How to Lock a Bike: Protect Your Two-Wheeler from Theft

More than two million bikes are stolen annually in Northern America, which means one’s ride goes missing every 30 seconds. With more and more people using bike these days, you have to be more proactive in protecting your two-wheeler against theft. Among others, one of the best things to do is to lock a bike.

A bike lock is a great deterrent against theft. Not all locks, however, work the same way. More so, while it can help, a lock alone is not enough. Some people are determined enough to steal bikes, and they will do what it takes to break the lock.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to lock up a bicycle. We’ll also give you some tips on how to choose a lock and other things that you can do to secure a bike.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Lock a Bike

Looking for the best way to lock your bike? Below are the best things to do.

1.      Pick the Right Location

Before anything else, you need to scout the area for the best location where you can lock your bike. Whether it is at school, work, or park, among other places, picking a good location has a crucial impact in preventing bike theft.

Lock Your Bike in a Busy Area

When choosing a location for locking bikes, pick a place that is always busy. There should be consistent foot traffic. Thieves will be discouraged to break a bike’s lock when there are lots of people around who can see what they are trying to do. Plus, although it might sound selfish, locking your bike in a busy area means that there are other possible targets, especially bikes with locks that aren’t as secure as yours.

Choose a Place with Security Cameras

Security cameras will also act as a deterrent, making it a good choice when looking for a good place to lock bicycle. Thieves will most probably be afraid to steal a bike if they can see that there are cameras installed around the area. However, this isn’t a guarantee, since many thieves often find a way to disguise themselves or hide their face so that they will not be recognized even if their act was caught on camera.

Make Sure the Area is Well-Lit

The darker the area is, the higher is the likelihood that your bike will be stolen. Thieves love it when they are hardly seen committing their crime. So, lock your bike in a well-lit area or public space. This way, when someone is trying to forcefully lock your bike, he or she can be seen easily.

2.      Look for an Immovable Object

As you scout for the perfect location for locking a bike, one more thing that you should be looking for is an immovable object. After seeing a bike rack, do not instantly assume that it is the safest possible option.

As you look for an immovable object, see to it that it is sturdy. It must not be easy to break. If it is made of thin steel or wood, then it can be easily broken by the thief. It should also be difficult to assemble and must be mounted on the ground. Plus, you need to find an object where it is almost impossible for the bike to be lifted over.

If you are going to lock your bike in a rack, then perform a quick inspection. Give the railing a quick wiggle. See to it that it does not move a lot. Otherwise, this is an obvious indication that the structural integrity is compromised. It must fit securely on the ground. Look for rusts, cuts, and dents. There should be no sign that it has already been broken by a thief.

When a bike rack is unavailable, look for other sturdy and immovable objects, such as trees, light poles, street signs, and fences. Before you lock your bike, however, make sure that you are allowed to do so in your chosen location. A good practice is to avoid private properties, such as fences in your neighbor’s house.

3.      Lock Your Bike

This is the most important step. More about this will be discussed in the next section. As you lock the bike, however, one of the most important is to do so according to value. This means that you should be locking the frame first as it is often the most expensive part and a prime target amongst thieves. Follow it up with the back wheel and front wheel. Make sure as well that the lock is facing down. This will make it more difficult to access, which can make thieves frustrated.

Different Ways of Locking Your Bike

Earlier, we talked about the basics of how to lock up your bike. In this section, we will provide a more detailed guide on how you can do it using different techniques.

A Simple U-Lock

The simplest way for a bike lock-up is the use of a U-lock. As the name implies, this is a U-shaped lock. To use the latter, it must pass through the wheel and frame, securing the bike to a rack. It is slid on the rear triangle of the bike’s frame. This way, there is only a small space left, preventing the bike from wiggling too much. In turn, thieves will have a hard time inserting a jack or any similar tool that can be used for breaking the lock.

Using Two Locks

To make your bike secure, you won’t go wrong with two locks. Thieves might not have the energy to break two locks. Make sure to use different kinds of locks. Also, see to it that you will do it on a rack cemented on the ground, making it difficult to steal the bike.

Start by locking the back. The best lock to use in a bike rack is a U-type lock, which covers the rear wheel and frame, securing them to the rack.

After locking the back part, it’s now time to lock the front wheel and frame to the rack. Once you are finished, both the front and rear parts of the bike will be secure.

