How do you prevent your bike from being stolen?

The obvious answer would be a lock, but sometimes that’s not enough. I recently heard a talk radio segment on the local AM station talking about how the reporter’s bike was stolen in about 10 minutes from the time he parked it.

Listen to it HERE.

One of the things I used to do was use U-locks and secure my front wheel with the rear wheel and frame. I then would take an old bicycle chain place it in an old tube, and secure my seat rail to the bike frame to prevent someone from taking it. Fortunately where I now work, I can simply place my bike in our warehouse.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions in making sure your bike is still at the racks when you get off work or walk out of the grocery store?


  1. Mike C February 15, 2010 4:04 pm 

    Big lock, ratty bike. Make sure where you usually park that your bike is not the shiniest and that the lock used is bigger than most.

    Lost a bike in Boston due to a weak 1/2″ cable lock. Got a On Guard chain and a bike that looked a lot worse (but was actually a rockin’ C’dale M800 “beast of the east”, custom built with nice parts), still riding it today.

    Luckily, I now work somewhere I can park inside. Never lock any bike you care about at the Malden T station, Orange line, greater Boston MBTA.

  2. Elizabeth February 15, 2010 4:25 pm 

    Would be nice if more bikes came standard with integrated locks – like most Dutch bikes do… Other than that, the more deterrents, the better. And a few prayers, too.

  3. JonP February 15, 2010 5:24 pm 

    I had a bike stolen about 10 years ago when it was locked with only a cable lock. Now I use two U-locks. One goes through the frame and rear wheel and around the pole. The other locks the front wheel to the frame.

    That has worked well, but I had all kinds of bike bits stolen too: multiple seats and mulitple seatpost binder bolts (when I would take the seat with me). So, I also got a seat leash like the kind you describe — old chain through the seat rail and frame — and switched out the seatpost quick release. That was 3 years ago.

    Even with that, someone swiped my rear rack 18 months ago. It’s always something.

  4. Shawn February 15, 2010 6:21 pm 

    I commute on a relatively expensive bike so I am picky with what I lock my bike to. I then use a Kryptonite New York U-lock and I’m careful to close the gap in the lock. Then I have a cable for my front wheel and a frame lock for the back wheel. All my lights are zapstrapped and glued to my bike so when they die they will have to be cut off. Its worked pretty good so far knock on wood (4-5 years of commuting w/o anything being stolen).

  5. John Romeo Alpha February 15, 2010 9:06 pm 

    Trick question, you don’t prevent your bike from being stolen, you deter. Mike C’s formula, ratty bike, U-lock, is good. Cables deter no one except casual passersby. Elizabeth the integrated wheel locks or “nurse locks” are also pretty useless when there are thieves with tools around, and the place where you park your bike doesn’t have 5,000 other identical bikes parked in it.

  6. Ghost Rider February 16, 2010 3:13 am 

    I’m with JRA — those Dutch wheel locks are probably great for casual, low-theft areas where you make a quick stop and aren’t away from your bike for more than a couple minutes…but cannot be relied on for anything beyond that. Thousands upon thousands of bikes get stolen in the Netherlands every year, you know. Folks serious about keeping their bikes over there have resorted to heavy chains like many of us use.

    My favorite theft-deterrent is to epoxy a small ball bearing into the hex sockets of the headset top cap, seat binder and other bolts — sort of a DIY pitlock. It deters casual component thieves but the bearings are easy enough to dig out with a sharp knife point or awl if you need to make adjustments or replace a part.

  7. Bob P. February 16, 2010 7:13 am 

    With all the downsizing, my Surly LHT has its own cube. Facilities wants to purchase a bike rack for us commuters, but I don’t need it. Plus our office is pretty safe, so if they insisted I keep it outside, I wouldn’t be bothered by this.

  8. RANTWICK February 16, 2010 8:14 am 

    My winter bike is such a mutant that I don’t worry about it much, because it is ugly and very identifiable. Second, few people want to ride in the subzero.

    My summer bike I take inside almost everywhere I go. You would be surprised how many places won’t make an issue of it.

  9. dag February 16, 2010 10:12 am 

    I’m lucky enough to work where I can bring my steed inside, but whenever I do have to lock it, I use the one-two punch of a Krypto Evo and cable lock. I’m also paranoid enough to try to sit near a window, or at least a location where I can periodically check up on it.

  10. Raiyn February 16, 2010 2:20 pm 

    The best “How to Lock Your Bike” site belongs to a old BikeForums colleague of mine and can be found HERE.

    I grew up in a tiny little town where a good cable lock would almost certainly be overkill, much less a U-lock, but then again we’re talking about a town where people generally don’t lock their doors at night. These days, I live in a city where the population is easily 100 times greater, and even the best cable lock wouldn’t protect a used Huffy for long.

    Unfortunately, we can’t all live in small tight-knit communities, bike thieves do exist beyond opportunistic snatch and grab artists, and, in truth, people do prey on the ill-informed.

