-lock attached to where ever you leave the bike at night. Then if you're cycling around have a cable lock to leave the bike for a short while.

  • +1 for having a second lock - while the Abus locks are rather light-weight for their performance, there are others which will add substantial mass to your bike. – Klaws Sep 6 '18 at 15:12
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    Apart from cable locks and D-locks, don't forget chain locks that can be pretty good as well. For the lock to always have with you, I would at least recommend a frame lock (even though it's a cable lock). – gerrit Sep 6 '18 at 17:21
  • @gerrit yes chain locks are excellent - especially at avoiding the crowbar issue. Plus also the framelocks are brilliant - in Belgium and Holland these framelocks are very common but I've almost never seen them in the UK and I suspect the US which is dominated by mountain bikes never have these framelocks. They're better than cable locks because it's harder to get at the exposed bit of metal. This is a typical Belgian/Dutch commuter bike: mydutchbike.com/bicycles/gazelle-omafiets-and-opafiets – icc97 Sep 7 '18 at 6:51
  • Frustratingly mydutchbike charges $900 but they're ~$100-200 2nd hand in Belgium (2dehands.be/fietsen/fietsen/opafiets-omafiets/2/…). – icc97 Sep 7 '18 at 6:58
  • My son is at a very bike friendly university. We/he adopted the opposite approach. Cheap bike and very expensive U lock (Abus Granit 540 X Plus). So hopefully not worth a thief's effort getting the lock off to only ride off on a cheap bike. I think the lock was about £70, the bike about £130, new. – Mikey Mo Sep 9 '18 at 12:23
2

Buy it second hand for half or a quarter of shop price. If you know where to look, and try before you buy, you should be able to find good quality even still, especially if you know how to do easy maintenance stuff yourself (you can bargain on a second hand with worn out tires or brakes, and if that it's only problems then go for it).

If your commute is short, like five min, you don't need top quality.

Buy a good lock. Read tests on locks on the interweb, maybe https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-bike-lock/ Consider two locks (although that might scream "expensive bike")

Carry the front wheel with you after locking. Easy to remove/attach without tools on many bikes.

Paint your bike ugly/"unstealable" - choose a color you think people will find unattractive. Many if not most thieves steal to sell. Make it look much shabbier than it is: Tape things that don't really need it. Don't wash parts that don't really need it. Empty the air of a tire if you don't mind spending the extra time pumping the next day.

If you have a choice, park it near homes/windows, thieves first go where they can work unseen. But still, don't park it alone near streets with many walking or driving by who can see it.

Write "GPS tracking" on it.

In essence, think about how a thief thinks to avoid them. Which bikes get stolen, which don't. If posssible, don't buy the kind of bikes which are most popular and easiest to sell second hand in your city/country.

1

Thieves specialize in different types of locks, at least that is what the local police is telling. Having two different types of locks on your bike will counteract this specialization and will make it much harder.

Also, when I park my bike outside I always put it next to other bikes, if possible behind them, giving a potential thief more choice.

0

Store a decoy.

Lock up another cheap bike not far from your bike with a less secure, but not trivial, locking mechanism. If thieves are present in your area, they will go for the decoy first. If that bike gets stolen then take that as a warning and don't leave your real daily driver outside in that location anymore.

Of course, this won't do much for vandals.

  • It doesn't work if the thieves are picky (and usually, they are). – 9ilsdx 9rvj 0lo Sep 6 '18 at 7:43
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    Downsides, you've just lost another bike AND fed the jackals. – Criggie Sep 6 '18 at 10:49
  • This also doesn't work with professional bike thieves who steal all the bikes they can see. In my friends' street, all bikes stored outside (probably nearly a hundred as this was in The Netherlands) vanished overnight one night. – gerrit Sep 6 '18 at 16:54
0

Insure it against theft.

When I bought my touring bicycle in 2009, I was offered bicycle theft insurance. I was living in a very low risk area, so I declined, but if I had been living in circumstances like you describe, I would likely have taken the insurance. Read the policy carefully to see if they permit storing your bicycle outside overnight and make sure you use locks that are approved by the insurance policy.

As for locking your bike outside, a lot of useful answers already. Get several good locks. Since I moved from a low- to a high-risk area, I've been using the Abus Granit Power 58 along with a heavy chain lock and a frame lock, so my bicycle is triply locked with three different types of lock. It's a good bike but doesn't look like a typical expensive bike around here, as it's not for racing or mountain biking. It doesn't matter if you can see your bicycle from your apartment; you won't be permanently watching your bike and a competent bike thief can steal your bike in minutes. If you find a more suitable spot to lock it within a couple minutes walk, lock it there instead. As a bonus, when you are leaving your bike for a little while in a very low risk area, you can leave the heavy U-lock and chain lock at home and you'll still have the frame lock.