Doubling with a Lock and Cable

Another excellent alternative when it comes to how to secure a bike is to use a cable and lock. Start by pushing the cable in the front wheel. Pass the loop of the cable towards the other loop. Next, insert the U-lock on the rear wheel. Before securing the lock, insert the end of the other loop and lock. Compared to using two locks, the main advantage of this method is that it is lighter compared to using two metal locks.

Removing the Front Wheel

For bikes that come with a quick-release front wheel, an alternative locking method is to remove the latter. Look for the quick-release lever and pull the front wheel. Put it next to the rear wheel. Once the wheels are together, position the U-lock and secure in its position. If you are opting for this method, take note that you will need to use a U-lock larger than the standard size. You will be locking two wheels, so you will need bigger space.

Doing the Sheldon Method

Sheldon Brown is an authority figure in the world of cycling. As a bike expert, he has also introduced an effective way of locking a bike. He uses the U-lock. He does not lock the bike through the frame. Instead, the method locks the bike through the wheel. Because you are locking only the wheel and not the frame, this can be done even when using a smaller lock. Nonetheless, if you have an expensive bike, we suggest that you use another method to have your bike locked.

Choosing the Right Bike Lock

It is not enough that you know how to properly lock a bike. It is equally important that you pick the right lock. Go beyond the price as you try to evaluate the alternatives. Quality is a more important consideration. To help you narrow down the possibilities, read on and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing.

Type of Lock

The first and one of the most important things to consider is the type of the lock you will choose. They are different in terms of construction and level of security.

U-Lock or D-Lock

This is the most popular option for locking a bicycle. As the name implies, it is shaped like a letter U or D. It is thicker than the other types of locks to provide unmatched strength. In turn, it will be difficult to break. It is shaped like a horseshoe and has a minimal open space when locked. In turn, it prevents leveraging so that it cannot be broken easily. It also acts as an effective visual deterrent. However, some people do not like this style because it is heavy and bulky, which means that it can be quite difficult to carry.

Chain

This lock looks like a chain. It is made of an anodized material. In most cases, it is covered with a cloth or similar material for ease of handling and protection from the external elements that can speed up wear. The ends of the hardened metal links are then joined using a small lock. However, one problem is that the chains are often made of a thin material, which can be easily cut by thieves when they have the right tools.

Cable

For something lightweight and easy to carry, you cannot go wrong with a cable. They are more flexible compared to locks made of metal. Plus, they are longer, which means that you can lock your bike even in larger objects. They are made of intertwined metal fibers and covered with plastic for weather protection. Traditional models have a key lock while more modern alternatives will use a number combination for better convenience.

Folding Lock

The name itself is already a giveaway about the design of this lock. Because it is foldable, space-efficiency is its best asset. It also has a simple locking mechanism, which is almost similar to how chains work. However, it is often an expensive option, so we do not recommend it to budget-conscious bike owners.

Ground Anchors

Thinking of the best solution for locking bike in a garage? Ground anchors are promising. They are installed permanently on the ground, unlike those mentioned above that you can bring almost anywhere. It has a heavy-duty ring that is drilled on the floor.

Unlock Mechanism

As you narrow down the possibilities, you also need to consider how it is locked or unlocked. The traditional options will have a keyed mechanism, including a cylinder. This means that you will need a key to unhook the lock and release the bike. It is often cheap, but the problem is that if you lose the key, then you have to break the lock unless you can get your hand on a spare key.

A more modern alternative is a combination lock. It is more convenient, and you do not need to worry about carrying or losing a key. You will use a three or four-digit combination code to unlock it.

Ratings

To make their locks stand out and ensure the best quality, manufacturers subject their products to third-party testing. Going through the latter makes sure that the locks have proven their strength. This makes you confident that they will not be easily broken by bike thieves.

Sold Secure

This is a company that has been assessing security products to determine the likelihood of an attack. They give out ratings to help buyers decide the right lock to choose. The products they test are given a bronze, silver, or gold rating. For your peace of mind, we suggest choosing a bike that comes with a gold rating. It has top-level resistance against dedicated thieves. These locks are perfect even for high-risk environments.