    Now before you get the wrong idea, I don’t steal bikes. (Not that it would be hard for my evil twin 😉 ). One thing I will suggest is deliberately parking near someone who has locked with an inferior lock (or has a nicer bike) because it increases the odds that your bike will still be there when you get back. This logic is based on an old story we used to tell in my small northern MN hometown:

    So, there are these two guys from the Cities camping in the woods. Late one night they are woken by a noise outside their tent. The first camper peeks outside the tent to see a large black bear sifting through their supplies. With horror he turns to the second camper and explains the situation. Obviously the bear is hungry, and once it is finished with the supplies it will surely turn on the two campers.

    “What are we going to do?” asks the second camper.

    “We can make a run for the car.” whispers the first camper.

    With that the second camper begins to put on his running shoes.

    “What are you doing?” asks the first camper frantically “You can’t outrun a bear!”

    “I know,” replies the second camper, “I don’t have to outrun the bear – I have to outrun you.”

  11. Guy February 16, 2010 3:27 pm 

    I’m lucky enough to be able to park inside the office

  12. BluesCat February 17, 2010 8:03 am 

    When I run errands on The Roadley (Giant MTB-turned-commuter) or Bluetiful (Sun recumbent) I either (1) take the bike into the store/office with me, (2) park the bike in plain view just a few feet outside the store where I can keep an eye on it, or (3) use the drive-thru window for the business.

    My office has a locked conference room where I keep my bike when I commute to work: Luxury Bike Parking.

    If I must park and lock my bike outside the establishment, I ride Hardiboi, my stripped down Specialized Hardrock. I use a cable lock to secure the frame and both wheels of the Boi to the bike rack, and I have a sling bag with attachment loops on the bottom to which I attach the seat, seat post and taillight assembly and take it with me. The entire headlight and mount comes off and goes into a pocket on the sling bag, along with my water bottle.

  13. crazycommutingcyclist February 17, 2010 2:26 pm 

    Want a quick lesson in locking your bike and making it safe to leave, then listen to Hal. Go to You Tube and search for “Hal Grades your Bike Locking.. It is funny but he give great advice on how to lock your bike up properly. I know it has saved me.

  14. Raiyn February 17, 2010 3:40 pm 

    This is going to sound harsh but, using only a cable lock is an excellent way to ensure your bike’s theft. Forget the “flexibility” aspect of the cable and become more flexible with where you park your bike, that or get one of the excellent chains from Kryptonite and call it a day. I could go into how quickly and easily I can get through just about any cable lock out there, but I don’t want to plant ideas where they don’t need to be.

    As far as those folks who use a u-lock to “secure” the bike to itself and then anchor the bike with a cable lock: You’re really not helping yourself there in terms of preventing any but the most casual of thieves. Any thief who has access to a vehicle can easily steal your bike by cutting the cable and tossing it in the vehicle. (Heck they can usually just carry it off by hand in a lot of cases.) This has the effect of rendering the U-lock a mere inconvenience to be dealt with in a location where they may have power tools or simply more time to strip the bike for the virtually untraceable parts.

  15. Ben C February 18, 2010 11:34 am 

    How about an automatic tire flatening system? Simply have a device on the bike that would recognize your fingerprints. When the thief takes off with the bike and the prints is unrecognizable, the bike would automatically throw out some tacks in front of the front wheel. The thief would run over the tacks and ppsssssss….flat tires. I know….sounds outrageous.

  16. BluesCat February 18, 2010 1:11 pm 

    Oh, you are absolutely correct about cable locks stopping only the most casual of thieves. If I were to park Hardiboi somewhere other than someplace like I do at the Target Store, with it’s full time greeter or security guard, I would definitely be packing something from Kryptonite.

    My problem, which I hope you can see by the picture, isn’t that someone will saunter up with a set of bolt cutters and steal the whole bike, but that people will just pilfer any quick-release parts off of it as they pass by.

  17. Raiyn February 18, 2010 6:38 pm 

    Well, that’s actually what a cable lock is good for – securing things like wheels and such. We use Kryptonite’s Evolution 4 U-locks with (I think) their 1218 locking cable. When we lock both devices are used to secure the bike to the pole or whatever following the advice in the link I gave several posts back. Crooks tend to have tools for one, but not both locks.

    As for the saddle you can replace the clamp with a bolt on non Q-R saddle clamp (a good idea any way because most people are set-it-and-forget-it when it comes to saddle height) and if you’re really paranoid like me you can purchase a seat leash (we use a model from Kryptonite with a tiny Abus lock) or make one using a length of bicycle chain* (using a chain tool to break/connect) inside an old inner tube.

    The key thing to remember here is that locks are a deterrent not a guarantee. The more you make your bike look like a hassle to get – particularly if there are other less well protected or more spendy bikes nearby – the more likely your ride will be there later.

    *Apparently it works in NYC

  18. Raiyn February 18, 2010 6:43 pm 

    I should mention that I use the bike chain method on my beater Schwinn Varsity

  19. BluesCat February 21, 2010 1:30 pm 

    Raiyn – LOL! Are you suggesting that the old Specialized Hardrock looks too GOOD to trust to a mere cable lock? I have to admit, I’ve never looked at it that way. Maybe I should “distress it” up a bit by wrapping some duct tape around the decals on the top tube and the down tube so it looks “broken,” eh?

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