Bicycle security: General advice on keeping your ride safe and secure!
I often have friends or colleagues ask me about how they can better secure their bicycle so that they can stop their bike from being stolen. The first thing I tell them is that it is near on impossible to make your bike 100% theft proof if you are using it in the real world on a daily basis. I’ve heard some pretty heavy stories of people who have smashed into a house purely so that they can steal some expensive looking road bicycles stored inside. If someone wants your bike enough, they will get it.. the trick is making your bike as unattractive as possible to thieves.
The reality is that if you are using your bike on a daily basis you will need make an effort to reduce the likelihood of it being stolen, vandalised or have any accessories pinched. I’ve had a number of bicycles stolen over the years. Thankfully two were only cheap mountain bikes (I didn’t even bother locking them up) and the last bike I had stolen was my Giant Rincon which despite being a nice bike, it wasn’t overly expensive, so it was a manageable loss. However it was quite inconvenient, so after my Rincon was stolen I was determined to pay more attention to securing my bicycle to reduce it from being stolen or tampered with in any way.
Here’s some general tips I can share that I have learnt from my experience and research:
- Use a good quality lock, even if you think it’s in a secure area (such as your workplace’s bicycle parking area). The standard U-lock (also called a D-lock or shackle lock) is a very popular choice as it is strong, easy to use and effective. You can combine these with a cable and another padlock or U-lock. I own a couple of locks for use in different situations or as a combination for extra security. My main lock is the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-5 with Kryptonite cable which is used mainly for locking my bike at work in the secure bike parking area as it is lightweight but still quite strong (just in case). I also have a ABUS Granit X-Plus 54 which I use for less secure places such as the train station. I will often secure the rear wheel to a rail or pole, in conjunction with the Kryptonite U-lock attached to the front wheel, and also have the cable securing my saddle to one of the U-locks. This is an almost bullet-proof set-up as it requires the thief to make up to three difficult cuts. Even if they had an angle grinder it represents a lot of effort which wouldn’t be worth it for my average looking Orbea bicycle that I use if I ride to the train station. I’ve also heard very good reports about the Vulcan ‘Supreme 2000’ U-lock which is sold in Australia for around $30-50 AUD. Worth a look if you need a cheaper but still very effective lock.
- If possible, park your bicycle next to a nicer and more expensive looking bike. Extra bonus points if it has a weaker, easier looking bike lock. Unless the thieves are professionals and do a full sweep, I imagine that it is more likely that the common thief will go for the single most attractive looking bike that will get them the most cash when they sell it later.
- Don’t be afraid to personalise and individualise your bike as much as possible. This makes is less attractive to thieves as it will be more difficult to sell, and also easier for you to find it as it will be more recognisable. I’ve heard all sorts of stories about people trying to prevent bike theft in high-risk areas such as university campuses or inner city racks. Techniques include covering the frame with mucky looking wax and paint, putting fake ‘rust’ stickers on the frame etc. I have put reflective stickers all over my bikes, in addition to covering parts up with masking or electrical tape to make it look as dodgy as possible. My bike is also pretty unique and easily noticeable.
- Have your frame engraved with your details, get a record of your serial number (often found underneath the bike’s bottom bracket) and take a photo of your bike for your records/reference if it ever does get damaged or stolen. These are minor measures, it is easy for a thief to ground off the serial number or your details. ID tagging is also becoming popular, with offerings from Kryptonite/Bike Shepherd and Road ID on the market that are worth a look and consideration.
- If you are leaving your bike unattended in a public place remove all your valuable accessories such as bike computers, saddle bags and lights and take them with you. Most accessories have quick release features which make them an easy to remove when you arrive at your destination, but also an easy target for thieves.
- Use a beater bike (aka ‘pub’ bike) for shorter trips to areas where theft is more of an issue, like your local pub, an inner city area or a school or university. A old, grimy steel frame fixed gear or single speed bike with rusted, flaky paint and dirty wheels is a good example. An old mountain bike is also a good option. Keeping the brakes adjusted and maintained, the chain clean and lubricated and the tyres pumped to the correct pressure doesn’t make the bike look any nicer – but it will make it much nicer and safer to ride for it’s owner! Don’t believe me? Take a trip to the cycling city of Amsterdam, also a major bike theft hotspot Have a look at the grotty looking town bikes they use there. The worse it looks the less likely it is to be stolen.
You can see here how I secure my bike while at work, using the Kryptonite U-lock to secure the rear wheel to the solid, fixed bicycle rail. Make sure it is locked inside of the rear frame triangle, this prevents the frame or wheel being used. As discussed on Sheldon Brown’s website, the only way you can get to the frame is by cutting through the rear wheel. This is a very difficult, time consuming and destructive way of stealing a bike considering the wheel is worth almost as much as the frame! I also use the provided Kryptonite cable to loop through the front wheel for extra security.
For touring I plan to take my Kryptonite U-lock and cable as shown in the picture above, as it provides quite a high level of security whilst also being reasonably light weight. I don’t plan to visit many cities though, where bike theft is more common, so hopefully I won’t need to use it often.
I’m sure there must be more ways to keep your bike safe and secured. Please feel free to share your own experiences and tips in the comment area below.