How to Lock Up Your Bicycle

In my previous post, I talked about where to park your bike. If you’re not parking it in your office, you need to lock up your bike…because its a long walk home.

Picture of a beat-up looking bicu=ycle
It may not be much to look at, but it’s unlikely to be stolen. Photo by fletchy182.

My friend has a really nice, brightly colored carbon-fiber road machine that cost several thousand dollars. After it was stolen (from his garage!) it was found at a nearby pawn shop where the thief had hocked it for $300. The lesson: the phrase “thick as thieves” was invented to describe the intelligence of the common criminal.

Most thieves can’t tell a high-end bike from a piece of junk. They are looking for something that is 1) bright and shinny, 2) easy to grab, and 3) easy to get rid of. Take away any of these elements, and you make it much more likely that your ride will be where you left it.

Countering “Bright and Shinny”

You’re going to spend a lot of time with your commuting bike; it should be dependable, comfortable and something you enjoy riding, but that doesn’t mean it has to look great. Take a lesson from the Chameleon XLE, and consider riding a bike that performs great but may look homely.

You can uglify a bike by covering it with stickers, tape, or wrapping it in old tubes. These can all be removed at some point in the future; or if you don’t care about permanence, you can slap some random paint or nail polish on the frame. You’ll want to keep moving parts clean and well maintained, but do you need to wash and wax the frame? Fixing up and riding an older bike is both economical and discourages thieves.

Countering “Easy to Grab”

Make it hard for thieves to get your bike and they will look for an easier target. Lock up your bike in a secure space, remove anything that can be easily stolen like lights and computers. If you have quick release wheels secure them with locks. Many thieves are prepared to defeat one kind of lock, but if you two different locks (e.g. a U lock–requiring a crowbar, and a chain–requiring cutters) it will catch most bike snatchers unprepared.

If you lock up your bike to a signpost, make sure the post is solidly attached to the ground. If you are locking to a parking meter, make sure your lock is tight enough to prevent to prevent the bike–lock and all–from being lifted over the meter. If you lock up to a chain link fence use a post (chain link is easily cut). High traffic areas are good, but realize that parking next to a bunch of other bikes can give a thief cover–he may look like someone just getting his own bike.

Countering “Easy to Get Rid Of”

If your bike is distinctive, it is harder for a thief to sell it; my friend got his expensive bike back because it was the only one like it in the city. Even if you have a bike that looks like a hundred others, you can make it harder to steal by engraving your contact information in a prominent place. (After you engrave, cover the engraving with clear lacquer to prevent rust…or not, rust may be the look you’re going for.) Not only will the engraving help identify your bike if it is stolen, potential thieves will see that additional work will be required to erase the information so it can be sold.

Prepare Now To Recover Your Bike

No bike is 100% safe, but doing the following four things can help you recover your bike if it is stolen.

  • Take a picture of yourself with your bike. This will help you establish ownership if a question arises.
  • Record the serial number of your bike. Police recover thousands of stolen bikes; providing them your serial number allows them to match your bike with you.
  • Report any theft to the police.
  • Hide identification on your bike. Put a note inside the handlebars (where thieves won’t find it) identifying you as the owner; or put a card between the tube and tire with your name and contact information. When the person riding your bike gets a flat tire (the most common repair) they will find the note and may contact you–especially if you offer a reward.

 Question: What do you do to keep your bike secure?