0

Here is a suggestion on how to get your bike up the stairway. I'm not sure how popular this technique is, but I have found that it is a lot easier to carry your bike by following these steps:

  • Have the saddle up high at the efficient pedaling position (MTB riders might have it too low for this)
  • Stand by your bike as you'd be "pushing" it around
  • Turn around 180 degrees
  • Grap the lowest point of the frame, between the front gear and the front tire (the front tire now being behind you)
  • Put the saddle on top of your shoulder
  • Stand up
  • Walk ;)

Basically you are just dealing with the rigid rear end and the bike's handlebar and front tire will follow. This is especially easy when walking on a difficult terrain or up the stairs, but when walking down the stairs you have to pay a bit attention on having the front wheel high enough so that it won't hit the stairs behind you.

The saddle will put most of the weight of the bike on your shoulder, so your single arm just needs to hold it steady and the 2nd hand is left free from this exercise. Depending on the bike's weight and geometry you can even do this hands-free.

-1

Don't select the most secure location available if storage is for the long term. That makes your bike an easy vandalism target because it's isolated. I once stored my second cheap bike into a traffic sign in an area where nobody stored bikes. It was targeted by vandalism.

Instead, choose a location where there are plenty of bikes outside and just leave your bike as one among the many. This is the solution I chose for my third cheap bike after the second cheap bike was targeted by vandalism. The third cheap bike did not experience any vandalism.

The truth is, if there are 10-20 other bikes around your bike, you don't even need to have a fixed object you can lock your bike to. Just put the lock to your frame so that it prevents the wheel from rotating. If you absolutely want to lock your bike to a fixed object, try to find a long cable lock, use a U-lock to lock the spokes of your rear wheel and use the cable lock to lock your frame to a fixed object. If the cable lock is long enough, you can in some cases both have your bike as one among the many and also have a fixed object to lock your bike to.

  • 1
    The last paragraph doesn't seem true. Also, cable locks are pretty easy to cut (some chains are difficult). – Batman Sep 6 '18 at 1:03
  • Works for wildebeest...well mostly – Henry Crun Sep 6 '18 at 1:29
  • One downside of owning a cheap bike is you have to ride a cheap bike. – Criggie Sep 6 '18 at 10:48
-1

Why not just hoist it up to your balcony or window along the outside of the building ? Or rent a parking space elsewhere ?

  • 3
    Hoisting a bicycle 20+ feet the heads of pedestrians sounds like a huge liability risk and on a windy day you risk the wind blowing your bike against the windows of the units below. Once you get it up, getting it over the balcony railing would be a bit of a chore, but depending on the window, getting it through the window may be impossible. – Johnny Sep 5 '18 at 20:25
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    Yeah, this is pretty dangerous. – Batman Sep 6 '18 at 1:03
  • I can imagine a wheeled platform 500mm wide with a little built in winch, battery & solar panel. The wheel locks onto it. The winch cable screws to the outside of the building 3-5m up the wall. You hook your bike on, and it winches itself up out of reach, and out of the way of pedestrians, car doors etc. Sweet! – Henry Crun Sep 6 '18 at 1:26
  • I was merely inviting OP to think out-of-the-box. And the bike wouldn't have to go inside, it could just hang there for the night. Add safety features as required. – StessenJ Sep 7 '18 at 11:48
-1

In you car. You will need some quick-release front wheel with a quick-release front brake (I have hydraulic rim brakes from Magura, they are excellent brakes and very quick to remove and re-attach). Unless you own a van, in which case you can possibly store the bike as it is.

That would possibly not an option if you live in an area which is populated by drug addicts. These will happily break into any car (causing $1000s of damage) to steal a $100 item which they can sell for $10 to get their next shot). or in areas which see frequent bike races - there are teams of thieves who will go to such races to steal pro racing bikes from trucks, vans and even guarded parc fermés, literally leaving with a truckload of bikes.

The usual professional bike thieves, however, will be rather specialized on stealing bikes the "normal way": stealing single bikes by breaking the locks (cheap locks go in less than 10 seconds, expensive locks in 15 seconds or so) or multiple bikes by loading complete bicycle parking racks into a truck. They are less likely to break into a car. You might, however, consider to cover your bike under a blanket if it's really expensive (or even just expensive looking).

If you don't own a car already, buying one just for bike storage might be a bit pricey. If your rent includes free parking on private ground, you can buy just any crappy car and park it there (other tenants might of course complain about that crappy car that devaluates their upscale neighborhood...yes had this once, and later I found out that one neighbor actually hired someone to "remove" (steal) this eyesore). On a public road, you will possibly have costs for car insurance, license plates, taxes, vehicle inspection, etc. And you might need to move your car once a month so it doesn't look abandoned. Yes, people actually do this, especially in areas where the rent is expensive and parking is free (also near beaches for their surfboards...).

  • 2
    I think buying a car just for storing a bicycle is silly. – gerrit Sep 6 '18 at 16:56
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    @gerrit Especially when you consider how much it costs to buy an 18-wheeler, for safely storing the car. – Bilkokuya Sep 7 '18 at 9:31
  • @gerrit Silly indeed, but some people already own cars. And if you have free parking on private ground, investing like $50 into a broken car might be an option. Garden sheds are more expensive and often not allowed on parking lots, because garden sheds are fire hazards, and cars are not. Yeah, right. – Klaws Sep 7 '18 at 10:41

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