How to Lock Your Bike

In an earlier blog I mentioned that bike thieves are the worst thing in the world, and they are.  Even the guys clubbing baby seals for a living can probably relate to some basic human feelings like hunger, fatigue, or changes in temperature.  Bike thieves on the other hand exist only to bring sadness, loss, and the desperate hope for a vengeful god.

The good news is, while there's nothing you can really do to make your bike un-stealable, there's a tremendous amount that can be done to make it less attractive to those wandering blights on society.  One of the most important things to get comfortable with when you first start taking your bike out into the world, is how to lock it up effectively.

For that, you'll need a lock (duh).  If you only carry one, make it a U-lock as they're the hardest for a thief to break and, if it makes your bike harder to steal than the one parked next to it, the thieves have already moved on.  

A lot of folks, myself included, actually prefer a two-lock set-up as it helps you keep more of your components secure (think about how many bikes you see locked up that're missing an unsecured front or rear wheel) and it also makes the thieves carry multiple lock breaking tools to get your bike, again encouraging them to move on to an easier target.

In my case today, I'm using Kryptonite's combination U-lock/cable lock set, but if you're in a less secure area you probably want a beefier backup like the Kyptonite Chain Lock (my go-to second lock when I head downtown). Cable locks are notoriously easy to cut with bolt cutters (even super thick Kevlar coated ones), but again, as long as you're making it harder for the thieves to get what they want, they'll often move on to a softer target.  That said, I'd never leave a bike locked overnight with a cable lock because that's just asking for trouble.

So once you have your two locks, how do you use them on the bike to make sure no one can still walk away with your ride (or a part of it)?  We'll take a look at my lock-job from my trip out for lunch today to find out!

Your first step is finding something to lock your bike to.  If your city has bike staples like these, aim for those first, but you're really just looking for the most secure thing you can find.  

Always give the thing you'll be locking up to a good shake to make sure it's not loose (and double check the bolts in the concrete as bike thieves have been known to loosen 'em up so they can just pull one side up and slide a locked bike right off).  Also, don't lock up to trees as it just encourages thieves to chop them down (which they've been known to do and that's just bad karma), and be careful locking up to parking signs or any straight poles where a thief may just be able to lift your bike up and over (with or without removing a sign first).

Once you've found your parking spot, it's time to remove any of your small accessories that could be easily nicked and are hard to secure.  Think lights, water bottles, computers, etc...  Just pop those guys off and stick them in your backpack, purse, pockets, whatever because there's nothing worse than leaving the bar at 2am and realizing you don't have lights anymore.

If you've got a fancy saddle that you want to protect and can't run a cable lock through it to secure it to the frame, just pull your seatpost as well and bring it with you!  A quick-release seatpost clamp makes that a breeze, but as long as you have your trusty 5mm wrench with you, it's easy to do on the go!

With all the steal-able components removed, it's time to get locky.  I start by securing my rear wheel and frame to the bike staple like so.

You'll notice I grab the bike staple, wheel rim and, because the u-lock is running through the triangle between the seat stays, there's no way to get the frame without sawing through the tire, tube and rim. This way, a thief can't remove the wheel or the frame without breaking the lock. If you have thinner tires, or a good angle, you can always grab a seat stay in the U-lock too to be extra sure your frame will stay put. 

To secure the front wheel to the frame (and if possible, the staple as well), I just run my cable through it, loop it into itself, and run the end back to the U-lock and the result is something like this:

To get the most secure lock possible, you ought to remove any slack from the cable or chain by winding it around as many times as necessary. That'll make it a bit harder to get access to it, beat it with a leverage attack, and help keep your bike from falling over.

If you're using a cable lock as your second lock, you'll have an opportunity to wind that sucker through your saddle rails, racks, etc... anything else you'd like to secure on there, so take that opportunity while you use up the left-over slack. I wound the cable through the saddle rails before attaching it to the U-lock, so that'll stop someone with an allen key from walking off with my seat. I could've also wound the cable through the frame, but since I was only popping in to pickup lunch, I didn't go overboard.

The end result should be something that makes bike thieves reconsider their whole existence, like this:

And that's it!  

If you only have one lock, it's a great idea to remove your front wheel and lock it to the back wheel, frame, rear wheel, and staple, that way you can keep everything secure.  In my opinion though, that's more of a hassle than just carrying two locks, and a bike resting on its fork looks so sad that I just can't bear to do it myself.

Now get riding and when you have stop for a break, lock it up!