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How To Properly Lock Up Your Bike


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Not everyone realizes how expensive a nice bike can be. When I first got into cycling, I remember being amazed that some people pay $10,000+ for a really nice road bike and a nice mountain bike seems to average between 7 and 10 thousand dollars. Not everyone’s bike is going to be that expensive, but even spending $500 to $1,000 on a bike can be a bummer if it gets stolen. In order to avoid having your bike stolen, you need to properly lock your bike with a good bike lock.

What type of bike lock and how securely you lock up your bike depends highly on the value of your bike. If you spent a couple of hundred dollars on a bike, you probably don’t need to spend hundreds on a bike lock. However, if you spent thousands on your bike, spending a couple of hundred dollars on the best bike locks could be worthwhile.

Then again, you should also keep in mind that a bike lock is primarily a deterrent to thieves. There’s no bike lock in the world that can stop a determined thief from stealing your bike if they have adequate time to work on it. A good bike lock and proper locking techniques just add to the time it would take a thief to take your bike.

Where to Lock Your Bike?

The first step to properly locking your bicycle is to choose a good place to lock up your bike. Choosing the right area to lock your bike can be the first deterrent in keeping thieves from stealing your bike.

When choosing a place to lock your bike, you want areas with a lot of people and foot traffic. You should avoid side roads and back alleys that don’t get a lot of traffic. Areas with fewer people give thieves more time to try to steal your bike. In areas, with minimal people, the thief can also get away with using power tools to cut your lock or whatever you locked your bike to.

Areas with security cameras are also a great place to lock up your bike. Thieves don’t want to get caught and having a camera looking over your bike can be a great way to keep someone from trying to steal your bike.

Another important factor is how long your bike will be locked up. If you plan on leaving your bike locked somewhere overnight, although during the day there may be foot traffic, at night there probably won’t be foot traffic. So at night, a thief could sit there as long as they needed to get your bike locks off. For this reason, if your bike is very valuable I don’t really recommend leaving your bike locked anywhere overnight.

However, there are some apartments and places that have bike cages that require a key to get in then you also have a lock on your bike. These are better than a public area for overnight locking but if the bike is very expensive, I would take it inside with me wherever I’m at.

What Should You Lock Your Bike To?

bike rack

If you pay attention walking around your town, I’m sure you’ll notice some bikes locked to things that don’t make any sense. At first glance, it may look like a good place to lock a bike but after you think about it, the bike could be easily stolen.

I’ve seen bikes locked to stop signs, street signs, short poles, etc. In many of these scenarios, you could just lift the bike up and over the pole or the sign to steal the bike. On some of the others, it only would take 1 or 2 screws to get the bike off the sign or pole.

It’s best to lock your bike to thick metal poles that don’t allow the bike to be easily lifted off the pole. Whether or not the bike can be lifted off the pole also depends on what kind of lock you’re using. If you’re using a cable or chain lock, then you can lift the bike up and over a lot of different shaped poles. However, if you’re using a U lock or D lock, then poles that are thicker at the top, such as light posts could be a decent place to lock your bike.

You also want to take into account, that having an amazing bike lock that’s really hard to cut is pointless if the item you attach your bike to can be easily cut. So, attaching your bike to thin metal or wooden poles is pointless since those can be cut very easily.

Realistically, the best place to store your bike is indoors. However, if you have to lock it up outside, the best places to lock your bike will be in a high-traffic area with metal bike rack poles that loop and have both ends attached to the ground. This way your bike can’t be slid off.

How Many Bike Locks Do You Need?

The number of bike locks you need depends heavily on the type of bike you have and how long you plan on leaving your bike locked up.

If you only plan on leaving your bike locked up for 5 mins while you run in the store, having one chain lock or cable lock may be enough. On the contrary, if you plan on locking your bike up for hours, I’d recommend a minimum of 2 bike locks.

