How To Lock Your Bike - from a Locksmith Point of View

Kryptonite Bike Locks

Kryptonite U-Lock
Kryptonite U-Lock
Kryptonite Vinyl Coated Braided Steel Cable
Kryptonite Vinyl Coated Braided Steel Cable
Krytonite "New York Noose" Chain
Krytonite "New York Noose" Chain
Krytonite Disc Lock
Krytonite Disc Lock

Many people say that the purpose of locks is to keep honest people honest, but I say that the purpose of a lock is to give a would-be thief enough trouble to make them give up their attempted theft of your property, in this case, your bike.

Correct Bike Locking

If you don't lock your bike correctly, a thief will be able to steal part or all of it. First, choose the most immovable object available to which you may lock your bike, and then lock it in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible to steal. If you lock your bike to a parking meter with a cable lock, for example, the thief may be able to lift your bike over the head of the meter. If you lock your bike to the same parking meter using a U-lock, however, theft in that manner would not be possible.

Thieves don't just steal bikes, they steel bicycle components, particularly wheels. For this reason it is important that you secure not only your frame to the immovable object, but also both wheels. Wheel and saddle theft are encouraged by quick release hubs and seatpost clamps. If you have quick release hubs and don't lock both wheels, you make your wheels a prime target. If you have a quick release seatpost clamp you need to lock your seat as well.

In the illustration at the bottom of this article I attempt to show basic correct bike locking technique. There are many variations. but the idea is that the frame of the bike is securely locked to as immovable an object as is available and that the other steal-able parts of the bike are also secured - in the case of the bike in the illustration, the wheels, which are secured with a cable.

Bike Locks

All locks can be defeated. As a professional locksmith, I was able to defeat any bike lock in less than twenty minutes, but I was in no rush and I could use any tool I wanted. Bike thieves have to work fast and are usually, but not always, limited to hand tools.

The locks I prefer to lock up my own bikes with are Kryptonite bike locks. They have pick resistant cylinders and are made of hardened steel that is hard to cut. Pick resistance and difficulty in cutting are the most important features to look for in a bike lock.

There are many good brands of bike locks. To get the best kind of bike lock for your needs, consult with your locksmith or security professional.

Pictured at right are a couple of bike locks a cable, and a chain. I will discuss the relative merits of each.

The "U" Lock

The U-type lock, shown top right, revolutionized bicycle locking when it was introduced decades ago and is still a good choice today.

Steel Cable

The vinyl coated, braided steel cable (pictured just beneath the U-Lock above right) is effective when used with the U-Lock for two reasons. First, because it gives you a way to lock both wheels (see Correct Bike Locking section above and illustration below.)

Secondly, cutting the cable would require a different tool than cutting the lock would. However, to take advantage of this attribute of braided steel cable you would want to lock it with an independent lock, such as an American A700 padlock.

Since the vast majority of bikes are locked with only one lock, locking your bike with two locks makes yours one of the most secure on the street.

New York Noose

So named because so many cyclists carry this jacketed, heavy, hardened chain around their necks. This chain is a good choice because it is almost impossible to defeat without power tools. Add a high security padlock (and an immovable object) and you can consider your bike secure. Make sure, as always, to lock everything steal-able on the bike, not just the frame.

Small U-Lock

The Kryptonite Disc Lock shown at the bottom of the column adds a new dimension of security with its size, shape, and key system. One of its chief advantages is that it does not offer the opportunities for attack that the conventional U-lock offers. Since the conventional U-lock has been around so long, thieves have devised some effective ways of defeating it. Redesign has alleviated much of this problem, yet the smaller U-lock is a lock on which many thieves might have trouble finding a point of attack. I recommend use with the New York Noose or steel cable and a conventional U-lock for the best you can do in bike security on the street.

A Correct Way to Lock a Bike

One correct way to lock a bike.
One correct way to lock a bike.

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Comments 13 comments

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Excellent advice, having your bike stolen is a very personal attack and can leave you stranded. Thanks for the sound expert advice, Tom.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks so much, Gypsy. Since I really like my bike I lock it up real tight.


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Great hub Tom! Thieves can tear a bike apart in minutes, break spokes messing with chains, etc. Sometimes riding a beater bike is the safest! HA!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I neglected to add the best protection is to NEVER LEAVE YOUR BIKE IN A PUBLIC PLACE. I lock my bike up where I can see it or where it is inside some other locked room.


brad4l profile image

brad4l 7 years ago from USA

I think you are right that the best protection is really never to leave you bike unattended. There have been some neat 'Studies,' well really I think they were just some videos this guy made, where people have walked up to a bike with bolt cutters and 'stole' it on a busy street without anyone doing anything. I think in one of the videos the passerbys actually helped him steal the bike...


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I don't doubt it, Brad. That is why I like the Kryptonite locks - highly bolt cutter resistant, except for the braided cable, although it is a pain the but to cut with a bolt cutter! Still I can get through any of them given time and the right tools. They are only locks and uselss without common sense.


brad4l profile image

brad4l 7 years ago from USA

"They are only locks and useless without common sense."

Ain't that the truth :)


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

That's great information from a sort-of insider! Bike theft seems to be pervasive (I really wonder why?), and although I'd love to believe in the goodness of the people around us, my family's track record for stolen bikes has made me cautious. Now, what safety devices would you recommend for strollers?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Zollstock. A stroller has the advantage that its parts and components are not universally applicable to other strollers and so not generally worth stealing except out of general meanness. A simple, all-in-one cable lock should suffice. The Master lock company makes good quality ones that are pretty reasonable in price, available probably at Home Depot and Target.


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

Thanks - will put that on the shopping list!


LocksmithsPerth profile image

LocksmithsPerth 23 months ago from Western Australia

Good piece of advice. Thank you so much for this.. :)


John Albu profile image

John Albu 21 months ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102

The best solution is to avoid leaving your bike in a public place, indeed! These locks look nice, but many of them are too easy to break in 2015.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 21 months ago from United States Author

Thanks, John. As locks get better, ways to defeat them get better, too.

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