Locking Your Bike

Perhaps one of the saddest sights in the New York City bike scene is brand new bike locked up, but missing both wheels. Don’t make this rookie mistake. The best way to foil bike thieves is to avoid leaving your bike locked up in public for more than a few minutes. That’s not always possible, so use these tips to deter thieves.

1. Choose Your Weapon

What’s the best lock to use? No lock is perfect, and none are absolutely theft proof. All locks involve some kind of tradeoff or disadvantage. One of the best strategies is to use two entirely different types of locks in combination together. Many thieves have either the know-how or the tools to break one kind of lock. When they’re faced with two, they will usually look for easier prey.

  • Heavy Chains and Padlocks: Models like the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit or New York Chain are the closest to theft proof that you can get. The best chains have 15mm hardened links and a hardened padlock. The cheapest, and most easily cut, have 8mm links.Pros: Bombproof, best all day or all night security. Five-foot and 3 foot lengths give you a variety of lockup options. Cons: They are really heavy to carry around. You can’t lock both wheels and the frame to the same object; to do so, you have to remove one wheel.
  • Cables: These come either with an integrated lock, or with loops that require a separate padlock. The thickest cables are 20mm, but these only come in relatively short lengths, and are heavy, so they have the same issues as a heavy cable. More common are 6 foot lengths in 10mm to 15mm thicknesses.Pros: Longer lengths let you lock to almost anything you want, without removing a wheel. Coiled cables are compact, and the less thick cables are relatively light to carry around. Cons: Lightness isn’t necessarily a great feature for a lock, so don’t depend on a cable for all day security. They can be cut quickly.
  • U-locks: These are usually compact. Some are heavier than others.Pros: Best used with a long cable to secure both wheels and the frame. Cons: The width of the U shackle limits what you can lock to; U-locks are prone to “leverage” attacks. If you buy a U-lock, get the thicker more expensive versions that resist leverage attacks.

2. Choose Your Hitching Post

Choosing an object to lock to is where many people make mistakes and lose their bikes, either to thieves or to the authorities, even if they have a good lock. The best options are streetlamps, street sign posts, bike racks, and steel fence railings. Don’t lock to anything loose (check that street sign to make sure it’s secured into the pavement), easily cut (wooden fences, or thin pieces of steel), or easily disassembled (horizontal scaffold bars that can be unbolted, or a cheap rack that can be disassembled with a wrench). Make sure that whatever you are locking to is a good match for your lock (don’t use a long chain or cable with a parking meter or a short sign—it’s easy to just lift the locked bike over the post). And don’t lock to anything off-limits: It’s illegal to lock bikes to trees and MTA stair railings at subway stops.

3. Lock Your Bike

Make sure you lock both wheels and the frame to your hitching post. The lock should go through one of the frame’s main triangles. For U-locks, short chains, and short cables, learn how to remove your front wheel, placing it near the rear wheel next to the bike.

4. Remember This

Avoid leaving your bike locked up in the same place for days at a time; parts will start disappearing. Remove any accessories that are easily removed and expensive to replace (pumps, computers, bags with tools and tubes, lights, etc ). Don’t leave your bike unlocked in any public area (even the public areas of buildings) “just for a minute.” In “just a minute” your bike could be a few blocks away. We’ve even heard of bikes being stolen from hallways inside apartment buildings. If your saddle has a quick release seat post, either take the seat with you or secure the seat by replacing the quick release with a binder bolt. Bike shops can loop some bike chain between the frame and the saddle rails, which is another way to deter saddle theft.

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