Going even further, if you commute to work and plan on leaving your bike locked up all day, you may want 2-3 U locks for your bike. If it’s too much to carry the locks with you, you could even leave the locks attached to the spot where you lock up your bike. This will allow you to have great bike security without the inconvenience of bringing the lock with you on every ride.

Best Types of Bike Locks

  1. U or D Bike Locks
  2. Folding Bike Locks
  3. Chain Bike Locks
  4. Cable Bike Locks

The overall best type of bike lock is a U bike lock or a D bike lock. However, these bike locks may not be the best for everyone’s situation. Good U and D bike locks can be heavy and troublesome to lug around with you. So, if you’re only going to be locking up your bike for a few minutes at a time while running in the store, a cable or chain bike lock could be a better option for you.

Kryptonite U Lock

After a U or D bike lock, your next best would be a folding bike lock. These bike locks are more compact but less sturdy than a U or D bike lock.

Abus Folding Lock

Next, would be a chain bike lock. These bike locks are made of metal chain links. While this may sound like a secure option, these chains can be cut pretty easily with proper tools.

kryptonite new york chain lock

Last but not least would be cable bike locks. Cable bike locks are woven metal cables wrapped in plastic. With the right tools, these locks can be cut in a matter of seconds.

Cable Bike locks are the least secure and are typically used in combination with a D or U bike lock. Due to this many cable bike locks don’t even have a lock on them. They have loops on the end so you can attach them to a D lock.

Kryptonite Cable Lock

What Parts Of The Bike Should You Lock?

When locking your bike, you want to lock your bike in order of value. The most valuable part of most bikes is going to be the frame. After that, it is usually the back wheel, unless you just have very expensive components on your bike. Since these 2 parts are usually the most expensive in most cases you want your D lock to lock your frame and rear wheel to whatever pole or bike locking rack you’re using.

After locking your frame and back wheel, if you have a cable lock too, you’re going to want to weave the cable through your front wheel and attach it to your D lock. This will keep your wheels, and frame secure, but not necessarily all your components.

If you want your bike to be even more secure, you could use multiple U locks. You can attach your frame to your locking post, then attach each wheel to the frame and if possible attach each of those to your locking post.

How To Avoid Having Your Bike Wheels Stolen?

When locking up their bike, many people forget that the wheels can be easily removed so they don’t lock the wheels too. Locking the wheels is probably one of the most important parts because of how fast they can be stolen.

The number of bikes I’ve seen where the frame is still locked up but both wheels are gone is insane. As explained in the previous section when locking your bike with a D lock, you want to lock your back wheel and frame together to your locking point/pole. Then lock the front wheel to the D lock using a cable lock.

If you don’t have a U or D lock, and only have a cable lock, make sure to intertwine your lock through both wheels and through the frame before attaching it to your locking point. This will give you the best security possible with your cable lock.

When locking the wheels, make sure your lock goes around the wheel not just around a spoke. A spoke can be easily broken and then the wheel will be taken.

How To Lock Expensive Bike Components?

There’s no really good way to lock your components on your bike. I guess, one option would be to get special screws that require special tools to remove them, but realistically that would just be a pain when you can’t find the tools you need to adjust your bike. If you have expensive components on your bike, I wouldn’t really recommend locking your bike up.

There are not really any locks that will adequately lock your components to your bike. Your bike lock will mainly only lock the frame and wheels to your bike. Due to this, your bike could be stripped of all the components without even getting the lock off.

Also, for the people that don’t know the prices of components, if you spent thousands on a bike, it’s very possible your components on your bike could cost $1,000+ by themselves. You don’t have to have aftermarket components for them to be expensive. There are a ton of expensive components that come on stock bikes.

In Conclusion

It’s important to know how to properly lock up your bike if you don’t want your bike to get stolen. Bikes are a great investment and a great method of green transportation. So, make sure you lock up your bike correctly with a good lock setup. That way you can continue riding your bike for many years to come. Walking out to see your bike missing is one of the worst feelings a cyclist can feel. Be safe, lock your bike, and happy riding!

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