Locking your bike on the street
Updated: Jan 9
Where should I lock my bike?
Below are some general tips which you should always try to follow.
Tip 1: Choose a busy place.
Try to choose a busy location with lots of people walking past. If it’s an area well covered by CCTV, even better. Other people and CCTV make thieves nervous.
Choose an place where lots of other bikes are already locked up. Ideally in the middle of a group of bikes rather than on the end. This serves three purposes:
Firstly, there’s bound to be badly locked bikes that are more tempting to a thief than your well-locked bike.
Secondly, lots of bikes crammed together give a thief less room to maneuver and use their tools effectively.
And thirdly, the comings and goings of other cyclists may disturb them and if anyone is going to challenge a bike thief, (and lets face it most people just walk on by), its going to be other cyclists.
Tip 2: Choose an immovable object
A bike is only as secure as the object it is locked to. So make sure you always choose a fixed, immovable object that’s not easily broken.
Check the bike can’t be lifted over the top of whatever you’ve attached it to. Or that the object can’t be easily unscrewed or dismantled. Avoid trees, aluminium or wooden posts, sign posts, scaffolding and chain link fences.
If you choose metal railings, try to get the lock around as many railings as possible. But ideally the immovable object would be a specially designed bike rack that’s cemented into the ground.
However, you even need to be careful with these! Some sneaky thieves are cutting through bike racks when they're empty and then covering up the cut with tape to hide what they've done.
Once an unsuspecting cyclist has left their bike locked to the rack, the thief returns, prizes open the cut section and makes off with their bike! So check any rack you use hasn't been tampered with.
Tip 3: Don’t give thieves clues
If you’re going to the movies, the mall or anywhere else where you might be away from your bike for a significant amount of time, consider locking your bike a couple of streets away.
Why? If a thief sees you locking your bike and then going in to any of these places they’ll know they’ve got a fair bit of time to work on your bike!
Tip 4: Take extra precautions
If you know an area is dangerous, avoid it. Or if you can’t avoid it, take an extra lock. And don’t leave your bike for too long!
How should I lock my bike in the street?
Tip 1: Lock your frame
Always lock your frame to the immovable object. If you only secure your bike through the wheel, a thief will simply remove your wheel and walk off with the rest of the bike.
This may sound obvious but it happens all the time.
Tip 2: Keep your lock off the ground
Try to keep the lock away from the ground. If it’s on the ground, a thief can use a hammer to smash the lock against the hard floor and this will break cheaper models.
Also, the closer it is to the ground, the easier it is to use the floor for added leverage in a bolt cutter attack.
However, also avoid the top tube. If the lock is around the top tube of the bike, a thief can use the frame itself to try to break the lock by lifting and twisting the whole bike.
Or since there's also likely to be more space left inside the lock when it's on the top tube, insert a length of metal that can be used to twist and pop the lock open. So, ideally the lock should go high up around the down tube or the seat tube.
Tip 3: Make the lock difficult to access
Try to make the lock as difficult to access as possible. If it's difficult to access it will be difficult to attack.
And if you can position it so the key hole is facing downwards even better. This will make it more difficult to tamper with the locking mechanism.
Thieves may try to put superglue in the keyhole to prevent you unlocking your bike and forcing you to leave it in the street overnight and giving them more time to steal it when the streets are quieter.
Or some thieves may have the locking picking skills to open you lock without force. But if the key hole is hard to access both of these forms of attack become more difficult.
Tip 4: Fill the inside of a U-lock
If you’re using a u-lock, try to fill as much of the space within the U with the bike and the thing it’s attached to. This is really important.
The most common way that the better u-locks are broken is with leverage attacks. A long metal or scaffolding pole is inserted into the space within the U and twisted until it pops open.
Hydraulic bottle jack attacks are less common also depend on there being enough space inside the u-lock to insert the tool.
But if there’s no spare room inside the U, a thief can’t use either of these methods. So keep those locks full!
How to lock you bike using U lock with cable
Attach the U lock or chain around the rear wheel, the frame and the bike rack as above.
Then push one end of the cable through the front wheel, pass one loop through the other loop and secure the first loop to the main lock.
The advantage of this method is that the cable is very light. So you’re saving a huge amount of weight over using two proper locks.
What should I do if my bike is stolen?
File a report with the Police Department. You can file it online, but investigators strongly recommend reporting it in person at the nearest station. Provide serial number and pictures if you have them.
Register your stolen bike with safebikes.org and stolen.bikeindex.org.
Look for cameras near where bike was stolen. Often times, buildings will have cameras facing the street. Contact the building owner to recover tapes.
Post the bike as “Stolen” in bikes section of Craigslist. If you receive a tip or info, contact the police. Do not attempt to recover bike on your own. You can use ifttt.com to create an alert.
File a claim with your renter or homeowner’s insurance company. Sometimes bike theft is covered.
Visit local flea markets to look for your bike. Some people have reported finding their bikes at flea markets. If you do spot your bike, call the local police immediately and ask them to assist in your recovery.
Buying the best bike lock is only the first step. you need to know how to lock your bike properly too. Locking your bike to a strong, immovable object in a busy area with lots of other bikes and CCTV cameras is a great start.
But make sure you lock it in the right way too: locking the fame and the wheels, keeping the lock off the ground, and making sure you fill as much of the space inside the U-Lock as you can.