ART

The company rates bike locks from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. In most cases, a 2-star rating should be sufficient. However, if you live in a high-risk neighborhood where bike theft is a common problem, then 3 should be the minimum. Engineers and machines conduct tests to break the lock under stress.

Material

This is important as it is indicative of the overall quality of the lock. Choose a thicker material, which means that it is harder to break. Metal is the best option, but not just any metal will do. More than being thick, it should also be weather-resistant. Otherwise, rust and corrosion can be apparent, among other things that will make the lock weak. For most locks, make sure that the material has a thickness of 16 to 18 mm. They are thick enough that they cannot be easily cut using a bolt cutter.

Size

There is no wrong or right size for a bike lock. The best choice depends on the bike that you have and the type of locking mechanism that you prefer. For instance, if you want to lock both the frame and wheel, then you will need a larger lock. On the other hand, if it is just the wheel that you would like to secure, such as through the Sheldon method, then you can do with a smaller lock.

How a Lock is Broken

As you learn about the best way to lock a bike, it is also crucial that you know how thieves break the lock. Below is a quick look at some of the most common tools used for stealing bikes even when they are locked. These tools will also come handy if in case you have your bike locked and you lost the key, leaving you with no choice but to break the lock.

Lock Pick

This is the most portable tool that a thief can carry for breaking your lock and stealing your bike. It is also discrete because of its size. However, using such takes quite a skill. Once a thief is in possession of such a tool, then it is easy to make your lock useless.

Cable Cutter

A diagonal wire cutter is easy to conceal in a pocket. It isn’t as small and lightweight as a lock pick, but it is equally portable. If you are using a basic padlock or braided steel cable, then they will be easy to break with the use of a cable cutter.

Hacksaw

While it is a cheap tool, it isn’t as handy as a lock pick or cable cutter. This fine-toothed device can cut through thin metal, but it will require quite an effort. In most instances, the lock is heated and cooled before it is sawed.

Angle Grinder

The main drawback of this lock cutting tool is that it is electric, and hence, you will need a place to have it plugged as it is used. It is also quite noisy, especially when the grinder touches the surface of the lock. Once the motor is powered, the angle grinder will cut through the shackle.

Bolt Cutter

This is a long tool, usually around 24 inches. It is effective in cutting locks but not a common choice amongst thieves as they can be easily seen carrying the large cutter. The shackle is positioned between the blades of the cutter. Once the grips are squeezed, the blade cuts through the steel.

Other Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Bike Secure

There’s no doubt that using the right lock helps. However, this isn’t the only thing that you can do. More than knowing how to lock a bike properly, here are other things that can help you prevent bike theft.

  • Avoid buying flashy bikes. it is best if you can keep your bike low-profile in terms of its design. This way, it will be away from the prying eyes of thieves and will not be a prime target. The more expensive the bike looks, the more it catches attention.
  • If possible, do not leave your bike outside of your home. It might seem like a hassle to get it in and out of the house all the time, but the effort will be worth it given how it is an effective way to hide the bike from thieves in the neighborhood.
  • Use locking skewers for keeping the different parts of the bike secure. When they have quick-release handles, they can easily be stolen. Many thieves will be happy with just a seat or wheel. To prevent ease of access, use quick-release levers with built-in locks.
  • Write your name on the frame of the bike. Do not just do it through any sticker that is easy to peel. Etch your name on the metal. This way, it will be difficult for the thief to sell your bike because it has an identification. Although, take note that some may not care and still steal your bike.
  • Register your bike. Depending on your location, there are different organizations handling bike registrations. You will be given unique scanning stickers or QR codes, which will make it easy to identify the true owner of the bike.
  • Keep a proof of ownership, such as in the form of a photo of a bike with you. This way, when you see someone trying to steal your bike or claiming that they are the owner of that bike, you have proof that it is indeed yours.
  • If you want a more modern alternative to securing your bike, consider attaching a GPS tracker. Do this in an inconspicuous area of the bike, so that it cannot be easily removed by the thief. This way, you can easily track the real-time location of your bike.

Conclusion

By now, we hoped that you learn a thing or two about how to lock a bike. You can do it in many ways, such as using a simple U-lock, using double locks, or using a combination of a U-lock and a cable. Regardless of the chosen method, it is important that you keep in mind several things, such as choosing an area with a heavy traffic. It is also important to lock your bike in a well-lit location.